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Pentagon uses Cheerios, a spoon, and a fork to explain Syria strategy

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As the Pentagon plans for a limited strike in Syria, the strategy seems to hinge on a bowl of Cherrios and the meaning of the term “degrade.”

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel used the term degrade to describe a possible attack on Syria. The problem is senior officers say it is not a military textbook term and is open to interpretation, according to USA Today.

These officers and two senior defense officials with knowledge of the planning spoke to USA TODAY on the condition of anonymity.

Targets selected for attack are meant to punish Assad, not swing the tide in favor of rebels seeking his ouster, as reported by USA Today. The attack would involve launches of missiles from four Navy destroyers currently in the eastern Mediterranean.

One official, who has seen the most recent planning, offered this metaphor to describe such a strike:

If Assad is eating Cheerios, we’re going to take away his spoon and give him a fork. Will that degrade his ability to eat Cheerios? Yes. Will it deter him? Maybe. But he’ll still be able to eat Cheerios.

Much like the term “degrade,” what this means exactly is open to interpretation.

If using a fork in the traditional manner, does this mean Assad can still target potential victims one at a time? Who knows.

The confusion adds to a growing sense that President Obama‘s approach to Syria is looking more and more like an unmitigated disaster, not to mention a costly disaster.

As reported by USA Today, Hagel said a strike would cost “tens of millions of dollars” — Tomahawk missiles, the apparent weapon of choice, cost about $1.1 million each.

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Tom Tillison


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