'87 Sir

Thirty years of service ----USNA Class of 1987 '87 Sir

Sunday, June 30, 2013

A different look at the Battle of Gettysburg

Well, this week begins the 150th anniversary celebrations of the Battle of Gettysburg.  Sadly, it's too darn hot to take the family up there and probably too crazy with hundreds of thousands of people there.

150th anniversary of Battle of Gettysburg provides a bigger story

 Although I did have to say I loved CNN's quote...who knew?

"For every Southern boy fourteen years old, not once but whenever he wants it, there is the instant when it's still not yet two o'clock on that July afternoon in 1863."
So starts a powerful passage by William Faulkner in "Intruder in the Dust." The Mississippi novelist and poet poignantly painted the scene of dry-mouthed young men anticipating battle.
True enough...so your Grouchy Historian will, like many pundits and historians everywhere...off my take on the battle.

I am somewhat gratified to see so much interest in Civil War history this year...but as I always say, a little bit of history can be a dangerous thing...as I plan on relating in a post later this week.

Nonetheless, unlike the no doubt endless revisionist and progressive analysis of Gettysburg in terms of race, gender, and class struggle that I will have to endure this week, I plan on looking at the Battle primarily in terms of Campaign and Battle Analysis.

The Battle of Gettysburg

A.    Timeframe 
·      Summer 1863; after Union defeat at Battle of Chancellorsville; Confederate forces under siege in Vicksburg
B.    Location
·      Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
C.   Adversaries
·      Union Army of the Potomac
  77,000 infantry, 13,000 cavalry, 360 guns
·      Confederate Army of Northern Virginia
  54,000 infantry, 9,500 cavalry, 262 guns     

A.    National war aims and national purpose
·      Third year of war for both sides.  Confederacy attempting to maintain momentum from recent Chancellorsville campaign and relieve pressure on Vicksburg.  Confederacy also seeking decisive battle
·      Union also seeking decisive battle, but on strategic defensive in east following Chancellorsville and command change in Army of the Potomac
B.    National experience
·      Confederacy at height of military prowess in Eastern Theater
·      Union at low point in Eastern Theater
C.   Military goals
·      Confederate aim to feed and provision army from Pennsylvania countryside to give Virginia spell from heavy campaigning; carry war into Union territory and seek a decisive battle with the Army of the Potomac;  take pressure off Confederate forces under siege in Vicksburg
·      Union aim to protect Washington DC and bring Army of Northern Virginia to battle if opportunity arose
D.   Organization of each Army
·      Army of the Potomac
  Infantry organized into 7 Corps (I, II, III, V, VI, XI, XIII)
·      Army of Northern Virginia
  Infantry organized into 3 Corps (I, II, III)
·      Command relationships
  Army of the Potomac
- Meade new to command.  Mixed relationships with corps commanders.  Corps commander quality mixed; Hancock very good; Howard questionable, Sickles problematic, etc.
  Army of Northern Virginia
-Lee very experienced; corps commanders mixed; loss of Jackson will be significant factor in battle; Ewell and Powell first major battle as corps commanders; Longstreet best corps commander but not enthusiastic about Lee's offensive strategy

A.    Principal events leading up to the campaign
·      Aftermath of Chancellorsville; Confederate options and courses of action; Lee’s plan for Pennsylvania invasion
·      Cavalry actions prior to campaign; Stuart’s plan for Cavalry ride around Union army again
·      Army of Northern Virginia moves prior to June 30 in Pennsylvania; Lee again splits his army in Pennsylvania in the face of superior forces.  Union forces follow in pursuit; Meade replaces Hooker
B.    Strategic objectives
·      Both armies seeking decisive battle
C.   Campaign plan-Neither side planned for engagement at Gettysburg
·      Like Antietam the previous year, Lee plans to concentrate prior to battle, however did not anticipate battle at Gettysburg
·      Meade attempting to locate Lee’s army for engagement, did not anticipate battle either, but chooses to fight.

