Obama’s Strategy for Defeating ISIS is the Only Viable Option. It Can Work.
On September 10, 2014, President Obama gave a public address outlining his strategy for defeating the self-proclaimed Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). To the chagrin of some, he couched his objective to “degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL” in terms of a protracted conflict characterized by limited U.S. commitment over the course of time. While Obama’s chosen path may have disappointed more hawkish critics, his speech reflected a stark political reality. The U.S. is a democracy, and a majority of Americans do not support direct involvement of U.S. ground forces in either Iraq or Syria. Some have argued that the U.S. is entering a fight with one hand tied behind its back. The reality is that, with few exceptions, the U.S. has faced political constraints in every conflict. In the case of ISIL, however, these constraints might prove a blessing in disguise. This paper will argue that the threat posed by ISIL cannot be eradicated in the short term, and the involvement of U.S. ground forces would do little to address the underlying problems that have paved the way for ISIL’s advance thus far. Only sustained, long-term pressure combined with proactive regional engagement will adequately protect U.S. national security interests in this region.
What would a decisive military victory over ISIL look like, specifically in Iraq? Planners might argue over the finer details, but there are certain objectives that would likely be included in any such list. First and foremost, a victory would have to return the sovereignty and control of all Iraqi territory to the central government in Baghdad. The ultimate plan for political power sharing in Iraq could take any number of shapes, but allowing an unelected group to retain any territory that it has seized by force would set a disastrous precedent. Likewise, these unelected groups should be disarmed. Most importantly, heavy weapons would have to be returned to government control so Baghdad could reassert its monopoly as a government on the legitimate use of force. Also, the international hostages and Iraqi citizens held by ISIL would have to be freed.
A decisive military victory over ISIL would need to provide a measure of justice for the crimes committed by this organization on the world stage. It is unlikely that all the leadership of ISIL could be killed or captured in the short-term, but ISIL should not be allowed to retain its current structure of command and control. Key leaders would have to answer for the beheadings of foreign journalists along with their host of other crimes against humanity, and those who escape should be hunted indefinitely as fugitives until they are brought to justice. It would be preferable to try these individuals for their crimes in order to delegitimize their message and avoid producing martyrs. But as with Osama Bin Laden, some might be dangerous or problematic to capture alive.
Finally, a decisive military victory over ISIL in Iraq would not be complete if it did not address the status of ISIL in Syria. Even as coalition aircraft have conducted airstrikes in Syrian territory, the U.S. has continued to avoid taking a firm position on the future disposition of this country which has been locked in a state of civil war since 2011. The eradication of ISIL in Iraq would not prevent it from continuing its role in the Syrian conflict. However, no victory in Iraq could be considered decisive or complete if ISIL retains the capability to return to Iraqi territory in force and recapture territory in the near future. It would also be difficult to free hostages or seek justice against ISIL leaders if the organization is not significantly degraded on the Syrian side of the border as well.
This set of objectives provides a starting point for examining the question of how and when ISIL might ultimately be defeated. While the scope and specifics of the objectives required for a decisive victory are open to debate, this is a reasonable best-case scenario for the goals which military action could achieve in the absence of constraint. It is also important to note that the benefits of such a military victory could prove short-lived if long-term political solutions are not simultaneously realized. It is sometimes easy to forget that the U.S. military achieved a decisive victory over Sadaam Hussein’s forces in 2003. This considerable achievement was overshadowed by the protracted drama of the costly counterinsurgency campaign of the years that followed. This prompts the next question which must be asked. What would a decisive military victory over ISIL fail to achieve, even given this proposed realization of a best possible outcome?
The rapid advancement of ISIL forces in Iraq during 2014 was facilitated largely by a political breakdown in Iraqi governance which would not be rectified by a military campaign. As the Sunni majority in western Iraq lost confidence in, and largely turned against, the central government, they chose another option. In the words of Sheikh Ali Hatem al-Suleiman al-Dulaimi, head of the largest Sunni tribe in Iraq,“We can fight Isis [ISIL] and al-Qaeda whenever we want to, but now are fighting for our lands and our tribes. We are not responsible for Isis [ISIL]. Look what has Maliki has done – look at the two million refugees. He has destroyed and killed – and where was the world then?”  This region has not historically been prone to Islamic radicalism, but the tribal bases of power have proven quick to act in their own perceived self-interest. After the fall of Sadaam Hussein, they welcomed Al Qaeda fighters to the region in response to the loss of Sunni influence in the Iraqi government. During the period known as the “Anbar Awakening” from 2006 to 2008, the tribes of Anbar Province then turned against those same foreign fighters because of their arrogance and extremism, and they supported U.S. troops in attacking their former partners. With the withdrawal of U.S. forces in 2011, tensions deepened between the Sunni and Shia in Iraq, and these tensions were greatly exacerbated when an Iraqi military raid killed 44 Sunni protestors in April of 2013. In the ensuing cycle of violence, the same tribal forces that had previously helped to stabilize Iraq turned against the government, not in favor of an Islamist agenda, but in what Christian Science Monitor reporter Scott Peterson described as a “revolution against Maliki’s rule.” While ISIL seems to have co-opted this “revolution” almost entirely for its own purposes, a military victory over the forces of ISIL which did not address the grievances of the Sunni population would prove hollow and short-lived.
In more practical terms, a military defeat of ISIL would fail to eradicate the base of fighters from which it draws. Foreign fighters make up only a portion of the ISIL force, currently estimated at up to thirty percent. The Sunni militias and tribal forces constituting the majority of ISIL’s supporters would likely melt back into the population as quickly as they appeared if the fortunes of the organization were reversed. Many of these fighters are disaffected youth with few prospects in peaceful society, especially in the war-torn regions of Iraq and Syria. They have found empowerment and prosperity through their violent pursuits. Providing these individuals with a level of opportunity that would dissuade them from returning to violence might prove costlier than the government in Baghdad can manage. Furthermore, violence breeds violence. In the years since the U.S. invasion in 2003, a generation of Sunni youth has grown up nursing grievances that follow a variety of narratives, but with a common theme of deprivation at the hands of perceived outsiders. ISIS has proven shameless in perpetuating these narratives, even recruiting or coercing school-aged boys to military service and indoctrinating many more.
A military defeat of ISIL would also fail to destroy the international appeal of the Islamist ideology which the organization espouses. Ending the self-proclaimed “Caliphate” of Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi would certainly sever a prominent head from the hydra of militant political Islam, and it might help deny extremists a particular safe haven from which to operate. But just as Osama Bin-Laden’s demise failed to defeat the pan-Islamist dream, so would this effort likely fall short. Religion can serve as a powerful mobilizing agent for many of the world populations disillusioned by the forces of globalization and Westernization. The defeat of ISIL would only be one step in the larger campaign against the terrorism promoted by Islamic radicals.
Perhaps most important in terms of shortcomings, a decisive defeat of ISIL in strictly military terms would fail to address the regional dynamics which have allowed this organization to flourish in its current context. ISIL does not exist in a vacuum. This is not simply an Iraqi or even a Syrian insurgency. The Syrian civil war has played out largely as a proxy conflict among competing power bases in the greater Middle East region, and this contest has spilled over into Iraqi soil. The spider web of competing and converging interests defies borders and makes a mockery of any attempt at oversimplification. In the words of the Saudi Interior Minister, Prince Muhammad Bin Naif, “We know that ISIS [ISIL] was not randomly formed but rather sponsored by states and organizations that employ all their resources and ill intentions in backing ISIS [ISIL].”
As demonstrated by the cases of Saudi Arabia with Al Qaeda and Pakistan with the Taliban, governments are not monolithic and may choose to fight against a group such as ISIL with one hand while supporting it with the other. Turkey’s reluctance to cooperate in efforts against ISIL serves as a stark demonstration of the different calculus employed by regional actors. Turkish buyers have provided a market for oil smuggled out of ISIL-controlled territories. The Turkish government clearly sees Assad as a greater threat than ISIL, and many suspect that its early-October agreement to join the coalition against ISIL largely reflected an ulterior motive of suppressing Kurdish separatism. If regional interests are not adequately addressed, then even erstwhile allies are likely to undermine any military solution in the long run. This could mean preserving and enabling the defeated rump of ISIL in Syria. It could also mean the fostering of new manifestations of this movement which might prove even more destabilizing in the future.
The next question that this paper will examine is what it would take to defeat ISIS militarily. There is no doubt that with commitment to a full-scale invasion, the U.S. military could route the forces of ISIS and destroy their conventional fighting forces. The invasion of Iraq in 2003 clearly demonstrated that the U.S. military is capable of seizing and holding this terrain. U.S. military operations in Fallujah in 2004, in addition to the southern cities of Karbala and Najaf, demonstrated that conventional forces could prevail against insurgents in large-scale “clear-and-hold” operations targeting entire cities. However, as we have already mentioned, this deployment of U.S. ground forces is not an option because the American people as a whole do not see a clear national interest in this sacrifice. Even if it were an option, its success could require an indefinite commitment in order to ensure that these areas do not fall again into unfriendly control. The U.S. military has already been down this road, spending more than eight years at war in Iraq, with most of it in difficult counter-insurgency operations. In spite of staggering costs, the war failed to resolve the issues preventing Iraq from moving forward as a unified nation.
What of a more limited role for U.S. ground troops? Perhaps the Iraqi forces who were so easily routed by ISIL in recent months would fare better with several brigades of U.S. forces in support. Unfortunately, history is not kind to this argument. U.S. forces throughout the duration of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM were a lightning rod for galvanizing the opposition of both Shia and Sunni malcontents, along with foreign fighters from around the world. Furthermore, the U.S. was clearly instrumental in establishing the Shia-dominated government, led by Nuri Al-Maliki, whose heavy-handed policies sparked the current uprising. If U.S. ground forces were committed, how many would be enough, and how could they avoid the appearance of bias? If the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan fail to suffice, the Vietnam conflict provides stark warnings about the dangers of making limited military commitments to a conflict. If the host nation forces do not rise to the challenge, the U.S. is left with three unappealing options: send more troops, fight a losing battle, or cut its losses and pull out.
The primary operational approach used by the U.S. military to regain control of areas overtaken by insurgent forces is the “shape-clear-hold-build-transition framework.” This approach uses U.S. or host-nation ground forces to seize control of specific geographic locations, deny insurgents the ability to operate in these locations, and then build an enduring capacity for local governance and security which allows the military forces to gradually reduce their role over time. Every phase of this approach, with the possible exception of “clear,” is directly contingent upon establishing legitimacy with the local population. If a force cannot establish legitimacy, then its only means of control is coercion. The U.S. military and its coalition partners utilized this framework with varying degrees of success to guide operations in both Iraq and Afghanistan. However, the legitimacy of these forces in the eyes of the populace was never fully established in either conflict. It remains to be seen how long it will take the government in Baghdad to field an effective fighting force capable of conducting these types of operations. The larger question is how long it will take them to “shape” the environment by establishing the credible foundations of legitimacy in western Iraq.
