Center for World Conflict and Peace

Center for World Conflict and Peace

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Lessons from the North Korean Cyber Attack

In his 2010 book Cyber War, former US counter-terrorism czar Richard Clarke described some very scary potential results from a foreign cyber attack on US infrastructure. Cyber attacks have happened both on their own (such as alleged Chinese attacks on the Pentagon) as well as to complement a larger conventional war (such as Russian cyber attacks against Georgia during the war in August, 2008).  The recent cyber attack against Sony has been likened to stifling free speech. President Obama criticized Sony’s decision to cancel the movie, stating  "We cannot have a society in which some dictator someplace can start imposing censorship in the United States."

North Korea threatened to launch attacks against the US if The Interview were released, because of the supposed dishonor to the North Korean leader it would be. As a resident of South Korea, I was of course initially slightly worried- even though I had a pretty good idea that would not happen, I’m still enough of a greenhorn in this country to at least think for a second about it. Of course, North Korea was rather upset at the release of Team America in 2004 (a movie which I found to be quite hilarious as an immature, pubescent high schooler). It seems, however, they’ve managed to do that without firing a shot or a missile.

The US Department of Defense issued a report stating that while North Korea likely had some sort of cyber warfare capabilities, the impoverished nation was unlikely to have enough capabilities for a powerful, large-scale attack. Conversely, it would stand to reason that as company like Sony would have the latest and most state-of-the-art cyber security capabilities. People’s general conception of cyber war has centered on the notion of national militaries using cyber capabilities to attack each other. Other incidents such as the Target Corporation data breach were seen more as criminal acts rather than acts of war. Newt Gingrich has been quick to assert that the US “just lost its first cyber war” in a famous tweet. I’m not sure this was “our first cyber war”, but it is a very telling incident.

I have no way of knowing if it really and truly was North Korea that carried out the attack, and not some techie sitting in a remote cabin in the mountains of Washington state (yes, I know someone like that). But I have to assume that US authorities are correct in assigning blame to North Korea. In which case, there are several valuable lessons to be learned from this whole fiasco. It’s interesting that something which was carried out by a state actor (North Korea) against a private corporation (Sony) is now being primarily handled by the US Justice Department (the FBI in particular). In fact, this type of attack in which law enforcement is the primary responder is usually a case of corporate espionage.

Thus, there are several fundamental points we can gather from this attack on Sony Pictures. The first is that we cannot afford to be complacent about the capabilities of a small, cash-strapped country to attack a much more powerful one. This is especially true because a cyber attack is a much more cost-effective solution to attacking a country than investing in conventional weapons. Also, it goes to show that in this day and age, there are no longer clear distinctions between the public and the private in national security. While much worse things could happen than the cyber attack against Sony, it’s clear that anything, and any one, can become a target, and that countries will have to be prepared to meet a variety of threats from a large number of sources to ensure their own security.  

North Korea's Cyberwar


First of all, let me say this: no, I was not planning to watch "The Interview." Not that I am averse to the premise of assassinating a sitting, living foreign leader, mind you. I just don't like James Franco and Seth Rogen's juvenile style of humor.



The cancellation of The Interview shows that it is very easy for any country to engage in cyber war while it is actually very difficult for the defending country to retaliate. In fact, it is very difficult to really pinpoint whom to blame, which is actually the advantage of cyberwarfare  -- unless, of course, you admit it in order to win an election.

Not surprisingly there are people, regardless of their views toward the administration, who have looked darkly on this issue.


Even though the Obama administration still unwilling to name who is behind the attack finally accused North Korea of masterminding the attack, which in turn was met with an unsurprising denial by Pyongyang, it is very difficult to determine what would be the appropriate retaliation for the attack, especially to a country so completely off the grid like North Korea. And the fact that the North Koreans could still strike again has made the Obama administration wary to escalate the situation needlessly.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Opening Up to Cuba

460595078-president-barack-obama-speaks-to-the-nation-about
Photo Doug Mills-Pool/Getty Images

Yesterday, in a reversal of five plus decades of U.S. foreign policy, President Barack Obama announced that his administration will move toward restoring relations with Cuba. His plan includes opening an embassy in Havana, a State Department review of Cuba's designation as a terrorist state, a relaxation on existing travel restrictions to Cuba, and a raise on remittances to Cuban nationals, among other things. Other moves, such as lifting the banking and travel embargo, will require the consent of the legislature, an unlikely prospect, at least right now, in a Republican-dominated Congress.

