Small Wars Journal

Finding the ISIS Center of Gravity: Why Does It Have to Be So Complicated?

Wed, 12/09/2015 - 10:59am

Finding the ISIS Center of Gravity: Why Does It Have to Be So Complicated?

Ian Bertram

A recent article from Col Robert Dixon brilliantly detailed the mess of Joint understanding and application of Clausewitz’s Center of Gravity (COG).[i]  Like others before him, he argued that the concept is confusing to planners and leaders alike, and that the search for this Holy Grail-esque of targets has led to strategic level failures in conflicts since World War II.  Dixon is largely correct in that US doctrine has made the COG concept almost unusable, but the question is why do we need to make it so complicated?  Perhaps if we remove the need for a COG to be something physical that we can bomb, we can look at an adversary as a system, and seek out a binding element of that system.  In the case of ISIS, properly identifying their COG will not only help lead to an eventual victory, but uphold Clausewitz’s classic principle once again.

The Prussian wrote “Out of these [dominant characteristics of both belligerents] a certain center of gravity develops, the hub of all power and movement, on which everything depends.  This is the point against which all our energies should be directed.”[ii]  Strategists and armchair theorists are aware of this quote and have been misapplying it for years.  LtCol Antulio Echevarria did everyone a service in 2002 when he sheds light on the concept by reminding us that the idea stems from engineering, and that a COG is “not a source of strength, but a factor of balance.”[iii]  So rather than search for that key ISIS strength or weakness, we should examine what would ultimately push ISIS off balance and knock them over?

The search for an opponent’s COG, for that balance point, must use an interdisciplinary process.  The myopic antagonist of Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove General Jack D. Ripper framed the idea best, albeit with the wrong conclusion, when he stated that “war is too important to be left to the politicians.  They have neither the time, the training, nor the inclination for strategic thought.”[iv]  However, in modern warfare, the situation has changed to the point that the military may not necessarily have the all-encompassing time/training/inclination for proper strategic thought.  When strategists search for a COG, or worse, try to develop multiple COGs, they may not have the broad background needed to accomplish the task.  The military specialists become the myopic ones.  The search for the COG must include detailed analysis of all aspects of an enemies culture, economy, religion, fielded forces and abilities, leadership, terrain and weather, population, internal and external politics, transportation needs and abilities, and myriad other factors.  COGs are difficult, elusive creatures to say the least, but that does not mean that they are not worth the hunt, and the personnel developing them should not be limited to the military.

Enter ISIS.  The Western strategy for defeating lacks strategic coherence, at least in appearance if not in form.  Airstrikes and targeted raids, the functions that the United States performs excellently, are not having the strategic effects desired by the public or politicians.  Attacking key leaders and oil refineries make for good headlines, and both targets fall into a Joint understanding of COGs.  The West is attacking and destroying these targets along with ISIS’s fielded forces, yet the war continues.  The West needs to analyze ISIS as a system, and through that analysis a COG will hopefully emerge that we can channel our full efforts against.

So what makes ISIS run?  What is their hub of all power and movement?  What will throw them off balance?  What is their Center of Gravity?  Journalist Graeme Wood provided the answer to all of these questions in March 2015 with his article “What ISIS Really Wants.”[v]  Wood explains how ISIS has rejected modernism, and emphatically embraced a strict interpretation of Islam that many see as medieval.  He writes:

The reality is that the Islamic State is Islamic.  Very Islamic.  Yes, it has attracted psychopaths and adventure seekers, drawn largely from the disaffected populations of the Middle East and Europe.  But the religion preached by its most ardent followers derives from coherent and even learned interpretations of Islam.[vi]

The rest of the article fleshes out how deeply rooted ISIS is in their pursuit of not only establishing a caliphate, but in bringing about a final confrontation between “Rome” (think Christianity) and Islam.  They publicize that they will suffer enormous setbacks before their final victory.  In essence, their very beliefs insist that every time we strike them with bombs, drones, Special Forces, or effective resistance from Iraqi/Kurd/Syrian forces it is simply a logical part of their greater plan.  Even when the West succeeds militarily, ISIS still sees it as a twisted victory.  Therefore, Wood shows us that ISIS’s COG cannot be found on the battlefield.  It is not fielded forces, their capital, or anything else physical.

