Tuesday, September 09, 2014
Defeating The Islamic State
President Obama has revealed - surprise! - that he has no strategy for even combating, let alone defeating Islamic State. His excuse is that he's ordered his military advisers to give him “a range of options,” which is another confession of how inept this president is.
He's known about Islamic State (formerly ISIS) for a long time now now, and even had a significant part in Islamic State's growth, arming and training them with the assistance of Turkey and Qatar.The mess with Islamic State is very much of Barack Obama's making. And let's not forget that his illegal intervention in Libya to save the jihadis and al-Qaeda militias in Benghazi, that allowed all of Khaddaffi's arsenal fall into jihadi hands and created a failed state now known as 'jihadi central' where groups like Islamic State's allies al Nusrah, al-Qaeda in the Maghreb (AQIM) and others now have a base to arm and train.
Yet, after all that, this president never bothered to have our military put together a contingency plan to deal with any possible blowback, and is just now consulting with the military and 'waiting for options!'
In the president's actual statement, he of course substituted 'we' rather then 'he', because as you know, nothing is ever his fault.I actually know children who are more responsible when they're confronted by an error.
But the problem of defeating Islamic State is not as simple as it seems. The president's dysfunctional buffoonery aside, there are a lot of considerations here that need to be looked at.
The first part of making any decision is actually having definable foreign policy goals, something this president seems to lack except for his fetish for empowering and protecting Islamists.
So job one, the way I see it, is to formulate such goals. I think eliminating imminent security risks to America is a good one. And if that's the goal, simply bombing the hummus out of Islamic State, something I've heard a lot of people push for, won't do it. The reverse in fact.
It has apparently never occurred to them that odious as Islamic State is, they are a counterbalance to an almost equally odious Iranian regime. Taking out Islamic State only helps Iran and the likes of Hezbollah consolidate their goal of a nuclear armed Shi'ite bloc.
That, by the way, is one of the main reasons why taking out Saddam Hussein was such a dumb idea, and why old hands like Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld tried to talk George W. Bush out of it.
Iran has been gulling the West on their rogue nuclear weapons program for almost a decade now, and here has been no progress in terms of diplomacy in getting them to stop, while the centrifuges keep spinning. Nor will there be. Iran is the key to this situation, and a much more serious threat than Islamic State.
So, how to accomplish the goal of eliminating these security threats to America?
The first thing, of course, is to be honest at long last and finally let the peoples of the West know what we're fighting. Call it Islamism, Islamic fascism, Radical Islam, jihad, whatever you will. But identifying it without tiptoeing around it and letting the peoples of the West know what's at stake is key. We are fighting an ideology. And it's an ideology that has to be shamed, demonized and ridiculed, especially in the West, with no false notions about political correctness. Propaganda works both ways:
The West need to understand what characterizes jihad, and that while Islamic State is a Sunni organization, the same applies to Iran, the other, Shi'ite side of the same coin. We are not dealing with rational actors as we understand the term, and we need to understand the dedication and fanaticism of our enemies, just as we did in WWII. And we need to also understand that this needs to be a war, not an 'operation' or a few desultory airstrikes. This video, from Islamic State about the taking of Mosul and surrounding areas is valuable in achieving that perspective:
The simplest and best first step is the old one of arming and strengthening our friends while destroying our enemies. To me, that means a strong and independent Kurdistan that's a US ally, while leaving the Shi'ites to hold their line in the south near Baghdad. There's no sense whatsoever in giving the Shi'ite regime in Iraq much more in money and support. They've already had over $25 billion in arms, training and logistics lavished on them and have performed with all the martial fervor and expertise of the majority of the ARVN troops in South Vietnam. All those shiny American arms and supplies ended up in Islamic State's hands. But the Iraqi army can can probably manage to hold a line at Baghdad and points south, especially if The Islamic State has other fronts to worry about.