Obama characterized his new Cuba policy as an attempt to discard an outdated past, a relic from the cold war era that no longer exists. He stated:
We will end an outdated approach that, for decades, has failed to advance our interests, and instead we will begin to normalize relations between our two countries. Through these changes, we intend to create more opportunities for the American and Cuban people, and begin a new chapter among the nations of the Americas....Neither the American, nor Cuban people are well served by a rigid policy that is rooted in events that took place before most of us were born.  Consider that for more than 35 years, we’ve had relations with China –- a far larger country also governed by a Communist Party. Nearly two decades ago, we reestablished relations with Vietnam, where we fought a war that claimed more Americans than any Cold War confrontation.
Of course, the immediate beneficiaries from Obama's policy shift was Alan Gross, the American contractor who was held in Cuba for the past five years, an unnamed U.S. intelligence agent, held for almost two decades in Cuba, and three Cuban agents, who, likewise, were in U.S. prisons for years. Almost simultaneous with Obama's announcement was the release of Gross, the American spy and the three Cubans.

Not everyone is happy about this new opening to Cuba, though. For instance, according to Senator Marco Rubio, a son of Cuban immigrants, "This entire policy shift announced today is based on an illusion, on a lie, the lie and the illusion that more commerce and access to money and goods will translate to political freedom for the Cuban people....All this is going to do is give the Castro regime, which controls every aspect of Cuban life, the opportunity to manipulate these changes to perpetuate itself in power.”

Perhaps, and human rights and good governance aren't things we should ignore. That said, Rubio's statement isn't a strong enough reason to continue to keep Cuba in exile. Opening up to Cuba is the right course, in my estimation. But my argument isn't based on the so-called power of engagement, a go-to point made by liberal policymakers and analysts and academics.

No, instead, my argument derives directly from realist international relations logic. A growing and increasingly muscular China is expanding its interests around the world, even in America's backyard, as it looks to compete with the U.S. for global power, influence and leadership. Cuba is a perfect political match for China's interests going forward. A closed, isolated and communist Cuba, one that is poor and desperate, is ripe for China to insert itself in a significant way. And currently, China is in a good position to keep Cuba's economy afloat, something that's needed in Havana, especially now that Venezuela, its main backer, is suffering from its own economic troubles. But more importantly, China can use Cuba as a client state to frustrate and undermine, even threaten, America's position in the Western Hemisphere. In short, China can use Cuba much the same way the Soviets did during the cold war. In this case, just like Washington seeks to pin down China in the broader Asia, making it difficult for China to spread its wings, Beijing will very likely seek to do the same to the U.S. in Washington's neighborhood, as that will make it hard for America to spend the time, effort and resources to contain China. This is where Cuba-China relations were headed as long as America continued to freeze Cuba from the extant regional and international orders.

Developing better relations with Cuba makes good strategic sense. As of now, the U.S. is vulnerable to Chinese penetration in America's backyard. Why allow these security vulnerabilities to continue to exist and perhaps fester over time? Opening up to Cuba doesn't mean that Washington will be able to completely ameliorate these things. But it does mean that the U.S. doesn't intend to cede Cuba to China. China will have to compete for Cuba, something, I'm sure, it didn't anticipate. And in a best case scenario, if the U.S. establishes good ties with Cuba, it might well be able to remove a point of access in its neighborhood.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Sydney Siege: Two Quick Takes

Yohanes Sulaiman

The Sydney hostage crisis ended up in three dead, including Haron Monis, the hostage taker. While ISIS was quick to claim credit over this incident, as one might say, be careful what you wished for. From what we learned so far, Haron Monis is far from the ideal jihadist, a warrior of Islam. To put it bluntly, he is a nutjob: "He had a long history of violent crime, infatuation with extremism and mental instability.” Granted, being a nutjob is not a disqualifying factor to be a so-called holy warrior. In fact, based on what we learned so far, one who usually answers to the calls of the ISIS, they are generally young, restless, saddled with identity crisis -- and they are always useful as cannon fodders. The rest usually grow quickly disillusioned and run back home.

