Some of our more bellicose presidential candidates want a no-fly zone in Syria.  Some are adamant about it, and some are nonchalant—but, make no mistake, however they express it, a no-fly zone in Syria is not a tool in the war against ISIS. 

ISIS doesn't have an air force. 

A no-fly zone in Syria can only be aimed at Russia, who is flying in the area of the desired zone and the air force of the legitimate government of Syria.  Now we may say that the government of Bashar al-Assad is evil.  We may say it makes war against its own people.  We may even say Assad has to go, but his government is the only internationally recognized and, therefore, legitimate government of Syria. It is this government's representatives who serve at the UN.  It is its ambassadors who serve in the embassies around the world. 

We may not like, reality but reality is reality, nonetheless.  Russia is an ally of this reality-based legitimate government, and it has been given bases and operates in that country with the blessing of the aforesaid legitimate government.  We do not; our operations in Syria are unilateral.

Yes, the government has lost control of large portions of its territory to ISIS and other Jihadi factions; however, we do not recognize the territory seized by these terrorists as theirs.  So whose is it?  Do we recognize it as some type of no-man's land?  No, we still recognize it as part of a sovereign state.  Yet, we act as if that sovereign state does not have a government. It does. We may choose not to recognize it, but the rest of the world does.

So let's be crystal clear what our want-to-be leaders are recommending we do. They want us to declare a no-fly zone in a sovereign country and enforce it against that country's own air force and its ally.  They want us to shoot down the aircraft of Russia.  True Russian jets may not be a match for American in quantity or quality, so, in dog-fights, we would probably prevail most of the time. However, the Russians are now deploying the S-300 and S-400 surface-to-air missile defense systems. 

According to the National Interest, one senior U.S. Marine Corps aviator said the S-300 series is a deadly threat to everything except the most advanced stealth fighters and bombers: "A complete game changer for all fourth-gen aircraft [like the F-15, F-16 and F/A-18]. That thing is a beast and you don't want to get near it."  Only the U.S. Air Force's Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor or the Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit stealth bomber would be able to operate inside areas protected by those weapons.   

The lethal effectiveness of these weapons effectively makes most of Syria a de facto Russian no-fly zones for U.S. and allied aircraft. 

We have the Raptors and the B-2s that could not only evade but also take out these systems.  So it is not because I believe we cannot prevail in a conventional battle that I ask our leaders and our people to take a breath, stand back, and think about this.  Does declaring a no-fly zone make any sense? 

For one thing, if we declare a no-fly zone, we must be prepared to take down Russian planes.  Some of our prospective leaders proudly say they are willing to do so.  We must also be prepared for our planes to be taken out by either Russian jets or their surface-to-air missiles.  None of the candidates talk about this; however, by seeking to impose a no-fly zone, they are implicitly agreeing to this, as well.  If we start an air war with Russia, can a ground war be far behind? 

Why should we fight a war with Russia when their expressed goal is the same as ours--the destruction of ISIS? 

And if we were to get into a shooting war with Russia, China would stand back and smile, as its day in the sun draws closer. As the sun sets in the west, it rises in the east.

I do not oppose a no-fly zone in Syria because we can't enforce it.  I don't oppose it because it might bring a confrontation with Russia that would do nothing to enhance our security and much to impair it.  I oppose a no-fly zone because it is unnecessary.  If our goal is to provide safe havens for Syrians trying to flee the fighting while staying in the neighborhood, we already have two massive no-fly zones: Jordan and Turkey. 

We can provide more than adequate support for any and all refugees in both of these Muslim countries for much less than a shooting war or a mass migration, and they can provide their own air cover. 

Let's use our heads.  Don't allow people seeking votes who want to sound tough to play on our emotions like a cheap violin and convince us that it makes sense to sing an out of tune chorus of Fly Me to the Moon as they fly us into the middle of someone else's civil war—or, worse yet, World War III with a nuclear power no one has been able to beat for hundreds of years.

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