The Kurds, on the other hand have already proven that in anything like an equal fight they can hold their own and win. And they would also have the incentive of fighting for an independent Kurdistan, a dream they've had for years. Kurdistan is where we should have made out base and our stand in the beginning, a naturally democratic,pro-American enclave that begged us to do so. At least they were pro-American until they were betrayed by President Bush and President Obama, but I think the relationship with the Kurds is salvageable, although perhaps not with President Obama in power.
The next step would be a much improved relationship with Israel. This would include a joint project for a pre-emptive strike to take out Iran's nukes and Iran's capacity to cause mischief to anyone for some time. Tactical nukes might unfortunately be necessary. At this point, it would almost certainly be necessary to take out Iran's oil and gas infrastructure and refineries as well to make sure their nuclear ambitions stay dormant, something that could have been avoided had the job been done a lot earlier.
I would also leave the carnage and destruction intact,certainly as long as any semblance of the present regime is in power.Some monuments are built of stone, others of rubble. But both fulfill a similar function, that of remembrance. Just ask the Germans and the Japanese.
I repeat, Iran is the key to the region, not Islamic State. And Iran can be dealt with, more or less swiftly and decisively because of its systemic vulnerabilities, its fixed address and its lack of sufficient air and sea power. This is not to say that a strike on Iran would be without cost, but the cost will be infinitely less if it is done now before Iran achieves nuclear weapons capability than later.President Obama's thoughts about strategy to the contrary, a nuclear amred Shi'ite block is not going to be something that can be worked with or 'contained.' Iran's demographics and plunging birthrate doesn't give Iran much time to put the Shi'ite hegemony they want together, and the Ayatollahs know it.
It is our failure to deal effectively with Iran, it's fomenting of terrorism and its rogue nuclear program that has caused the present crisis.If not for that, the Russians would not be a factor and Basher Assad would have had to come to terms with Syria’s Sunni majority. Instead, he had the means to expel millions of them.
Without the war in Syria, ISIS would never have received arms and training covertly from the Obama Administration, with the help of Turkey and Qatar. Without Iran, Iraq’s Shi'ites would have had to compromise with the Sunnis and Kurds and disaffected Sunnis would not have allied themselves with ISIS,Islamic State's former identity.
There is no victory possible in this war without taking Iran off the board.
The destruction of Islamic State and its affiliated jihadis is going to be more difficult, but again not beyond our capabilities. Again, let's remember that we are fighting an ideology. To start, were I president, I would insist on a formal declaration of war by Congress. To get that, I would have to make the case of Islamic State and it's allied militias constituting an imminent security risk to America, and then put forth the clear goal of its defeat and exactly what that would look like.
A Declaration of War clarifies exactly what a war is about, who the enemy is and gives a commander-in-chief certain powers that can come in handy where sedition, espionage and sabotage are concerned. And it puts congress on board in a much more decisive and straight forward way then foggy 'resolutions.' It says volumes about President Obama's arrogance and unsuitability as commander-in-chief that his plans reportedly include not consulting congress at all. But moving on...
After a significant amount of education of the home front and being nationally honest about openly naming our enemies and declaring war, the next step would be securing the home front, including our borders and a crackdown on certain organizations and websites that encourage Islamism and jihadi recruitment. For instance, in a real, declared war CAIR's campaign urging Muslims not to cooperate with the FBI can legally be labeled treason and dealt with accordingly.
Another important step involves the cooperation of certain bad actors in the region. Both Qatar and Turkey would need to be put on notice that any funding or arming of Islamic State and its allies would have serious consequences, with a genial nod in the general direction of Iran to emphasize the point. Trust me, they would understand.
Europe too would need to understand that cooperation in keeping their home grown jihadis under control and stopping them from going overseas to join Islamic State is a must. According to an ICM poll, support for Islamic State is at 7% in UK and at 16% in France (27% among what we'll call the cannon fodder years,18 -25). Those are astounding numbers,but considering how these countries have been importing Muslim immigrants for a decade, not entirely unexpected. We would probably be wise not to count on much in the way of help from the EU militarily, but most foreign countries can be coerced into cooperating in choking off jihadi recruits, jihad fundraising and finance by the simple expedient of letting them know that non-cooperation will lead to them being forbidden from doing any transactions with U.S. financial institutions or foreign financial institutions doing business with U.S. firms.It's the ultimate sanction.
