War on Terror
Won’t have time to delve deeply into the problem of the rampaging Islamic State. Suffice for now to say that my way of dealing with them will surprise many. What to do? Ignore them for a year or so. Force Europe to do something. Europe will do something. Don’t doubt that in the secret cabinet meetings in Berlin and London, the discussion orbits around how to get America to do what is both distasteful and needed. Per usual. Then they can point fingers when things get nasty.
I’ve said before, time to pull back and let the kids go to bed without supper. Deprivation feeds appreciation.
Here, retired military intelligence officer Ralph Peters tells it like it is: Lazy journalism requires scandal. It is much easier to generate a story from what is not known than what is known. Thus, media types can turn what-ifs into headlines. The scandal that is Snowden is really only worth a few headlines. He did it, it’s a crime, he admits he did it. If the media wants to really milk this, they must talk about unknowns, possibilities, technicalities, and avoid the fact that recent court decisions have labeled NSA activities legal. Disconnected, out of context arguments can be melded into unified theorems in which black helicopters no one ever sees are hovering outside our windows hoping to catch us surfing porn.
Members of the Congressional Intelligence committee have known the details of NSA programs for years. The fake outrage they present in hearings broadcast on CSPAN is populism of the most despicable sort.
A collapsing World Trade Center rings hollow to some, as does the fact that NSA employees have bosses to answer to everyday, and those bosses want dead terrorists on their list of achievements, not the URLs of gay porn sites visited by congressmen. To people, in America, both Left and Right, there is a pervading mythology that society, security, culture and good government are held together by mysterious, invisible forces, akin to luck. That’s false. Things work because of a concerted effort to make them work. Al-Qaeda has been kept in check not because jihadists are tired, had a change of heart, or because America apologized for its “rapacious” behavior abroad. They’ve been kept in check because almost every country in the Western world seized their bank accounts, jailed its operatives, killed its zealots, increased security at airports and other vulnerable nodes, and invaded its sanctuaries.
“Because Freedom”, is not an argument. Success is rarely a mistake.
We’re stuck in 18th century military thinking and we barely do that as well as Napoleon or Sherman.
Clausewitz’ theorem, that all war is extension of politics (or policy) by other means, simply does not hold in the majority of the wars America has been involved in in the last 15 years. War as politics is the brood of RealPolitic , that is that wars have a logical purpose which in the end makes for a better peace.
As Ralph Peters states, modern warfare has largely reverted back to its default setting, before the state became all-powerful. It is now, “Wars of Blood and Faith”, as Peters terms it. Clausewitz assumed that people, army, and government were separate entities in a war. Current engagements involve people fighting that do not represent governments, are not an organized army per se. This is one reason that when we see dead “civilians”, many in America want to do something to stop war crimes, as civilians are not lawful targets in war. But in the case of Iraq II, Afghanistan, Libya, Egypt and Syria, civilians were in fact the enemy. They wore no uniform and held few conventions that modern armies hold to. A US soldier can shoot a Taliban fighter in Afghanistan, and someone can protest: “You shot a farmer!”–and they’d be right. Current laws of war are wholly inadequate in this type of war. The outrage many express at the slaughter in Syria is merely what war always was before the last 200 years. In fact, Qaddafi and Assad are fighting in the only way they can win. Assad cannot throw down his arms, build a school, and quell the insurgency. Historically, this is how insurgencies were stopped: Remorselessly hunt down the insurgents and kill them until they quit. Because of the nature of a “people’s war” the combatants become so marbled with noncombatants, that innocents inevitably die. It’s why America will not win another “small war” in our lifetime.
Our confusion on this matter is clouding the analysis of Syria. It ruined our analysis of Libya and Egypt. If the exact same people fighting against those governments wore uniforms, America would not have sided with them. It was merely our instinct to protect civilians that resulted in US intervention. In both countries, chaos now reigns. In Syria, the most powerful forces of blood and faith are now at work–those of the Sunni/Shia schism. Little talked about, perhaps because Americans do not properly understand the intensity of hatreds that can arise between sects, is the fact that the Syrian conflict is boiling down, just as the Iran/Iraq War, and Iraq II’s insurgency did, to Shia vs Sunni Islam. In the case of Iraq, when the minority Sunni Baathist regime fell, and was replaced by Shia, disavowed Sunni Baathists, desperate to retain power, joined al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI). In Syria, a Shia minority, led by Assad, rules a Sunni majority. Iran, a majority Shia nation, backs Assad. If Assad falls, the civil war will rage on. This is not about the despot Assad, it is about Sunnis coalescing power in the form of al-Qaeda, against Shia Assad, backed by Hezbollah irregulars.