If there is good news in this story, it is that Baghdad is not the only player which must compete for legitimacy in the context of this struggle. ISIL currently controls western Iraq (along with a large portion of Syria) through a mixture of coercion and cooption, much like Sadaam Hussein in previous years. However, in spite of recent military victories, the instruments of coercion available to ISIS are far more meager than those enjoyed by Sadaam. In the height of his glory, Sadaam boasted one of the largest militaries in the world, along with impressive internal security services. Sadaam also possessed considerably greater resources with which to reward his power base. ISIL is indeed performing some of the functions of legitimate government, but these services pale in comparison to the damage and disruption their forces are causing in the areas they control. The rewards granted to the “faithful” often come at the expense of their less faithful neighbors. Additionally, in spite of his status as an international pariah, Sadaam Hussein enjoyed a degree of legitimacy that came from being the head of a sovereign state with internationally recognized borders. ISIL is a long way from achieving this status.
ISIL has made impressive efforts to establish and bolster its legitimacy in a short time, but it remains to be seen if this will take root. They have begun to provide basic social services on a selective basis to some of the population. They have taken control of education, enforcing decrees about which textbooks can be used in schools. Their use of social media and other propaganda outlets, as demonstrated by their magazine “Dabiq,” could be described as groundbreaking. The attraction of recruits from Western countries demonstrates the appeal of the group’s message, especially among disaffected Muslim youths. Baghdadi’s declaration of the “Caliphate” further bolsters his image and lays the gauntlet for his opponents. However, it is important to note that all of these actions have taken place after the fact. Baghdadi rose to prominence in a moment of opportunity afforded by the obstinance of Maliki’s government. Legitimacy and expedience are not the same thing. The tribes of western Iraq have shown themselves quick to change sides when it suited them in the past. Their loyalty to religious ideals has also taken a back seat on more than one occasion. In spite of their gains, it is far too early to declare ISIL the winner in a contest of competing legitimacies.
So why might it be a blessing that the U.S. is constrained in its immediate options for dealing with ISIL? First, it will probably take a long time for Baghdad to establish legitimacy with its Sunni constituents, but only the central government of Iraq can do it. Direct interference by the U.S. is likely to undermine the process. If the U.S. were able to jump in and solve this crisis for Baghdad, the Iraqis might also be less inclined to find long-term solutions. Even worse, the presence of U.S. ground forces might once again galvanize Iraqi public opinion against outside “crusaders” and provide ISIL with fuel for its propaganda machine. However, if the government in Baghdad is unable to ever establish effective legitimacy, does this mean that ISIL wins and that the rest of the world will have to accept them as legitimate? Certainly not. As this paper will discuss shortly, the citizens of western Iraq are likely to find ISIL domination unpalatable in the long run. It is far easier to imitate a state than actually build one.
Second, time is not on ISIL’s side. ISIL finances its organization primarily through oil smuggling, hostage ransoms and extortion of local business and commerce. As international pressure increases, these sources are likely to get squeezed. Their ability to operate the captured oil wells in the long-term without outside assistance is questionable at best. Their ability to capture more oil wells can easily be limited, particularly by a force with the benefit of air power. Hostage taking is going to become more difficult as foreigners shun this region or take greater security precautions. While smuggling might be a cottage industry in this region of the world, legitimate commerce is going to feel the squeeze from international pressure and rising security concerns. Some would argue that sanctions don’t work, and you could even point to Iraq under Saddam Hussein as an example. However, ISIL has practical concerns and requires resources to continue both its consolidation and advance. The impressive windfalls experienced in 2014 are likely to prove short-lived.
Third, ISIL occupies terrible real estate. The population centers they control are surrounded primarily by open desert. The lines of communication connecting these centers are vulnerable to monitoring and interdiction from the air. Limitations on water and other natural resources, combined with a lack of industry and infrastructure, make this region dependent upon the outside world. As they expand, they find themselves ringed by nations unfriendly to their vision of the caliphate.
Fourth, ISIL has probably reached the limit of its easy gains. In terms of Iraqi territory, they now abut regions populated by the Shia and the Kurds, neither of which are keen to lose any more ground. The Iranians are particularly interested in checking their advance. ISIL is within striking distance of Baghdad, but taking this city would be no easy feat. Defending Baghdad against a conventional assault would play better to the strengths of supporting international forces than would the mission of retaking ground in a counter-insurgency. In Syria, Asad is giving no ground. ISIL has made a priority of battling their rival opposition groups instead of Asad’s forces. ISIL’s advance has motivated nations previously reluctant to get involved in the Syrian conflict to provide support for their opponents. In terms of weapons and equipment, there are few stockpiles left within easy reach that might be captured. ISIL will be challenged to maintain and operate the equipment that it currently has, and it will find few suppliers of weapons or spare parts outside of illicit channels.
Fifth, ISIL has chosen a path of defiance against the global community and has sown the seeds of its own destruction. Were it not for their insistence on publicizing a string of brazen human rights violations and sounding a worldwide call to Jihad, many Western nations, including the U.S., might still consider the rise of ISIL much the way that it has evaluated the Syrian civil war since 2011 – like an unfortunate development to be managed from a distance without direct intervention. Now, however, nations previously reluctant to intervene are uniting to take action. Even authoritarian regimes like Russia and China are disturbed by ISIL’s separatist agenda and attempts to spread their ideology internationally. Middle Eastern nations have begun to recognize ISIL as an existential threat instead of simply a pawn on their chessboard. It is a remarkable feat when any organization can unite Saudi Arabia and Iran in common cause. In return, ISIL’s defiance has won support and admiration from the fringes of modern society. While these disaffected people and groups present a variety of threats in their own context, their ability to provide meaningful aid to ISIL is very limited.
Lastly, ISIL has chosen to establish its caliphate in a historically unruly area of the world. As previously mentioned, their control over the cities of Anbar Province depends largely upon the acquiescence of tribal leaders whose constituents have little history of support for radical Islam. During the “Anbar Awakening” period, the Sunni tribes of this region showed little patience for foreign fighters pushing their own agendas. With no crusader army to rally against, and finding themselves extorted from within and under siege from without, they are likely to seek a better deal.
But what of the danger that ISIL poses to the U.S. and its interests? ISIL certainly presents a terrorist threat, but are we actually seeing anything new? ISIL’s current situation in Iraq and Syria looks similar in many ways to the symbioses of Al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan prior to the attacks of 9-11 which spurred the Global War on Terrorism. The U.S. military, in particular, is often criticized for its uncanny ability to focus on the last war at the expense of preparing for the next. In this case, however, ISIL is playing to U.S. strengths gained during previous conflicts. The terrorist threat posed by Islamic radicals is real, and it is dangerous, but the Western world is more prepared than ever to face this scenario. Just like Al Qaeda in Afghanistan or previously in Iraq, ISIL is drawing radicalized Westerners to the jihad. Compared with the past, Western nations have a far greater capability to monitor international travel, especially that of their own citizens. Many of these individuals are doing society a favor by marking themselves to security services around the world. The greatest terrorist threat comes not from the warzone, but from individuals who act alone, out of the watch of security services, motivated by radical ideology. Extremist ideologies of one bent or another have existed throughout human history. ISIL is not the first organization to advocate an extreme form of political Islam. Unfortunately, they will probably not be the last.
At the time of this writing, the U.S. and several of its allies have begun a campaign of air strikes against ISIL targets in both Iraq and Syria. There is little illusion that air power alone will destroy ISIL, and there is no clear vision for when ground forces (from any nation) will begin effective counter-insurgency operations to reclaim lost ground in Iraq. However, as this is seen less as an American campaign and more as an international reaction to a common threat, the world may be witnessing a new paradigm for security cooperation. ISIL is already reacting, reducing its signature on roads and in open areas and hunkering down in the populated regions. This will make them difficult to dislodge, but it will also significantly reduce ISIL’s capacity to expand in terms of territory or influence. As President Obama conceded in his speech, it will take time for this struggle to play out, and the U.S. must lead the world in maintaining pressure on the forces of ISIL. The Iraqi government will have to use this breathing space to make inroads with the Sunni population that it isolated under Maliki. Ultimately, the residents of the ISIL-occupied territories, and their tribal leadership specifically, will have to decide if they enjoy the new life they have chosen for themselves in acquiescing to ISIL domination. The point at which they decide against it will likely mark the end of a caliphate.
As for the future governance structure of Iraq, its people will have to find their own way. Henry Kissinger commented in his most recent book, “European history has shown that unification has never been achieved by primarily administrative procedures. It has required a unifier…” This observation could be applied anywhere in the world, especially Iraq. It took the United States a bloody civil war costing over 600,000 lives to unify as a nation, and success was by no means a foregone conclusion. As seen from the results of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM, no amount of U.S. blood or sacrifice has yet proven sufficient to purchase Iraqi cohesion. However, if a U.S.-led coalition can isolate and degrade ISIL, perhaps this will prove to be the defining moment in Iraqi history. Even if the defining moment leads to the partition of Iraq, then U.S. leadership might at least allow the international community to avert the worst possible outcomes of genocide and extremist rule. The U.S. would benefit from a positive outcome.
The opinions expressed by this paper are personal to the author and do not imply Department of Defense endorsement.
 David Hudson, “President Obama: ‘We Will Degrade and Ultimately Destroy ISIS,” The White House Blog, September 10, 2014, accessed on October 7, 2014, http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2014/09/10/president-obama-we-will-degrade-and-ultimately-destroy-isil.
 Richard Spencer and Carol Malouf, “We Will Stand By ISIS Until Maliki Steps Down, Says Leader of Iraq’s Biggest Tribe,” The Telegraph, June 29, 2014, accessed on October 7, 2014, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/iraq/10934438/We-will-stand-by-Isis-until-Maliki-steps-down-says-leader-of-Iraqs-biggest-tribe.html.
 Mark Wilbanks and Efraim Karsh, “How the ‘Sons of Iraq’ Stabilized Iraq,” Middle East Quarterly, vol. 17, no. 4, Fall 2010, accessed on October 7, 2014, http://www.meforum.org/2788/sons-of-iraq.
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 Scott Peterson, “Maliki or ISIS? Neither Looks Good to Sunni-Awakening Veterans,” Christian Science Monitor, June 18, 2014, accessed on October 7, 2014, http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Middle-East/2014/0618/Maliki-or-ISIS-Neither-looks-good-to-Sunni-Awakening-veterans.
