The Syrian Civil War and No Fly Zones

Secretary Clinton has stated several times that she would consider, if elected President, a no fly zone (NFZ) over Syria and has implied this would be part of a humanitarian assistance strategy to bring relief to the citizens of Aleppo. At the last two debates she specifically referenced Omar Daqneesh, the shell shocked 5 year old Syrian boy filmed sitting in the back in an ambulance in August as a reason to not allow the status quo of Russian and Syrian air strikes on civilian population areas to go on. This has not always been Clinton’s position, in 2013 she expressed concern that a no fly zone would kill a lot of Syrians. Secretary Clinton’s change in position, or at least a stated willingness to change her position, has not been met with universal acclaim. Many Democrats, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and others have expressed concerns that a no fly zone would not save lives. Others have argued that it could start World War III featuring the US vs Russia.

Since this has now been put forward as a possible change in US policy and strategy it is important to take a few minutes and consider exactly what a no fly zone really is, how such a choice fits within the US’s strategy formulation framework, and whether it is feasible, acceptable, and suitable.

In terms of US military concepts and doctrine the phrase “no fly zone” is not a doctrinal term. The closest doctrinal term is no fly area (NOFLY) and is defined in Joint Publication (JP) 3-52/Joint Airspace Control as:

Airspace of specific dimensions set aside for a specific purpose in which no aircraft operations are permitted, except as authorized by the appropriate commander and controlling agency.

Mueller defines no fly zones in Denying Flight as:

…a no-fly zone can be defined as a policy under which an outside actor overtly prohibits some or all aircraft flight over a specified territory and undertakes to intercept aircraft violating the prohibition or otherwise punish those responsible for violations.3 Several features of this definition are worth noting. First, an NFZ thus defined does not include defending the sovereignty of one’s own airspace or that of an allied state with the ally’s consent. In a sense, it can be said that virtually every country has an NFZ of some sort over its own territory, often prohibiting all flights in particularly sensitive airspace, but these are not of interest here. Second, an NFZ is a declaratory policy under which one expects violators to be aware of the line they are crossing. Third, imposing an NFZ worthy of the name entails enforcing it, not merely complaining about those who violate it; normally, this means intercepting aircraft that defy the ban, though an NFZ could also employ an enforcement mechanism that relies on other, less-direct forms of sanction.4

He posits that no fly zones are often attractive policy options because:

Since the end of the Cold War, “no-fly zones” (NFZs)1 have begun to appear on menus of policy options for dealing with troublesome states. Prohibiting a miscreant government from using airpower for warfare or transportation within its own country may appeal to policymakers, primarily because it is perhaps the most limited way that military force can be used as a punitive tool. Compared to other forms of armed intervention, NFZs typically entail relatively little risk to the powers imposing them, as least when directed against militarily weak targets. Yet, because they are an active use of military power, NFZs tend to seem more assertive than policy instruments such as economic sanctions.

Due to their limited nature, no-fly zones may also be relatively easy policy initiatives for international coalitions to agree on when they are keen to act against a target regime but wary of taking large risks or committing themselves to major military action. This was very much the case in early 2011, following uprisings against Libyan dictator Colonel Muammar Qaddafi and the Libyan government’s subsequent crackdown against its internal opponents. With a rising sense that the international community needed to do something to help the rebels, first the Gulf Cooperation Council, then the Arab League, and finally the United Nations voted to support the imposition of a NFZ over Libya, from which grew the 2011 air campaign against Qaddafi that enabled the Libyan opposition to defeat his regime and remove him from power (Operation Odyssey Dawn [OOD] and Operation Unified Protector [OUP]).

