ISIS: Our Non-Strategy and Our Too-Calm Republican Candidates

 

screenshot 2015-03-17 12.38.59I was flabbergasted to read this morning that we are “embracing a new approach” in the battle against ISIS:

In a major shift of focus in the battle against the Islamic State, the Obama administration is planning to establish a new military base in Anbar Province and send 400 American military trainers to help Iraqi forces retake the city of Ramadi.

Point 1: With all respect to our highly accomplished and experienced men and women in uniform, at this point a force of 400 military trainers in Anbar Province should properly be described as “next month’s hostages.” How could anyone of even cursory familiarity with this region — or the history of warfare, for that matter — fail to think of that immediately?

Point 2: No one in his or her right mind would think air power alone a sufficient tool to defeat the Islamic State. But nor would one in his or her right mind think a near-complete failure to use air power the tool of choice, either. As retired Air Force general David A. Deptula notes, we’re now averaging 12 strike sorties per day:

During Operation Desert Storm in Iraq and Kuwait in 1991, the average was 1,241; in Operation Allied Force in Kosovo in 1999, it was 298; in the first 30 days of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003, 691; during Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan in 2001, 86.

These mishagas stories about sandstorms holding us back? We have sensors that can readily penetrate fog and sandstorms; and I can’t be the only one who knows this. We’ve used not a single Reaper drone. Not one. I can’t begin to imagine what we’re thinking: We’re planning to send 400 “advisers” into Anbar without so much as a hint that we’ll even offer them air cover when ISIS decides they’ll make a tasty afternoon snack?

Point 3: It would take me far too long to enumerate all of ISIS’s latest advances and atrocities, but among the highlights: In Libya, they just ambushed a vehicle traveling to Tripoli, taking hostage 88 Eritrean refugees. These include women, children, and an unspecified number of Christians who will surely meet the fate of the 28 Ethiopian Christian they took hostage two months ago. Teenage girls abducted by fighters in Iraq and Syria are being sold in slave markets ‘for as little as a pack of cigarettes,’” the UN envoy on sexual violence reported on Monday:

Bangura described the ordeal of several teenage girls, many of whom were part of the Yazidi minority targeted by the jihadists.

“Some were taken, locked up in a room — over 100 of them in a small house — stripped naked and washed.”

They were then made to stand in front of a group of men who decided “what you are worth”.

Bangura gave the account of a 15-year-old girl who was sold to an Isis leader, a sheikh aged in his 50s, who showed her a gun and a stick and asked her “tell me what you want”.

“She said ‘the gun’ and he replied: ‘I didn’t buy you so that you could kill yourself’,” before raping her, Bangura said.

Abducting girls has become a key part of the Isis strategy to recruit foreign fighters who have been travelling to Iraq and Syria in record numbers over the last 18 months.

“This is how they attract young men: we have women waiting for you, virgins that you can marry,” Bangura said. “The foreign fighters are the backbone of the fighting.”

Meanwhile, as we meditate thoughtfully on the entirely atypical and unexpected phenomenon of sandstorms in the desert and count the hapless prospective hostages we might usefully send to Anbar, ISIS staged attacks in Amariya al Falluja. That means they’re now about 37 miles southwest of Baghdad. They also attacked Surt, capturing a critical power plant on the coastal road to Misurata. That means they can shut off the power in central and Western Libya. The Kurds — our great hope, remember them? — are reportedly beginning to panic:

The Kurds desperately need an influx of arms and supplies in order to be able to continue to hold their 600-mile long border against ISIS attacks.

The need for weapons has only increased over the past months as the militant group has effectively plundered Iraqi military bases after overrunning cities, Yaroslav Trofimov reports from Kurdish-controlled areas for The Wall Street Journal. 

“Peshmerga ammunition stocks are running low and whatever heavy weapons they have are mostly of Saddam Hussein-era vintage,” Trofimov reports, citing Peshmerga commanders. Currently, Kurdish lines throughout Iraq consist of defenses manned by Peshmerga troops armed with outdated weapons with dwindling supplies of ammunition.