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 Thomas Seibert, “Is NATO Ally Turkey Tacitly Fueling the ISIS War Machine?” The Daily Beast, September 8, 2014, accessed on October 6, 2014, http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/09/08/is-nato-ally-turkey-tacitly-fueling-the-isis-war-machine.html#.
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 Michael Knights, “ISIL 3-24: Do They Do Counter-Insurgency?” Foreign Policy, September 30, 2014, accessed on October 7, 2014, http://ricks.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2014/09/30/isil_3_24_do_they_do_counter_insurgency.
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 Mark Wilbanks and Efraim Karsh, “How the ‘Sons of Iraq’ Stabilized Iraq.”
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 Henry Kissinger, World Order, Penguin Press, New York, 2014, p.94.
About the Author(s)
While this administration was totally looking at countering the IS and has failed at that the Russians on the other hand make it clear where they re headed.
The first strike use of nuclear weapons in a non nuclear war is the elimination of the MAD principle--and extremely dangerous---even the IS has not gone down that road in their threats.
Russia's new military doctrine. MUST READ Why Russia calls a limited nuclear strike "de-escalation" by Nikolai Sokov
Some of the main points:
1 Increasing Russia's military opposition to NATO. ...
2 Continued option of "de-escalation" i.e. nuclear first-strike against conventional forces as threat to NATO to back off.
3 Russian military expansion into Arctic region (to "protect" natural resources and Northern Sea Route)
NOTE: We all know what the Russian term "protect" means--so full annexation of the Artic.
Kremlin's rhetoric indicates it may seek 'showdown' with NATO, turn Ukraine into war zone between Russia and West.
Would highly suggest-- actually strongly suggest that the US civilian leadership fully understand this doctrine since they failed badly at understanding the Russian UW strategy.
Notice the differences in the bombing figures? how many of the Syrian air strikes were in the end directed against civilians ie women and children and many of the strikes were with barrel bombs.
So just what is our strategy for Syria again?
1. Syrian AF executed 430 airstrikes in 60 hours & 2974 in 1 month
2. U.S. led coalition 300 airstrikes in 1 month over #Syria = 1 F-16 down
By the way the F16 lost was in the 2-4km range not the directed safety 6km range when hit.
And yet we wonder why there is no strategy---can someone explain this comment to me?
As it tends to over turn countless comments made by this same White House BEFORE IS stormed into Iraq about red lines in the sand, protecting civilians from air strikes, and the potential of regime change and Assad has to go and on and on.
I know that Putin is in "an altered state of reality" but is now Washington in the same zone?
#Obama: #ISIS is the problem, not #Syria's #Assad.
Same Assad, who still (!) pays government employees's salaries in ISIS' capital #Raqqa!
So now is appeasement a new US strategy?--it is a form of "soft power".
The primary problem with ISIS and Syria is not the potential for terror. Although House Intel Chairman Mike Rogers just mentioned that potential recruits are being told that instead of coming to Syria (and being identified) they should just kidnap and behead folks in Australia, the U.S., and Europe at random.
The main issue is the potential for escalation involving Iran, Israel, and greater ISIS-like influence in other GCC states and Turkey.
For grins, I offer the following Duffer's Drift like approach to ISIS and Syria.
<strong>Background.</strong> ISIS was a bad dream created by Assad’s evil and al Maliki’s ineptitude. Syria saw 200,000 dead and millions of refugees fleeing to Turkey and Jordan before ISIS evolved forcing our coalition to address simultaneously both Assad and ISIS evils. The administration never conceded that major U.S. ground troops were required. Civil advisor’s convinced the President that SOF training alone, security of the green zone and Baghdad, and limited air support would suffice with coalition Arab ground forces ultimately defeating ISIS. Unfortunately, Iranian ground forces got and stayed involved and Syrian forces went largely unaddressed.
<strong>Air.</strong> The 78-day air campaign on Serbia averaged 138 airstrikes per day while 75-days of Afghanistan bombing averaged 86 airstrikes a day. Even those 138 daily airstrikes had little effect against Serbian military forces that hid and used decoys. In the first two months against ISIS in 2014, we averaged just 7 strikes per day. In 2016 we upped the airstrike ante. However, sans permission to launch from Turkey and without much Iraq or Kurd air base presence, the primary origin of coalition air attacks remained from Persian Gulf carriers and adjacent Arab states. This resulted in hours of flight inland to deliver small bomb loads. All too often, fixed targets were warned ahead of time and other ISIS targets blended into the population. Without Joint Terminal Attack Controllers embedded with U.S. ground forces, immediate close air support was not an option. Targets picked days earlier using the long air tasking order process could not react rapidly to ISIS attacks in new locations. Attacks on Assad’s military did increase but were limited due to fears of Syrian air defenses and worries about mission creep.
<strong>Sea.</strong> As a single carrier continued pummeling Syrian and Iraqi ISIS targets, Iran became conflicted. They were happy when ISIS was targeted but angered when Assad’s forces bore the brunt. Seeing the U.S. lack of resolve, Iran increased its ground presence inside Iraq and Syria to battle ISIS and its sea presence in the vicinity of U.S. ships. After attacks on Kurd Peshmerga by Iranian forces in areas both claimed, F/A-18s aided the Kurds. Afterwards, the Iranians started harassing U.S. naval assets. Ultimately, several small Iranian boats, subs, and old F-14s were destroyed. Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) missiles then struck U.S.-employed and Saudi air and seabases and gulf oil storage sites. The U.S. launched Tomahawks against Iranian targets in retaliation. Quds forces and Hezbollah rocket attacks expanded against Israel from Lebanon with some carrying chemical weapons killing hundreds in an Israeli city. Israel retaliated with sub-launched tactical nuclear missiles against deeply buried Iranian nuclear centrifuges and other missile sites.
<strong>Land.</strong> The 15,000 man coalition Arab ground force never was realized. ISIS and the Syrian Army continued to secure gains. Special Forces could not vet and train large numbers nor were they allowed to fight in combat. Few Free Syrian Army personnel joined due to distrust caused by earlier U.S. abandonment. No equipment other than light infantry weapons was provided. The Iraqi government never fully enabled lethal aid transfers to the Peshmerga and Iraqi force offensives were minimally successful. Without a U.S. surge of ground forces supporting Sunni fighters, no awakening occurred against ISIS in Anbar province. Iranian ground forces continued to build and dominate east Iraq and Kurd areas creating infighting between coalition forces and Iran. As sporadic missile and airstrikes continued between the U.S., Israel, the Saudis and Iran, the IRGC forces in Iraq used chemical weapons against Peshmerga forces and launched cyber and chemical attacks against U.S., Kuwait, and Saudi bases and oil facilities. The U.S. and Israel responded with air attacks on Iranian nuclear sites and IRGC bases. IRGC and turncoat Iraqi battalions advanced on Baghdad and seized the Green Zone sending U.S. diplomats and the few ground forces fleeing.
<strong>Background.</strong> After failures in our 2016 and earlier approaches, the new administration pondered a different strategy as former ISIS fighter terror spread worldwide. With Iran now controlling much of eastern and northern Iraq, no semblance of an effective Iraqi state remained. ISIS control of Anbar province and the river banks approaching Baghdad from Syria, and Kurd control of most of northern Iraq already created partitions of self-rule. The dilemma was how to institutionalize such Sunni, Shiite, and Kurd self-rule while ridding Iraq of Iranian and ISIS control. Likewise, the Syrian problem remained with Assad and ISIS retaining their strangleholds on Syria leaving moderate Sunnis unrepresented.
<strong>Air.</strong> Coalition airpower expanded with the first F-35 squadrons teamed with limited F-22s. Stealth fighters could overfly Syria with impunity to eliminate Assad’s modern air defenses and limited fighter force. Turkey also reluctantly allowed limited airstrikes originating from Incirlik. This was permitted after the U.S. agreed to use Incirlik to enforce a no-fly zone throughout Syria and a no-ground zone for Syrian ground forces north of a designated point to prevent Assad from attacking Sunni militias and barrel-bombing Sunni civilians. Other new Kurd area airbases in both Syria and Iraq hosted F-35Bs, AH-64Es, and unmanned aircraft. This multiplied the sorties the coalition could inflict on both ISIS and Assad’s forces.
<strong>Sea.</strong> Mediterranean and Persian Gulf large carriers launched F-35Cs, jamming EA-18Gs, and F/A-18s while amphibious carriers launched F-35Bs and Harriers. Sea-launched cruise missiles also attacked Assad’s forces and command and control sites. After destruction of Syrian air defenses, MV-22s, CV-22s, and MH-47s launching from the Mediterranean flew raids to secure suspected remaining chemical WMD sites and infiltrate U.S. special operating forces into key Syrian areas. Marines also seized western Syrian areas near the Mediterranean coast.
<strong>Land.</strong> An armored brigade combat team joined its prepositioned equipment in Kuwait and replicated with ease its 2003 ground assault into both Iraqi and new Syrian areas. This destroyed both ISIS and Syrian Army elements and any Iranian or Iraqi Army elements foolish enough to confront them. Ranger, airborne and air assault Army forces dropped into Anbar province and Kurd-controlled areas. Strykers were landed into Kurd-controlled Syrian areas. The Land assault was finished in weeks with land forces withdrawing to safer Kurd-controlled areas after “mission accomplished.”
<strong>Whole of Government.</strong> Earlier attacks on the Green Zone had led to its abandonment back in 2016. From its regained position of power, the U.S. negotiated new boundaries within the former Syrian and Iraqi boundaries. We assured parties of no planned U.S. presence in Shiite or Sunni Arab areas but insisted on a new Kurd area presence within the former Syria and Iraq. The Alawites and other Syrian minorities were allowed much of the prior southern and western Syria along the sea. Assad was sent into financed exile. A new Sunni middle state was created in areas of central Syria, Iraq’s Anbar province, and other western Iraqi areas. A new Kurd-ruled state included both northern Syria and Iraq. Iranian and Iraqi Shiites were left to their own devices in securing Shiite areas however an oil-sharing agreement and new borders ensured Sunnis benefitted from some oil-producing areas.
Please forgive my sometime sky-is-falling and other times overly optimistic outlook of the world from my couch.
One of the core reasons I keep stating the black flag wavers are not a strategic threat to the US---but this not so subtle change in the Russian doctrine and military mindset is a strategic threat.
While this one particular Russian military commenter does not make a total mindset it does reflect serious Russian military thinking thus Putin's thinking.
Evolving Preemptive Strike Possibility of Russian Military Doctrine?
Staunton, December 21 – Aleksandr Zhilin, head of the Moscow Center for the Study of Applied Problems and a leading Russian military commentator, says that Vladimir Putin has now changed the country’s military doctrine in such a way that it will now allow for consideration of a pre-emptive military attack on the West in response to a range of Western threats.