A.    Logistical considerations
·      Logistics will be key consideration for both armies as battle develops
·      Lee nearly ran out of artillery ammunition during Picket’s Charge
·      Both sides will experience logistical issues during the battle and afterwards
B.    Personalities/leadership
·      Leadership will be key to the battle
·      Confederacy-Ewell’s decision on 1st day not to assault Culp’s Hill; indecision of Longstreet and Ewell on 2nd day’s attacks; inability of Lee to coordinate attacks
·      Union-Sickles’s decision on 2nd day to create salient with his Corps that nearly unhinges the Union center; Meade reacts well to situation but not aggressive

A.    Terrain and weather
·      Terrain basic cause of battle; Gettysburg road junction as assembly point for Confederate army; also the key factor in battle; Union position on hills south of Gettysburg; Confederate attacking mostly uphill for duration of battle
B.    Additional tactical factors
·      Discussion on lack of reconnaissance from either army; battle caused by lack of knowledge by both sides of opponent’s whereabouts

A.    Confederacy:  Lee attempts to maintain operational and tactical offensive posture throughout the battle; meeting engagement becomes general offensive effort across the three days of battle
B.    Union:  Almost totally defensive posture operationally and tactically throughout the battle.  Little inclination to assume offensive operations, other than local counterattacks and Sickles’s move on the 2nd day of battle

A.    Conduct of battle
·      Prelude/ Preliminary Maneuvers on 30 June
  Union Cavalry located west of town
  Confederate plan to move infantry into town in search of supplies; expect light to no resistance
·      1st Day-July 1, 1863
  Begins as meeting engagement between Union cavalry and Confederate infantry north and west of Gettysburg
  Both sides feed forces piecemeal into battle as they arrive; Confederates push Union forces through town and onto high ground south of town.  Union forces make final stand and Confederate vacillation on launching final attack of day leaves Union army in strong defensive position
·      2nd Day-July 2, 1863
  Lee plans next day offensive; no cavalry for reconnaissance
  Union maintains defensive posture; awaits developments
  Confederacy launches uncoordinated attacks on both Union flanks; Confederates not strong enough to overlap Union lines to enable flank attacks; allows Union to use “central position” and shorter battle lines to move reinforcements to maintain lines; day ends inconclusively
·      3rd Day-July 3, 1863
  Lee considers one final assault to break Union center; “Picket’s Charge”; failure of Confederate artillery preparatory barrage.  Union defense; lack of Union counterattack when Confederates vulnerable; end of combat due to mutual exhaustion of both sides
B.    Impact of 'frictions of war'
·      Lack of Stuart’s cavalry until close of 2nd Day causes infantry meeting engagement and hinders ability of Lee to find opponent’s flank

·      Only clear Union victory in East to date; Union forces turn back Lee’s offensive; pursuit of Lee’s army slow and not coordinated; Confederacy now on strategic defensive for remainder of war; in Eastern Theater on operational and tactical defensive for remainder of war as well
·      Union forces not able to capitalize on victory with pursuit to destroy Lee's army due to logistical difficulties, high casualties, and supply shortage; potentially best opportunity to envelop Lee's army north of Potomac River
·      Tactical Lessons
  Confederacy lacked unity of command; Lee could not get his plans adequately carried out by corps commanders 1st or 2nd day of battle
  Union had better position tactically based on geography and ability to shift forces as needed; Meade missed chance to counterattack on 3rd day with uncommitted VI Corps
  Geography still decisive factor in warfare-capture and hold the high ground

So, now that we have a framework for the next three days, let's wonder off topic and discuss a really grognard topic--the tactical influence and thought process for the generals at Gettysburg.

I recently wrote a review of a really fabulous book on Civil War strategy and tactics and how the influence of doctrine and drill manuals influenced the fighting. 
Here's a little more on that topic.

The Battle of Gettysburg: A Jominian View

The influence of the writings of Baron Jomini and the Napoleonic style warfare in can clearly, if indirectly, be seen in Civil War combat, in particular the Gettysburg Campaign of 1863.