For all the talk about 'leaving the dollar' and 'alternative financial structures', the financial pulse of the world still flows through New York City, because of the huge American consumer market if nothing else. President George W. Bush used this weapon successfully to bring down several banks who were financing jihad, one of the few thing he did right during his 'war on terror.'
We might also be surprised to find that Russia and China might be far more cooperative than we expect in taking out Islamic State and other assorted jihadi groups. China is dealing with a vicious jihadi problem among the Uighers in Western China, there have been a number of terrorist incidents and the Chinese people themselves are very aware of this menace. Russia has been fighting Muslims for 4 centuries, still has the Chechens to deal with and a growing demographics problem with the native Russian population shrinking due to low birthrates while Russia's Muslim birthrate continues to grow. Even the Russian Army has experienced a number of incidents involving violent riots and fighting between Muslim and native Russian soldiers. Whatever else you might think of him, Vladimir Putin is no fool.
The military campaign against the Islamic State itself would be a joint effort, most likely in conjunction with Israel, the Saudis, the GCE countries and Egypt.The destruction of Iran would have a decided effect on the demeanor both our friends and our enemies, and cooperation would probably be much more cohesive than after that. While I doubt we could expect much from Europe, Canada and Australia would likely send their forces in to help, and they'd be a very welcome and effective addition as anyone who served with them in Iraq or AfPak knows.
Let's look at what we'd be up against.
The Islamic State currently has something like 3 divisions worth of fighters according to the best estimates, something between 15,000 and 20,000 fighters.They're well armed, experienced and motivated fighters, with ManPads for use against helicopters, armor of both the Russian and American varieties and plenty of ammo and supplies thanks to the meltdown of the Iraqi Army and their recent victories in Syria.
They lack one major, vital component. Pilots. Islamic State has taken over several air bases, so they have planes and platforms...but they have no pilots.And Islamic State lacks to the topography to wage the sort of war the North Vietnamese did. There's no place to hide.
Modern war in the desert is fought over large, open and mostly flat topography. It depends on two components, armor and air power being used in conjunction. Armor and infantry without air cover is a recipe for disaster, as every modern army who has tried to fight that way in the Middle East could tell you.
The Saudis alone have something like 300 F-15s, more than enough to defend themselves and decimate an offensive by Islamic State if it comes to that.
So the Islamic State would more than likely attempt to wage war with these strategies: tying up our forces with guerrilla warfare and terrorism while using their domestic supporters in Iraq, Syria and elsewhere as well as on the home front to increase terrorism and sedition is almost a given. They might also end up reinforcing strong points in their territory the way Hamas did with Gaza City, figuring that the West would not be willing to inflict casualties if they use human shields. Needless to say, any garrison cities are going to have to be destroyed,with little regard for human shields or collateral damage if this last tactic is to be successfully defeated.
And finally, they may open up new fronts.Lebanon, for instance,where the Lebanese army and the Shi'ite forces of Hezbollah integrated with the Lebanese Army suffered a serious defeat on the Syrian border.
These boundaries change according to the fortunes of war, but The Islamic state currently controls something like 57,000 square miles (90,000 square kilometers) roughly the size of Jordan. Their territory includes big swaths of north and northeast Syria including include pieces of major cities like Aleppo and Raqqa, while in Iraq, the Islamic State's new caliphate stretches from the northern and northwestern parts of country to Fallujah,Mosul and just west of Kirkuk.
Their revenues are estimated at between $1 and $4 million per day. Most of the money either comes from donors or from criminal enterprises - selling stolen oil on the black market, 'taxes' and protection money in the areas where the Islamic State rules, carjackings, bank robberies, kidnappings for ransom, and the sale of narcotics and of sex slaves.
