5 Turkish Weapons of War Russia Should Fear

The Buzz

Syria was a major source of tension between Turkey and Russia even before a Turkish F-16 shot down a Russian Su-24 on the Turkish-Syrian border on November 24. Since the start of the Syrian Civil War in early 2011, Russia and Iran have backed the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, while Turkey, along with Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United States, has supported anti-Assad rebels.

After Assad’s forces downed a Turkish RF-4 reconnaissance plane over the Mediterranean in June 2012, Ankara implemented new rules of engagement with dubious legal standing against Damascus. For the past three-and-a-half years, Turkey has brought down more than half a dozen Syrian fighter jets, helicopters and UAVs for allegedly violating its airspace.

The latest incident is a culmination of that tug-of-war and Turkey’s desire to help its clients in Syria. Following the arrival of the Russian air contingent on Syria’s Mediterranean coast in September 2015, one Russian aircraft briefly violated Turkish airspace, a Syrian MiG-29 locked on Turkish F-16s flying inside Turkey and the Turks shot down what is believed to be a Russian-made UAV within their territory on October 16.

During these episodes, Russian Air Force assets meant to show the Turks that their support for anti-Assad rebels was not welcome. For Turkey, putting pressure on Russian air operations in Syria was a way to reassure the rebel groups under its aegis to keep fighting the Assad regime.

Because of Turkey’s NATO membership and better access to the Syrian battle space, and Russia’s immense military superiority, an all-out war between the two sides is unlikely. Still, limited engagements similar to the November 24 incident are possible—especially after the Russian General Staff announced a more aggressive posture against the Turks. Turkey, however, enjoys impressive military assets that could make life difficult for Russia.

To that end, this article covers the five most dangerous Turkish weapon systems that should give Russia a moment of pause before it escalates tensions. Just like its forthcoming counterpart discussing the five Russian weapons that Turkey should fear, the article covers the weapons that Turks might use in a limited engagement in Syria and the eastern Mediterranean. As such, Russia’s ballistic missile capabilities or U.S. tactical nukes based in Turkey will not be part of the analysis—they are virtually useless in a limited engagement.

F-16 multirole fighter and AIM-120 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM)

The Turkish Air Force (TuAF) has nearly 250 F-16 aircrafts in its inventory, thirty of which are of the Block 50+ type. Block 50+ is the latest variant of the F-16, a combat-proven fourth-generation multirole fighter. Turkey has produced (with a U.S. license) and operated different variants of the F-16 since the mid-1980s, giving the TuAF considerable skill and experience with the “Fighting Falcon” in every scenario possible.

The U.S.-made AIM-120 missile with which the Turks shot down the Russian Su-24 on Nov. 24 is a deadly partner to the F-16. With an operational range of nearly thirty nautical miles (fifty kilometers), the AIM-120 turns the F-16 into a serious threat against the highly trained and well-equipped Russian Air Force.

KORAL Ground-Based Jammer

The KORAL transportable radar jammer system is the Turkish military’s latest addition to its electronic warfare capabilities. Designed by Turkey’s state-owned Aselsan Corporation, this electronic defense/electronic attack system is designed to jam and deceive conventional and complex types of hostile radar, and analyzes multiple target signals in a wide frequency range, automatically generating appropriate response thanks to its digital radio frequency memory (DRFM) capability. With an effective range in excess of ninety miles (about 150 kilometers), KORAL reportedly could jam and deceive any land, sea and airborne radar systems. This new system could deny situational awareness to the Russians, thicken their fog of war and blind their weapons systems that would otherwise pose a threat to the Turkish military.

Gür-class submarines

Turkish Naval Forces possess four Gür-class submarines, which are considered one of the best diesel-electric submarines in the world. Based on the German firm HDW’s export-oriented Type 209 T2/1400 models, the Gürs are armed with submarine-launched Harpoon anti-ship missiles (UGM-84), as well as the British-made Tigerfish and German-made DM2A4 heavy torpedoes. The Turkish submarines are also equipped with state-of-the-art detection and targeting systems, which turn these platforms into silent and deadly hunters that would threaten the Russian surface action group positioned in the eastern Mediterranean. Given the Syria-based Russian naval task force’s shortcomings in anti-submarine warfare (ASW), the Gür submarines give immense leverage to the Turkish side.