Jomini was a contemporary of Clausewitz, and in many ways their experiences and thinking about warfare are very similar. Although Clausewitz believed that the defense was tactically stronger on the battlefield, both assumed that only be seizing and retaining the strategic initiative by via an offensive posture could win a war. Joimni took this line of thinking even further by advocating that a general’s primary duty was to seek out the enemy army for a decisive battle. Both men had experience in the Napoleonic Wars and each in his own way sought to understand how the nationalistic levee-en-mass warfare had replaced the very methodical dynastic warfare of pre-Napoleon Europe. The Napoleonic style of warfare, culminating in massive and decisive battles, was also the subject of both author’s analyses. Interestingly, one area not addressed by Jomini that was extensively discussed by Clausewitz was the relationship between politics and war and the need for military action to be tied to diplomacy and politics, both internal and external. This was a particular shortcoming in Jomini’s writing, which was concerned with transforming tactical ability into operational success, when then assumed a strategic victory.

Jomini did layout, for the first time, a more comprehensive view of warfare at what could be called the operational level, going beyond the staid understanding and writings on marching and drilling a regiment to examining how an army should fight. His analysis of Napoleon’s ability to maneuver vast armies of troops across dispersed geography to arrive at the place of battle show his appreciation for a general to understand not just how to march and drill, but fight with armies. [1]

Looking at the Battle of Gettysburg through a Jominian lens provides interesting observations. The Confederate strategic thinking was entirely offensive, seeking not only to achieve a decisive victory over the Army of the Potomac, but also take the war out of Virginia into northern territory to feed the Confederate army and spare the Virginia countryside another year of campaigning. Although from a narrow Eastern-centric view this may have been sound, the Army of Northern Virginia could not affect the on-going siege of Vicksburg, a more strategically important battle to the Union’s overall war plans.

However, tactically and operationally, the Army of Northern Virginia violated several of Jomini’s precepts during the early part of the battle that likely prevented a more decisive victory. The lack of proper cavalry screening and reconnaissance brought on a battle when Lee’s army was too dispersed with no plan to concentrate and bring on a battle with the Union forces when they were equally scattered, disorganized and arriving piecemeal on the battlefield.

Although the Army of the Potomac was tactically defeated and driven out of the town of Gettysburg, they had the advantage of fighting on the defensive and occupying the dominant terrain for the battle. Once both armies were fully engaged, the Union Army was able to exploit Jomini’s concept of interior lines on a tactical scale, moving troops to reinforce threatened parts of the line during the Confederate offenses against both flanks on the second day of battle.

The major tactical mistake made by the Union Army was not using available uncommitted troops to counterattack after the repulse of Pickett’s Charge. Lee fully expected a Union counter-stroke and would have been hard-pressed to fight off a major Union assault upon his center. [2]

The major lesson from Gettysburg, and the Civil War in general, was that most of the theories and maxims that Jomini espoused about offensive warfare were being rendered obsolescent by the advent of the rifled musket, percussion cap and improved field fortifications, not to mention early models of repeating rifles, which allowed Union cavalry to delay large numbers of Confederate infantry at the start of the battle. The basic Napoleonic tactics of using flank attacks to weaken your opponent’s center, followed with a mass assault by your reserves to achieve a breakthrough, and then sending in the cavalry for the pursuit were simply not applicable on the Civil War battlefield. As the Union stand against Pickett’s Charge showed, well dug-in infantry supported by plenty of artillery could withstand nearly any assault, even by spirited troops of the Army of Northern Virginia. The days of sweeping Napoleonic Warfare and the √©lan of the mass assault were already dying on Cemetery Ridge and Little Round Top and the development of magazine fed rifles, heavy breech loading artillery, and eventually the machine-gun would bring about a serious reevaluation of Jominian principles of the offense in the early 20th century. [3]

[1] John Shy, "Jomini," in Makers of Modern Strategy: From Machiavelli to the Nuclear Age, (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1986), 143-185.

[2] Stephen Sears, Gettysburg (New York, NY: Houghton Mifflin, 2003), 197-203, 312-318, 464-469.

[3] Herman Hattaway, "The Changing Face of Battle," North and South, Vol. 4, No. 6, 34-43.

Monday, June 24, 2013

World War I Combat History Part I- The problems of 1914

As I was contemplating what a spectacular time this is for military history, I decided to start beefing up my knowledge on World War I.

This book was brought to my attention via the New York Journal of Books, my new and most excellent venture into the world of free books for book reviews and I decided to read it on my own.