And although the Peshmerga have put up an effective defense since being driven back by an ISIS offensive last summer, their positions could be easily overrun should ISIS launch a concentrated assault.

“If ISIS combines its forces and pushes into one area with multiple vehicles, they will break through — and then the whole line breaks,” Jamestown Foundation analyst Wladimir van Wilgenburg told The Journal.

This concern is especially true should ISIS launch a suicide blitz like it has done previously in Ramadi and Mosul. On those occasions, the militants overwhelmed well-defended static Iraqi defensive positions through waves of suicide car bombings that demoralized and ultimately drove back the Iraqi forces.

Point 4: In the Further Annals of the Fastest Imperial Decline in the Recorded History of Humanity, Obama boldly announced last Monday at the G7 Summit in Germany that the United States does not yet have a “complete strategy” for training Iraqi security forces to reconquer territory seized by Islamic State fighters. (Yes, we know — that much is clear to the whole world, I assure you. Why it was necessary to say the obvious, I have no idea.) However, the White House has come up with this ingenious alternative to a strategy: As NPR cheerfully reports, “the Obama administration has turned to a group of social media experts — millennials.” No, I kid you not. Our millennials. The ones who still haven’t left their parents’ basements. They are, apparently,

… supposed to create an initiative or product or tool that will challenge violent extremism. Think of it as…

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

TEMPLE-RASTON: “Mad Men” meets millennials.

SGRO: “Mad Men” did not have the tech savviness that we have with Gen Z and Gen Y. So it’s even uber “Mad Men.”

TEMPLE-RASTON: And yesterday was pitch day at the State Department.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

STORROW: I’m now going to introduce the judges.

TEMPLE-RASTON: The judges weren’t just State Department officials. They included television and broadcast executives, terrorism experts and academics. And they sat facing the teams on stage like judges from “American Idol.” Mount Royal University from Calgary, Canada, was the first to make its pitch.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

KADE GRANT-JOHANSEN: Violent extremism is the most compelling issue of our generation.

TEMPLE-RASTON: That’s Kade Grant-Johansen, a marketing and management major from Mount Royal. This group decided to start a prevention campaign called the WANT Movement. WANT stands for We Are Not Them. Patty Derbyshire was the faculty adviser.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ANDERS: 52 JUMAA is an interactive app which enhances personal identity, social interaction and community spirit.

TEMPLE-RASTON: That’s one of the international team members laying out the program.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING) …

ANDERS: This app mobilizes positive behavior among communities of young Muslims.

TEMPLE-RASTON: Show gratitude by making tea for your mother. Show generosity by feeding a homeless person. The idea is to provide positive reinforcement. And, finally, there was Missouri State University. It had an ambitious program that aimed to unite the world against violent extremism called ONE95.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: ONE95 is a digital platform for starting initiatives and receiving support.

TEMPLE-RASTON: It has a social media component, curriculum for teachers and created the hashtag #EndViolentExtremism.

Think I made that up? I wish. I couldn’t, even. Go listen for yourself.

So clearly we can say that for reasons known only to God and this Administration, Obama has no serious interest at all in repelling ISIS’s advances. Fine. We’ve got No-Drama Elagabalus in the White House.

But tell me: Why aren’t the GOP presidential candidates screaming about this? I don’t mean screaming about whose fault this is. I mean screaming the way reading the paragraphs above would make any sane person scream — no less one who proposes to become the Commander-in-Chief of the United States military and the leader of the Free World on his first day on the job.

Do you get this?

Update: The Independent is now reporting that according to Australian intelligence reports, ISIS has now seized enough radioactive material to build a devastating dirty bomb. The news just gets better by the minute.

Published in Foreign Policy, General
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  1. Concretevol Thatcher
    Concretevol
    @Concretevol

    Tommy De Seno:

    Concretevol:And quite saying “ISIL” Robert! It’s freaking ISIS. The only ones who say it are you and the administration. :)

    Don’t they call themselves ISIL?

