Time, Difficulty, Cost Expose the Realities of Russia’s Plan

By: Matt McBride

The Syrian government’s acceptance of Russia’s proposal to place Syria’s chemical weapons under international control fosters jubilant smiles and peaceful thoughts for many of the parties involved. Russia gets a chance to claw its reputation back up the international ladder after years of economic turmoil and consistently slowed growth. The US does not follow through with a military strike against Syria, leaving American citizens happy that they did not bomb Syria, and Syrians happy that they did not get bombed. Russian President Vladimir Putin gets to look like a great peacemaker, Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad’s effort in the Syrian civil war does not take a military hit, and President Barack Obama and his seemingly insatiable appetite for war can put to rest what has been a public relations nightmare.

The Russian plan, however, has some serious defects; including time, difficulty, and cost. The amount of time it would take to destroy these chemical weapons is not feasible. It is not feasible because of the difficulty of initially finding, then safely acquiring, and finally, destroying the chemical weapons; all the while successfully executing this operation while in the midst of full-blown civil war. Yochi Dreazen puts this into perspective in an article for Foreign Policy:

Experts in chemical weapons disposal point to a host of challenges. Taking control of Assad's enormous stores of the munitions would be difficult to do in the midst of a brutal civil war. Dozens of new facilities for destroying the weapons would have to be built from scratch or brought into the country from the U.S., and completing the job would potentially take a decade or more. The work itself would need to be done by specially-trained military personnel or contractors. Guess which country has most of those troops and civilian experts? If you said the U.S., you'd be right.

The complexity of eliminating chemical weapons is echoed in the immense amount of time and money that it takes, and we need look no further than efforts to destroy our own stockpiles, as Dreazen continues:

The decades-long U.S. push to eliminate its own chemical weapons stockpiles illustrates the tough road ahead if Washington and Damascus come to a deal. The Army organization responsible for destroying America's massive quantities of munitions says the effort will take two years longer than initially planned and cost $2 billion more than its last estimate. The delay means an effort that got underway in the 1990s will continue until roughly 2023 and ultimately cost approximately $35 billion.

While the Syrian stockpile is believed to be nowhere near that of the US, the probability of achieving success in a complex environment like say, a civil war, coupled with the previously established dynamics—time, difficulty, and cost—is highly unlikely. Campaign for Liberty opposes any form of military intervention in Syria and like our Founding Fathers, will continue to advocate for a noninterventionist foreign policy. Our military overstretch is undermining our national defense and bankrupting our country. We simply cannot afford to be the policeman of the world.

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