While this doctrinal and definitional discussion is interesting, the seeming reason behind Secretary Clinton’s willingness to revisit adjusting US policy to include a no fly zone is the result of humanitarian concerns. One of the reasons for this seems to be the failure of the recent cease-fire, which even when it was in effect, failed to allow for humanitarian assistance to reach the people of Aleppo. Its failure also seems to have taken the wind out of the sails (if I may mix my Service metaphors) of the announced US-Russian Joint Deconfliction Office to coordinate strikes and deconflict operations against ISIL and the Nusra Front in Syria. Part of the consideration, viewed solely through public statements and the news reporting on her changed position, is that diplomacy, including MIL to MIL (military to military) diplomacy has failed to end air strikes on non combatant civilian populations in Syria, specifically Aleppo, and as a result a greater humanitarian disaster has ensued. As a result the most effective way to break the impasse, prevent air strikes on civilian population centers, and get much needed humanitarian assistance to those civilian populations is to have the US led coalition deny flight to the Russians and the Syrians.

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Open Thread: Metaphors Made Concrete

Or, sometimes, stone. Per the Washington Post:

Video shows a man smashing Donald Trump’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame with a sledgehammer and pickax, destroying the Hollywood marker that honors the current Republican presidential nominee.

Police received a call around 6 a.m. Wednesday, and officers who arrived at the Hollywood Walk of Fame confirmed that the star had been vandalized, a Los Angeles Police Department spokesman said. The investigation is ongoing and there are no suspects.

Deadline was the first to post the video of a man dressed in a city construction worker’s uniform destroying Trump’s star. According to the outlet, the man said he planned to auction off the star and give the money to women who have accused the Republican presidential nominee and former “Apprentice” host sexual assault…

In January, a photo showing a swastika spray-painted over the star made the rounds online, and police investigated. The Hollywood Chamber quickly cleaned the symbol off of the star.

About six months later, an artist erected a mini-wall around the marker on the Walk of Fame, a nod to Trump’s promise to build a border wall between the United States and Mexico…

Completely Neutral World Series Open Thread

It has been suggested in some quarters that I am inadvertently jinxing a baseball team. I regard superstition with contempt.

But in the interest of blog harmony, here is a 100% neutral open thread about the current baseball event. May the best team win.

Wednesday Evening Open Thread: A Video to Forward

Might not want to watch it in public, though, if you’re easily triggered.

Doesn’t tell you who to vote for, but even your low-info acquaintances will be able to figure it out.

Apart from fighting for every vote, what’s on the agenda for the evening?

This Kind of Shit Will Probably Get Worse…

This deadbeat douchecanoe is not gonna grab his musket on November 9th and march on DC (unless “musket” is his euphemism for a certain no-doubt small, wizened and pinkish appendage). He’s a coward and a bully, as his undistinguished term in the House established, upon which the voters wisely kicked his ass to the curb. But yeah, some of the Trumpistas — catching a whiff of loser stink in the air — are starting to come unglued.

We’ll take nothing for granted. We’ll make phone calls. Knock on doors. Enter data. Vote. And we won’t be afraid. Because fuck that guy.

Two Funnies from the Twitter…

…to make us appreciate technology again. First, an alteration of a classic tweeted by @h1illary4prez:


You just know that motherfucker would interject like that.

Next, a sweet, innocent dog gets Trumped — passed along by @freeyourmindkid:


Made me laugh, anyway. Open thread!

Wednesday Morning Open Thread: Well Said (with Just A Look)

And a nice little reminder, from Eugene Robinson in the Washington Post:

Not enough has been made of two obvious facts: Hillary Clinton, if she wins, will be the first woman elected to the White House. And it will have been the votes of women who put her there.

Think, for a moment, about what a remarkable milestone that would be. Consider what it would say about the long and difficult struggle to make the Constitution’s guarantees of freedom and equality encompass all Americans. The first 43 presidents were all members of a privileged minority group — white males. The 44th is a black man, and the 45th may well be a white woman. That is a very big deal…

President Obama’s election meant that African American parents were no longer lying when they told their children they could grow up to be president. Likewise, if Clinton wins on Nov. 8, all parents will be truthful when they tell their daughters that there is nothing they cannot achieve…

Apart from taking a moment to feel good about this moment, what’s on the agenda for the day?