    Someday they’ll all be Caitlyn.

    hahahahahahaha

    I don’t care what they call themselves.  I always loved how Bush 41 always put the emphasis on the first syllable of SADam instead of trying to pronounce it like he had gone native.  Besides, if the state dept spokes babe says ISIL you can bet it’s wrong.

    • #91
  2. lesserson Member
    lesserson
    @LesserSonofBarsham

    Concretevol:

    Tommy De Seno:

    Concretevol:And quite saying “ISIL” Robert! It’s freaking ISIS. The only ones who say it are you and the administration. :)

    Don’t they call themselves ISIL?

    Someday they’ll all be Caitlyn.

    hahahahahahaha

    I don’t care what they call themselves. I always loved how Bush 41 always put the emphasis on the first syllable of SADam instead of trying to pronounce it like he had gone native. Besides, if the state dept spokes babe says ISIL you can bet it’s wrong.

    The hard part in her case is trying to figure out if it’s a real State Department thing or if it’s some clip from SNL.

    • #92
  3. Concretevol Thatcher
    Concretevol
    @Concretevol

    CLARK SUMMERS:

    Tommy De Seno:

    Concretevol:And quite saying “ISIL” Robert! It’s freaking ISIS. The only ones who say it are you and the administration. :)

    Don’t they call themselves ISIL?

    Someday they’ll all be Caitlyn.

    Just because the Obama Administration says it doesn’t make it wrong, although you can be forgiven for thinking so (that is usually a very safe assumption.)

    I call them “ISIL” because it is more accurate (regional identity, vice a specific nation-state). Their objectives are not defined by, or limited to, Syria or Iraq. “ISIS” suggests that this a threat bound by arbitrary lines drawn on a map.

    For whatever reason every time I hear an administration schmuck say ISIL it’s like fingernails on a chalkboard to me.  No doubt you are correct but when they say it I am convinced it is a little demonstration of how freaking clever they think they are.

    • #93
  4. Ricochet Inactive
    Ricochet
    @RobertMcReynolds

    Concretevol:And quite saying “ISIL” Robert! It’s freaking ISIS. The only ones who say it are you and the administration. :)

    It’s ISIL in the Intelligence Community and I am in the IC.

    • #94
  5. Concretevol Thatcher
    Concretevol
    @Concretevol

    Robert McReynolds:

    Concretevol:And quite saying “ISIL” Robert! It’s freaking ISIS. The only ones who say it are you and the administration. :)

    It’s ISIL in the Intelligence Community and I am in the IC.

    Ugh, my opinions are constantly foiled by people with facts!

    • #95
  6. Valiuth Inactive
    Valiuth
    @Valiuth

    Concretevol:And quite saying “ISIL” Robert! It’s freaking ISIS. The only ones who say it are you and the administration. :)

    Don’t they actually call themselves just IS now?

    • #96
  7. Larry3435 Member
    Larry3435
    @Larry3435

    CLARK SUMMERS:

    Larry3435:Go in with overwhelming force. Kill everyone standing under an ISIS flag. Blow up all of their equipment. Destroy their headquarters. Kill their commanders. Then get out. It will take less than a week.

    Larry – great intent, and I agree with the thought. The problem is that it can’t be done in a week. It would take 100% of the available USAF’s airlift capacity and 96 hours to deploy one Stryker-equipped Brigade combat team, (assuming a secure airfield). That’s a combat force of about 3,500 gunfighters, mounted in armored wheeled vehicles. No tanks, no heavy artillery (towed 155′s and 4.2″ mortars only). Lethal? Definitely. Tough and motivated to kick-ass? Absolutely. Enough to lay waste, destroy ISIL, blow-up all their stuff in a week? No way.

    I am assuming that Kuwait and Iraq, and maybe Saudi Arabia, would be fully cooperative in the logistics of putting troops in place.  Including tanks and artillery.  And use of Iraqi airfields.

    Unfortunately, our so-called “ally,” Turkey, would not be cooperative.

    And when I say a week, I mean a week of combat.  I’m not counting the time to move into place.