Brad Nelson
When I heard about the so-called “Sydney Siege,” two things immediately came to mind. First, I hope my students are paying attention to this story, especially those students who recently wrote a paper for me on Australian foreign policy (particularly as it pertains to ISIS).
Second, I expected the events at the Sydney Chocolate shop to be characterized as an act of terrorism, since the perpetrator was an alleged radical Muslim—apparently, he even requested an ISIS flag from Australian authorities. So far, much of the media discussion so far has talked about the events and the perpetrator through that lens. The problem, in my view, is that Man Haron Monis, the hostage-taker, wasn’t really a terrorist. Sure, he certainly “terrorized” the people who he held captive as well as Australians who followed the events in the media, and he was clearly was willing to use violence against innocent civilians. However, Man Haron Monis wasn’t politically motivated individual, a hallmark of terrorism. Rather, he was simply a madman.
He has been accused of hiring a mercenary to kill his ex-wife. There are also a few dozen sexual assault accusations against him. This was a likely felon, an unbalanced, unstable, mentally ill person. It just so happened that, as a Muslim, Mr. Monis gravitated to radical Islam. Radical Islam channeled and gave meaning to his psychotic behavior. But he just as easily could have turned to a different extremist group or organization for self-identity, and those entities would have dictated who he should’ve targeted, harmed, and killed. He’s less Osama bin Laden and more Charles Manson.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Japan, South Korea and A Shifting Maritime Security Paradigm

The Japanese government’s recent decision to modify its self-defense laws dating back to immediately after the Second World War has sent shockwaves throughout East Asia.  Some Japanese and American officials are glad to see Japan taking greater responsibility for their national defense, yet Japan’s military revival has sent nerves wrangling in other parts of the region. The revisions in the Japanese constitution’s Article 9 are likely to cause a stir in East Asia’s delicate maritime security paradigm in particular.

As an island nation, Japan depends a great deal on her navy for security. Japan is currently locked into maritime disputes with three regional military powers: China, Russia, and South Korea. Thus, a large part of Japan’s re-building of its military will likely focus on its naval capabilities, as well as strategic missile forces (which of course can be deployed in naval operations). The Japanese Ministry of Defense has requested an increase in its national defense budget for this year, a marked shift from the downward trend in Japanese defense spending. According to figures from the International Institute for Strategic Studies, Japan already had the 7th largest defense budget in the world before the Ministry’s funds request.

Some experts believe, however, that recent modifications to Japan’s laws and other actions taken by the government aren’t as threatening as they seem. Garren Mulloy, an expert on the Japanese military, believes that the idea that Japan is re-militarizing is overblown, and that while the Japanese navy is one of the best in the world, it would not likely be able to sustain combat with a country such as China for more than a few weeks.

Much of the international focus on Japan’s military budget increase and the related changes in Japanese law has been on mounting tensions with China. Nevertheless, while many countries in the Asia-Pacific region have bitter memories of Japanese militarism from the Second World War, perhaps among the most apprehensive about the re-emergence of Japan’s military complex is South Korea. Indeed, historic memory dies hard in this part of the world. The Korean nation has billed itself as a “shrimp among whales,” referring to its vulnerability against its historically more powerful neighbors. Even 200 years after Japan’s invasion of Korea during the Imjin Wars in the late 16th century, the Korean government has taken strategic decisions--based in part on public fears--regarding the perceived threat from Japan, even when no threat seems imminent.

The majority of South Korea’s military is concentrated on its conventional infantry forces, which are primarily prepared to engage in armed combat against a North Korean invasion. Nevertheless, South Korea of late has been putting more resources toward the development of a blue water navy, an initiative that began in 1995, at the behest of Admiral An Pyong-tae. While South Korea’s navy has had a global reach, such as participating in anti-piracy operations off the coast of Somalia, it will likely continue to have an eye on Japan’s military, in particular its navy, as it seeks to increase its own naval power. This comes in no small part due to South Korea’s maritime disputes with Japan.

The United States, a staunch ally of both Japan and South Korea, has welcomed a greater Japanese role in its own defense and security. At the same time, the US is faced with a delicate balancing act. The US military presence in both Japan and South Korea serve the purpose of defending against North Korea as well as containing an expansionist China. Japan and South Korea often begrudgingly accept their status as strange bedfellows, brought together by the United States due to their mutual fears of North Korea and, to a lesser extent, China. While a greater amount of burden-sharing on Japan’s part may serve US interests as well as Japanese pride, there is a risk that the fragile security balance in Northeast Asia could become disrupted, and that the stable peace that currently exists between Japan and South Korea could spiral into an unstable peace, or even worse.