ISIS’s COG is their ideology.  Whether that ideology is a strict interpretation or bastardization of the Koran is irrelevant to COG identification.  What matters is that the message is what is keeping the recruits flowing, the fighters fighting, and the people trapped under their rule in line.  The problem to military planners and politicians alike is how to target their COG.

The military obviously prefers targets that can be destroyed with some application of force.  This is a natural outgrowth from the fact that militaries exist for the primary purpose of delivering violence.  It is harder to channel that violence towards an idea.  A military can kill the people who carry the idea, but in today’s inter-connected world, the idea will continue beyond the breath of individuals.  Indeed, Al Qaeda, the Taliban, ISIS, and numerous other groups have shown just how resilient an idea can be, even in the face of massive and effective violence concentrated on its people.  The analogy holds up equally well when one considers how much punishment the Germans, Japanese, and even the North Vietnamese endured. 

Naturally, this article is not the first to suggest that combating ISIS’s ideology is the key to long term success.  Rather, it urges the proper application of Clausewitz’s COG principle to help anti-ISIS forces to channel their efforts into the quickest, more assured method of victory.  But simply identifying the COG is not enough.  A plan to exploit the COG needs to be developed.

Several suggestions have been put forth, but here are some actions that Clausewitz would hopefully agree are useful in concentrating efforts against the ISIS COG.  They are culled not only from military thinking and efforts, but from across the spectrum of international and human relations.

  1.  Counter-narrative.  The West needs to support not only a counter narrative to ISIS’s radical form of Islam, but needs to actively help push the ideas to ISIS’s target recruits.  This is absolutely the best way to fight their ideology, but offering something different and desirable.  The counter-narrative also needs to include messages and support from leading Islamic teachers, leaders, and countries worldwide.
  2. Attack ISIS’s ability to spread their message.  The hacker group Anonymous has taken a very public lead on this issue.[vii]  Western Cyber Forces need to combine electronic attacks on ISIS’s communications to hinder their ability to spread their message.  When fighting an idea, it should prove highly effective to also fight the ability to transmit that idea.  The counter-argument is that taking down ISIS sites and accounts that are easy to access is not as useful as monitoring them, but when you’re fighting an idea it can be more useful to make the idea more difficult to receive.
  3. Welcome Syrian/Iraqi Refugees.  A key component of ISIS’s ideology is that Islam is locked in a deadly confrontation with the West.  When Western states deny refugees a safe haven, it plays into the ISIS narrative.  Fear mongering amongst Western people and politicians will do more to support ISIS than it will do to secure Western states.
  4. Classic Counter-Insurgency in contested/recently cleared areas.  The West is historically bad at utilizing small teams to fight insurgencies because we typically lack the patience.  However, when allowed the freedom and resources to secure small areas, counter-insurgency programs that place small teams directly with local populations have proven themselves repeatedly since Vietnam.  In areas of Iraq and Syria, these teams should incorporate volunteers from refugees that are willing to be trained as militia and returned home to fight for their own countries.  A local connection to these militias will help the West avoid the appearance and necessity of occupation forces. 
  5. Reach out with real economic/social plans to Muslims around the world.  This is one of those options that is outside the militaries hands, but is vital.  Support agencies around the world need to reach out to their indigenous Islamic populations and lend a helping hand.  They need to help provide economic opportunities and bridge the divide between them and the population majority.  Fear and repression are pushing people to seek the message ISIS is spreading.
  6. Share information.  Western states and the US in particular have come a long ways since 9/11 in sharing intelligence.  However, intelligence agencies have an almost inbred resistance to sharing information, and this will hinder response to ISIS and in stopping future attacks like those seen in Paris, Beirut, California, and numerous other locations.  Senior military and political leaders need to push information to each other and help build a united front against ISIS.
  7. Target people with capability.  The US loves to publicize successful attacks against “key leaders” in any modern conflict.  However, these leaders may not be as important to their operations as we think they are.  As Retired General Stanley McChrystal recently suggested, to keep the pressure on ISIS we need to attack the people who are capable of carrying out important tasks.[viii]  They may not be leadership, but instead financiers, smugglers, and recruiters to name just a few.