    • #97
  8. Ball Diamond Ball Inactive
    Ball Diamond Ball
    @BallDiamondBall

    This is not a new strategy.  it is an old strategy.  It is the one that Americans fought and died to achieve, and which was sabotaged and abandoned by Obama.

    For nakedly partisan spite, he trashed Iraq, Americans who fought in Iraq, people who supported fighting in Iraq, military and policy folks who advised fighting in Iraq, George Bush for deciding to fight in Iraq, and America herself as an international bully for fighting in Iraq.

    Now look who wants to fight in Iraq.

    The question to any thinking person is why on Earth should we fight in Iraq?  Iraq already got the best shot at this that any “country” will ever get.  Do you think that America will find more resolve next time?  Do you think that any successes there will not simply be amputated by the next America-hating communist elected to the US Presidency?  Once you die for something, you stay dead, but the next administration throws it away anyway.

    I am telling you that something fundamental has changed.  Iraq is not where the next war worth fighting will be.

    • #98
  9. Ball Diamond Ball Inactive
    Ball Diamond Ball
    @BallDiamondBall

    We’ve got No-Drama Elagabalus in the White House.

    This is awesome.

    • #99
  10. Nick Stuart Inactive
    Nick Stuart
    @NickStuart

    Only scanned the first 20 comments so I may have missed it, but what precisely should the Republican candidates be screaming? That they’ll ramp back up and get us into Iraq 3? So when a democrat wins on an anti-war platform in 2020 we can throw away all the gains bought with blood and treasure again?

    Obama had one job to do, tell Maliki what the status of forces agreement was going to be. He decided he’d rather have “I got us out of Iraq” as an electoral talking point. And the majority of American voters bought it.

    What ally is going to believe we’re serious “this time?”

    Who wants their son or daughter sent to Iraq (or Afghanistan, or any other of the Dreckistani countries in Southwest Asia) under the current commander in chief? I don’t want my son or son-in-law sent (both Army). I’m deeply apprehensive for the ones there now or being sent.

    With Lyndon Baines Obama picking targets from the Oval Office (or from the links between holes more like) air sorties aren’t getting the job done. Drone strikes, while satisfying, aren’t doing it either.

    The American people are simply unwilling to face the bloody arithmetic until there’s a catastrophe. By then it may well be too late, but it’s a less worse option than half-a$$ing it like we’ve done several times before, then having the catastrophe anyway after we’ve spent ourselves even further down in feckless and futile games for political advantage.

    [Add-on comment, several hours after initial comment: ]

    A thought that’s been rattling around my mind for a couple of months is that we may be beginning to see a mutiny forming among the people this country has traditionally relied upon to do its fighting and dying. Not an armed insurrection, just like the French Mutiny during WWI “Hell no, ask someone else.” Like when Yossarian was confronted in Catch 22 with “What if everyone felt that way?” they’re saying “then we’d be stupid to feel any differently.”

    • #100
  11. Ball Diamond Ball Inactive
    Ball Diamond Ball
    @BallDiamondBall

    Nick Stuart #YGDR

    • #101
  12. Gödel's Ghost Inactive
    Gödel's Ghost
    @GreatGhostofGodel

    Nick Stuart:The American people are simply unwilling to face the bloody arithmetic until there’s a catastrophe. By then it may well be too late, but it’s a less worse option than half-a$$ing it like we’ve done several times before, then having the catastrophe anyway after we’ve spent ourselves even further down in feckless and futile games for political advantage.

    “Owing to the neglect of our defences and the mishandling of the German problem in the last five years, we seem to be very near the bleak choice between War and Shame. My feeling is that we shall choose Shame, and then have War thrown in a little later, on even more adverse terms than at present.”

    — Winston Churchill, 1938

    • #102
  13. Ball Diamond Ball Inactive
    Ball Diamond Ball
    @BallDiamondBall

    Well, see, what we’re going to have to do is start winning elections, and building a majority, and not scaring the moderates, just accept the fact that we lost some elections, see, and now all the excitable conservatives, the bomb-cons, just need to be thrown out of the party see, because they don’t know how to behave, and they call the President names, and they just don’t know how things are done in Washington, and they’re never going to get change done that way.

