Home » Syria » Why are we Talking About Russia and Syria Instead of Brexit?

Why are we Talking About Russia and Syria Instead of Brexit?


April 2018

by John Brian Shannon

A civil war has been raging inside Syria since 2010 — a conflict with roots back to the Western-backed ‘Arab Spring’ which left all those countries in MUCH WORSE CONDITION and if you believe the press reports, great atrocities were perpetrated by some or all sides in Arab Spring nations and continue to occur in the Syrian conflict.

No surprise there. There hasn’t been a civil war in history where heinous crimes haven’t been committed and they are often committed by more than one side. Syria is nothing special in that regard.

Not that we should ignore those events. Far from it!

But most Western politicians are of the mind that when such atrocities are committed they should be countered with an appropriate military strike directed against the suspected perpetrators of such attacks — to act as a deterrent to prevent future heinous attacks. Except that it doesn’t work.

It’s a very human response that is typical of non-military minds to think that a military counter-strike will accomplish anything, but combat-experienced military people know that war isn’t over until it’s over, and that never happens until there’s a clear winner.

Less than twelve months ago, the United States used cruise missile strikes to punish those Syrians who purportedly used chemical weapons in an attack against combatants, non-combatants, and any civilians who happened to be within range of the chemical bombs dropped by helicopter and here we are again contemplating a Western-backed missile attack against Syria for its suspected use of chemical weapons.

READ: Timeline of chemical weapons attacks in Syria (Washington Post)

Which proves that occasional cruise missile attacks by the United States against the Syrian military and against non-state actors in Syria, doesn’t work. Because as soon as we turn our backs they’re at it again. Check that timeline link above and remember that timeline only covers the chemical attacks we know about.

Parallels With the Vietnam War?

Prior to the United States becoming involved in the Vietnam conflict, heinous acts were suspected to occur and was one of the reasons used to justify American intervention.

As usual, it wasn’t long before every side — including the Americans — were receiving bad press for purported wartime atrocities during the Vietnam War. It was a war that lasted exactly 10,000 days and during that time every side was lambasted by the world media for certain usages of force.

‘Agent Orange’ (a chemical defoliant used to strip the leaves from trees and plants to allow better ground surveillance) was used by the Americans and it’s plausible that enemy combatants could have been in the area during spraying and may have received lethal doses of the stuff — yet the chemicals used by the other side were even worse for plants, jungle life, and humans alike.

In the end, the Vietnam War, like any other war, wasn’t over until it was over — counter-strikes for chemical weapons use notwithstanding.

Which is a different way of saying that occasional military strikes prior to full involvement by the Americans in Vietnam did nothing to prevent suspected chemical weapons use and other wartime atrocities perpetrated by the North Vietnamese Army and its sidekick the Viet Cong militia group, but neither did full engagement.

What’s the UK’s Role in the post-Brexit World?

It certainly isn’t policing Syria. Nor is it patrolling or intervening anywhere in the Mediterranean Sea region which by definition is in the EU’s sphere of influence as it’s the dominant superpower in the region. And other than helping to protect longtime ally Israel, the Americans have no legitimate business in the Med either.

Launching into nebulous encounters with Syria, Russia and China over suspected small-scale chemical weapons attacks in Syria is begging for trouble. The kind of trouble that gets shiny new Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers sunk for no good reason.

The UK’s role in the world is changing and it must evolve ahead of the curve, not behind it.

First and foremost must be the protection of the United Kingdom, which has thrived under both NATO and EU protection. And thanks to the UK’s longtime relationship with the United States, if things had got past the point that the UK and EU acting together couldn’t handle a particular threat, the Americans would’ve come to our rescue. Thank you again, America!

But in less than 352 days the UK can no longer count on EU protection (nor should it expect any special treatment from the EU) and with America turning away from the world, it’s well past the time to take a full spectrum view of UK defence and capabilities.

And before you can do that, you need to define the role the military is expected to play.


  1. Protection of the land, sea and airspace, over, in, and around, the United Kingdom.
  2. Protection of and mutual aid agreements with; Norway (because of its proximity to the UK) with NATO countries (still close to the UK) and with all Commonwealth of Nations members.
  3. Mutual aid agreements with *potential* Commonwealth nations.
  4. Mutual aid agreements with any country with which the UK *has* bilateral trade agreements.
  5. Mutual aid agreements with any country with which the UK is *exploring* bilateral trade agreements.
  6. Humanitarian assistance operations approved by the UN.