These actions would prove as a logical place to start from to attack ISIS’s COG.  Proper application of Clausewitz not only demonstrates that COGs are singular and overarching in a conflict, but that they can help us frame a conflict and develop a strategy capable of ending that conflict.  In the case of ISIS, their COG is their ideology, and we should focus our efforts to defeat it.  A continuing game of global wack-a-mole combined with endless airstrikes will not end this conflict.  So for the sake of American credibility, Parisian vengeance, world security, and of Dead Carl’s honor, the West needs to put their focus on ISIS’s COG.

End Notes

[i] Robert Dixon, Clausewitz, Center of Gravity, and the Confusion of a Generation of Planners, Small Wars Journal [20 Oct 2015]:

[ii] Carl von Clausewitz, On War, Index edition, trans. and ed. by Michael Howard and Peter Paret (Princeton: University of Princeton, 1984), 595.

[iii] Antulio Joseph Echevarria, Clausewitz’s Center of Gravity: Changing our Warfighting Doctrine – Again! (Carlisle, PA: Strategic Studies Institute, 2002), vi.

[iv] Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, directed by Stanley Kubrick, Columbia Pictures, 1969.

[v] Graeme Wood, “What ISIS Really Wants,” The Atlantic [March 2015]:

[vi] Ibid. 

[vii] Dominique Mosbergen, “Anonymous Declares War on ISIS After Paris Attacks,” Huffington Post [November 16, 2015]:

[viii] Scott Faith, “GEN McChrystal on ISIS: Four Tips From Someone Who Actually Knows How to Fight Terrorists,” [September 14, 2015]:


About the Author(s)

Captain Ian Bertram is a U.S. Air Force pilot stationed at Kirtland AFB.  He is an evaluator in the UH-1N and Mi-17 helicopters.  He has prior experience in nuclear security with Air Force Global Strike Command, and was deployed to Afghanistan in 2012 as a Mi-17 Advisor Pilot.  He holds a B.S. in History from the United States Air Force Academy and M.S. in Military History from Norwich University.



Tue, 12/29/2015 - 2:40am

Bill C,

I’m not certain to what extent migrating bison were the COG of Native Americans demise but I dare suggest for those Native American who did in fact live on the migratory route, the extinction of the bison had a significant causal effect on the decline of their tribe/nation state.

However I would argue racial discrimination ingrained in the settlers was the COG of the Indian’s misfortune. As Bill M often points out there can be multiple causal primes that can vary from region to region and within each region from season to season, week to week, person to person etc. The critical factor is to make certain you do not fail to vector in all of the major primes and not just the ones our bias conjures up.

In VN our leadership was completely blind to the VN hatred of the Chinese and the absurdity of our contention that VN would submit to becoming a client state/staging area for expanding Chinese hegemony into SE Asia.

I suppose using such a mathematically precise engineering term as COG, when describing something as wickedly complex as an insurgency, encourages a ‘magic bullet’ mindset but surely we have evolved beyond such delusion. You mentioned the ending of slavery was the COG for the defeat of the South. I imagine Rosa Parks would have picked a bone with you on that one.

I mean to say it was a hundred years between the 13th Amendment in 1865 and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which made it illegal to treat black people like slaves. Once again I would argue racism trumped basic human decency for a hundred years after a horrendous civil war was supposed to make all men equal. Some folks believe the Man still has some ways to go on that score 150 years after the war that was supposed to make all Americans equal.

Another example of failing to recognize significant causes of wide-spread societal violence is the plight of Jews in Europe. Some would argue it was German Nazi ideology and political opportunism that led to the slaughter of the Jews but the sentiment that drove the zeal for a Final Solution still remains today throughout Europe .

