“SMART” goals for our Syrian Policy

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October 6, 2014 by JImbo

If we’re going to act against ISIS, we need some goals. Even ONE realistic goal would be enough. Instead we get political double-speak. Makes one wonder if this campaign will suspiciously end in “success” just after the election results come in next month.

In the exceedingly rare case the President actually DOES intend to accomplish something useful, he would do well to make a goal first. He’s REALLY bad at setting them. That or he has goals that the American people can’t know about because they would REALLY not like them.

I prefer to think he is just incompetent and ignorant, not evil. Call me naïve or an optimist. You can fix ignorance with knowledge. Evil means war.

So, let’s say the President just has no idea how to make goals for himself. He has failed in pretty much every idea he’s tried so far. You’d think that by the law of averages he’d succeed at least half the time.

However, with goals you generally succeed virtually none of the time. As one radio host locally has said: “If you set goals, you are 50% more likely to accomplish things.”

I’m gonna change that a bit and say if you don’t set goals you are 0% likely to accomplish them. If you don’t start a trip, there’s no chance you’ll get there. So, that could explain what is wrong with our leadership in this country. They just don’t set good goals.

I was taught by a mentor years ago that good goals are “S.M.A.R.T” (They could be “S-M-R-T” like Homer Simpson, but as you’ll see in a minute, that would explain Homer’s lack of success in life.) Let me show you what I mean.

S- Specific

M- Measurable



T-Time Limited

Let’s see what we have. So far we’ve been told our goal is “Degrade or Destroy ISIS’s capabilities.” Is that a good goal?

Well it isn’t really Specific as the HOW. “Bombing” I guess. Still pretty vague.

Is it Measurable? Well, the second part of it is. If you destroy then, then yes that’s pretty clear. They are either dead or not. Then again, “degrading ISIS capability” is pretty vague. If you mildly inconvenience one ISIS member, that would count as SOME level of “degradation.” So yeah, I guess you can measure it… sorta.

Is it Achievable? That’s debatable. That depends on WHICH goal we use (degrade or destroy) and what we’re willing to do to accomplish that mission. Without boots on the ground, you’re probably not going to destroy them. Again, “degrade” them maybe, but even ISIS at half-strength would be a lot of bad guys still doing lots of bad stuff.

Is it Reasonable? Well that goes with Achievable. Yes, technically many things are technically possible if you’re willing to put the work in. We could drop a few nukes on them and it would REALLY degrade their capabilities. Of course we’d probably have some new problems at that point. So, is it “reasonable” to assume we will win with the assets we have committed?

No, not at this point. I really don’t see us “winning” in any practical way with what we’re doing right now.

Is it Timely? Can we put a deadline on success? Well, we’ve been told “months or years not weeks” so that’s pretty dang vague too. Without putting any timeline on the operation, its way too open ended to get anything accomplished.

So, what’s the verdict? Is the anti-ISIS operation SMART? I’d have to say in every category it’s a resounding NO. Not as it’s currently set up.

It isn’t specific enough.

It isn’t measurable if we don’t know what we’re measuring (how much we blow up? How many people we kill? How many potential terrorist attacks we disrupt? How would we even know most of this stuff for sure?

There was an article in the NY Times recently about “ISIS’s weapons stockpile.” How exactly did they come up with that? ISIS doesn’t have supply officers and computerized inventories.

They are far-flung, disorganized and in a war. They don’t have a CLUE what they have on hand as a whole. They don’t even maintain regular communications with most of their smaller units.

So how does the NY Times know what is in their inventory? Guessing? Making stuff up?

Well, okay that does sound like the NY Times.

The results desired aren’t realistic with the assets committed. We have the “hammer” of air power, but no “anvil” to strike it against. This whole thing reminds of that Buddhist saying “What is the sound of one hand clapping?”

You can’t bomb them into submission, especially when they are hiding in civilian houses, mosques, hospitals and schools BEGGING YOU TO BOMB THEM! They WANT civilian casualties!

Finally, it’s not timely at all. There’s no timeline. How can you tell how well you’re doing? Where is the sense of urgency? Why not just wait for them to die of old age then?

That’s why I don’t see us “winning” against ISIS. We cannot win without knowing what “winning” even is. Are we destroying them? Are we degrading them? Are we negotiating with them? What’s the deal?

Come back to us with a SMART goal, Mr. President, or even better a bunch of smaller, more specific sub-goals. You don’t have to give up secrets, but “bomb them till something good happens” is NOT enough.

I know that’s how politicians like it. That way they can vaguely say they “won” at any politically convenient time. Unfortunately, that’s not how war works. The bad guys have final say on if you win or not. If they can stop you from winning, then you lose.


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