In short, just like a policeman, every country has its own ‘beat’ — the territory it needs to defend.

The UK’s beat in the post-Brexit era must be limited to operations and mutual aid to partner countries in the Atlantic Ocean, the Indian Ocean, and the South Pacific Ocean, otherwise the UK will need to purchase more aircraft carriers and other capital ships and severe UK budget cuts would be required to afford all that extra warfighting capacity.

I respectfully posit that protection of the UK, Norway and other NATO countries, and the Commonwealth of Nations is a sizable enough beat for the United Kingdom now, and will remain that way for many years to come.

Making 2018 the year to drill down to find what is, and what isn’t, of the utmost importance to the United Kingdom’s future.

Parts of the world that have only a passing socio-economic or military interest for the United Kingdom must remain off-limits, unless British taxpayers want to fund a military that is comparable to the U.S. military in size and scope.

Let the superpowers and the countries closest to the world’s various conflict zones assist those nations in crisis — Britain can’t be everywhere, cleaning-up everyone else’s messes.

Taking care of the UK, the Commonwealth, and upholding NATO commitments will be more than enough to keep the UK occupied for the balance of the 21st-century.


  1. Tim Walker says:

    If you think in terms of a trade network, one might start to draw a map of where UK interests lie. Once you start to identify the countries of interest, you can start to identify the sea lanes of particular interest. (Where should the Royal Navy be deployed?).

    Perhaps other countries will act in a similar manner-determine which parts of the world are particularly important to them, and refrain from involvement in places of passing or marginal concern to them.

    BTW, the Queen Elizabeth ships imply some capacity for power projection. However, such capability might be reserved for waging a defensive war, the Falkland Islands being an example.

    • Hi Tim,

      Your first paragraph is 100% brilliant.

      I hope that other countries do as you suggest in your 2nd paragraph, it would make for a much better and safer world, and seems the best way to help that process along.

      I’m extremely nervous about HMS Queen Elizabeth (R08) putting around without any fighter jets. Aircraft carriers are the biggest targets in the ocean (except for Supertankers) and it takes 90 aircraft to fully protect one from every possible threat.

      Because those carriers (R08 and R09) are on the small side, both will need to sail together (e.g. within 500 miles of each other) in order to fully protect them — as that’s the only way to have 90 fighters on hand to protect them — unless R08 is sailing with an American carrier task force for example, in that case, there are more than 90 fighters (combined) to protect the task force.

      As always, best regards, JBS

  2. Tim Walker says:

    If I understand correctly-after looking at different web sites-one route would connect Liverpool with the Pacific coast of South America, by way of the (expanded) Panama Canal.

    Well, that would be one example of what I have been talking about.

    Of course, peaceful trade is an obvious endeavor for any country.

  3. Tim Walker says:

    For the Western Hemisphere, we can already envision a map. If you think of NAFTA and the Pacific Alliance, you can already see those countries on a map. Lots of opportunity….

  4. Tim Walker says:

    Ironically, it seems that the usefulness of “Harrier carriers” is severely limited more by the availability of planes than by the number of ships. (A number of navies have had helicopter carriers). It seems to be particularly difficult to design an effective VTOL combat plane.

    Will the F-35B be effective in combat? And if so, will there be enough F-35Bs to go around?

    • Hi Tim,

      Great points there.

      I have some experience in this regard, therefore I can say that Navy aircraft are called upon to perform far different missions than Air Force fighter jets or Air Force bomber jets, for example.

      Typically, Air Force fighter jets are designed as Air Superiority fighters and are light, fast, ultra maneuverable, and expensive. (Think; Lamborghini supercar) and they typically fight other Air Superiority fighters — or they may intercept long-range bombers heading our way and escort them partway home, maintaining a missile lock on them the entire time.

      The world of the Navy fighter pilot couldn’t be more different.

      Navy fighter jets on the other hand, are designed as tactical bombers with some fighter capabilities that sometimes must fight their way to a target (whether at sea or over land) drop their tactical bombs on target from a very low altitude, and often fight their way out of the zone.

      They need special (heavy-duty) landing gear, they fly at night, their pilots pray for inclement weather to help cloak them, and the jets basically take a walloping every time they go out. It’s not uncommon for them to return to their aircraft carrier with holes in their wings, possibly on fire, a wing half shot-off… you get the idea.