The Germans just happened to be the first to industrialize Antisemitism. The point I’m trying to make is : sure disproportionate Jewish influence in politics, economics, the arts, education etc. caused resentment towards the Jews, but it was the consideration that they were a Semite ‘other’ that drove the atrocities.

Across all of Europe, whether on the shores Mediterranean or up on the Arctic Circle, a sizable proportion of the natives dragged Jews from their homes and slaughtered them there and then or handed them over to the German Army for disposal.

It will be interesting to see whether the current influx of the Semites from the Middle East and elsewhere into Europe will reignite the flames of Antisemitism. The awful truth is the Final Solution did indeed 'solve' the ‘Jewish problem’ but I would hazard to guess it didn’t remove the prime motivator. It simply removed the most obvious target.

IMHO it is no coincidence that currently it is the Germans who feel the need to come up with a different kind of ‘solution ‘ this time around.

So what?

I would argue much of our current difficulties stem from the failure to accurately weigh the significance of the varied primary causal sentiments that shapes the nature of the problem and as such fail to deliver any tangible/lasting effect.

To use the primate in the room parable, we recognize and address the squirrel monkey representing religion and governance with considerable skill. Likewise we have come to terms with our RMA/GPF 300 lbs gorilla not working and we now understand we need our own SOCOM squirrel monkey to take it’s place.

Unfortunately whilst getting our monkey to grapple with their monkey we completely ignore the dominating influence of the 800 pound gorilla in the room representing the elite few determined to enrich themselves with heroin in AF/PAK and oil in the Gulf.

Until we kill it or remove their 800 pound gorilla from the TO it will continue to rip everything and everyone to pieces and our own monkey-business sideshow will continue to amount to mere background noise.


Bill C.

Thu, 12/17/2015 - 5:42pm

In reply to by RantCorp



a. The "center-of-gravity" of the American Plains Indians was the buffalo. So we destroyed the buffalo and, in doing so, eliminated these Indians' alternative way of life. This allowing that the project of forcing these populations to adopt a more-modern/western way of life might be undertaken; this, with a better likelihood of success.

b. The "center-of-gravity" of the American South was slavery. So we outlawed and did away with slavery and, thus, eliminated the American Southerners' alternative way of life. This allowing that the project for causing these populations to adopt a more-modern version of the western way of life might be undertaken with a greater chance of success.

c. The "center-of-gravity" of the people of AF/PAK region is opium. So, as per the logic offered at "a" and "b" above, it follows that we must outlaw the opium trade, destroy the opium crops and, thereby, eliminate the AF/PAK populations' alternative way of life. This, allowing that the project of causing/forcing these populations to adopt a more-modern/more-western way of life, way of governance, etc., might be undertaken with a greater likelihood of success?

Thus, in all instances noted above, the "center-of-gravity" is the item (the buffalo, slavery, the opium trade) which allows that the alternative way of life (of the American Plains Indians, of the American Southerners and of the AK/PAK populations respectively) might exist?

Thus, we must:

a. Find and eliminate this more down-to-earth "center-of-gravity" item, to wit: this very "physical"/"we-can-see-it-and-touch-it"(?) item (see buffalo, slavery and opium above) which allows that a certain alternative way of life (of ISIS or whomever) might exist? This, so as to see

b. "Progress" (the forced transition of these populations to the way of life, way of governance, etc., that we require) be achieved more quickly and more efficiently?


Thu, 12/17/2015 - 1:07pm

I find myself in agreement with RCJ when he describes the central role Vietnamese nationalism played in their triumph. Certainly as Bill M pointed out our fear of a wider war with the PLA also played a role in our defeat but IMHO it was VN nationalism that was the steel that held the whole effort together and won them their independence.

As early as 1966 McNamara believed the latter (war with China) was the prime that would seal our fate but before he died he reconciled this view and accepted it was the VN desire for independence that proved decisive. In his final years he admitted during his time as SecDef the VN desire for liberty was something his Harvard bean-counter/RMA brain failed to grant a significant vote.