Deepening American involvement in Syria threatens to bring much more chaos. Iran is already threatening retaliation, Russia, more intervention. Better to let Hezbollah and al-Qaeda hammer each other.
Image Posted on Updated on
I was going to write a post about the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff’s body language throughout the whole congressional hearing on Syria, but someone beat me to it, here:
As I sat and watched, it was obvious that General Dempsey was not happy while listening to Sec State Kerry argue his hypocritical stance. When all government is now run by people who were never in the military, were never in a playground fight, have never played a serious sport, and don’t drink beer, expect this. And even those whom were in the military are people like Kerry…swift-boating America.
As of this writing, judging from the tone in the current congressional hearings in regards to attack authority on Syria, it seems that America will soon commence open military operations against Syria. Secretary of State’s speech seems a time-warp: He argues vehemently for military interdiction in Syria, stating the use of chemical weapons by Assad without international retribution means an encouragement to use more WMD in the future. Unfortunately, when you draw the “red line” in the sand, you’re stuck on punching those who cross it. Words matter, especially when they’re uttered at a national level.
Largely forgotten and possibly willfully ignored by a compliant media, is the May 2013 event in which members of the al-Qaeda franchise group, Al Nusra Front, were captured in Turkey with a sarin gas canister.
Let us consider the ramifications of setting the WMD “red line”. The Syrian rebels have been brokering for significant American military support since the beginning of the Syrian civil war. Announcing the red line to Assad as a potential deterrent to Syria’s WMD deployment also creates an incentive for the rebellion: Utilize WMD to encourage US intervention. Now the situation in muddled. We know al-Qaeda had sarin gas, which astoundingly does not alarm the media to any great extant. Further confusing analysis, is the machination of several regional countries vying to affect the Syrian outcome. Turkey wants the Assad regime removed. It has already hosted Syrian rebels for training purposes. The red line state also forced the American hand; if nothing is done at this point, the President’s words seem empty.
Turkey has for almost two years called for multilateral intervention into Syria, after failing to convince President Bashar Al-Assad to enact reforms and avoid the escalation of violence in his country. Turkey, which shelters hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees and houses the main opposition Syrian National Coalition, has also repeatedly called for the establishment of a no-fly zone, or a safety zone, at the neighbor’s 565-mile border.
The Arab world has often snickered behind American backs, astounded at the US’ willingness to do Arab nations’ dirty work. It happened in the first Gulf War. Saudi military leaders knew Saddam had to be contained, and used Machiavellian psychology on the US to minimize Saudi involvement and maximize US firepower employment.
It is a Clausewitzian dictum that all wars escalate. Present day America’s failure to decisively win its wars is largely the result of its attempt to prevent wars from escalating. Current counterinsurgency doctrine attempts to win without killing. The US government does not understand that oftentimes in war, a monumental amount of force must be applied to get an enemy to quit. Americans, largely divorced from struggle and strife, have forgotten just how much force it takes to make a determined enemy quit. We are guilty of mirror-imaging; superimposing our own agendas and motivations on those of the enemy. The typical American is not sufficiently enraged to engage in warfare and has a difficult time imagining the mentality required to become so enraged. The same American does not understand, that without such a mentality, any war in question would not exist in the first place. Consider the Iran-Iraq war. That war ended after 7 years, and not before almost 1 million people were dead. Current US COIN doctrine would have us killing a handful of “key leaders” with a drone strike, and then rebuilding schools and hospitals in hopes of pacifying militants. It’s never worked in the past. It won’t work in the future. So, assuming the war in Syria will escalate further with more US intervention, we can assume more people will die. Some of those people will be civilians. US military aid is often imagined to force the enemy to suddenly capitulate. This simply isn’t the case. I often use the arm-wrestling analogy. An arm-wrestler does not suddenly give up when he feels his opponent applying force. If he were that mentally weak, it’s doubtful he’d have come to the table at all. Instead, he applies as much force as he has, in hopes of quickly dispatching his opponent. Each arm-wrestler in turn attempts to match, and surpass his opponent’s force. Finally, the force applied by one arm overcomes the other. Throughout, the force escalated, as each person attempts to summon more and more power–if he can find it. Syria’s military has much more force in reserve. It has thus far restrained much of its military ability, because like most insurgencies, the rebels cannot muster much force themselves. Increasing the military power of the rebels guarantees escalation by the Syrian military. In some cases, in other wars, this is a necessary evil. In the case of Syria, we have two enemies of America fighting each other, and there is no concrete American security interest. So the calculation reveals that non-intervention best serves America. And all of this says nothing about the possibility of Russian intervention, leading to regional escalation.