In a comment for the Regnum news agency, Zhilin says that as Putin made clear at his meetings with the defense ministry collegium, “Russia does not intend to attack anyone.” But “nevertheless,” he continues, Moscow’s “military strategy is changing” in ways that lay the groundwork for an even more aggressive stance than now.
At earlier meetings with the top officials of the Russian defense ministry, Putin “began with the statement that we have no strategic enemies and therefore we do not see military threats to the country.” In the one just concluded, “he did not say this,” And Zhilin says that in his view, Putin “perfectly precisely” declared that Russia does have “a strategic enemy” – the US.
American efforts at building an ABM system and the increased activity of NATO “in Europe and above all in Eastern Europe” are cause for concern, Putin told the session, and consequently, in Zhilin’s telling, Russia must maintain or improve its ability to “destroy or at least inflict an unbearable strike on its opponent on another continent.”
The Russian president told the military commanders that “it is necessary to force ‘the development of all components of the strategic nuclear forces …[because] these forces are the most important factor of maintaining a global balance and in fact preclude the possibility of massive aggression against Russia.”
But even more important as an indication of Moscow’s intentions, Zhilin argues, the meeting shows that “Russia retains for itself the right in the case of a real threat of a nuclear attack by an opponent to launch a preventive one. Under Yeltsin, that point was cut out of our military doctrine” at American insistence, but now it is back.
In Putin’s own words, “Russia as always will consistently defend its interests and sovereignty and will seek to strengthen international stability and support equal security for all states and peoples.” And that means, Zhilin says, that “in the case of danger for Russia in financial, technological or raw material markets, our response can be military.”
“In other words,” the Moscow military commentator says, US President Barack Obama as a result of his foolish anti-Russian policy is significantly reducing the military security of his own country. The Americans are becoming hostages of the shortsightedness of the White House.”
Zhilin’s words may exaggerate how much Putin has changed Russia’s military doctrine, especially with regard to the possibility of responding militarily to economic challenges. But they are important as an indicator of how at least some in the Russian defense establishment see things and thus an indication of how much more dangerous Putin has made the world.
This was the first impression in his article---notice in the last para or so the comment that the IS is in a guerrilla war---THAT alone should end the big debate that breaks out here on whether COIN failed or not in Iraq--it failed big time because we were in a phase two guerrilla war and never seemed to realize it---we had the correct intel but it was not being even allowed into the "system" as no one wanted to believe it.
He also gives good insight into their over all strategy and their tactics on the ground which has come as well on occasions from IS bloggers.
If true 400 vs 25,000 and they won---that is in fact a true COIN failure of the 100th magnitude.
1.) THE WEST IS DRAMATICALLY UNDERESTIMATING THE THREAT EMANATING FROM ISIS, and ISIS’ fighters are much more intelligent and dangerous than our politicians realize. The Islamic State is drenched in almost infectious enthusiasm and confident of victory – something I have never before experienced in a warzone. More importantly, the ISIS fighters are convinced that their totalitarian faith and demonstrative brutality will help them move mountains. In Mosul, less than 400 ISIS fighters routed many as 25,000 Iraqi soldiers and militias despite their ultra-modern equipment. Within months, the ISIS has conquered a territory larger than Great Britain and dwarfed Al Qaeda.
Occasional losses or changes of terrain don’t seem to concern ISIS in any way. While some media outlets tend to exaggerate those events, ISIS considers them as normal in guerilla warfare
Todenhoefer is about the only western journalist ever to have since 2007 had an open contact channel to the then ISI and now IS--we should listen to what he is saying and then step back and openly question our current strategy towards IS and then ask "why are we failing" in an open and honest fashion.
He is a solid German journalist who I have known since the 70s and I do not think he is "coloring/flavoring" his reporting on the IS.
We need to listen intently to what he is saying.
West is dramatically underestimating #ISIS: new fighters joining daily & they control territory larger than UK
By the way I still do not see the necessary deep Shia government policies being passed that will entice the Sunni tribes to split from IS--we might in fact to far past that point even if they were passed the Sunni's simply mistrust the Shia and Iran.
Would agree with this blog --it is in fact the current US strategy---but nowhere does it answer the reason for the arising from the ashes IS nor does it really answer the Iraqi political mistakes towards the Sunni and still not answered.
Notice point 3---instead of an Iraqi Army now an Iraqi National Guard--we never seem to learn--we are reinventing the wheel--we started out with an Iraqi National Guard and went then to an Army so we seem to be going backwards.
#US-led coalition strategy in #Iraq: 1) coordinate airstrikes; 2) train fighters; 3) create a National Guard.
Even after the Kurds have advanced, over 1000 bombing strikes, and targeted drone attacks, up to 300 non boots on the ground and an attempt to rebuild the ISF,--- and the strategy is again what?
It appears that the IS is still ruling the battlefield and the ISF still runs when under massive attack and the IS seems capable of launching massive strikes at their choosing.
#BreakingNews:Following a massive attack this morning in Baiji,all #ISF forces pull out of d city.#IslamicState is in full control of #Baiji
And on top of it ---it appears the Caliphate is slowly growing in Syria.
#Syria | A map of caliphate circulated among #IS supporters, a growing red south #Damascus.
Considering their resistance and territorial growth, it really may become a Sunni nation in 5 years.
And the IS has no strategic strategy---seems to be nation building.
Robert--Putin simply does not get that actions such as this are driving the Russian Muslims directly into direct resistance to the RF.
The old age argument is coming back into style--human rights ie rule of law and good governance and yet the US says nothing about the Russian actions in Chechnya as they view it as a response to "terrorism" but at the same time ignore the reasons for the local insurgents to lash out.
Activists say another home destroyed in #Chechnya despite Putin's warnings to #Kadyrov
It was also Kadyrov who this week stated he would go if asked by Putin and fight in eastern Ukraine--he has already sent a Chechnya mercenary unit to the Donbas.
IS and AQ are exploiters of powerful and reasonable conditions of insurgency that are latent or active within many Sunni populations across the greater ME. We cannot "defeat" them - but we can render them moot.
Any attack by IS or AQ on the US would be like a mouse bite on an elephant. Yet like the elephant we hold an irrational fear.
We need to outcompete these evil exploiters (and punish them for their sins).
Our current and historic approaches misunderstand the true problem and lash out at symptoms in a manner that makes both our risks and the problems of governance driving these conditions of insurgency worse.
We need to recognize our own sins and mistakes before we can address the sins and mistakes of others. IS has dropped a strategic present down our chimney this Christmas - but we can't see it for what it is.
Bill---check this statement from Girkin the Russian FSB officer who took his FSB team and actually kicked off the eastern Ukraine Russian offense.
He is surprisingly honest in his recent comments and I am astounded he has not been "silenced" by the FSB---he must have a really deep backup plan if he is killed or accidently "dies" and the FSB must know that plan will trigger if he dies.
He openly states Russia is at war and we the West cannot even see it. And he is right.
Putin's agent speaks his truth about Russia's commitment in Ukraine.
You are trying to reason using peacetime logic, for us it has already expired....we are waging a war.
There is an old intel saying---follow the money and it will lead you to the truth---from today. Russia is in it for the long haul and is in fact annexing eastern Ukraine and we do what-- bomb the IS as it is an easier target.
The funding of #Russia's occupation of parts of eastern #Ukraine is now officially part of the Russian govt budget http://www.interfax.ru/russia/414502
And if one really goes back and checks their eight phases of their UW strategy---right now Russia is in fact winning their UW war and we somehow have not figured it out. Russia has not come off a single period in those eight phases even in the face of a massive economic collapse-that should tell us something but it does not for some strange reason.
Just a side comment--the KSA is doing a far better job at reigning in Russia and Assad as well as the Iranians through their own oil war.
Bad news for #Russia http://nyti.ms/1wbtIOJ Saudi Arabia is OK with low oil price as it spends just 2$ per barrel to produce
Robert---here is an example of the difference between the Ukraine and Russia on the issue of being a Muslim.
The Crimea Tartars are being hunted, houses raided, disappeared, and or murdered, and they are Muslims in the Russian Federation now--before under the Ukraine they were in fact protected as an ethnic group by Ukrainian law.
Then this today from the Ukraine--also Muslims supporting wounded Ukrainian soldiers---big difference.
#Kyiv Muslim community women making perogies for the wounded in the milit. hospital. #Ukraine https://www.facebook.com/nashkiev/photos/a.343769791011.161462.14940013… …
Russia has repeatedly attempted to cast the Ukraine as anti-Semitic because of being Nazi's, but yet the various global Jewish organizations have supported and still support the Ukraine and many individual Ukrainian Jews are fighting in the Ukrainian Army. And Israeli instructors are rumored to be teaching guerrilla warfare to the Ukrainian SF.
IS and AQ are exploiters of powerful and reasonable conditions of insurgency that are latent or active within many Sunni populations across the greater ME. We cannot "defeat" them - but we can render them moot.
Any attack by IS or AQ on the US would be like a mouse bite on an elephant. Yet like the elephant we hold an irrational fear.
We need to outcompete these evil exploiters (and punish them for their sins).
Our current and historic approaches misunderstand the true problem and lash out at symptoms in a manner that makes both our risks and the problems of governance driving these conditions of insurgency worse.
We need to recognize our own sins and mistakes before we can address the sins and mistakes of others. IS has dropped a strategic present down our chimney this Christmas - but we can't see it for what it is.
Bill---this is one of the reasons I keep going back to Putin --the use of force to change borders that are under dispute using a doctrine ie for Russia--they are defending "ethnic" Russian speakers is dangerous in that it opens Pandora's box for other countries to argue the same thing--we are defending our historical rights, we are defending our religion, we are defending our ethnic brothers and the list goes on.
Why #Crimea does matter 4 Asia? “@EU_ISS: What territorial disputes are shaping #Asiapacific? http://www.iss.europa.eu/publications/detail/article/a-changing-global-… … pic.twitter.com/QiTxD0IRAw
Right now if you look at say Iraq and Syria technically speaking their borders can in fact change internally and not really effect the surrounding countries of say Turkey, Iran, Jordan and maybe Lebanon.
That is if the question of the Sunni/Shia divide can be overcome if not then the borders of Jordan and Lebanon are in question as well.
On the other hand Russia is in fact gearing up to annex the entire artic region. They have a new military command strictly for the Artic with a substantial number of troops assigned to it, and are rebuilding older military and air bases there and at some point will militarily be in a position to actually control the Artic.
Arctic territorial claims >>> "Can Russia stick to the rules? http://econ.st/1AAADp7
pic.twitter.com/ZupOu776mV” via @TheEconomist
The link only had a picture of the agent, and two sentences, is there more to it?
Are we at war? If so, then define war first, and then explain why we're at war please.