Ada-class stealth corvettes

Turkey’s Ada-class stealth corvettes are another naval platform that present a lethal challenge to Russian surface action groups and supply ships operating in the Mediterranean. Designed and produced by Turkish personnel, Adas are equipped with 8 Harpoon Block II missiles, OtoMelara Super Rapid three-inch cannons and other armaments. These highly stealthy ships have extremely reduced radar, IR and acoustic signatures, and they are backed by a low probability of intercept (LPI) radar that could sneak up to Russian surface vessels and deliver a lethal blow.

SAT Naval Commandos

SAT (Sualtı Taarruz Timleri/Underwater Assault Teams) are the Turkish Armed Forces' most elite special forces unit. Turkish SATs operate in every environment. They can infiltrate behind enemy lines from the air, land or sea to raid high-value targets, create diversions or attack port facilities and anchored ships. These combat divers are direct action units par excellence. Especially in a limited conflict, Turkish SATs would perform deadly clandestine operations against Syrian coastal infrastructure and Russian vessels operating in the Mediterranean.

We hope that Turkey and Russia de-escalate tensions in Syria. A war, even one limited in scope, would be too hurtful to both sides. But if Ankara and Moscow were to take things to the next level, these five weapons would give the Turkish side some unique advantages.

Bleda Kurtdarcan is a lecturer at Galatasaray University School of Law in Istanbul, where he teaches public international law. He obtained his Ph.D. from Galatasaray University in 2014 and his LLM from Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne in 2005. He specializes in law of armed conflict, law of the sea, maritime security, and the privatization of military services.

Barın Kayaoğlu is an independent political analyst and consultant in Washington, D.C., where writes and comments for U.S. and international media outlets. Barın finished his doctorate in history at the University of Virginia in 2014, and he is currently turning his dissertation into a book, tentatively titled Loving and Hating America: U.S. Diplomacy, Modernization, and the Origins of Pro- and Anti-American Sentiment in Turkey and Iran. You can follow him on, Twitter (@barinkayaoglu), and Facebook (Barın Kayaoğlu).

Image: Flickr/UK Ministry of Defence

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Get Ready: Russia's Lethal S-400 Air Defense System Is Headed to Syria

The Buzz

Russia will deploy the powerful S-400 Triumf surface-to-air missile defense system to its base in Latakia, Syria, as part of its response to Turkey shooting down one its Sukhoi Su-24 Fencer bombers.

Meanwhile, Russia is also moving the missile cruiser Moskva, which is armed with a naval version of the much-feared S-300 missile system called the Fort (Rif-M)­—to the Syrian coast near the Turkish border. Additionally, the Russian defense ministry has stated that, henceforth, all Russian strike aircraft will be escorted by fighters—which likely means additional Sukhoi Su-30SM Flankers could be deployed to the region.

“The S-400 air defense missile system will be brought to the Hmeimim base at the decision of the commander-in-chief,” Russian defense minister Sergey Shoigu said on Wednesday according to TASS.

Earlier on Tuesday, Lt. Gen. Sergei Rudskoy, chief of the main operational directorate of the general staff of the Russian armed forces, said that all military contacts with Turkey would be suspended. He also announced additional Russian security measures.

“First: All the activities of the attack aviation will be carried out only under cover of fighter aircraft,” Rudskoy said. “Second: Air defense will be reinforced. For that purpose, the Moskva cruiser equipped with air defense system Fort analogous to the S-300 one will go to the shore zone of Latakia. Russian Defense Ministry warns that all the potentially dangerous targets will be destroyed.”

The addition of the S-400 is significant and will complicate both American and Turkish air operations. Once the powerful air and missile defense system is deployed, only the American F-22, F-35 and B-2 stealth aircraft can operate safely inside a zone protected by the weapon for any length of time.

According to manufacturer Almaz-Antey, the S-400 “baseline” system can engage targets at ranges of more than 155 miles at altitudes up to 90,000ft. Also of note,  the S-400 can support at least three types of missiles with differing capabilities. According to Western sources, some versions of those missiles are capable of engaging targets as far way as 250 miles. The S-400 can track 300 targets simultaneously and engage thirty-six of those at any one time. Russia’s deployment of the weapon in Latakia means that it could attack aircraft flying deep inside Turkish airspace from within Syria.