If and when civilians die as a result of US airstrike, (and even if they don’t), America is likely to lose yet another battle, a type of battle in which the US has proven remarkably inept: The information war. The information war is a key component in “war among the people”. Terrorism is only minimally effective without propaganda.
Never could the War on Terror have taken such a positive turn. But leave it to Washington to steal defeat from the jaws of victory. Strategy, not a strong-point of DC’s intelligentsia for the last 50 years, simply eludes most on The Hill. Two of America’s great enemies slugging it out, but John McCain and John Kerry aren’t happy. Instead they split The Prophet’s hairs as to whom’s bad enough and who’s good enough, never realizing that the bad and the good are on the same side: al-Qaeda’s side. The Left interprets Sun Tzu’s winning-without-fighting maxim as diplomacy. The ancients knew this also meant letting your enemies slaughter each other, saving your energies for bad men not so occupied.
What’s the desired end-state? Testimony today indicates it’s to degrade Assad’s ability to use similar attacks in the future. Chemical weapons cannot be bombed with any certainty on controlling the resultant poison plume. If strikes intend to hit chemical depots, this presents a significant risk for civilian casualties. More likely targets are the missile launch systems suspected of delivering VX on the civilians. Of course the military could try to kill Assad himself. Syria’s attack helicopters will be tempting targets while they’re on the ground. If an attack is too weak, it will be meaningless or many even encourage more aggression from Assad. If it is moderately effective, but does not decapitate the regime, it may invite attack from Syria against US targets. Syria is not without significant military capabilities, thanks to huge contracts with Russia. Of primary concern, if the US attacks involve aircraft, is Syria’s s-300 anti-aircraft missiles.
It seems unlikely that a US attack will have any significant effect on the war in Syria. Since success in warfare is largely based on controlling unknowns through good intelligence, and since US strikes are unlikely to impact the outcome of the war one way or another (except that they are likely to bring outrage in one form or another), policy makers must consider the unknowns and not merely focus on punishing Assad. All in all, the intervention in a fight between Syria and a US archenemy seems foolish.
Two days ago, a Soldier from my unit, 2nd Infantry Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment, was killed in Afghanistan. SSG Michael Ollis, 24 years old, was killed when Taliban insurgents attacked FOB Ghazni with a vehicle-borne IED, indirect mortar fire, and small arms fire. The insurgents penetrated the wall of the base, and remained inside, fighting for 6 hours.
FOB Ghazni is controlled by Polish forces. Soldiers from 2-22IN moved through FOB Ghazni on their way north while leaving Ghazni, only a couple of weeks from returning home. SSG Ollis made it 8 months. This was his third deployment to a combat zone.
I ask that you say a prayer for his mother and father, the two surviving members of his family.
“Deeds Not Words”
Ignoring the global jihad is not going to make it go away. In May, 2010, I wrote the blog post, The Coming Anarchy.
Some quotes from that post:
But it is from Africa that the anarchy will spread like a blackening hole in burning parchment. Along with mass starvation (unable to be abated by the cash-strapped West), radical Islam will take an even stronger grip, seizing on the human need to destroy when basic needs are not met. Islamic states such as Iran will gain world-wide political power again, and with the inevitable nuclear bomb in their arsenal, the West shall become a victim of its own ultimate deterrent: Mutually Assured Destruction. Only the West will face a foe more willing to assure its foe’s annihilation.
But from far off, America will watch in horror as any hopes of geopolitical unanimity disintegrate.
With the devaluation of the nation state comes some blessings. It is unlikely that the horrors of full-scale industrialized war shall be visited upon Europe anytime soon. But instead of a full eruption followed by calm, we have entered a time of constant low-intensity war.
Pax Americana is coming to an end. For some it was never good enough.
I was off on a few things, believing the overpopulation bit, and subscribing to the classic Marxist belief that poverty drives all evil. I actually underestimated the power of Jihad, for Jihad’s sake.
Recent headlines are indicative that the Coming Anarchy is here. Almost all of northern Africa is now swamped by Islamism. Egypt: The Muslim Brotherhood; Libya: al-Qaeda; Somalia: al-Shabab; Nigeria: Boko Haram; Algeria: al-Mua’qi’oon Biddam; Yemen: al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula; Mali: Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa. There are now hordes of semi-unified, armed, and very motivated jihadists throughout Africa.