However I believe it to be a mistake to believe the realities of the war in VN amount to universal truths that can explain any conflict that happens to be going badly for us. Certainly if we are attempting to reverse genuine Revolutionary and Resistance energies we will inevitably suck but I believe it is a serious mistake to interpret our current failings as an indicator that we are violating the Jeffersonian factors that led to our Vietnamese disaster.

IMHO we should first and foremost consider more basic motivators when attempting to examine any whys, means, ends before attempting to weigh in with the loftier and somewhat intangible aspirational drivers pertaining to legitimate governance. I suggest an unholy trinity of money, power and hate offer up the possibility of a truer insight for much of the violence in Iraq/Syria and Afghanistan.

All-consuming hatred is a good place to start, for like revenge Confucius suggested you should dig two graves before you begin. Ultra-conservative Eastern culture on one hand and secular Western culture on the other. I found hatred based on these two very different camps completely absent. The all-prevalent hatred plaguing Arab-Persian, Hutu-Tutsi, Arab-Jew, VN-Chinese, etc. was completely absent in my experience as a secular Westerner in a Jihadi Army.

I fully expected the hatred that drove Le May, Bomber Harris and my parents during WW2 to be in generous abundance. But it was not so. People forget when it comes to slaughter the current Fruitcake are complete lightweights compared to us infidels when we really get the dogs of war out. We were/are more than capable of destroying entire cities overnight and not losing a wink of sleep. But in my thirty years in the TO I found the enemy do not hate us and we certainly don’t hate them.

The psychopaths, who the internet gives an unprecedented audience and as such a misleading prominence, are as rare in the T O as a Timothy McVeigh, Charles Mason, Ted Bundy, Adam Lanza etc. are in the West.

With hate consigned to the periphery I chose an Islamic lens in the hope of getting a better insight to the cognitive loop of the Jihadi.

Because of the overwhelming presence of Islamic ritual impacting every aspect within the TO I pursued this motive-set somewhat ‘religiously’ and my initial observations suggested it to be an obvious no-brainer. For more years than I care to mention I persisted with this assumption, long after it became obvious it was a bird made of stone. Certainly it played a role but when the chips were down it evaporated as quickly as their discipline evaporated in the face of a determined armed opponent (as opposed to some terrified kid lying face down and hoping they’ll survive ‘playing dead’).

There were a number who were genuinely ideologically driven fighters but these folks were soon killed off. There is an annihilating effectiveness that a modern battlefield inflicts upon the individual who are somewhat ambivalent about getting killed. The complete obliteration of a living/breathing human-being in a millisecond has a sobering effect on the not so driven doubting Thomas’s of any faith. However these ideologues are a very rare breed, and as I said, they are soon not of this world.

I then weighed my observations thru the Jeffersonian lens but that too soon became a busted flush. Thankfully my own motive-set as a secular American determined the fallacy of examining a possible Jeffersonian prime-mover and it too was consigned to the closet of conventional wisdoms along with ‘God is Great’ and Hate.

Funnily enough it was the Cosa Nostra who delivered my ‘road to Damascus’ moment. We were monitoring a logistical train within the FATA that was made conspicuous by good noise and illumination discipline – as opposed to the normal Cheech and Chong ‘herding cats’ at the New Orleans Mardi-Gras approach.

Whilst marvelling at the good order, we were astonished to hear the principals speaking Sicilian – on the comms and within earshot. Hearing animated Sicilian in the dead of night in the FATA takes a lot of beating on the WTF unicorn matrix. Furthermore some of drivers, guards, camp-followers etc. - who were obviously locals - spoke heavily accented Sicilian as well. In other words these particular ‘Jihadis’ had been doing business with the Cosa Nostra for a very long time indeed.

If the leadership of any organization was to suggest the Cosa Nostra’s ways, means, ends relied in some way on an Islamic/Jeffersonian inspired motive-set to maintain their heroin business in good order, we would all fall about laughing. Furthermore if the same leadership were to mount a counter-narcotics campaign thru such an Islamic/Jeffersonian lens you would be hard-pressed to find anyone who wasn’t convinced that leadership was tooting on the powder dragon themselves.

