Imagine that you are English literature graduate Maj. Mariam Al Mansouri screaming across the Syrian skies at the throttles of a smart bomb-loaded US –built F-16 struggling for a metaphor.
On patrol awaiting your targeting instruction you are under command of your generals at the United Arab Emirates plus the AWACs mission controller with the strong Alabama accent.
You are the first of eight women to graduate from the Emirates’ air force academy after it began to admit women, and you are the nation’s first female fighter pilot, a veteran of one successful mission against ISIL over Syrian and Iraq.
The sky around you and the ground below you are throbbing with testosterone as young male pilots who never thought they would get a real chance are zinging around from Qatar, Bahrain, Australia, France, England, Saudi Arabia and Pensacola, each intent on finally getting a chance to pull the trigger in anger.
You are already a combat veteran from the earliest days of the Syrian bombing when the chatter and chaos was substantially less; only the Americans and the UAE controllers to sort out and no SAM missiles or Syrian interceptors to dodge.
No one has ever seen a Qatarian jet fighter in the sky in action. The tiny nation owns only 12 and punishes anyone who so much as takes a photo as a spy. And yet it seems you now have a Qatar Mirage 2000-5 as your wing man. Or is that an Israeli?
At about the expected moment, a target is painted on your targeting screen and a go is given to launch your smart bomb run along with the Qatari jet, aiming at a small brick building just outside the Syrian capital.
In the headquarters of the CIA just outside of Washington DC, meanwhile, the leaders of the free world are watching the action with a cynical satisfaction.
“Turn up the chatter,” one specialist demands
On command, the airwaves over Syria are filled with more languages, instructions, vectors and commands in a half dozen languages.
“Good,” the coordinator at Langley says. “That ought to cover it when it comes time to meet the press.”
In a moment the second act in a drama that began four days ago will reach its dénouement as the Major dutifully bombs the Syrian building to smithereens and turns for home.
She will not know for a few more hours, once act 3 is underway, that she has changed the course of history.
Four days earlier the US president approved a NSA and CIA proposed plan to use several emissaries including Oliver North to contact the Syrian President Al Assad with a proposal.
Big Al has proven more resilient than anyone expected and the US intelligence community now agrees that the US must either recruit Big Al as an ally or kill him. So the offer is made.
Bashar Al-Assad is offered a chance to lead the Shiite and Sunni world into a new day against the forces for fundamentalist barbarism embodied by the Islamic State and its allies. If he will agree to reconcile with his moderate Sunni enemies, admit his transgressions and promise to stand for a free and open election in Syria, the US will let him off the hook and bankroll his battle with ISIS.
Of course, no one likes this plan, except there is only one other alternative amid the chaos of the Islamic State’s march through the region. Big Al has gassed his enemies and committed acts equal to genocide against the citizens of his divided nation. President Barack Obama is on record against any deal with Big Al, and must remain so.
Yet Big Al and his powerful Shiite allies in Iran and Pakistan have a lot to offer if they can be swayed to join the coalition against ISIL and lower the hate level with the Sunni. Heck even the Sunnis in Saudi Arabia are on board against the Sunni- ish band of thugs who lead ISIL. Most now realize ISIL is akin to Abu Nidal, a band of soulless gangsters who use religion as a veil to hide their criminal, money- hungry enterprise and who will murder anyone and side with either Sunni or Shiiite if the booty suits them.
Bashir Al Assad considered the offer for a minute then decided he could go it alone without the headache of seeking peace and rebuilding the nation of Syria.
Then the intermediary told him the punch line. “You see, Big Al, we know where you are every minute of every day. We have placed a marker on your every movement so that we don’t accidentally bomb your convoy or bunker or headquarters with all this other stuff going on.”
The emissary continued, “That’s the good news. The bad news is that with all these different air forces our there with different radar and targeting systems of different generations and all that confusion, it is very possible that one of them could accidentally mistake the signal that says, ‘THIS IS BIG AL, don’t bomb him.’ with an indication of a high value target that ought to be pulverized. You get the picture Big Al?”
“You really think this will work,” the NSA guy asked the CIA guy.
“You watch and try to remember if you can recall anything about those US Air Force female pilots flying A-10s over Baghdad during shock and awe. At least one of them had a little difficulty sorting out the correct targets. Of course you don’t remember. Who would criticize our brave women pilots risking their lives in the chaos of battle?"
"It’s a tested scenario, trust me."
And with that the order was given to the Major to deliver the ordinance she had been so well trained to deliver at the very moment Big Al stepped out of the garden entrance of his mistress’s hideaway.
The roar of the F-16 was the last thing he heard.
In the debriefing after the accidental bombing of the Syrian president, three scenarios were discussed with no conclusion. The Major had misunderstood the signal to avoid the target for a signal to attack, the AWACs had misunderstood the signal to avoid the target as a signal to attack or the Qatar fighter had misunderstood the mission and dropped his bombs just as the Major pulled up.
President Obama apologized saying that innocent civilians are frequently collateral damage when leaders such as Al-Assad refuse to follow international law and the rules of common decency.
And he thanked the Syrian foreign minister for supporting the air strikes in Syria before the United Nations and for volunteering to lead the new government.