The increased numbers of Muslims whom refuse true integration with the European countries in which they live, combined with the the increasing power of terrorist groups in Africa does not bode well for Europe. When Mali terrorists threatened to attack France in response for French intervention in Mali, they did not make idle threats.
France acted in Mali, both to protect French nationals and to subdue the very real threat that may actually spill onto the European mainland. Frighteningly, French victory in Mali is not assured. This fight will reveal what non-American, western troops are capable of doing against the rapidly strengthening global jihad. A loss will not bode well for the west, and that includes America. Christians are being driven from the Middle east and Africa, and as this article states:
The study warns that Christians suffer greater hostility across the world than any other religious group.
The stupid destruction of the Libyan government is helping to fuel the Mali insurrection. Hopefully this is a lesson to the west. Islamic terrorists love a weak democracy and power vacuums.
UPDATE 22JAN2012: As I’ve said–we’re assimilating, not them. Expect more of this than ever. The white, western jihadist.
The bravest are surely those who have the clearest vision of what is before them, glory and danger alike, and yet notwithstanding, go out to meet it.~ Thucydides
Weakness provokes insult and injury, while a condition to punish, often prevents them.~Thomas Jefferson
I have complained often and loudly about the caustic culture inside the US Army. It is a witch’s brew of arrogance, ridiculous regulation, and inept leadership. There are good leaders to be sure–but there is a disturbing number of bad ones, marred by a lack of basic common sense in fighting wars, and an arrogance that would shock Commodus.
My favourite essayist, Ralph Peters wrote a scathing article in the New York Post about the ethical collapse in the Army’s officer corps. There are more frightening stories than Peters talks about in his piece.
And here’s the biggest problem with all of this: These generals could not even advocate for the proper execution of our wars for the last 10 years. If a Soldier gets shot while on guard duty and was found to have not worn his helmet–he’ll get in more trouble than the insurgent who did the shooting, because it’s likely no effort will be made to pursue the attacker. In every other era of American war, the command’s initial response to a Soldier being shot at the front gate would be :” The enemy is able to maneuver very closely to our base–we need to find him and kill him.” Now, the command goes for the easy target–the American trooper. I assure everyone, that insurgents move and gather quite closely to American bases in Afghanistan and never have a shot fired at them in anger. Never have terrorist had it so good. A full-bird colonel may smile and shake the hand of a villager that is helping kill his troops, but ruthlessly belittle the American privates on his base for being out of uniform.
It’s easy to fight a foe that can’t fight back.
The US Army has loads of support troops who don’t know how to use radios properly, how to use weapons optics like the ACOG, and the US is getting its ass handed to it by a growing Afghan insurgency which actually knows how to shoot, move and communicate. But the new Army’s mantra is “Right time, right place, right uniform.” What is this, a Wal-Mart corporate meeting? Left out of any messaging is the fact that the Army has one overriding mission: To kill dead the enemies of the United States. Period.
Meanwhile, our West Point educated generals and colonels, whom the illiterate Taliban are running circles around, are committing acts of sexual assault, bigamy, and outright theft of government finances. Generals reduced to cutpurses.
Then there is the absolute tide of political correctness to which our generals are beholden. Every time I hear an interview with a general, I walk away not feeling inspired, but depressed. Wooden, and reading from a memorized slate approved for press release, these folks would make Patton vomit. Make no mistake about it. Today, Patton would be arrested. He admitted Americans like a good fight. Why? Because to win a fight, you have to like it, at least a little. But our current military is so risk averse, that only a fool would look for the enemy on a regular basis.
It’s really too bad that these generals are being investigated for sexual indiscretion and petty thievery but not for their performance in our wars. Where is the vaunted moral courage and intellectual honesty in the officer’s corp? I should like to see many more canned for not doing their job: Stacking enemy bodies. Sound harsh? It is. That’s war. The current counterinsurgency model is so “counter-intuitive” ( term often used to mask the insanity of a bad idea), that only an intellectual could believe it.
It’s time we take a long hard look at ourselves. Frankly, I’m embarrassed. Back in the homeland, we now accept losing. We shouldn’t. A good loser is a loser. The personalities that used to be our generals are now our college and professional football coaches. They went where the money is and where they can tell the truth.
Les Miles would have won wars:
As Lombardi said, winning is a habit. I reached a turning point in my life when I no longer accepted defeat. When mediocre academic performance was not acceptable, when age was not an excuse for physical decline, when a bad childhood was not justification for failure in every endeavor. I don’t want a participation trophy–I want the trophy that labels me the winner. It is a sad thing to me, where we have come as a people. Looking back at my youth, I wish there were something that could have made me care, something that could have made me try. I didn’t see difficulty as a challenge, but something to be avoided, so I ran away from life.