We're stuck in a view of war that sees it largely as it was in Europe during Clausewitz's time. Largely conventional/traditional warfare between states. Even our irregular warfare definition had to bring the state into the definition, since apparently we can't recognize as wars among peoples as war, but I digress.
Is political maneuvering, economic sanctions, and supporting various militias (criminal, insurgent, terrorist, etc.) to confront a state you're competing with actually war? Ukraine and Russia are at war to achieve limited political objectives. Is Russia at war with the U.S. or something short of war? If they're at war with the U.S. what are they trying to achieve via the instrument of warfare?
Bill--you interpret me correctly--what worries me is the simple fact the IS is in fact trying to get a conversation going--the Todenhoefer article is the most interesting in that it explains why the brutality is being used and the drive by IS against anything that is not "people of the book".
The first Western journalist ever given access to the 'Islamic State' has just returned
And if you look at the IS senior leader interview he uses the strange term "we are not all ideologues"--and that from an inner circle member who evidently is still alive.
BUT this is more of a concern to me---we have not and or did not push the Russians on their INF violations maybe because the US was trying to stay in conversations with the Russians--maybe the US thought that by dialogue one would get to a solution and maybe they wanted to stay in touch with the Russians as part of the Obama reset phase but that is the single point of failure in "soft power"--what happens when one hits a stalemate?
One of the reasons for the INF was Reagans stationing of US cruise missiles and the Russians truly feeling threatened so the INF came about as a result ---- but Russia started several years ago to test a new cruise missile which did violate the INF stated cruise missile ranges, and got caught at it via ISR means.
Now we have the stationing of nuclear cruise missiles capable of hitting London from Russia especially from the Crimea and or Kaliningrad.
All the time Russia saying no we do not violate the treaty just as they do for no troops in eastern Ukraine.
Russia allegedly flouting the INF treaty in developing Iskander p-500 cruise missile system:
You may be ultimately be right, calling IS a threat to the West may the same as the rhetoric used to justify the U.S. invasion of Iraq to secure the WMD. However, ISIS/ISIL/IS leaders are quoted as stating they will attack the U.S., even if all of the statement I could find were after we started bombing them. If they came out and said they had no broader ambitions than a Sunni state that would a be start.
I agree we now at look at the world through a 9/11 lens, and before the Wall collapsed we looked at the world through a U.S./USSR lens. Both are and were a limited perspective on world events of strategic interest.
If I am interpreted your comments correctly, I agree that a good part of our problems is our obsession to solve every world problem by attacking or protecting states. We're defending the failed state of Iraq, why?
Bill---I am fixated on the Russians for the simple reason---the current individual borders of all European countries were enshrined not by the Westphalian system but by the Wall coming down in a peaceful fashion and by the way Westphalia was the end result of a long number of wars over the question of national borders --the current European borders the result of the Wall and no warfare.
Part of the development of Europe since 1991 was the simple belief that territorial borders where no longer defined by secret treaties backed up by open warfare and or were the result of a war.
That fact has not and or was not challenged until the Crimea. That is significant in itself.
If we look at Iraq and Syria---there was one striking comment made by a leading IS commander when he crossed into Iraq from Syria during their first offensive and pointed to the border sign separating the two countries-and stated that the Sykes-Pinchot days are finally over.
That was in itself a significant reminder of the core problem in this area of the world--borders drawn by the colonial powers without asking the populations involved and when you throw in the religious aspect then it get far more complicated.
And this is where I differ with you---I am not sure just what threat the IS has issued against the West other than we are in the Iraq and have declared the Caliphate and released then an historical map of their Caliphate which in the grand scheme of things is not much --IS has not "threatened" to send armed elements into the areas shown on that historical map--they have largely remained in Syria and Iraq which is say counter to AQ who has declared a global jihad.
In some aspects if we look at the word jihad---IS is working the near fight and AQ is working the far fight and that far fight has always been focused on the US.
What might be developing is that there are some serious islamist groups growing in the Russian Federation driven by the oppressive actions of Russia that are racist in nature against their Muslim populations who are by passport also Russians.
Right now I would argue we are seeing a set of superpowers and a set of regional hegemons dueling it out using the smokescreen of IS when IS on the other hand is focused on the near fight ie the creation of a Sunni State.
That is what makes the area so darn complicated--we ourselves have not yet figured out what it is we ourselves really want.
Yet referencing the Russians---it has a clear strategic strategy to reestablish their former empire coupled with an ultra nationalist slant which is a new form of Russian fascism backed by a capable newly rebuilt military and sitting on a newly rebuilt nuclear capability.
Which has voiced the intent to use tactical nuclear weapons at the slightest perceived outside threat to their being.
And here is the large difference between the two---Putin has in four press conferences since the Crimea openly and directly challenged the West and al Baghdadi has only issued his Caliphate statement and recently a 25 page statement--and if read closely he does not challenge the West.
We the West take anything said by a jihadi as being basically against us--why because we "perceive it to be". Why on the other hand when Putin directly attacks the West and is not interested in any compromise that is not a "victory" we take that as not a strategic threat
We have seen one IS senior leader interview released last week which I rate as an attempt "to talk" to the West and the article released by the German reporter Todenhoefer yesterday which is also signaling a future attempt to "talk" to the West.
The question I raise is the following are we smart enough to "see" the attempt and are we smart enough to change course--no-- we are not as we are trapped in the 9/11 mindset that if anyone indicates a need for a compromise with a perceived jihadi he or she is politically dead.
Russia is immediate and needs attention--the IS will be there awhile and not going anyplace.
What Robert talks about is interesting as it will be Russia that has a far deeper islamist problem coming at them than anything we have seen on the ME.
That is exactly the core reason for them being a main supporter to Assad--they are trying to contain Salaifsts in the ME and not allow them into the RF.
We're all frustrated with our clumsy approach to the threat of terrorism, but an attempt to rewrite history and claim all the sudden IS and the AQ is not a threat to U.S. security and interests is going over board. Outlaw is fixated on the Soviets, I mean the Russians. I share his serious concerns, but we have more than one threat and the ability to manage more than one problem at a time. Myopia is dangerous at the strategic level.
Russia and IS present a security paradox. While we're opposed to Russian aggression in Ukraine, we should share a common security concern when it comes to AQ and their associates. AQ threatens Russia much more than the U.S. Depending on the intent of your statement about leveraging IS against Russia it could work. If you mean leveraging to identify common ground I agree, if mean leverage to put pressure against Russia I disagree, at least at this point in time. That sounds very much our 1980s approach in Afghanistan. We can claim we didn't support AQ, and maybe directly we didn't, but we certainly strengthened social, information, and economic structures that enabled AQ to thrive. Gorbachev advised us that the character of the conflict changed. He said the U.S. and USSR now had a common enemy, but we knew better and continued to provide support because we apparently can only manage one threat at a time. The world changed before the Cold War ended, but we were blind to it because we could only see the USSR, and I don't want to see us return to the place where the only thing we can see now is Russia. We're in a multipolar world at the state and non-state levels, so we need to accept our strategic interests are broader in scope now.
A state in the Westphalian system must be recognized by other states. I'll avoid the laundry list of what makes a state sovereign legally since you know this quite well. IS's borders and sovereignty are non-existent at this time. I agree it is a nation with state like characteristics, but it has a long ways to go until, or if, it becomes a state in the international system. The international system defined by states is not coming to an end, but non-state actors are increasing developing parallel systems of significance.
Alliances can and do shift, and if IS would quit threatening the West then there is a possibility we could recognize it and the new order in the region. However, to ignore their intent to attack Western interests and the West seems to be a unicorns and rainbow approach.
As you well know, we are only one player in the region, so even if the U.S. ultimately agreed to recognize IS as a state others will not, so it is highly unlikely it would result in a political solution. More blood will have to spill.
Robert---you hit the nail on the head---the Dagestani insurgency group had held back on responding to IS for awhile, but seem to think it is now a necessity to engage with IS.
Russian has had an overly aggressive military response to any move made by them---losses on the Russian side while low is actually starting to climb and that daily now which was not the case of say a year ago.
Rumors have it---their fighters are gaining experience in Iraq and Syria and are coming back well suited to engage the Russian security apparatus.
In some aspects IS is now in a position to dig the grave of AQ politically/financially speaking.
One of the core Soviet weaknesses and we never played that card in the Cold War days was the simple fact Russia during the Soviet days and even now is a country made up of a large number of ethnic groups --actually roughly 123 with over 143 different languages--and the large majority of the various populations in the Russian Federation are actually Muslim.
The Crimea is a good example of Putinism gone ethnically astray--meaning it holds a large Muslim population ie the Tartars who are slowly becoming "radicalized" by Russian actions and by the increased "disappearance/murders" of their members.
The creature "ethnic Russian" is a dying ethnicity -based on decreasing birth numbers --maybe that is the reason for his Putin Doctrine ie defending only the "Russian speakers".
Can you imagine the world's response if suddenly the US stood up for the defense of Muslim issues---seriously stood up?
One more good reason to recognize an emergent Sunni State (beside the facts that it already exists and is the best way to stabilize the region and to undermine AQ influence) - to be able to leverage this new partner to counter Russia's UW strategy for expanding their sovereign control by threatening to give the green light and our support to the Sunni State waging UW among Russia's vulnerable Muslim populations.
it's a bold new world and well past time that we accept the reality of that world and played by it's terms - rather than expending our strength and influence in this futile effort to force the world to play by the obsolete terms we are comfortable with.
IS influence is expanding--seems to be more of a strategic threat against Russian than the US. Especially since Moscow has an exceptionally large Muslim population.
Dagestani insurgency leaders swear loyalty to ISIS:
There has been a German journalist (Todenhoefer)who just returned back to Germany who spent ten days with IS and has started to release his reporting--he was the first ever western journalist allowed into IS.
He is interesting in that he wrote for the first time about AQI in 2007(published a book on the topic--Iraqi Insurgency) when he was in Iraq and he speaks Arabic.
Article is in German.
1. he stated that it will be nearly impossible to destroy the IS militarily and they have adjusted to the bombing and basically neutralized it by mixing in the population
2. it is a guerrilla war and they do in fact have a clear strategy---only the three religions are to be allowed in the Caliphate
3. he is estimating that IS will reach out to the West especially the US
4. IS was created by the US
5. IS represents the Sunni tribes and the Shia government still has made no attempt to address the Sunni issues that kicked off the entire issue
So in some aspects we see what Robert Jones recently mentioned---the creation of a new Sunni state in the region.
While we put another 1000 troops back into Iraq regardless of what it is called it is still boots on the ground.
We still fail to understand the ground tactics and ground campaign of IS.
Taken from tweets today concerning the ongoing Kobane fight. Notice the comment on non core fighters---ie means those coming in from Europe are being used as cannon fodder protecting their core experienced fighters.