Japan remains the home of the US Seventh Fleet, and the US must first and foremost defend its own interests in the region. It’s possible that America may get caught between two rising naval powers, both wed to the United States, and both suspicious of each other. The US has been actively engaging in naval diplomacy in Northeast Asia, sending clear messages to both China and North Korea. Earlier this year, Japan, South Korea and the US participated in a two-day trilateral naval exercise. The exercise was the first involving both Japan and South Korea since the revisions in Japan’s self-defense laws. But nothing is written in stone, and a stable security seascape is not something to take for granted.

Thus, at the moment, it seems that Japan and the Republic of Korea will be on a relatively cooperative footing with regard to maritime security in Northeast Asia. Nevertheless, as Japan’s naval power increases, states vested with security interests in the region must be wary of possibly increased tensions between Japan and South Korea. Indeed, as Professor Robert Kelly states, much of South Korea’s diplomacy with Japan aims to isolate the country. Even if armed naval confrontation between Japan and South Korea does not appear to be likely, the increase of Japanese naval power risks exacerbating tensions in the region’s delicate security balance.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Maritime Cooperation in Southeast Asia

KRI Bung Tomo dan Usman Harun (Foto: Antara/M. Risyal Hidayat)
Photo: Antara/M. Risyal Hidayat

Maritime cooperation in Southeast Asia has been significantly boosted by the various regional forums and institutions that are in place. Most notably, the ASEAN Maritime Forum (AMF), the Extended ASEAN Maritime Forum (EAMF), and the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) have created crucial linkages between ASEAN countries and between ASEAN countries and important external countries, such as China, Japan, India, and the United States.

These mechanisms are crucial to peace and stability in Southeast Asia. They have expanded lines of communication between officials, bureaucracies and agencies in ASEAN countries and also between ASEAN and outside players, which is extremely useful in limiting misperceptions and fostering enhanced trust and understanding among regional players. Ongoing communication and dialog is also essential coordinating actions and speeding up response times to regional crises. Furthermore, they have helped to institutionalize regional norms of non-violence and conflict resolution.

Just as importantly, consider this: the various international institutions, courts, and treaties are important to world peace, stability, and order, but they also need to be supplemented and reinforced by regional pacts and entities. For instance, regional mechanisms, such as the ASEAN Maritime Forum and the ASEAN Regional Forum, function in ways consistent with international law and justice, which harmonizes regional and international orders, making regional and international security and politics operate in sync. But they also allow Southeast Asia to carve out its own space to determine its own interests, rules of the game, and standards of behavior. They enable Southeast Asia to pursue its own sense of identity and uniqueness—something that cannot be done in global forums.

Specifically, Southeast Asia’s maritime cooperation has enabled the region to protect the right of self-determination and ensure the proper respect for all ASEAN members—principles that are cherished by ASEAN members and that can get pushed to the side in global bodies as world powers jockey for power and influence.

The ARF, AMF, and EAMF have also benefitted specific countries themselves. Take Indonesia as an example. These mechanisms have enabled Indonesia to put into practice innovative doctrines such as the “1000 friends, no enemies” as well as the idea of dynamic equilibrium. Let’s take the latter as an example.

If you recall, Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa has coined his strategic vision for Southeast Asia and Asia more generally as “dynamic equilibrium.” The term nicely captures how Indonesia wants political and security relations in Southeast Asia to look like: increasingly integrative and holistic, cooperative, stable, and peaceful. As I've previously written:

In a 2010 speech at the Council on Foreign Relations, Natalegawa argued that he sees dynamic equilibrium as “not quite in a classic balance-of-power situation where not one country is preponderant in our region, but in a more holistic and a more hopefully positive sense, in the sense that we don’t wish to see our region dominated by one country, whoever that country is, but we wish to see inclusivity, more countries, the merrier – the more, the merrier; and for countries to be engaged in multisectoral issues, not only security but also political and also environment, economic, social-cultural, et cetera.