Having difficulty accepting what we were seeing and hearing we moved closer and proceeded further down the logistical tail in an attempt to fathom why the bulk of what we initially assumed to be heavy loads of Ammonium Nitrate, was in fact something rather different.

It was in this deeper recon that we began to note presence/influence uniformed personnel and military hardware – whether LE, Militia, Interior Ministry or Army.

An estimated 4 million households (roughly split in half by the Durrand Line) grow opium in the TO. Consider how many American households grow cereal crops in the US and then reconcile 4 million households with the size of the AF/PAK economy and you begin to grasp how deep-rooted grip heroin has on the entire region.

The Taliban numbering between 10K and 15K are by comparison are a puny entity.

IMHO if you travel 2000 kms to the west you will find a similar phenomenon of wide-spread violence conducted in the pursuit of wealth. Sure it’s oil and the industry is enormous in both infrastructure, manpower and acceptability in polite society but heroin’s financial allure makes up for its agrarian simplicity with enormous profit margins, destructiveness and the business doesn’t pay tax.

In both TOs the insidious allure of vast financial profit is all-consuming and their effect blanket the globe.With greed for money assigned a vote its bedfellow power needs little introduction.

Obviously the leadership of the Gulf States needs no explanation as to the manner that lust for power shapes the region’s ways, means, ends but perhaps the manner that power drives the AF/PAK leadership is not so obvious.

Whether it be an illiterate peasant scraping paste from a poppy head or a Lt Gen’s wax-lyrical on the irony of our stupid naiveté there is an empowering seductiveness watching our troops tip-toeing thru a field of poppies (so as to not spark hostility from the natives) only to reach the other side and step on an IED funded by the very crop those same troops have just so carefully ensured not to damage underfoot.

Further adding to their mirth was our concern for not sparking hostility from the poppy growers. Our desire to avoid casualties from disgruntled poppy-growers indicated to all and sundry our lack of appreciation/concern that the same poppies we were tip-toeing around were responsible for the deaths of 10K US citizens every year and no-end of misery impacting tens of millions of parents, siblings, neighbours, social workers, health workers, LE officers etc.

Our weapon systems/platforms thundered about the tactical battle ecosystem inflicting a great of noise and dust whereas their heroin ‘weapon system’ had a strategic reach that quietly and patiently reached every city on the planet wherein it kills a hundred thousand infidels every year. Perhaps most invigorating to their taste of Jihadi power was the reality we literally paid an enormous human and material cost for the privilege of falling victim to their weapon system.

So what?

As Americans many would argue that we know all there is to know about money and power. Our dominating influence of much of the world’s economic, cultural, industrial, military infrastructure indicates we are masters of harnessing the positive aspects these prime motivators. On the other hand we are equally aware of the profound danger posed by those planting ‘stones of good intention’ and as such the importance of the sceptical vote of a vigilant democracy.

An elite few in both PAK and the Gulf States are perfectly aware of this mastery and our intuitive scrutiny when nefarious actors attempt to tap into the equation of state sponsored money and power.

IMHO it is this eternal vigilance that has caused them to envelope their intentions with a cloak of Islamic and Jeffersonian righteousness in order conceal their determined efforts to enrich themselves at the expense of their own citizenry in the first instance and the world at large thereafter.

Thirty years ago dozens US personnel began to understand the ground truths within the TO and this understanding of those truths began to gain traction within the Legislative arm of the US Gov. Unfortunately the implosion of the USSR swamped the whole effort and the lessons were buried/lost.

I find it alarming that after 16 years when millions (instead of hundreds) of personnel have passed thru the TO the lens thru which we are currently attempting to shape strategy remains stubbornly perverted by for the same old BS discredited so emphatically all those years ago.


To simply put Isis center of gravity or balancer is the real estate Isis controls in Iraq and Syria. To undermine ISIS we must turn the organization from landlords to tents.