The S-300 system onboard Moskva is also an extremely capable system that is similar to the S-400, but not quite as potent. One of the missile types supported by the Rif-M system—which is also deployed onboard Moscow’s Kirov-class nuclear-powered battlecruisers—can engage targets out to 95 miles at altitudes up to 90,000ft. The system can engage half-a-dozen targets with up to twelve missiles simultaneously. Moskva can carry up to sixty-four missiles for its Rif-M weapon system.

Meanwhile, more information is becoming available about the downing of the Russian Su-24M Fencer. According to the Turkish side, the aircraft violated the country’s airspace for about seventeen seconds. The Russians have, meanwhile, released a map that shows that the Su-24 did not cross the border. Moreover, the surviving Russian pilot—Capt. Konstantin Murakhtin—told Russian TV that his jet did not cross the border and received no warnings. Meanwhile, U.S. officials told Reuters that they believe that the Turkish shot the Russian Su-24 down inside Syria after it briefly crossed the border.

Even if one accepts the Turkish side of the story at face value, at least some of Ankara’s NATO allies say that there were less inflammatory ways to deal with the situation. “There are other ways of dealing with these kinds of incidents,” one NATO diplomat told the Reuters . Turkey, meanwhile, is doubling down on its rhetoric. “No one should expect us to remain silent when our border security and our sovereignty are being violated,” Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in a televised speech.

Meanwhile, despite the tough talk, the Russian and Turkish sides appear to be attempting to de-escalate the situation—though another incident would likely scupper that. Earlier today, Turkish foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu spoke via phone with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov.  

While the Turkish foreign ministry stated that the two would meet in Belgrade, Russia's Interfax news agency said Lavrov had not agreed to meet according to Reuters. The Russian believe that the downing of the Su-24 was premeditated attack and are reconsidering the relationship with the Turks. Nonetheless, “we have no intention of fighting a war with Turkey,” Lavrov said.

Dave Majumdar is the defense editor for The National Interest. You can follow him on Twitter: @davemajumdar.

Image: Creative Commons. 

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The War on ISIS: 6 Issues to Ponder Before Escalating the Fight

The Buzz

The recent attacks in Paris have spurred a flood of demands to escalate the fight against ISIS. Now that the initial shock is over, it is time to explore in greater detail what such efforts should look like if their results are not to prove worse than the threat that ISIS currently poses. The following is an attempt to sketch a number of questions that should be pondered before a decision to further escalate the war is taken.

First, do the western potential partners to a “coalition of the willing” to defeat ISIS have the stomach for this fight? An effective war on ISIS requires capabilities and determination. Capabilities include both material resources and creativity in using them: high quality tactical and operational intelligence and planning as well as strategic thinking and the capacity to execute effectively the conclusions of such thinking. The defense communities of western countries are not lacking such capabilities. But do leaders and publics in the west have the determination to sustain the human and material costs of such a war?

When fighting is confined to the use of airpower to bomb targets from high altitudes in order to reduce the risk that an airman will be captured by ISIS – no matter that the likelihood of killing innocent civilians is far greater when bombs are dropped from such heights – what does this tell us about the will to take on ISIS?

President Barack Obama’s conspicuous reluctance to deploy a significant number of servicemen and servicewomen on the ground resulted not from an under-estimation of the threat that ISIS poses but rather from the president’s judgment about America: his assessment that the American people will not accept the casualties and expenditures of another massive and sustained effort in the Middle East. Yet if Obama’s premise is correct, the promise to “degrade and destroy” ISIS will continue to ring hollow and it is U.S. deterrence – not ISIS – that will be degraded.

Moreover, the post-Paris inclination to increase the efforts to fight ISIS will be self-defeating if these fall short of the deployments needed to achieve the latter’s destruction. Indeed, without crushing ISIS such an increase will merely confirm ISIS’s narrative – its version of the “clash of civilizations” that pits the western “crusaders” against their Arab and other Muslim victims. Thus the west will pay all the costs associated with larger deployments and the Middle East will experience even greater destruction associated with the use of American, British, French and Russian airpower without meaningful gains.

Second, do the potential Middle Eastern partners have the will for a significantly enhanced against ISIS? So far, these states have shown very limited determination to sustain such a fight.