 
The EAMF allows for precisely this kind of world. It is grounded in the notion of peace and stability and inclusivity. Rather than walling itself off from the rest of the world, ASEAN has made great strides to bring other countries into discussions and negotiations about Southeast Asia-related matters. In particular, the EAMF, which held its third annual meeting in August, brings together a motley crew of countries, such as ASEAN members, China, Japan, the Republic of Korea, India, Australia, New Zealand, Russia, and the U.S., to work together to enhance trust, openness, and cooperation.
What could upset this equilibrium is the rise of China. China is rising in economic and military power and pressing its claims—at times, diplomatically, other times via military muscle—in the South and East China Seas, which has caused a ripple of concern throughout Asia and at times dissension within ASEAN. To this point, talks on a code of conduct for the South China Sea between ASEAN and China have not any progress. Indeed, it is well known that China opposes any attempts to internationalize the South China Sea claims and disputes. Instead, China much prefers to discuss these issues bilaterally, on an individual basis, between Beijing and each of the countries making claims to parts of the South China Sea.

Chinese actions and positions, no doubt, have been frustrating at times. But care and attention need to be exercised at the moment. There is no need to demonize China, which would only anger it, inflaming regional tensions. And there is no need to collectively gang up on China. That would only make China feel like it is being encircled in the Southeast---something it already feels is happening to its East. The key is to find ways to ensure that China feels safe, that it is allowed to be heard, especially regarding its interests in Southeast Asia, and that it has a stake in the regional status quo. That leads me to think that ASEAN must find better ways to engage with China.

I am not suggesting that ASEAN side or align with China. That would be destabilizing, at both the regional and international levels. It would alarm the U.S. and its friends, especially those in Asia, possibly provoking them into unproductive actions. It would abet China’s rise, practically handing it regional hegemony, thereby ensuring ASEAN members exist as subordinates or pawns—no matter how much China would underplay this scenario—in regional politics and security. It would also put at risk Southeast Asia’s cherished political and cultural identities.

No, instead, ASEAN needs to create more and better access points to China, especially on maritime issues. Perhaps a strengthened and empowered EAMF could fit the bill. Or, alternatively, given the importance of the seas in Southeast Asian politics, security, and economics, and to ensure that maritime issues get the continued and proper attention and resources they require, it might be well worth it to give serious thought to establishing an ASEAN Maritime Community (AMC).

What would this proposed, hypothetical AMC look like? How would it work?

To begin, special emphasis within the AMC should be on an AMC+1, which would consist of ASEAN countries plus China. There should be routine, periodic meetings—not just annual affairs—involving a wide swath of individuals from ASEAN countries and China. After all, maritime cooperation is not just a security matter. Of course, defense/military concerns are there and real, but issues pertaining to politics, foreign policy, economics, tourism, the environment, and natural disasters (and disaster relief), among others, are pertinent to 21st century Southeast Asia, as well as Asia as a whole. With this in mind, then, government officials and leaders, economic elites, along with policy experts, academics and even non-governmental organizations, from all of these issue-areas need to be brought into this entity and fully engaged with their counterparts from within ASEAN and China on a regular basis.

Undoubtedly, it would be fruitful for this proposed AMC to build bridges to other powerful and important countries beyond China, such as Russia, Indian, Japan, and the United States, among others. But that is a secondary step. The first priority is to get China on board and develop a good, solid working relationship with Beijing on maritime issues.

In terms of concrete actions and plans, an AMC should work toward implementing a number of other things, some of which include (1) routine defense/military to defense/military visits, (2) joint patrols, (3) joint military/humanitarian/piracy exercises, (4) the establishment of a maritime hotline, (5) a strengthened declaration of conduct, (6) a code of conduct on the South China Sea, (7) and a common security policy on common maritime goals and interests. Together, all of these things, if done well, can markedly improve the points of access and interaction, strengthen communications, enhance confidence and trust, and begin to shift the regional debate from what divides China and Southeast Asia toward the areas they have in common.

Yes, some of above are happening already. But my suggested approach calls for more time and effort to be invested on maritime issues. It also sees a more integrated approach—in terms of issue-area—as a good path to pursue. Moreover, a formal mechanism such as an AMC will likely be well-positioned to draw more resources to cope with the extant maritime challenges that ASEAN members face.