We saw the same tactic used by AQI with a large number of their foreign fighters they used for suicide attacks.
For the many responders who said Kobane is in fact Isis meatgrinder, let's step back a bit. 1) Isis chose this battle for three reasons.
1. It wanted to prove its resilient despite the airstrikes, to distract from battles in Iraq & inside new territories, to show double standards.
2. On the ground ppl see Kobane battle as favorable to Isis, it's dispatching mostly disposable non-core fighters, but gaining legitimacy.
3. Kobane shouldn't have lasted this long & shouldn't have been the first & only main battlefield for the coalition inside Syria. Simple
Isis has lost fighters yes, but gained in multiple other ways. If you want to know how, see how it's being reflected on the ground.
Most of what's being said about Kobane is propaganda (from both sides). Isis is losing in numbers but gaining in other ways. End.
BW--a perfect example of "weaponization of information".
For years the existence of this aircraft the "Aurora" was denied even the name was denied but Jane's was carrying it--then this shows up on a blog site today for minimalist designers---make sense to anyone?---then it shows up on a blog site which handles the Ukrainian events--so is the picture a fake or intended for Russian consumption?
Notice the fb account was deleted but the picture remained. So a fake or real aircraft photo?
Aurora SR-33A can operate on both conventional fuel & antigravity field propulsion systems
If true this is an example that needs to "weaponized" back into the European islamist world.
It does support the fact that some of the foreign fighters are returning and demotivated about their experiences and yet we hear nothing about it. Germany has had over 70 come back and 60 killed. We just treat their return basically with deep mistrust and do not try to gain a full understanding of the why behind their decisions.
We saw in Iraq the same development and could no understand it as it did not fit "our mindset" that at first one can fight, then develop second thoughts and then pull back. We have a similar saying in American---turn on,tune in, and drop out. But we have no way to get that development back into the population being targeted by IS.
#ISIS has executed 100 foreigners trying to quit: report
I'm beginning to believe that as long as we define opposing world views as radicalization and calling information a form of fires we will continue to fall short in our effort to counter the appeal of the jihadist narrative. We have opted to completely reject their world view instead of seeking to reconcile our views. This leaves no option but to fight, but we fail to fight with the intensity required to win via war. We are in the middle area spinning round and round.
BW---this is why we are basically failing in the ME---out of the current Russian UW strategy as seen in the Ukraine has come the term "weaponization of information".
And if we look at the IS-- they have been practicing their form of "weaponized information since 2004"---so what is our long term strategic strategy to counter it? Initially we hired in Iraq a PR firm that got millions but nothing was achieved then we stopped.
We started this new campaign with what 150 non boots on the ground and now we are at 3000 and that is what--and escalation indicates a lack of a strategy.
So while we try to address the tactical ground problem we fail to address the other aspects of the IS strategic strategy---a US strategy requires an overall concept and I simply do not see one--one at least seen in actions not words.
I know about this center and his work in the linked article below and my son was in a group of Turkish German youths who while growing up knew the Turkish German rapper mentioned in the article who produces German jihadi rap songs for the German youth here in Berlin.
The core question is why did the group around him completely disown him long before he left Berlin and why do some still respond to his jihadi rap songs? We use the term "radicalization"-- but really what is it and can it even be addressed--we cannot even settle on a clearly definable term.
This goes to heart of my mantra--we the US need to "see in order to understand" and we do poorly in the "seeing" because it takes a lot of effort and forces one to overcome your own biases.
We are always in a hurry and have absolutely no patience for the long haul which is what IS definitely has as do the Russians.
Therein lies the power of "weaponized information"--and we are doing nothing against it at a strategic level---actually while we continue to talk about it the Russians and IS have won their information war.
BW---then exactly in words what is the "strategy"? Up to now--"Stopping/decimating IS"---that is a tactical strategy at the ground level BUT what is the defined end state, what about the core reason for all of this in the first place---the Iraqi government serious discrimination against the Sunni and now the revenge by the Shia militias on the Sunni population, what about the relationship between the two regional hegemons KSA and Iran and the Sunni Shia divide, what about the Russian total support for Assad and Iran including weapons and advisors, what about the current oil war being carried out by the KSA against Iran and Russia and the list goes on and on.
What about the initially declared end state-Assad must go, what about feet dragging on chemical weapons when the world was saying they were used and then Kerry misspoke during a press conference and by the way they are still being used in the form of improvised barrel bombs, what about the millions of refugees and internally displaced still being bombed while we are bombing IS when we "alluded to a possible NFZ---?
So again where is the strategic level strategy and just what is it that the US has declared is the end state to be?
That is why I keep repeating the mantra there is no strategy. We in the US seem to think tactical level ground decisions is in fact a strategic level strategy.
What is interesting is to watch the US moves on the Ukraine--today someone here in Europe stated the EU is really slow in making decisions but the US is even slower-so the question of who is leading whom is a valid one--that is a serious indicator of the lack of a strategy.
Is it not more helpful to deal with what we are trying to do (build a capable proxy force and use airpower and other capabilities to enable that force) and provide a logical argument of why that won't work than to simply state we have "no apparent strategy"? One can disagree with what we are doing and think it won't work. There are many reasons to think it will not. But it is rather clear what are strategy in both Syria and Iraq is. Rather it will work or not is the question.
This is a very good example of why we must learn to start talking/working with all Syrian insurgent groups and talking with the IS.
Slowly but steadily they are pushing the Assad military backwards---and by the way there is an unusual number of US TOW missiles being used by a number of Syrian insurgent groups---which is turning the military tide.
These groups have an end state in mind and are now fighting for that end state rather we like it or not and are showing sometimes amazing fighting elan which is greatly missing in the Iraqi ISF.
See Syrian rebel "ladder attack" in #Daraya.
3 of them died, but they won...
This is why the US must led militarily NATO right now whether we like it or not but that is not being said in Washington:
From 2000-2013 UK, France, Germany, Italy & Spain cut 75% of their tanks 35% of combat aircraft & 31% cut in manpower
Cuts made in agreement with Russia on disarmament which Russia did not hold to.
Bill--this is what I meant I my response to you---if one is not fully prepared for war and one has set the path of "soft power" as the selected response and when soft power has failed then what?
Some of us have repeatedly pointed out that the initial response of the US using their "soft power" only "enabled Putin's moves"--they did not stop them.
It was really a slow but steady ratcheting up over seven months--but in the end we stand before the altar of "soft power" and it is in shambles because there was no effective "hard power" holding it's hand.
And again I emphasize a single point are black flag waving Salafists which now the global Muslim community is finally awakening to the threat-- more or less of a strategic threat to us than say Putin today when he gives his announced press conference?
We are now at that point of no return and I personally am not so sure Putin has given up his three geo political goals he has long stated---by the way the Crimea was not a sudden event ---article here in Europe yesterday indicated it was in the planning since early 2013. which actually was stated by a Russian expert way back in Feb 2014.
Question is whether Putin will try to win back economic strength by compromising over geopolitics. Or play the card of military aggression.
Irrational #Russia: ready 2 ruin its own economy&financial system in order 2 keep #Ukraine in its “sphere of influence”, not let Ukraine 2EU
If he plays the military aggression card are we the US/EU/NATO willing to go down that path---we have already given that answer months ago--the Ukraine is not worth a war. AND Putin knows that that is the reason he has been threating us with nuclear strikes almost monthly and flies his AF in the Baltics and sails his Navy just about everywhere so he can sell it as a major victory to his population and establish Russia as the European hegemon.
If that is the case then the US can pack it in and go home as he has achieved the top geo political goal he set seven months ago.
Bill--can agree with a lot of what you are saying but again the big but---we can if we want really understand the islamists---if we really are willing to listen--the problem we are having in Syria is our own foreign policy has been literally all over the map in the last two years and since the Arab Spring hit Syria.
Assad in or out, support for refugees from bombing with a NFZ yes or no, support for what ever the heck a "moderate" islamist yes or no, and how long did we drag our feet on the chemical attacks and have said nothing for the homemade chemical bombs still being dropped, barrel bombing can we stop it yes or no. Weapon deliveries yes or no and NOW we see TOWs all over the battlefield.
And we wonder why the ME thinks we do not know what we are doing?
All the while the various islamist groups are in fact trying to reach out to the US and have floated a number of solutions all rejected.
On the other hand we have a national leader who has nuclear weapons under this control, invading since 2008 four different countries, and threatened the US with tactical nukes.
And is in a certified "altered state of reality"--which is more of a direct strategic long term threat.
From the NYTs today:---that shows just how this "altered state of reality" is ingrained in their thinking.
The last time I checked IS is not into "minding reading" or worrying about Texas stealing land from Mexico.
IS makes their decisions on exactly what they see us doing coupled with their long term goals they have told us about--Putin in his "altered state" is at risk of totally misreading the US and doing something he can never recover from---even Breedlove has said as much.
Claim About U.S. Designs on Siberia Traced to Russian Mind Readers
By ROBERT MACKEYDEC. 18, 2014
Speaking to reporters in Moscow on Thursday, Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin, claimed that economic sanctions were not primarily a response to the annexation of Crimea but part of a long-running plot by Western powers to weaken his nation and steal its natural resources.
As evidence, Mr. Putin cited first what he called “direct and fully fledged support for terrorism in the North Caucasus” in the immediate aftermath of the Soviet Union’s demise.
Then, he said, even before Russia annexed Crimea earlier this year, “unprecedented and clearly orchestrated attempts were made to discredit our efforts to organize and host the Olympics” in Sochi.
Finally, after an extended detour into metaphor, with Mr. Putin comparing Russia to its national symbol, the bear — beset, he said, by enemies who wish to seize its territory — he referred to one last piece of evidence that he was only acting to protect his nation from the aggressive designs of the West. “We have heard it even from high-level officials,” he said, “that it is unfair that the whole of Siberia with its immense resources belongs to Russia in its entirety.”
As if to underscore that these unnamed officials were American, Mr. Putin added an indignant aside: “Why exactly is it unfair? So it is fair to snatch Texas from Mexico, but it is unfair that we are working on our own land — no, we have to share.”
As Leonid Bershidsky explained in a Bloomberg View post on the speech, Mr. Putin was apparently referring to an urban legend commonly mistaken for fact in the Russian news media and blogosphere — that former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright once complained that the mineral wealth of Siberia was so vast that it should not be owned by Russia, but by all humanity.
The fact that there is no record of Ms. Albright ever having made such a remark — and that she has denied it whenever asked — has not prevented it from being repeated again and again by Russian bloggers, journalists and even senior Kremlin officials.
When Mr. Putin was asked about the supposed comment in 2007, The Moscow Times reported, he replied, “I know some politicians entertain such ideas in their heads.”