    • #103
  14. Ball Diamond Ball Inactive
    Ball Diamond Ball
    @BallDiamondBall

    The GOP demonized anybody who criticized Obama’s *clearly* anti-American bent.  Now there’s nobody left to fight the obvious fight.

    This SOB hates America and is doing something about it.

    • #104
  15. Ricochet Member
    Ricochet
    @FrontSeatCat

    This will be everyone’s problem if the civilized world does not come together very soon and figure out how to battle on all fronts this scourge called ISIS. I am surrounded by 3 major military bases – I was in Barnes & Noble in Destin one day and looked up to see 3 soldiers browsing the magazine rack – I looked for a moment and tears welled up – I wanted to walk up and thank them for their service, but got choked up – besides they were laughing about the latest silliness of American magazine headlines and I didn’t want to intrude. What made me tear up was their apple-cheeked, fresh-scrubbed so so young appearance – like right out of high school! Someone’s brother, son, nephew, daughter, grandchild.  Yet they are willing to go to the front lines for our and other nations’ freedom.

    Every time we are behind the eight ball, with no strategy or plan, and all hell breaks loose, like what we are seeing in the Middle East, after all we sacrificed before ISIS, the chances of them coming back to their families alive or in one piece, and having a future goes way down, and that breaks my heart.

    • #105
  16. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    Ball Diamond Ball

    We’ve got No-Drama Elagabalus in the White House.

    This is awesome.

    Yeah. Claire wins Ricochet today.

    BDB, I agree with just about everything you’ve written on this except for one point: I don’t think we’re going to get much say in where the next war worth fighting will be fought. Our current Administration has ceded the initiative and it will be hell getting it back. That usually means riding to the sound of the guns rather than picking our ground.

    • #106
  17. user_82762 Inactive
    user_82762
    @JamesGawron

    Ball Diamond Ball

    We’ve got No-Drama Elagabalus in the White House.

    This is awesome.

    BDB,

    I don’t disagree with Claire but I would put it a little different. After all Elagabalus was just a naive boy. The White House contains someone who’s arrogant stupidity is far more dangerous. He is not naive he is perverse.

    I think Nero would be a better analogy.

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #107
  18. Ricochet Inactive
    Ricochet
    @KermitHoffpauir

    Zafar:

    Claire Berlinski:But tell me: Why aren’t the GOP presidential candidates screaming about this?

    Because sending the US Army back into Iraq is unpopular in the US and the candidates are (electioneering) politicians.

    Iow: because enough of you are not demanding a coherent response from them.

    I blame it on the influence of Ronulans in the GOP.  Why anyone pays any attention to those nuts is beyond me.

    • #108
  19. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    Kermit Hoffpauir:

    Zafar:

    Claire Berlinski:But tell me: Why aren’t the GOP presidential candidates screaming about this?

    Because sending the US Army back into Iraq is unpopular in the US and the candidates are (electioneering) politicians.

    Iow: because enough of you are not demanding a coherent response from them.

    I blame it on the influence of Ronulans in the GOP. Why anyone pays any attention to those nuts is beyond me.

    Cool!  Ricochetti may not know how to misspell President Obama’s name, but that doesn’t mean they are incapable of calling each other names!

    • #109
  20. Ball Diamond Ball Inactive
    Ball Diamond Ball
    @BallDiamondBall

    Ron Paul was the dog’s ass of the Tea Party, and the GOP showed it to friends over dinner to marvel at the ugly dog.

    • #110
  21. Kozak Member
    Kozak
    @Kozak

    As to

    #1  Even worse, expect those being “trained” to simply turn their weapons on the trainers ala “green vs blue” violence in Afghanistan.  Rather being hostages those 400 will be at major risk of being casualties.

    #2 In order to maximize close air support you need FAC’s (forward air controllers) US personnel on the ground to coordinate those strikes. Otherwise you really have problems with targeting.   In addition sand and clouds don’t interfere with our GPS bombs, but DO interfere with our laser guided weaponry.  Air power alone is vital but not sufficient.

