Not exactly a broken record, but for more than a year General Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has found many ways to make it clear he does not want to get involved in the Syria conflict.
"I think it would be premature to exclusively decide that the time for a military option was upon us."
"It is a much different situation than we collectively saw in Libya. I think that's an important point to make, because we don't have as clear an understanding of the nature of the opposition."
"I think diplomatic pressure should always precede any discussions about military options. And that's my job by the way is options, not policy. And so we`ll -- we`ll be prepared to provide options if asked to do so."
"The pressures that are being brought to bear are simply not having the effect, I think, that we intend. But I'm not prepared to advocate that we abandon that track at this point."
"This is one where we need to continue to shape it diplomatically and economically before we would think about applying a military instrument of power."
"The issue of outcomes, I think, is the important question. And as we decide or discuss about the application of any number of means, whether it's humanitarian assistance all the way up through no-fly zones, I think we have to -- we have to understand that the -- we have to have a pretty clear view of what outcome we're seeking to achieve."
"The -- the effort -- or the act of preventing the use of chemical weapons would be almost unachievable."
"I don't think at this point I can see a military option that would create an understandable outcome. And until I do, it would be my advice to proceed cautiously."
"I have grave concerns that Syria could be a frozen conflict, if you will -- one that is in a perpetual state of conflict. ... And that is why I think that the diplomatic solution that finds an accommodation for all parties and that avoids sectarian conflict is clearly the best option."
"We're prepared with options, should the -- should military force be called upon and assuming it can be effectively used to secure our interests without making matters worse. We must also be ready for options for an uncertain and dangerous future. That is a future we have not yet identified."
"Before we take action, we have to be prepared for what comes next."
"Whether the military effect would produce the kind of outcome I think that not only members of Congress but all of us would desire -- which is an end to the violence, some kind of political reconciliation among the parties, and a stable Syria -- that's the reason I've been cautious about the application of the military instrument of power.... It's not clear to me that it would produce that outcome."
Photo by Scott J. Ferrell/Congressional Quarterly/Getty Images
April is Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month across the nation. How about a breath mint?
Lip balm? Hand sanitizer? Sewing kit?
In the Pentagon, Defense Department officials have launched a massive public relations campaign to show they're serious about cracking down on sexual assault in the military, while raising awareness among service members. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has recorded a message to the troops while DOD has expanded its victim-assistance programs, sought help from outside advocacy groups, and required sexual assault to receive attention higher up the chain of command.
And as with most DOD campaigns, folding tables and cardboard displays were set up in the apex between corridors 9 and 10, and promotional giveaways were handed out.
Every week there is some kind of promotional event at the apex -- whether to get your cholesterol screened, take advantage of DOD retirement advice, celebrate Black History Month, or remind you of your cybersecurity responsibilities.
This month at the apex, as well as in the Pentagon Athletic Center, in order to remind troops not to sexually assault each other, the Air Force is offering a lip balm tube with a label that reads: "SAPR Sexual Assault Prevention & Response; Air Force National Capital Region; 24/7 Hotline 310-981-7272."
The Air Force also passed out tchotchkes like a box of breath mints, which has a bold sticker on the cover that says "NO MEANS NO!" -- because nothing says leave me alone like fresh breath, apparently.
Or, military officers and civilian workers could try the 2.5-ounce hand sanitizer bottle shaped like an open palm. Printed on the bottle: "KEEP UR HANDS 2 YOURSELF," along with the telephone number for the Sexual Assault Response Coordinators 24-hour hotline.
Or, play catch around the Pentagon office using a mini foam football, always a favorite at exhibit booths. This one reminds troops "DON'T FUMBLE... GET CONSENT" and is printed with the same hotline phone numbers.
The mints come in a box wrapped in a trifold cardboard cover that asks "Are you at risk?" On one inside flap is a five-bullet explainer on "What is Sexual Assault?" On the other flap, "Minimize Your Risk" tips suggest that there's safety in numbers, that you have your key ready before you reach a car door, and that you stay sober -- or at least never leave your drink unattended. Another tip, from the breath mint package: "Match your body language to your words -- don't laugh and smile while saying, ‘No.'"
The package also explains what "consent" means and has a final pop quiz, teaching that if you have been sexually assaulted, you should not bathe or shower, presumably to preserve biological evidence.
Other trinkets included a pocket-sized flashlight; a sewing kit; and a small notepad and pen in a plastic carrying case.
Photo by Kevin Baron, Foreign Policy
How's the United States Marine Corps, which bills itself as an amphibious force, going to fight in a world where potential U.S. enemies are stockpiling radars and missiles to keep ships that carry Marines far from their shores? They're going to come in from the sky, according to Maj. Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, the Corps' representative to the Quadrennial Defense Review.
"I think the best example of what being amphibious means to the Marine Corps is Task Force 58. I think it's Brigadier General Jim Mattis launching off the Pakistan coast, striking deep into southern Afghanistan. No amphibious vehicles crossed a beach in that operation," said McKenzie during a breakfast with reporters in Washington this morning.
The Marines of Task Force 58 conducted the longest-distance helicopter raid in history to establish one of the first American bases in Afghanistan in November 2001.
"You strike at a time and place of your choosing with overwhelming force, from a sea base. That is an example of a modern amphibious operation," said the two-star. "You find a weakness in your enemy's defenses, and you go where they're not expecting you, and you go deep and you strike strategically."
He noted that the Corps didn't have the MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft in 2001, a weapon that expands the service's ability to perform long-distance raids. "With the V-22 those capabilities would be even more pronounced," said McKenzie.
Not quite what most people have in mind when they think of amphibious warfare. Remember, the Corps still has tons of amphibious armored vehicles, hovercraft, and landing craft designed to bring Marines from their ships to the shore (something McKenzie called an important capability). Still, the 2011 cancellation of the Corps' decades-long effort to buy a new armored vehicle -- the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle, which could transport troops ashore from ships that are beyond the range of enemy weapons -- shows how difficult the notion of a traditional amphibious assault has become. (The service is still looking at ways to field a 21st Century amphibious assault vehicle.)
"Nobody thinks of the Pacific battles of World War II as a model for the way we want to do business today," McKenzie added.
Throughout the breakfast he maintained that the Corps will promote its role as a lightweight force capable of rapidly deploying around the globe to do everything from providing disaster relief to establishing a foothold in combat zones for the "nation's strategic decisive force" -- the Army -- to move into.
(Click here to see what he told FP's Situation Report in January about the future of the Corps as a light fighting force.)
For example, when asked about his service's role in the Pentagon's air-sea battle concept, McKenzie said it was as an expeditionary raider force.
"Air sea battle looks very hard at the kill chain, technical answers to technical problems. We think you probably need to look beyond that and to think about other operational approaches that don't supplant the technical issues but you want to have tactical answers too. If you take away a base, for example, then you take away the ability to launch a missile," said McKenzie. "That talks about expeditionary operations, that talks about raids and seizures of different places. You want to get the discussion on more than just a technology level."
McKenzie pointed out that the service isn't abandoning coastlines; it will still "play in the littorals." But these missions will likely be oriented toward training other militaries and responding to humanitarian emergencies more than major combat operations.
Click here to read the FP article by McKenzie's fellow Marine, Lt. Gen. Richard Mills, on the types of coastal missions the amphibious service is likely to be tasked with in the future.
U.S. Marine Corps
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DOD photo by Glenn Fawcett
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U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kenneth Abbate/Released
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Bill Clark/Roll Call/Getty Images)
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Kevin Baron reports on the people and policies driving the Pentagon and the national security establishment in The E-Ring.