Because ISIS comprises the # 2 priority of many of the region’s states but with the possible exception of Iran, it is the # 1 priority of none. Saudi Arabia and some of the GCC states perceive Iran to be their main threat. For Turkey the greater fear seems to be the perceived threat of Kurdish separatism. For the Egyptian government it is the Muslim Brotherhood and local ISIS affiliates such as Beit al-Makdis. For most Sunni Iraqis it is the Shi’a dominated Iran-influenced government in Baghdad. And for Israel it is the Lebanese’ Hezbollah and the Palestinian Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Unless these countries become persuaded that their number one  threat is ISIS, it will remain impossible to create a regional contingency of an effective “coalition of the willing” to defeat and destroy it.  

Third, can ISIS be defeated without the successful waging of a “war of ideas”? ISIS has had remarkable success in inspiring young men and women from the Middle East and North Africa, Russia, Europe and the U.S. to join its ranks, whether as fighters or as functionaries in their Caliphate. This success cannot be reversed without engaging ISIS’s extremist ideology, debunking the efficacy of its Armageddon-type ethos, and demonstrating that it violates the letter and spirit of Islam. This is critically important even if engaging with the theological aspects of ISIS is irrelevant to the more urgent task of dislodging ISIS from its territorial base in Syria and Iraq.

Fourth, could the “day after” ISIS defeat be even worse than the challenges it currently poses? If the success in defeating the Soviets in Afghanistan has taught us anything, it is that there can be no greater folly than to fail to devote sufficient thought to the “day after.” For Europe, Russia, and the U.S. the Caliphate’s defeat may prove an even greater challenge than its current terror attacks. This is so because during the last few years, thousands of ISIS fighters have gained combat experience fighting some truly tough adversaries – particularly the Kurds.

In the aftermath of ISIS’s defeat, those among its ranks who will not be killed or captured will be heading home, to the U.S., Russia, Britain, France, Belgium, and scores of other countries. Many will have no way to do so other than to cross through Turkish territory – another nightmare for Ankara. Upon their return, some may have the capability and will to take revenge by engaging in various forms of terrorism in their home countries. Others will wait to join new terror organizations that will be formed in the aftermath of ISIS’s defeat, just as Al-Qaeda in Iraq has morphed into ISIS. Thus, a strategy for defeating ISIS that does not include a chapter on managing the risks of the post-ISIS environment is surely bound to prove self-defeating.

While the West has not even begun to think of mitigating the risks in the aftermath of ISIS’s defeat, Middle Eastern countries and Russia are already obsessed with this issue. Indeed, another reason why an effective “coalition of the willing” to defeat ISIS has not emerged thus far is that these countries deeply disagree about the region’s desirable future in the aftermath of an ISIS defeat. Moreover, some of these countries are so mesmerized by the prospects of thousands of combat hardened ISIS alumni that they may prefer that ISIS be contained within ever smaller enclaves in Syria and Iraq rather than be entirely dislodged. This may be especially true for Russia for whom the return of ISIS veterans to Chechnya and the Caucuses may be a much bigger nightmare than a contained Caliphate. In that case, we may be dealing with a case of massive hypocrisy: many of the governments that currently profess to be committed to ISIS’s defeat may much prefer to see ISIS contained but not destroyed.

If competing visions and interests regarding a post-ISIS Middle East is currently paralyzing the efforts to build a “coalition of the willing,” it is essential that diplomatic efforts to negotiate the construction of such a coalition focus on this topic: can the gaps between these different visions be reduced? Can the interests of the countries that are candidates for membership in such a coalition be made to better align?

Fifth, is it not time to rethink the role of Russia and Iran? It seems almost self-evident that the suggested reexamination of the various parties’ interests and of their possible better realignment should include rethinking the role of these two countries. Such rethinking might include showing greater empathy to the challenges and predicaments that these two countries face. This has not been the case thus far – President Obama has not shown nearly the same level of sympathy to the Russian lives lost by ISIS’s bombing of the Metro Jet plane in the Sinai as he has shown in reaction to the Paris attacks.   

For some members of the possible “coalition of the willing” the suggested rethinking requires a complete about face – from regarding these two players as a big part of the problem to considering them as part of the solution. Yet the potential benefits of persuading Iran and Russia to play a more constructive role are enormous. In the case of Moscow, these benefits may extend far beyond the Middle East, as they may open the road to a new grand bargain with the west aimed at significantly reducing the odds of escalation to a nuclear war with Russia over the Baltics and the Ukraine.   