Two years ago, Russia’s deputy prime minister, Dmitry Rogozin, wrote in an editorial that many in the West would be happy to see Mr. Putin fall, including Ms. Albright, who was, he said, dreaming of Siberia’s riches.
An article in Pravda the same year noted that “the scandalous phrase ‘Siberia is too large and rich to belong to one country,’ ” had been attributed to Ms. Albright. Although “the source of such a declaration has not yet been found,” the author Paul Chernyshev added, “this does not make her a friend of Russia.”
In October, the secretary of the Russian Security Council, Nikolai P. Patrushev, said in an interview with the government-owned newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta that “many American experts, in particular former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, assert that there are vast territories ‘under Moscow’s power’ that it is incapable of exploiting and which therefore ‘do not serve the interests of all humanity.’ ”
Without citing any specific source, Mr. Patrushev continued, “Assertions continue to be heard about the ‘unfair’ distribution of natural resources and the need to ensure so-called ‘free access’ to them for other states.”
According to an investigation by the former Moscow Times correspondent Anna Smolchenko, the idea that Ms. Albright was jealous of Russia’s natural resources can be traced to a December 2006 interview with Boris Ratnikov, a retired major general from the Russian secret service. General Ratnikov told Rossiyskaya Gazeta that his colleagues in the service’s secret mind-reading division had read Ms. Albright’s thoughts in 1999, just before the United States-led military intervention in Kosovo that she had championed.
According to the general, his colleagues had detected a “pathological hatred of Slavs” in Ms. Albright’s mind and that “she was indignant that Russia held the world’s largest reserves of natural resources.”
Asked by Ms. Smolchenko to explain how the mind reading had worked, General Ratnikov recalled that the team had studied photographs of Ms. Albright. “By tuning in on her image,” he said, “our specialists were able to glean these things.”
Bombing runs, kidnapping, threats, undeclared exercises, nuclear drills: #Russia's idea of being a good neighbour. http://cdn.knightlab.com/libs/storymapjs/latest/embed/?
I don't have enough information to agree or disagree with you. Perhaps we can both agree we don't know all the facts behind the scenes that are driving these decisions? These decisions certainly are made in a much larger context than just Ukraine. Behind the scenes EU, NATO, individual countries, Russia, the situation in Middle East, etc. I can't help but wonder what is being said between the various actors during quiet diplomacy meetings behind the scenes. The current situation in the Middle East is more important than Ukraine in my opinion, but that can be argued and your points are certainly valid. One factor could be that Russia is reportedly working on a political solution to end the conflict in Syria. I suspect the administration would like to see that so they won't have to make hard decisions on increased U.S. involvement. I don't think any Russian proposed agreement would have a snowball's chance in the home of the devil, but hope has the power to deceive the rational mind. A lot of other factors are certainly at play. I think an argument can be made that a pocket veto provides an effective form of leverage during negotiations. He has a bill passed by Congress that he can implement at any time. This could simply be part of the diplomatic maneuvers to reach a solution with Russia. I can't imagine a peaceful solution that doesn't allow Russia to save face, so the best work will be have to be done behind the scenes.
What has changed over the years is the internet 2.0, and the ability of citizens around the globe to question everything their government does and put unprecedented levels of pressure on their politicians. Transparency increases the effectiveness of democracy, but it also limits the ability of the government to pursue more rational courses of action behind the scenes when they are constantly being second guessed (whether those second guessing them are right or wrong) and pressured by their citizens to do something else.
Overall I think this creates a more dangerous world, since people seem to be more easily mobilized to fight than pursue a peaceful solution.
Bill--Amazed how this President finds ways to not lead and or not have to make a "decision"--total reliance on soft power may get a success in Cuba but it will not get one in the Ukraine.
Had anticipated he would pocket veto the Ukrainian aid bill but he signed it and immediately stated he would not implement it---which is basically just another version of a pocket veto.
Obama has two foreign policy problems going forward.
1. Putin after his publically made press comments yesterday will not compromise on the Ukraine unless he has a "victory" he can sell his population
2. he has lost the Ukraine as they placed great faith in the concept of US democracy ie the role of Congress and tried to "play" the game.
Notice after the decision to not implement the bill no one called nor spoke to the Ukrainian government-not even the designated spokesperson the VP.
The Ukraine will not say it in the open, but they now fully understand the US is just playing the "game" and not serious in getting Russia out of the Ukraine as they want no confrontation that will require a "decision".
The Ukrainian population keeps wondering why the US is dragging their feet as it was the US that drove the Ukrainians to sign the 1994 Budapest Memorandum but are in need of help so they keep their mouths shut and hope it appears.
Here is an example of what US "support" looks like---the US makes a big PR deal out of sending 12 counter battery radars to the Ukraine and sends the first two BUT then it turns out several weeks ago the Ukraine must purchase them from the US company which they did --so where is then the US assistance if they have to buy them when their currency is under massive pressure?
Actually even Putin sees that Obama wants no confrontation and plays that card all the time. Every time Obama makes harder statements towards Russia--the Russian FM makes angry threats that this or that will happen to the Russian US relationship and presto the US goes quiet--the Russians know how to push the buttons. That is what US "leadership"?
That would explain now the Ukrainian turn towards the Baltics, Sweden, Canada and Poland as partners that understand the Russian problem--to a degree it has been interesting to watch how the US and Germany have even sidelined Poland. Notice they have even backed away from Germany as a "trusted advisor" as they sense Merkel attempting to reengage business wise with Russia.
Obama also seems to not understand the interconnection between Assad, Iran and the Ukraine in Putin's mindset.
Again the question--just where is the strategic threat by black flag waving islamists vs a nuclear power that is in an altered state of reality and does not understand the word no?
Bill---here is the inherent problem---we the US, the EU and basically as well NATO have all declared at one time or another in the last seven months since Crimea they will not go to war over the Ukraine as simple as that. Obama even stated it in prime time national TV.
With that card officially off the table then what happens as I suspect will happen Putin will move militarily stronger into the Ukraine as he knows no one will resist him because they have basically told him that as much.
Putin will not give up on his three key geo political goals;
1. disconnect the US from Europe and NATO
2. force NATO into showing the former Warsaw Pact countries that have joined NTO that in fact NATO will not pull the trigger on Article 5 thus totally discrediting NATO
3. weaken and damage the EU
If his economy crashes this might in fact push him to move faster to gain what he wants and then sit back and ride out the economics which will at some point come back into his favor. He has in fact prepped his population for this coming economic hardship period by blaming the West recently.
By the way--this will hit us as well especially if Russia is headed for a default which is highly possible now with virtually all banks globally interconnected:
"Financial crisis would make Kremlin more unpredictable, wreck western banks and heap misery on the Russian people"
27.7% probability that Russia will default on the 5YR bond, as per CDS pricing
Right now the large fall in the ruble is not really being driven by the falling oil price as it did not move downwards today---it is because of the Russian government's lack of an economic plan the people/businesses believe will work.
Right now there is a serious ongoing major military commander meeting with Putin attending near Rostov--and there has been not a single peep on the meeting in the press-not even in the Russian media--the last time that occurred was shortly before the Crimea when he disappeared for two days.
Notice he has not been around to make any press comments on the ruble problems.
Secondly, Russia has made it's red line known to the US--defensive weapons come from the US then we are left with no other choice but to invade the Ukraine.
The Russian FM today also made the not to subtle threat to move nuclear weapons into the Crimea--BUT it was interesting to hear his second small comment--they were not exactly sure they could as that would violate the Budapest Agreement---WHICH they have already violated.
Right now NATO cannot even find 5K troops to man a 48 hour RDF as decided in Wales---not so sure and if you saw the figures that the UK, France, Germany has eliminated in tanks, planes and manpower (all cut over 30%) during the OSCE disarmament treaties since 2002---they are a serious number of years away from rearming so I do not count NATO even capable right now.
Russia did not adhere to the OSCE treaties thus is in fact larger equipment wise than the old Soviet Army in 1994 and it is now modernized with new weapons systems we have no equal with especially on the AD side and SIGINT/jamming and they equal us on the high precision artillery side as well as with their new AF fighters/bombers which is what they have been signaling last week in the Baltic.
Just as Putin I think is not exactly sure how this will turn out I am thoroughly sure the US is at the end of their Latin as well--if you notice the WH has not made a move on the Ukraine/Georgia/Moldavian congressional aid bill which will probably go to a pocket veto.
By the way--this confusion is really now apparent on the US side---the WH stated they do not want more sanctions because the EU has signaled they do not want more--THEN late today they "signaled" they want more--one might argue the US was winking to the Europeans that they would go along BUT then Obama is in a jam with the congressional bill which calls for sanctions AND defensive assistance which will trigger the Russian red line.
I am not as optimistic as you are as I had assumed Putin was bluffing but his latest moves on the military side and constant talk of the nuclear doctrine side (de-escalation nuke strikes and first strike is to be normal) that sprung up in the last week clearly indicated he wants a success in some form on his three geo political goals and they all involve the Ukraine.
What exactly is missing? Countries are increasingly cooperating to limit Russia's influence/power. That is a positive whether we're leading quietly from the sidelines or out front. Russia increased its interest rate from 10-17% today in an attempt to keep the Ruble from going into free fall after it lost 10% of its value compared to the U.S. dollar yesterday. Why exactly would we want to confront a nuclear power directly when indirect approaches are working? You're making an argument that Putin doesn't know what he is going to do next, and then you accuse the U.S. of not having a strategy. That is just the way the world works now. Classical strategies consisting of finite ends, ways, and means seldom exists outside of fairy tales. However, the U.S. knows what its strategic objectives are, and using a design approach based on emerging challenges and opportunities they are shaping the situation towards that end. Russia will counter, we'll counter, other actors will play, it will get increasingly complex, and a lot of actions will take place far from Ukraine. This is not the Cuban Missile crisis, and we don't need to blow it up into one. It is more along the lines of the Great Game where each side positions for advantage continuously. Putin has identified himself as an adversary not just to the U.S., but to much of Europe. He showed his hand, his game is exposed, and once exposed it loses much of its power.
No one knows what is going to happen next, and of course any situation can irrationally escalate, but right now we have more options to shape the outcome than Putin. If he wants to escalate militarily it will be costly for all concerned, but he'll lose. Their military operations in Ukraine are amateurish despite having a sophisticated and sound strategic approach.
But and this is the big BUT did we not sign the Budapest Memorandum which Clinton kept as an agreement simply because he felt he could not a treaty through Congress---which if I remember correctly ensured the territorial sovereignty of the Ukraine in exchange for giving up the third largest nuclear weapons depot.
If anything Russia through its air actions last week in the Baltic coupled with a exceptionally close near miss of civilian airliner by a
Russian spy plane running without transponders and no radar that is driving the Baltic nations, Poland, Sweden and Finland even closer to each other. They are getting closer not by our words but by Putin's actions.