This is where relativism, as it must, has led us. If all things are equal, winning is neither good nor bad. If all behavior is the same, then we can accept the same from a 4-star general as from a 15 year old. The engine of our nation–its people–are in decline. I have no recipe to fix the problem. Perhaps it as Oswald Spengler believed, inevitable like the seasons.
Our flaccid response to the humiliation in Benghazi is illustrative of the current American acceptance of defeat. I’m with Ralph Peters on this one (as usual). Our response should have been devastating. Instead, our government wrung its hands, and tweaked “talking points”. We haven’t made the world a safer place with our rhetoric. No one this side of Mother Theresa respects weakness, least of all Islamic extremists. Our collegiate theorems have not trumped the reality of war: You must kill the enemy until he stops fighting. Rest assured he’s trying to do the same thing.
Former British Special Air Service operator and now best-selling author, Andy McNab, writes in one of his great novels, I can’t remember which one, that in a fight, you never let your opponent move forward first. When you sense an impending fight, attack, or go on a defensive campaign from which you may never recover (dodging a punch never ended a boxing match–landing a punch has done so many times).
America had global salafists, such as al-Qaeda, on the ropes, but failed to finish them. And when the next round of the fight began, we weaved and bobbed to just survive until the bell rang, hoping the judges would give us the split decision.
But there is no bell and there are no judges.
In almost every country in which Islamic fundamentalists operate extensively, they have taken an offensive stance. In Yemen, Afghanistan Pakistan, Somalia, Lebanon, Sudan, Nigeria, Libya, and Egypt, it is not government power that brings fear, it is Islamist militias. The situation is far worse than it was prior to 9-11-2001 and worse than it was before 2008. The terrorists got the message: Americans want peace and aren’t willing to fight as hard as we are. America’s line in the sand was obliterated by mushy generalities and emphasis on American short comings. But fighting the global jihad with self-flagellating words is like fighting a termite infestation with peace offerings of cracker crumbs: The gesture makes the problem worse.
We can expect things to get worse. When America withdraws from its foolish foray into nation building in Afghanistan, it is unlikely that Afghan military forces will be able to hold back the tide of terrorists, criminals, and warlords that await. The Mother of all Mission Creep (MOAB-C) went from punitive raid to national level welfare. The saddest thought is that we had the war won already and let politicians use Afghanistan for campaign slogans.
Whomever holds the seat of President of the United States after the coming election with be faced with some very tough choices. The withdrawal from Afghanistan and resultant violence will inevitably draw criticism from political opposition. It may also boost morale for jihadists throughout the world. And yet, there seems no other option.
And yet this may not be the worst of it. The world is running out of time to deal with Iranian nuclear ambitions, and Uber-Militia, Hezbollah–better armed than 90% of the world’s nations–appears to be readying itself for war.
Reports indicate that al-Qaeda has resorted to setting forest fires in Europe. These fires have killed scores of people and done untold property and environmental damage.
This tactic is an example of the types of attacks that former special operations commander, John Robb, writes about in his book, Brave New War: The Next Stage of Terrorism and the end of Globalization. The terrifying truth is that modern technology both allows individual terrorists to commit powerful attacks and also leaves nation states that employ high technology very vulnerable. And all at very little expense to the terrorist compared the nation’s costs in defending itself.
People constantly talk about al-Qaeda et al’s lack of military power. But, historically speaking, a large forest fire could easily destroy as much life and property as a carpet bombing campaign. And since the terrorist’s goal is not to be precise in his targeting but merely to cause the West to expend itself in various ways, it is a perfectly viable alternative–and much, much cheaper, than bombing.
But when a continent, such as Europe, allows the immigration of a huge population whose ideals are not compliant with its own, one could expect a lot of problems. One thing is for sure, al-Qaeda is not going away by the world simply ignoring it. It will take the moral authority–which means all legal powers–as well as military power to defeat this movement. It can be defeated, just as Nazism and Communism were defeated (Can’t kill an idea, you say?). In the case of Communism it took decades, just as it will with militant Salafism. It is important that 1) the West retain the moral high ground (which should be difficult against the likes of al-Qaeda), (2) never enable the duplicitous nations of the Middle East and Central Asia (as we’ve done with Pakistan and Afghanistan) and (4) firmly state what the west stands for juxtaposed against what al-Qaeda stands for. And finally, (4) we should kill or capture every terrorist we can, not try to find complex ways to turn him into something other than a terrorist. The best way to change the mind of a terrorist is through superior firepower.