I will give my full review of the book later, but I considered that each year of the war provided a unique strategic challenge to the combatants and a detailed examination of the strategic and operational challenges faced by each side on the various battle fronts might provide some interesting insights.

First of all, in spite of a general lack of knowledge  by most Americans of this most crucial war, probably THE critical war of the 20th century, there have arisen many myths and "truths" about the war the I suspect the author is going to challenge.  The whole issue of "the mindless slaughter of trench warfare" is likely the biggest myth to be challenged, so I look foward to what Mr. Hart has to say.

Looking at the beginning of the war in 1914, what do the military actions of the Great Powers tell us?  Quite a lot, if you take a dispassionate and realpolitik viewpoint of their actions.  From a strictly historical point, our old friend Thucydides is always timeless and relevant--> FEAR, HONOR, INTEREST provide an excellent framework to understand why and how the events of 1914 played out.

As Mr. Hart points out, Germany and her ally Austria-Hungary, were pivotal to understanding why a seemingly minor terrorist incident, the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand, ignited a world war.  First, the Austro-Hungarian Empire was dying a slow death as it was coming apart at the ethnic seems.  Serbian nationalism was a festering sore that the Austrians hoped to lance once and for all.  Compounding this issue was the general fear of Germany that the correlation of military power was not in their favor long term, and it was to their advantage to fight what the General Staff hoped would be a short, quick campaign against France-a la 1870, before turning to deal with the growing colossus of Russia.

So factoring interest with fear, to the Germans, a war in 1914 seemed perfectly logical and in their strategic interests.

The problem for the Germans was their inability to balance ends, ways, and means to achieve their strategic goals.  Or, in the realm of "grand strategy" the Germans had no real plan to match their political goals with their military capability...forgetting their Clausewitz or even the style of Chancellor Bismarck.  It is very unclear to this Grouchy Historian what the desired end state was when the German Army crossed the Belgian frontier in 1914.  Assuming the Germans had achieved some measure of victory and captured Paris in 1914---> THEN WHAT?  Would they have turned their army east to face the leviathan Russian Army?  What exactly was their plan?  This seems to be a common theme in 20th century German military history...they dazzle at tactical and operational levels of warfare but have no freakin' strategy. Germany was certainly between a rock and a hard place, but it appears that the General Staff did their war planning cut off from the political and diplomatic parts of the government and had no clue how to end the war...if it could even be ended. 

Although the Germans crushed the tactically inept Russians at The Battle of Tannenberg, one is left wondering how they planned to conclude the war with Russia.  Certainly an invasion and drive on Moscow was not even considered, nor was their any notion of a coordinated war plan with Turkey and Austria, so one is left wondering how 1914 could have ended favorably for Germany?

This leads to Hart's sorta snarky observation that World War I, begun in the mind of all the European powers as a short, sharp decisive war, was destined to become a morass of blood and frustration as none of them understood the new technologies of the machine gun, bolt action rifle, or the mundane trenching tool and how the old notion of infantry charges were forever doomed.  His point that the only way to have won the war was to avoid it is certainly logical in hindsight but the combination of Thucydides logic and political and military naivete about the changes to warfare made the war all but inevitable.

1914 ended with a lot of dead soldiers, dug in troops wondering what comes next..and various republics and empires just waking up to the military, social, and economic challenges their countries were facing.  There was no decisive victory for anyone and certainly no end to the war in sight.

Friday, June 21, 2013

New Brad Meltzer...

So, I spent a long time on the hold list for this book at the library, having tried and enjoyed The Inner Circle.  Being a real sucker for a great thriller series, a la Brad Thor and the, sadly, late Vince Flynn, I figured this would be a good break from my World War I studies.

It was good...but took a little time to warm up to.  SO, here is what I think...and no, no major spoilers, so you're safe.

The GOOD:  Meltzer is a master of the plot pacing and plot twist.  I didn't see the end coming...even though you were sure (cuz Meltzer sets you up with a seemingly obvious trail of bread crumbs) you know what was gonna happen...BAMMO, he twists it around and you end up saying "NO WAY!" ...yes way.  Meltzer also does a good job of developing his characters and making them either believably BAD or GOOD or sorta morally ambivalent, depending on the character.  And of course some characters you just plain ol' aren't sure about.....and that's the mark of a good writer.