While we dither around trying to make up our minds just what our strategy is Canada is providing far more support than most of NATO with the Baltics a step behind them.
Ukraine has not asked for combat troops as did Iraq, the Ukraine has not asked for air power which the Iraqi's did ---all they want and need is defensive weapons, nigh vision, counter battery radar, drones, medical aid, anti tank and anti aircraft--the rest they can and will do themselves.
When Congress passed the aid bill for the Ukraine, Georgia and Moldavia including defense assistance what was the Russian response---outrage and anger--and the threat to directly invade if defensive weapons come in from the US--BUT did anyone from the US push back on the hypocrisy from the Russian FM since they have sent over 8K actual troops and have delivered true offensive heavy weapons into eastern Ukraine. There is an estimate of over 30K Russian mercenaries and troops currently in the Ukraine and we allow what ourselves as a nation to be threatened by a Russian FM with n verbal push back?
There is an inherent message with defensive vs offensive weapon deliveries.
Legally we would be on solid ground---the UN General Charter clearly gives every member of the UN the clear right for self defense and it defines aggression which fits Russian currently to a T.
The core problem is that since we have been actually drifting aimlessly looking for a policy Putin has continued to make his moves and we are at a point that he has not seen military threatened with pushback---currently the only thing that will get his attention.
I have been saying here at SWJ that the black flag wavers are not a strategic threat and they are not-- but Putin and I get constant pushback on the statement--he is a direct threat and he has threatened the tactical use of nukes and he is not in the least impressed by MAD which kept the peace for 45 years.
I am by the way now not the only one seeing this immediate strategic threat--because honestly I am not sure even Putin knows his next move--he is almost locked into a war simply to save face as he missed literally all exits offered him because he has three explicit geo political goals and he has not achieved them.
By the way---we do know the end state that IS wants and is driving towards--we have no earthly idea what Putin wants nor do many of the Europeans---Germany has virtually written him off as they feel much as I do he has been believing his on propaganda and is in an altered state of reality at the movement.
A top US commander in #NATO: we are deeply worried that one mistake or miscalculation by #Putin could trigger a NATO-#Russia conflict.
Russia is a dying society demographically, and they are facing a growing Muslim horde to their south. This could indicate that in the long run they will be unable to sustain pushing into the West without significant risk. On the other hand, that could be the reason they are pushing into the West (expand their population base, which would certainly be strategic).
Long run trends are hard to predict accurately, but we should keep trying. In the mean time it is the short and mid term risks to our interests we have to address instead of wishing them away. I do agree with you that Russia's actions in Ukraine are undermining its national interests, and there is no need for the U.S. to respond militarily at this time. Sanctions, diplomatic pressure, and covert action are sufficient to impose costs on Russia for its current activities, while hopefully we're looking at preventative activities in the other countries that are potentially threatened. It is Great Games statecraft again, much of what happens won't be visible to the masses, even in an era of greater transparency.
There are more means to hurt Russia then simply the military and the timeframe on any actions, including military actions, does not have to be right now. If we unilaterally arm Ukraine it will undermine the actions that we have taken with Europe thus far, such as economic sanctions. Those actions do undermine Russian power. Moreover this is taking place in the context of Russia being aggressive elsewhere, such as Finland. Those actions could push both Finland and other countries into the hands of NATO.
Russia is a dying society in the long run. This only speeds it up. However, they are still nuclear armed and other states have the ability to act. Acting aggressively when Europe is not ready will further our free rider problem and undermine our relationship with Europe.
We can talk about EU/NATO consensus but in the end the US is the only true heavy weight military power that stands behind NATO---this is why Russian end goal is separating the US from both the EU and NATO---openly stated by Russia a number of times since before the Crimea.
If we look at NATO---they stated in Wales they will setup a rapid deployment unit in the strength of 5K to address the "hybrid" threat--but then cannot even find enough troops available within all of NATO to deploy inside 48 hrs.
Consensus is a great thing and that is the inherent weakness of NATO--will give a great example--to change a simple concept called "mission command" takes all 28 countries to buy off on a single word change.
Consensus--or what I call the US use of the word is nothing more or less than a word used to provide the US a reason to not act or react.
I am not alone in believing that currently the US "wants" to not led because leading in the Ukraine question requires action and that action could and would force the US to ultimately "lead by example"--something this White House would not recognize as "soft power".
I have taken a commenting beating on the thread concerning whether the IS or eastern Ukraine was more important to our strategic strategy and we see what the US decision has been in the last two months with IS.
US actions though seem to suggest just the opposite--IS is more of strategic threat than Russia currently is and or will be in the future.
I have also commented a number of times that if Putin uses again his UW strategy in the Baltics NATO will not trigger Article Five ie Common Defense ie war for a bunch of rabble rousing Russian speakers chanting more rights and better treatment running around in civilian clothes carrying AKs and I stand by those comments. Us actions also confirm this ie the distinct lack of providing strictly defensive lethal assistance when the Ukraine under the UN Charter has every right to defend itself and we the Us signed the Budapest Memorandum stating almost the same thing is they were attacked.
Remember Russian has in fact threatened the use of tactical nukes if the US gets involved militarily involved as they would view it as an attack on Russia soil/territory/sphere of influence--especially in what Russia traditionally sees as "theirs" ie part of the Russian Empire a la Czarist/Stalin days.
The Russian strategic UW strategy has shown especially in eastern Ukraine three distinct single points of failure I am not sure the current US civilian leadership has noticed and the question will be have the Russians seen them and will be changing their doctrine to reflect them--think they will be.
You will notice in Latvia there exists the exact same set of conditions that existed in the eastern Ukraine along with a 40% Russian speaking population almost the same as in eastern Ukraine (45%) also with a common border that Russia has not recognized since Latvian independence from the Soviet Union days.
This next challenge will be up front and in your face as Putin wants the former Soviet Republics to actively know the US cannot defend them nor will it regardless of how many US troop exercises occur there--thus politically destroying NATO's will to resist Russia and separate at the same time the US from NATO and the EU.
IS is not currently that distinct of a strategic threat against us nor does it want to be--they want the Caliphate.
This article shows us where the next confrontation will be and it will be early 2015 and if the US has no strategy now what will the US civilian leadership then do especially with a NATO member?
This week, an increased data-flow coming from Latvia has called the attention of CESI’s analysts. Data processing speaks for the fact that Moscow is likely to stage a destabilizing operation in Latvia in spring 2015.
This scenario foresees initiating local referendums in Latgale – the eastern region of Latvia, occupying nearly a quarter of country’s territory. As of 2010, the Russians account for approximately 40% of regional population.
The operation is not aimed at annexation of territories, but pursues a goal of creating temporary trouble spots, triggering Latvian authorities’ tough actions on suppressing secessionism in these territories. As a result, Moscow expects the operation to give an impetus to Latvia’s authorities to revise the Russian-speaking population policy, introduce zero-citizenship, lift the existing restrictions on Russian language use, thus enabling to enlarge the number of pro-Russian forces in power.
Data evaluation suggests that this scenario is a transitional one, while the maximum task is to provide conditions for establishing wide autonomies for Russian-speaking territories. According to our estimations, that would be too hard for Kremlin to implement the scenario of total annexation of Latvia’s part without embarking on hostilities, as it is in the east of Ukraine. Compact territory, in such a case, will enable the RF to bring the «peacekeeping» troops that would occupy a part of the territory and initiate the Latvians’ migration flow, thus tilting the ethnic balance in favor of the Russians.
We expect Russia’s agent cells to be expanded within Latgale’s territory, the pro-Russian propaganda activity to grow, and windows to be formed on the Russian border for movement of arms in case the operation is launched. Analysis of the Russians’ activity sequence in Ukraine speaks for possible work of their intelligence agencies with local government leaders from among the ethnic Russians, having got authority for organizing local population’s mass-scale support while conducting the operation.
Just because one event turned out one way does not mean that the event is a sound lens to view all others. I think it would be a great lesson for Americans to learn that societies build themselves and it is the height of arrogance to talk about "nation building". That does not in turn mean that ISIL building a proto-state in the heart of the middle east is not a threat to US security and interests. ISIS can be destroyed by the populations that currently support it and there are many sociatal forces that could be used to destroy it.
Your point on not listening (I would add not understanding because of it) is of critical importance. I will suggest that culturally we are missionaries in character. Instead of listening, we prefer to preach, and in extreme cases even impose the American way. Many Americans believe our way is the universal way. Bacevich warned us about the impact of American Exceptionalism on our national security policies. I think he went overboard in his critique, but he still makes a valid argument.
If someone was to draw a cartoon, we would be seen saying to the Iraqi, "yea, yea, I hear you, but what you really want is this."
Robert---well said---the last two paragraphs of the insurgent's article are the most telling of something we totally failed to learn in Iraq--how to converse with them and how to listen to them.
This tight group around al Baghdadi are true survivors and notice he used the word that many simply "overhear" when they hear the word "jihadi"--"there are others who are not ideologues".
“There are others who are not ideologues,” he said, referring to senior Isis members close to Baghdadi.
This article was I think a true first effort by IS to "talk" to us minus all the word baggage-the article was personal in tone and attempted to explain themselves-will be interesting to see if it is ignored or the US finds a way to converse back.
In the world of the Bucca alumni, there is little room for revisionism, or reflection. Abu Ahmed seems to feel himself swept along by events that are now far bigger than him, or anyone else.
“There are others who are not ideologues,” he said, referring to senior Isis members close to Baghdadi. “People who started out in Bucca, like me. And then it got bigger than any of us. This can’t be stopped now. This is out of the control of any man. Not Baghdadi, or anyone else in his circle.”
We absolutely never learned to listen to them---I spent hours "listening" and it allowed me to fully understand exactly where they were coming from, their complaints against us and their own dreams because not many were adamant supporters of Saddam and had suffered as well if their own tribe/tribes fell out of favor.
Example---we chased a dude for over three years and missed him a number of times---by accident we captured him--his first words were--I have not been shooting at you all for the last two years--my response--then why did you not come in---his response---there was no way to contact you all and I was afraid you guys were going to kill me because you put a price on my head and had wanted posters all over the place.
He was totally correct--there was no way for him to come in safely and no 1-800 number to call. He had a cell with him and it was a prepaid--he indicated several of his "friends" also wanted to come in---allowed him to call them and he told them he was being fairly treated and fairly questioned and it was safe to come in--five walked up to the main gate two days later.
All just by listening.
By the way just an example of why we have to somehow engage them---their staying power.
If u look at the map, Deir-ezzour is completely isolated. Both parties are determine but IS has unlimited number of fighters
#SAA pushed back another #IslamicState attack on #DeirEzzor military air base 2day. #IS attacked from 2 fronts bt didn't manage to break in