Outlaw 09

Sat, 12/12/2015 - 9:03am

AND this is not a Sunni Shia Hundred Years War??---IS is the least of our problems in the ME right now.......

Confirms previously posted comment on this development..........

French military source also confirms that Iran is bringing jet fighters in Syria.

3ed report that IrIAF will soon begin combat operations in Syria. Central & northern Syria are the main objectives.

Outlaw 09

Sat, 12/12/2015 - 7:54am

For those that truly do not believe that social media and key MSM online groups cannot "win" against the massive Russian info war.......two examples---the first one is social media account....the second is a major previous social media who shifted to become a political editor of a major German online MSM outlet....

1. This account is an instant must follow: @KremlinTrolls

2..@RT_com said to run a Moscow-ordered propaganda story against me tomorrow, accusing me of complicity in #Metrojet & #Su24 downings.

BTW---the info war against IS is also "winnable" but the US undertakes nothing...again social media carries the load.....

Outlaw 09

Sat, 12/12/2015 - 7:44am

With the price of Brent at 40 USD per barrel and sinking, and over 90 Russian regions being bankrupt, no growth in the daily earnings of Russians--actually the last time this happened was nine years ago and the estimated daily costs at 6M USD per day for two wars.....just a little longer and the issue of Putin may come to an abrupt ending....anyway.

We only need to go on like this a little bit more and longer and Russia will be banktrupt.

Outlaw 09

Sat, 12/12/2015 - 7:31am

Twitter, YouTube and FB all claimed they would be countering IS who uses their platforms...BUT then this happens....the anti Assad opposition is not IS.....???

BUT ALL Russian, Syrian and IS info warrior accounts have not been removed by these three US social media companies....why is that????

Ukrainian info warriors have complained about the pro Russian actions of these three companies for over 18 months now.

Syrian rebel @YouTube channels dying in big numbers these days ...
Guess, we know, who is behind it.

Remember just how much Russian oligarch money has flowed into these three US social media companies........almost to the point that they can no longer openly argue they "are American"??

Outlaw 09

Sat, 12/12/2015 - 7:17am

In reply to by Outlaw 09

Putin has gone all in with the a way to protect Assad and built out their ME influence against KSA and Turkey.

AND in the face of the mass killings of Syrian civilians via the "Islamic State Air Force" of the last eight weeks NOT a single word was wasted by the US/Obama on the topic of war crimes by Putin......

Russian warplanes carried out a massacre in the town of Qasabiyeh in Idlib countryside. #Syria (GRAPHIC)

Just give the following some thought----130 killed in Paris AND in the last eight weeks SEVEN times that number have been killed by the "Islamic State Air Force"--men, women, children, and civil defense rescuers and hospitals, churches, food and water production centers, granaries, aid convoys and residential areas hit with cluster munitions and WP.

AND not a single word was wasted on Putin's killing spree by a single western leader.......BUT tons on the IS killing spree---WHY is that??

WHY the double standard---we condemn IS BUT when a nation state is just as guilty of war crimes actual war crimes WE the west say nothing and that is not a double standard??

In #Idlib prov., 100.000s of #IDPs face harsh winter after being displaced by #Assad/#Putin.

Outlaw 09

Sat, 12/12/2015 - 6:51am

Actually Robert makes some very valid points----right now just what is the actual option of a Sunni family father, son or uncle in Iraq and or Syria when facing a totally sectarian focused destruction of anything Sunni by the Iraqi Army which is basically Shia and the "so called" SAA which is neither Arab nor Syrian but largely composed of 25 Iraqi militias, Hezbollah, IRGC and now the Russian military.

WHAT we are now seeing in both Iraq and Syria is exactly what Zarqawi wanted---a true Shia Sunni conflict that would allow the resetting of the Sykes-Picot borders.

We are now in a true Hundred Years War with over 25 Iraqi Shia militias, Hezbollah (Shia), IRGC (Iranian Shia) and the Russian military in full support to the Shia facing the Sunni anti Assad movement, JaN a quasi AQ group, al Sham (KSA), IS and the Sunni Front States to include Jordan and the little known KSA/Israel connection.