      You can’t treat a $220 million F35B like that!

      Using an F35B as a tactical fighter/bomber is lunacy. Each and every sortie of five aircraft could cost $1 billion to repair the combined damage.

      Using the F35B in the Close Air Support mission is even worse! (This is when you’re protecting your ground troops while flying at low altitude, or protecting a village or a monastery from armed hooligans with pickup trucks and machine guns) In that scenario, all your F35B’s will be scrap metal upon return to the ship and will need to be pushed overboard once the electronics are stripped-out.

      Yes, it’s a truly great thing to have 15 F35B’s on each aircraft carrier so the UK can mount deep-penetration, stealthy attacks against 1st-world countries (hopefully we never need to do that) and the F35 is nuclear capable if it ever comes to that. It is a fantastic aircraft for that role, and it’s 2nd-best suit is that it’s an accomplished Air Superiority fighter that can fly a CAP (Command Air Patrol) around an aircraft carrier (or a city, airbase, etc) to protect it from inbound fighters or fighter/bombers.

      In those missions — the F35B is superlative — a masterpiece.

      But that isn’t the bread and butter of any Navy.

      Most Navy missions are about dropping many small-ish bombs from low altitude, and fighting their way in and out of a conflict zone in a 3rd world country experiencing some sort of leadership problems (a coup, a military strongman, warring factions in the country, protecting UNHCR outposts or a town, etc) and that requires a FAR DIFFERENT aircraft than the F35B.

      Looking at some of the ultra-successful Navy fighter/bombers around the world, we see the A-6 Intruder, the Su-24 Frogfoot, etc… these are true, combat-tested workhorses.

      So, if you already have the F35B aboard, you’re more than covered on the strategic weapons (nukes) on non-nuke stealth missions, and in the Air Superiority role — which means you can then buy EXACTLY what you need for the fighter/bomber mission.

      And that means you don’t need to compromise on the fighter/bomber aircraft where (1) it must be good at so many things that it’s hardly good at anything, OR (2) it’s so expensive (F-4 Phantom II in its day, F-14 Tomcat in its day, Su-27 Flanker in its day) that your defence budget reaches to the Moon. And back.

      Dropping many small bombs from extremely low altitude, in the dark, in stormy weather, returning full of holes, maybe on fire, etc. is not what the F35B is made for — nor can ANY NAVY afford to use them like that — not even the mighty U.S.A.

      What the UK needs to form the bulk of their aircraft carrier fleet are capable fighter/bombers that are cheap to buy (because you’ll be replacing a lot of them) cheap to fix (because you’ll be fixing all of them) easily repairable at sea with a quick turnaround time, with a standardized parts system, a quiet engine, and don’t take up too much room on the flight deck.

      The F-18 SuperHornet is all of that and so much more. In fact, it’s overkill — like the F-4 Phantom II was in its day, and the F-14 Tomcat was in its day. Still, a massively great aircraft, though expensive to purchase and fix, and prone to small arms fire.

      Really, a modernized Harrier with STOL instead of VTOL capability, with easier maintenance, a thick titanium ‘tub’ around the pilot like the (now retired from service) A-10 Warthog to protect the pilot from ground fire, dual canted vertical stabilizers, and interoperability with allied navies is what the UK’s new aircraft carriers need.

      Think; Ford F-150 Raptor on steroids.

      And it’s a crying shame that fighter/bomber doesn’t exist anywhere in the world.

      (Maybe Britain should be designing/building their own fighter/bombers AND selling them to fellow Commonwealth partners)

      It can’t be stressed enough, when you already have the F35B aboard, all the high-tech, stealth, high altitude bombing, Air Superiority, and bomber escort missions are handled with ease.

      All the Royal Navy aircraft carriers need at that point are tough-as-nails, capable bomb-droppers that can fly at night, in any weather, come back with a million holes (still flying!) and be patched up easily and cheaply, and onto the next mission within a couple of hours.

      Although obsolete, the perfect type of aircraft to complement the RN’s overachieving (but expensive) F35B, is an A-6 Intruder, a Su-24 Frogfoot (or a Navy variant of the A-10 Warthog)and a redesigned Harrier could be that aircraft.

      Sorry for the long reply! I hope this information is useful to you.

      As always, best regards. You really got me thinking. JBS

  5. Tim Walker says:

    Thank you for the information. 🙂

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