To be sure, there would be difficulties associated with an AMC, so it should not be viewed as a panacea. It could be difficult to get off the ground. For instance, it could face funding issues. Perhaps some ASEAN countries might resist its creation. Of course, there is the risk that, even if established, ASEAN and China might not grant it the attention that it deserves. And China could attempt to use the AMC as a vehicle to wield influence and control over the policies of ASEAN. Despite these potential difficulties, it is the huge payoffs, as stated above, that make it worthwhile to give strong consideration to an AMC.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Big Problems for America's War in Syria

Smoke rises after an U.S.-led air strike in the Syrian town of Kobani Ocotber 10, 2014. REUTERS-Umit Bektas
U.S. air strike in Kobane. Credit: REUTERS/Umit Bektas

The Obama administration has placed a big bet on the so-called  military moderates in Syria, the FSA. It's these folks that team Obama sees as doing quite a bit of the heavy lifting in containing, if not thwarting, ISIS. In brief, here's BO's plan: The U.S. and Sunni countries have launched air strikes on ISIS positions (including captured oil refineries) and personnel to weaken ISIS's expansion; at the same time, the U.S. and its allies are shipping arms and engaging in military training to strengthen the FSA to the point that it can better deal with a weakened, degraded ISIS. The FSA is, in short, supposed to be the anti-ISIS coalition's "boots on the ground." This has been portrayed as a good thing by Team Obama, suggesting that this plan will save the U.S. the burden of putting combat forces into battle.

Time for a reality-check: Is this really a good thing? Here are some things to think about.

1. The military power of the FSA has been badly degraded by ISIS and pro-Assad forces over the last few years. As a result, the FSA is in an even worse position now than it was when Obama originally debated arming the group over a year ago. Put simply, the asymmetries in power between the FSA and its opponents has significantly widened.

2. The moderates likely aren't so moderate. Reports say that the moderates have been switching sides, taking their arms with them as they defect. And when they're not switching sides, they're working with them, as in the case of the FSA and al-Nusra, al-Qaeda's branch in Syria. Never more was this evident than when the U.S. almost bombed a FSA building, precisely because of its proximity to a Nusra location--which reflects a closeness between both sides that the U.S. didn't expect to find.

3. The moderates aren't unified and cohesive, a problem that has plagued them for years. The FSA is an umbrella group of militias and rebels, each of whom have their own interests and agendas. Some of these interests and agendas align with those of the U.S., some don't at all.

4. Al-Nusra and ISIS seem to be America's primary targets, with a heavy emphasis placed on knocking out the latter. But bombing the so-called Khorasan group, a cell of AQ operatives within Nusra, has caused an uproar among some in the FSA who see Nusra as an ally in the fight against ISIS. This uproar has caused further divisions within the FSA, with some supporting the air strikes and some harshly critical and against them. These are our America's allies?

So what does all of this mean? In short, Obama's bet on the moderates is an extraordinarily bad one. The moderates have accomplished little militarily. The air strikes have helped, but only to a small degree. And ISIS is still on the move, showing no sign of slowing down.

All might not be lost if, perhaps, Team Obama has other cards up its sleeve. Alas, it likely doesn't.

Sensibly, the U.S. wants Turkey to get involved in the fight against ISIS, but one part of that requires Turkey to strengthen the fighting capabilities of the Kurds, something turkey is reluctant to do, despite the internal pressure from protesters and rioters to do so. At this point, because of its own Kurdish troubles, Turkey sees an empowered Kurdish population in Syria as a graver threat than a rampaging, malignant ISIS, which is both alarming and horrific. Indeed, right now, Turkish selfishness is abetting the fall of Kobane to ISIS, which puts hundreds of Kurds, if not more, who are outgunned and outmanned, directly in harm's way.

To get Turkey on board, it wants the U.S., along with its allies, to set up a no-fly zone in Syria. But this, too, is fraught with problems. It means that the U.S. would have to make a greater investment in the war, in terms of manpower and expense, which runs counter to team Obama's plan for a "limited war" and could possibly pave the way for another prolonged American war in the Middle East. The other wrinkle here is that setting up a no-fly zone would necessitate the U.S. either to take out Syrian air defenses or to coordinate with Assad. For now, both options are a no-go for Team Obama.

Furthermore, it also doesn't help that there's little communication between the FSA and the American military, which means the latter doesn't have the requisite eyes and ears to know where enemy targets are. The U.S. military is firing blindly. Of course, this ups the chances of killing innocent civilians, which only leads to bad things--such as turning them off to the war, angering them, and even possibly radicalizing them.

America and its allies' "excellent adventure" in Syria is a giant mess.