Because Islamic State is a quasi national body, the only place to wage war on them economically is by attempting to crack down on donors and suspect banks. But the Islamic State probably also utilizes the time honored hawala system, where money brokers transfer funds for a small commission using what amounts to an honor system, avoiding banks and promissory notes entirely.
The key to defeating The Islamic State is going to involve destroying its capacity to make war, not 'containment.' And a successful war against The Islamic State likely involves internalizing the lessons of Union General William Tecumseh Sherman.
A man ahead of his time in many ways, General Sherman realized that the path to victory was not only in defeating the Confederate Army in the field but in destroying the Confederacy's material ability and psychological will to wage war.
His strategy involved moving his armies through the Southern heartland by using his superior numbers and firepower to consistently outflank and force back Confederate troops under General Joe Johnston and later General John Bell Hood...and destroying anything the enemy could possibly use. His army killed comparatively few civilians, but lived off the land and left a swathe of destruction in its path.
He refused to allow his army to be tied down occupying bases. After conquering Atlanta, the South's primary railroad and communications hub, he simply had the population evacuate to the Confederate lines, destroyed the railroads, ammunition and stores Hood's army had left behind along with anything else his own troops couldn't use (including a large part of the city itself) and continued to move east to Savannah on the Atlantic coast and then north through the Carolinas, using the same tactics. According to Johnston's own memoirs, Sherman's troops moved at the rate of something like a dozen miles a day, leaving virtually nothing that could be used by the Confederate armies behind them. This also forced the local populations to concentrate on survival and subsistence rather than providing either men, food or materials in support 'for the Cause.' It is a fact that there was very little if any guerrilla warfare behind Sherman's lines in the conquered territory.
Sherman eventually forced Johnston's army to make a stand in North Carolina at the Battle of Bentonville, where he decisively defeated Johnston's troops, and eventually took the surrender of Johnston and all the remaining confederate forces in Georgia, Florida, and the Carolinas on April 26, 1865, the largest surrender of Confederate troops during the war.
The lesson of General Sherman is an important one. Whether we want to admit it to ourselves or not, The Islamic State has a lot more popular support in the Muslim world ( including Muslims in the West) than we realize. That mistake has to be brought home to them, and the sooner it is, the shorter the war will be, ultimately saving many lives.
With modern adaptations, (for instance, using air power supporting armor to force Islamic State's forces back) General Sherman's strategy would both destroy The Islamic State's capacity to wage war, bankrupt it by eliminating the finance and support it gets from its base and discrediting its ideology among the people it most needs to be discredited with - Muslims. It would end their psychological support for jihad, because the jihadist forces would be defeated and discredited in plain sight of the population.
In contrast to WWI, Germany in WWII suffered total and unmistakable defeat. Germans were able to see first hand the destruction and death that following National Socialism and Hitler had brought upon them. The lesson was brought home and thus the German people had the ability to rebuild and start with something like a clean slate.
There is one final thing we are going to need in order to win this war, and it's unfortunately something deeply lacking - leadership.
That's a problem the best strategy and armies available can't solve. President Barack Obama will almost certainly take none of the steps I've outlined above. Among other things, he sees Iran as an ally, a strategic partner. Even never Chamberlain never saw Hitler that way, and Chamberlain at least had a piece of paper with Hitler's signature on it. President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry don't even have that much from Rouheni or the Ayatollah Khamenei.
Moreover, this president has downsized our military severely and forced skilled and battle hardened generals like David Petraeus, Lt. Gen. William G. “Jerry” Boykin, formerly of Delta Force, Stanley A. McChrystal, Carter Ham, Army Maj. Gen. Patrick Brady, and Marine General James 'Mad Dog' Mattis among others into early retirement. Just a casual look at these men's records will tell you how big a loss that is.
How ever it falls, we will eventually be forced to fight the War on Jihad. Whether we fight it at a time of our choosing or of our enemy's is an open question at this point. But there's no doubt in my mind that it's coming.
What I've presented here is how I see us winning it.