The NOT SO GOOD:  Ok, so the new thing in thriller writing is clearly the multi-POV novel.  James Patterson clearly loves this and seems to pull it off very well.  For the most part, Meltzer does too.  HOWEVER, not only does Meltzer try to dazzle us with changing POV during the story, he also tries to weave in character back story and historical tidbits.  Some of this works, some of it, quite frankly made me flip back and forth to figure out what time period we were in.  Like chili pepper and adobe, one can use both techniques, but they should be used with discretion...if I were snarky, I would say the Brad is trying too hard to dazzle us sometimes...you got me man, I have the book, you don't need to show off so much.

That being said, I won't spoil anything to say that Mr. Meltzer has a franchise going here...and it's a good one cuz yes I will read the next one...but only because I am a total sucker for good historical conspiracy books and thriller books and Brad does a nice job of integrating both.  Ok, so if I was honest, I would probably read Brad Thor or JD Robb first, but since Vince Flynn will regrettably not be writing any more books...unless the publishers find someone to pick up that mantle (hmmmmm)...Mr. Meltzer may have moved into 3rd place for required Grouchy Historian fiction...and that ain't too shabby.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Arising from the Ashes...the German Army between the World Wars

There's an old saying that the losers of a war learn more than the winners.  This is certainly true of the German Army between the World Wars.  In this highly detailed and not for the faint of heart book, Dr. Robert Citino, one of my favorite authors of German military history...who has written extensively on the German Wehrmacht in 1942 and 1943, examines the rebuilding of the German army and how the concept of "blitzkrieg" was developed.

First of all, as mentioned, this book is only for the hardiest of military historians.  Citino has clearly done a magnificent job of research and analysis, and he can be a bit overwhelming at times with his facts and details.

But, patience is rewarded and some really interesting patterns and analysis emerge about military innovation in the inter-war years, especially armored and maneuver warfare.

First, all of the world powers know of the importance of the tank and airplane to warfare.  Britain, France, Russia, and Germany all attempted to understand and fit these new weapons into their doctrine and strategy. At various times the British and Russians had very advanced thinking on the use of armor, but the pusillanimous treatment of the military in Britain and Stalin's great purges stopped their progress cold, for which they paid a steep price when war came again to Europe.

Second, the German use of tanks was not really that novel, at least according to their own developments in tactics and doctrine from the last year of the war.  German sturmtruppen and infantry infiltration tactics had been highly developed and extremely successful in the last German offensives of 1918..they simply ran out of men and material to sustain their offensive to victory and could not overcome the 2,000,000 American troops that were committed to the war.  There is a really awesome paper on the topic from the Combat Studies Institute.

What did set the Germans apart from other world powers, and made the Wehrmacht so lethal an operational force was not the introduction of tanks to warfare, but the perfection of Combined Arms Warfare, which Citino describes in convincing detail.  The Germans understood that tanks would be the dominant weapon on the next European battlefield, but they would need to be supported by infantry, artillery, anti-aircraft guns, anti-tank guns, engineers and reconnaissance troops.  This ability to combine these various arms under a unified command, tied together with radio and signal troops and then support them with tactical air power exemplified by the Stuka dive-bomber made the Wehrmacht into a very efficient killing machine.

This was a really excellent book in understanding not only the details of German blitzkrieg, but how armies innovate in response to new weapons, tactics, and operational requirements.  If you are a serious student of World War II, strategy and doctrine, or military innovation and technology, this is a very worthwhile read.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Don't cry for me Hasan Nasrallah

Schadenfreude is an interesting thing...and so is realpolitik. And I have to say, that as an extremely cynical and snarky observer of the Middle East, I find the current debate on the situation in Syria fascinating to watch.

I mean, seriously, who thought when this whole "Arab Spring" thingy began almost two years ago that it would ignite a 21st century version of the "Thirty Years War" across the Middle East?

For those under-educated public school readers who spent all their time reading Howard Zinn pontificate about the wonders of Caesar Chavez and Bella Abzug, the Thirty Years War was primarily a religious war that tore apart Europe from 1618-1648 along Catholic and Protestant lines and left Germany plundered and destroyed as new nationalist hatreds were either magnified or replaced by older ethnic and religious strife. 