Finally, can the defeat of ISIS be meaningful and sustainable without restoring the deteriorated Middle East states? It is difficult to see how a defeated ISIS can be prevented from simply morphing into another terror organization without a restoration of the region’s state system. This does not imply that the region should remain wedded to its existing regimes. Indeed, there are good reasons to suspect that the failure of many of these regimes to meet the minimal expectations of their constituencies has created the “breeding ground” for terrorism to flourish. But it probably means that the region’s states must be restored as unitary actors that enjoy a monopoly of force, that the institutions of state must be rebuilt to respond to their citizens’ expectations, and that these states must have defined, well marked and well protected boundaries that would make it more difficult to import and export violence across the region.

Without addressing these six questions convincingly, escalating the fighting against ISIS may make as much sense as did the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Shai Feldman is the Judith and Sidney Swartz Director of the Crown Center for Middle East Studies at Brandeis University and is a member of the Board of Harvard University’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.

Image: U.S. Army/Flickr. 

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The U.S.-China Relationship: War, Peace or Just Troubled Times Ahead?

The Buzz

The recent freedom of navigation operation undertaken by the USS Lassen in the South China Sea advertises a new sharper edge to U.S.–China relations.

Some analysts have begun to write about a ‘tipping point’ in the relationship (see here and here); media reports sometimes talk of a relationship in crisis. It’s not that bad—yet—but things are getting more serious. To see why, we need to look at the broader regional landscape and then fit U.S.–China relations into that. The U.S.–China bilateral relationship is undoubtedly the region’s most important, but Asia’s no G2—it’s a large theatre with no common front line and a high level of economic interdependence.

Indeed, we’re moving into a world of uneven multipolarity in Asia. It’s easiest to see the shift by using a long baseline: compare the relative weightings of the major players in 1995 with what they are now. In 1995 U.S. preponderance was so marked that all other players looked like minions. But 20 years later we see an Asia characterized by a number of strong players: China, Japan and India in the top tier; South Korea, Australia, Indonesia in the second tier; and a range of regional states—like Vietnam—in fast-growing Southeast Asia.

Still, power relativities are shifting more than regional order. Japan’s determined to add some cross-bracing to the current order, seeing that as offering the legitimacy it needs for a larger role. India doesn’t have the influence or the wish to redesign the East Asian order: its growing gravitational weight is still felt most in the Indian Ocean and on the subcontinent. And China’s strategic vision still emphasises a Great Wall, a set of deferential neighbors, and a smaller U.S. presence in proximity to the Wall. But China doesn’t like the current order, which was built at a time when it was weak. It doesn’t believe that, in the long run, the Asian regional order should be shaped in Washington.

The second-tier players are generally too weak to promote their own visions of an Asian order. South Korea and Australia are, in any event, both U.S. allies. Indonesia isn’t, but—like most ASEAN states—it’s disposed to prefer either U.S. primacy to Chinese hegemony or (at worst) a stable great-power equipoise in a peaceful multipolar Asia.

The U.S. is attempting a ‘rebalance’ to Asia. But Washington’s conscious of its global obligations (including to Europe and the Middle East), weary after 14 years of effort post-9/11, and keen to address a range of domestic issues. It knows too that even a successful rebalance won’t restore the U.S. to the degree of primacy it enjoyed in the 1990s.

So in the long run, the US seeks a modus vivendi with a rising, peaceful China. The two countries’ annual Strategic and Economic Dialogue and growing trade figures underline that objective (bilateral trade has grown by 7,550% 1985-2014). But read Lawrence Summers’ latest piece for The Washington Post: “the world—including China—is unprepared for China’s rise.” Summers believes the U.S. still has serious questions to answer in relation to the relationship. Does it want a more prosperous China or a less prosperous one? Does it have a coherent picture of its preferences in terms of China’s policy choices? Does it have a sensible picture of future architectural arrangements?

Similar questions exist in the strategic field: does the U.S. want a stronger China whose weight is felt more around the region or a weaker China whose weight is felt less? For the U.S.—and Australia—the answer, of course, varies depending on what sort of great power China turns out to be. In the South China Sea we see a coercive power, not a consultative one—a power unwilling to accept international arbitration. Nationalism’s a potent driver in Chinese foreign policy at the moment. Moreover, China’s growing weight is felt most starkly along the Eurasian rimlands, in ways that are corrosive of the current strategic order. The contests in the East China Sea and South China Sea aren’t really about rocks—they’re about hierarchy in a future regional security environment.

