That fact can be sliced a few different ways, but it comes down to this: the program to train non-ISIL, non-Assad combatants for Syria is, like every other aspect of Austin’s and the Administration’s incoherent Syria policy, a failure of staggering proportions. Its result? Single digits of fighters in Syria. Low single digits, like five. Or maybe only four.
It’s not only a failure as a program, Austin can’t even place any confidence in the numbers describing the outrageous dimensions of the failure. The Washington Post, usually willing to carry water for the Administration and its political generals, finds itself, without any water to carry, reduced to reporting like an old-style paper:
In comments that appeared to shock even many of those involved in Syria policy elsewhere in the government, Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, the head of the U.S. Central Command, told Congress on Wednesday that only “four or five” trainees from the program, a $500 million plan officially launched in December to prepare as many as 5,400 fighters this year, have ended up “in the fight” inside Syria.
There are a couple different ways of looking at that metric. For instance, if you want to know what value for money the Administration’s politicized Syrian-training program produces, you could compare the cost of a trained fighter in Syria to the cost of, say, the military education of General Austin: we know the number’s $100 million for each ragtag Syrian. Or we can look at the success percentage of the training program, which has delivered 5 of 5,400 promised combatants: that would be 0.092%, which would put it right in the mainstream for government programs.
But wait! Those numbers are presuming the ill-informed Austin’s high bound of 5 Syrians is right. If it’s 4, they cost us $125 million each, and 0.074% success rate, which is said aloud as “Seventy-four thousandths of a percent.”
Do you dare ask who has been fired? Who has been held accountable? Who was denied a bonus? You know, don’t you, the answer to these questions.
The course correction would mark the first significant alteration in the Obama administration’s year-old strategy of defeating the militants with air power, along with training and supplies for indigenous forces fighting them on the ground. It comes as critics have drawn a direct line between Obama’s long-standing reluctance to more directly intervene in the fight and the growing flood of Syrian refugees fleeing to the West.
First, air power alone can’t defeat anybody, and second, it’s been at a rate of a half-dozen sorties a day, based on technical-means intelligence (also known in the trade as “worthless, easily-spoofed intelligence”) alone. So what’s their answer?
Defense officials who described the proposed changes said the yearly goal would be substantially lower, perhaps as few as 500.
Oh, okay, redesignate success so that if they match the previous results they can now say the fighters only cost $10 million each (again, a large multiple of the cost of the career-long education GEN Austin has had) and we were able to get the throughput up to 1%!
That’s efficiency, as seen from the window of the E-Ring (or the bar car of the Acela).
Rather than front-line forces, fighters would be trained as enablers and liaisons between U.S. forces outside the country — particularly those directing U.S. airstrikes — and groups such as Syrian Kurds and Sunni Arabs that the Pentagon thinks have been effective against the militants.
And, wait for it, we’ll stop training Islamist extremists of the kind the President and the Secretary of State have insisted on, the guys who are indistinguishable from the ISIL asils we’re supposedly fighting, and instead train guys who want to fight against them.
Um, why didn’t anyone (apart from all of us in the UW establishment) suggest this before? Oh, we did, but President Nobel Peace Prize had to do it his own way with his own Muslim Brotherhood pals? Roger that.
Meanwhile, the Russians have taken an interesting approach to their guy in Syria, the chinless wonder, Bashar Assad. They’ve surrounded him with Russian firepower.
Meanwhile, millions of Syrians, and Iraqis, and Turks, and other surge into Europe, demanding that the fruits of Western civilization be given to those who are too uncivilized to earn them themselves, and who will only squander them. And we remember the old counterintelligence rule of refugees and displaced persons: one in ten is not what he seems. Indeed, it is a dead certainty that ISIL, the Syrian Assad government, the Iranian theokleptocracy, and other bad actors each have a higher percentage of agents in that “refugee” surge than the yield percentage the US gets out of its 5,400, or 500, alleged freedom fighters.
And, as the usual sleek Ivy and Georgetown “foreign policy establishment” within and without State and CIA stare at their screens and mutter something about “unexpectedly,” a weak, vacillating foreign policy in general and its weak, vacillating, inconstant, and cowardly implementation in the region in particular, bear fruit. They produce a result that’s predictable to those of use who formed an understanding of international dispute resolution at the sharp and sticky end.
All of these events are only unexpected if your vision of international dispute resolution was framed in a 400-series seminar led by some professor who’s never faced a tougher question than whether to grade his kids’ papers or let his graduate assistant do it. And unfortunately, we have given foreign and military policy over to these four-flushers.
But hey, some Syrians are with us. Seventy-four thousandths of a percent!