SO, what do we have going on in the Middle East today? Well, it's basically a power struggle between Iran and Saudi Arabia for control of the direction of Islam, oil wealth, and general "mine's bigger than yours realpolitik."

Enter Syria, Iran's only real ally in the entire region, and Lebanese Hizballah's primary benefactor. In addition to being the most dangerous terrorist organization on the planet, Hizballah has the dubious distinction of being the only Arab "army" that can claim some measure of victory of Israel in battle. Although the be fair, Hizballah can only really claim that they stood toe-to-toe with the most lethal military in the Middle East and survived, in Arab parlance, that equals victory. Weird, but true. So, today we learn that Iran is going all in to rescue Asad's regime and make sure the world knows it...from the UK Independent:

Iran to send 4,000 troops to aid President Assad forces in Syria 
Iran is now fully committed to preserving Assad’s regime, according to pro-Iranian sources which have been deeply involved in the Islamic Republic’s security, even to the extent of proposing to open up a new ‘Syrian’ front on the Golan Heights against Israel.

America’s alliance now includes the wealthiest states of the Arab Gulf, the vast Sunni territories between Egypt and Morocco, as well as Turkey and the fragile British-created monarchy in Jordan. King Abdullah of Jordan – flooded, like so many neighbouring nations, by hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees – may also now find himself at the fulcrum of the Syrian battle. Up to 3,000 American ‘advisers’ are now believed to be in Jordan, and the creation of a southern Syria ‘no-fly zone’ – opposed by Syrian-controlled anti-aircraft batteries – will turn a crisis into a ‘hot’ war. So much for America’s ‘friends’.

Its enemies include the Lebanese Hizballah, the Alawite Shiite regime in Damascus and, of course, Iran. And Iraq, a largely Shiite nation which America ‘liberated’ from Saddam Hussein’s Sunni minority in the hope of balancing the Shiite power of Iran, has – against all US predictions – itself now largely fallen under Tehran’s influence and power. Iraqi Shiites as well as Hizballah members, have both fought alongside Assad’s forces.

This is huge, like, really, huge...where Iran basically says to Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Jordan, and all the Sunni countries that have been backing the Syrian rebels (who have been taken over by Al Qaeda affiliates, by they way...but hey let's not let pesky facts get in the way, we have to do something to help those poor terrorist thugs killing the other terrorist thugs) AND THE HORSE YOU RODE IN ON...

and what does this Administration do?  FOR THE FIRST TIME, I totally agree with what they are doing...AS LITTLE AS POSSIBLE...at least I hope so, in spite of idiotic calls from Republicans like Lindsey Graham...who is clearly off his meds for a "no-fly zone" and arming the JIHADI AL QAEDA LOVING rebels. 
Continuing from the UK Independent link above
In the Middle East, there is cynical disbelief at the American contention that it can distribute arms – almost certainly including anti-aircraft missiles – only to secular Sunni rebel forces in Syria represented by the so-called Free Syria Army.  The more powerful al-Nusrah Front, allied to al-Qaeda, dominates the battlefield on the rebel side and has been blamed for atrocities including the execution of Syrian government prisoners of war and the murder of a 14-year old boy for blasphemy.  They will be able to take new American weapons from their Free Syria Army comrades with little effort.
From now on, therefore, every suicide bombing in Damascus - every war crime committed by the rebels - will be regarded in the region as Washington’s responsibility. The very Sunni-Wahabi Islamists who killed thousands of Americans on 11th September, 2011 – who are America’s greatest enemies as well as Russia’s – are going to be proxy allies of the Obama administration.
This is the height of stupidity...I assume the distinguished Senator knows that implementing a no-fly zone will likely bring about a war between the US and our allies and Syria and their allies.