And there’s a second level of complication: the U.S. and China have to work out their relationship in full view of the region—a region which includes a number of U.S. allies who don’t want the U.S. to treat China as a peer. They worry that its doing so would imply a marginalization of the hub-and-spokes structure.

The good news is that the Thucydides ‘trap’ isn’t inevitable: rising powers aren’t doomed to clash with established ones. Economic interdependence and nuclear weapons lessen the prospects of war. And military manoeuvring in the South China Sea is still about ‘signalling’, not conflict. But the bad news is that some form of clash seems increasingly likely. The U.S. can’t move to offshore balancing without spooking its own allies; but China’s idea of the U.S. as an ‘outsider’ implies just such a shrinking role for the U.S. in Asia. Troubled waters lie ahead.

Rod Lyon is a senior fellow at ASPI, where this piece first appeared.

Image: U.S. Navy/Flickr. 

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Got a Plan to Defeat ISIS? Candidates, Show Your Work.

The Skeptics

For many years, my former colleague Justin Logan had an editorial cartoon posted on his door in which two scholarly looking men are reviewing a long and convoluted proof scrawled on a blackboard. Amidst the incomprehensible symbols and numbers, somewhere between the beginning and QED, is written, “Then a miracle occurs.”

One turns to the other and says, “I think you should be more specific here in step two.”

This message seems sadly relevant given that presidential candidates on both sides of the aisle have been quick to describe what they plan to do to defeat ISIS. It isn’t enough, however, for these men and women to tell us what actions they would take. It is also incumbent upon them to explain, as precisely as possible, what they believe will happen as a result.

For example, although Hillary Clinton has supported and supervised military interventions in more countries than all of the GOP candidates put together (ponder that for a minute), she apparently feels the need to burnish her hawkish credentials. Last week, in a speech before the Council on Foreign Relations, she called for an “immediate war against an urgent enemy and a generational struggle against an ideology with deep roots.”

Clinton certainly isn’t the most hawkish candidate out there. NPR assembled a helpful table, complete with links, to the candidates’ views on a range of ISIS-related policies, from blocking Syrian refugees, to sending in U.S. ground troops, to imposing a no-fly zone.

Anyone who promises to take some form of military action or diplomatic pressure to defeat ISIS should be asked the same question: “And then what happens?” Or, more formally, “Please explain, to the best of your ability, how the particular action that you are advocating will accomplish your stated ends. Show your work. Use both sides of the paper if necessary.”

Because international politics isn’t subject to iron laws of arithmetic or gravity, a fair amount of speculation and supposition goes into the making of foreign policy. We guess as to what might happen after a particular course of action is chosen, supported by reasonable assumptions, given the facts on the ground at that particular time and informed by past experience in similar situations. But both the facts and the assumptions should be scrutinized.

Reasoning by analogy is a perilous enterprise, as Ernest May showed many years ago, and can lead to misinterpretation or misjudgment as often as it leads to sound solutions to vexing problems. (This applies in the case of businesses, too.)

In Myths of Empire, Jack Snyder addressed a particular type of misconception, what he calls the paper tiger thesis. On the one hand, a foreign threat is deemed serious enough that preventive action is warranted to eliminate it. On the other hand, the capabilities of the adversary in question are not so serious that he won’t be easily vanquished after a short and swift drubbing. Past instances in which this was true are cited to support the case for war—while the cases that do not conform, when an attacked adversary didn’t tuck tail and run after being hit, are dismissed as inapplicable. The risks of inaction are always portrayed as very high (case in point: here) and the risks of action are deemed to be negligible.

Snyder shows that the paper tiger thesis isn’t a very good foundation for the conduct of foreign policy, generally, but it seems particularly appropriate today, in light of the news that a Turkish F-16 shot down a Russian SU-24 and killed at least one Russian, to suspend any inclination to go along with the interventionists’ story, and not simply accept their assumptions about cause and effect. We should especially challenge the facile claims that all will go according to plan—that the bad guys will crawl back into their holes, or simply curl up and die—when the risks of preventive action are very high. Not every brushfire war will turn into a major conflagration between nuclear-armed states (thankfully), but the chance that it might should give all of us pause.

Christopher A. Preble is vice president for defense and foreign policy studies at the Cato Institute.

Image: Flickr/Joe Crimmings

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