    #3 Don’t forget ISIS is already busy in Yemen and inside Saudi Arabia, with several  mosque suicide bombings and a shooting on it’s credits. Stay tuned.

    #4  Not at all surprised at the lunacy, when this

    0,,17624040_303,00

    Was the sum total of our “response” to the Boko Haram kidnapping .

    • #111
  22. Ball Diamond Ball Inactive
    Ball Diamond Ball
    @BallDiamondBall

    Kozak

    Even worse, expect those being “trained” to simply turn their weapons on the trainers ala “green vs blue” violence in Afghanistan.  Rather being hostages those 400 will be at major risk of being casualties.

    This is a good point.  The last time we abandoned Iraq, we had not yet also abandoned Afghanistan.  The next time we abandon Iraq will be in the context of a proven method of getting rid of the Americans.

    • #112
  23. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    Nick Stuart:Who wants their son or daughter sent to Iraq (or Afghanistan, or any other of the Dreckistani countries in Southwest Asia) under the current commander in chief? I don’t want my son or son-in-law sent (both Army). I’m deeply apprehensive for the ones there now or being sent.

    Just a quick comment on this. First, my best regards, my thanks, and my respect to your son and son-and-law. Second, this is always a powerful argument to which few can reply: Who the hell can say to a parent’s face, “I’d like you to sacrifice your child for a long shot gamble at controlling East Krapdreckistan?”

    My only answer to this is the following: I don’t have a hope, clearly, of taking on ISIS singlehandedly and nearly unarmed. I’m not a professional soldier. I’m 47 years old and female, which obviously makes the odds of my contributing usefully in combat rather slim — although I’m in excellent health and good physical condition, so it’s possible that in the right role I wouldn’t be a burden.

    If I believed we were in any way serious about destroying this menace — and if given any chance — I would volunteer to serve. Immediately. In any capacity.

    I don’t have children to send to war. I understand the difference. But I would send myself. And without a moment’s hesitation. And I would regret that I had but one life to offer.

    There are many conflicts on this planet that inspire in me no such sentiment. This one is very different. They are a different level of evil. And I know in my heart that if we don’t stop them now, we will pay — in this life and the next.

    • #113
  24. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor
    Claire Berlinski, Ed.
    @Claire

    Kozak:As to

    #1 Even worse, expect those being “trained” to simply turn their weapons on the trainers ala “green vs blue” violence in Afghanistan. Rather being hostages those 400 will be at major risk of being casualties.

    Yes. They may be worth more as hostages, but that’s the only thing that would keep them alive.

    Air power alone is vital but not sufficient.

    Agreed completely.

    #3 Don’t forget ISIS is already busy in Yemen and inside Saudi Arabia, with several mosque suicide bombings and a shooting on it’s credits. Stay tuned.

    Indeed.

    • #114
  25. Ball Diamond Ball Inactive
    Ball Diamond Ball
    @BallDiamondBall

    Claire Berlinski, Ed.:

    There are many conflicts on this planet that inspire in me no such sentiment. This one is very different. They are a different level of evil. And I know in my heart that if we don’t stop them now, we will pay — in this life and the next.

    There is much to like in this comment. Where we differ is that I assess we have already ceded that initiative, and will now fight it on our shores *no matter what*.  It’s a matter of time and preparation.  No longer do we face a choice between fighting over there now or over here later.  The last 14 years matter.  We are now in worse shape than we were on September 10, 2001.

    There was something we were fighting for in Iraq, and it wasn’t Iraq.  It was our choices now, and going forward, and those are pretty much hemmed up.  “Fighting” in Iraq now is just going through the motions for the benefit of the press.  So long as they have a fig leaf, they will weave the Emperor’s new clothes.

    We must face up to the fact that we are colonized by an enemy, and things will not get better until the progressive destroyers are cleaned out.  No amount of fighting over there will fix the problem over here, and until that happens, no amount of fighting over there will fix the problems over there either.  So the next fight is at home.

    • #115
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