Not to mention that the US military is not excited about fighting to save a bunch of Al Qaeda loving jihadi murderers after spending the last 10 years hunting them down and killing them in great bunches.  My ol' stand-by website Foreign Policy says it best:

Why the Pentagon really, really doesn't want to get involved in Syria
The Pentagon's enthusiasm for a no-fly zone is tempered by past experiences. The Air Force still quickly points to Operation Northern and Southern Watch over Iraq as an operationally exhausting and expensive endeavor that lasted many years.
"The biggest reason the military is resistant is frankly that it recognizes as well it should, post-Iraq, that military action brings extreme and unintended consequences and that's totally valid," said Joe Holliday, a fellow at the Institute for the Study of War. Holliday, who provided blueprints for military intervention to the Pentagon's Joint Staff some months ago, believes that while military planners have looked at various courses of action  - and the second and third order effects that would follow - it hasn't looked at the impact of not doing anything.
A perception that there is a dearth of military assets needed for such action contributes to the collective military sentiment about Syrian intervention. There's also perhaps a deep, psychological underpinning: the Syrian rebels are nearly indistinguishable from some of the very foreign fighters the military has been fighting.
"The defense establishment has been fighting jihadis for the last many years, and now, why are we helping them?"
ENTER.....Sarah Palin...that's right, Caribou Barbie that the left loves to hate with spittle flying intensity and what does she say???

“We’re talking now more new interventions,” Mrs. Palin said, according to The Blaze. “I say, until we know what we’re doing, until we have a commander in chief who knows what he’s doing, well, chief, in these radical Islamic countries who aren’t even respecting basic human rights, where both sides are slaughtering each other as they scream over an arbitrary red line, ‘Allah Akbar,’ I say until we have someone who knows what they’re doing, I say, let Allah sort it out.”
BAM...yup..that's exactly right...there is not one damn thing the U.S. has at stake in Syria...in fact...if we follow my old friend Bismarck's quote about the Balkans:
"The whole of the Balkans is not worth the bones of a single Pomeranian grenadier"
- Otto Von Bismarck
Just replace Balkans with Syria and I totally agree with Sarah...STAY the hell out of Syria.  IN fact, if you are truly a realpolitik cynic like myself...let them fight it out for as long as possible until Iran and Hizballah are played out...I really, really like the current analogy of Syria as Iran's "Stalingrad"
The growing infusion of Iranian-backed Lebanese and Iraqi Shiite fighters into the Syrian civil war is causing some veteran pundits to panic. Vali Nasr, dean of the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University, warns that "Iran is beating the U.S. in Syria." Former Bush administration deputy national security adviser Elliot Abrams sees "a humiliating defeat of the United States at the hands of Iran."

Nothing could be further from the truth. Setting aside the matter of how Washington can be losing a war it is not fighting, the claim that Iran is winning is dead wrong. The Islamic Republic's headlong intervention in Syria is akin to Nazi Germany's surge of military forces into the Battle of Stalingrad in the fall of 1942 – an operationally competent, strategic blunder of epic proportions.

To be sure, the influx of thousands of foreign (mostly non-Iranian) Shiite fighters into Syria in recent months has enabled pro-regime forces to regain some ground in the Damascus suburbs and a belt of territory linking the capital to Homs and the coast. The town of Qusayr, critical to both rebel and regime supply lines into Lebanon, fell on June 5.

That's a shame, but the Iranian surge won't prevent the overwhelmingly Sunni Arab rebels from eventually prevailing on the battlefield. Sunni Arabs have a 5-to-1 demographic edge over the minority Alawites who comprise most uniformed and paramilitary pro-regime combatants, and a 2-to-1 advantage over all of Syria's ethno-sectarian minorities combined. The rebels are strongly supported by the overwhelming majority of Arabs and Muslims worldwide who are Sunnis, and their four principal sponsors – Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Jordan – have a GDP well over twice that of Iran. Russia continues to do business with the regime, but it won't intervene decisively enough to change the math.
 I LIKE IT...is it kind of cold and heartless? Maybe, but that's how realpolitik works...and I know some morons both in the Democratic and Republican parties think the US can do something useful..I doubt it...that ship sailed over two years ago...now the only thing the U.S. can and should do is support Israel, help Jordan and Turkey ship the Syrian refugees home when the fighting is over and for goodness sakes, don't frickin' bring any of them here?  

What kinda stupid is that?  Let their fellow Sunnis and Shias take care of them...they've got plenty of oil wealth...

Schadenfreude...great word for today...."Let them kill each other, Allah will sort them out."