To take sides now is rather easy as there is only one side left to take--the Sunni side.

There are now a total of 12 different countries sending Shia fighters to Syria and this is not the Hundred Years War??

Iran recruits #Pakistan'i Shi'ites for combat in #Syria…

AND this is the critical piece of information ABSOLUTELY not talked about in DC----

As I said: #Russia offical support Jaysh al-Thuwar with airstrikes & weapons at northern #Aleppo front against the regular #FSA

Thuwar was the only member of the SDF that did not recognize a ceasefire between YPG and FSA and demanded the FSA hand over four villages they claimed to want to control after they massacred 30 civilians in one of the towns "who did not want to support Thuwar....."

Russia is supporting YPG which is what the US calls SDF as a way to split the Sunni anti Assad forces AND the US continues to provide arms and munitions to a Kurdish force largely designed to kill Sunni's and takeover Arab villages in order to expand Kurdish land holdings......

"YPG and pro-YPG Jaysh al-Thuwar militia are not #FSA."

Reuters World 
‏@ReutersWorld Breaking News: Putin says Russian armed forces supplying weapons, ammunition to Free Syrian army and providing air support

HATE to say this but Putin is playing Obama and the DC think tankers like a violin---we are not in the game whatsoever---why is that??

So in the end Robert is right---take a position and engage--- it cannot get any worse than it already is with the foreign policy of this administration.............

Robert C. Jones

Fri, 12/11/2015 - 9:52pm

In reply to by Jeff Goodson

The Muddle East is the primary region of the world denied self determination post WWII, so this is the region being rocked by revolutions now. Just because the people living in the region are Muslims, and because so often political power is divided along religious lines mean that these are religious wars. This is about governance and power, just like revolutions everywhere, across cultures and over time. This is their time.

Jeff Goodson

Fri, 12/11/2015 - 8:03pm

In reply to by Robert C. Jones

Wow. Not sure that I've ever read the words "real and reasonable" in the same sentence with the word "Sunnis" before. Much less "real and reasonable concern of Sunnis everywhere over the compression of Sunni influence space". Let's see...There are what? Roughly 1.8 billion Muslims in the world? And roughly 89% are Sunni?

The Shia may be a problem (now) if you're Sunni and marginalized in Iraq (payback hurts), or getting your butt kicked in Syria by Assad with the help of Iranian Shia and the Russians, or having your flanks cut up in Yemen by the Houthis, or finding that they're having to take up arms themselves instead of paying off the West and proxies to defend them and fight their internecine wars for them. Or, like the Saudis, they're finally having to deal themselves with the blowback from decades of funding Wahhabi fanaticism.

But as the principal fomenters of the holy war that the Muslim fanatics are waging against everyone else, the Sunnis are the problem--not the solution. ISIS, Al Qaeda, Boko Haram, Al Shabaab, the Taliban, and a dozen other fanatical groups pushing for a global caliphate and global sharia law...correct me if I'm wrong, but they're ALL Sunni.

Which of course raises the question of how and why we find ourselves allied with the Sunnis at this juncture of history.

Robert C. Jones

Sat, 12/12/2015 - 12:49pm

In reply to by Dave Maxwell

I find, and have found, these to be tremendously helpful resources. Sometimes I think bad definitions constrain good thinking from reaching its full potential, and that too often we make distinctions with little to no material difference, or as often, miss critical distinctions related to fundamental differences simply because of shared similarities in less important areas.

For me there are only two fundamental forms of insurgency. Resistance insurgency against some foreign occupation (be it physical or policy), which is an aspect of war and demands warfare solutions. Revolutionary insurgency which is an illegal political challenge internal to a single system of governance intended to coerce change or removal if the existing regime. Not war at all, but more an expression of illegal democracy and demanding non-warfare solutions to truly resolve. Both often occur within the same conflict, and both can be lines of motivation within an individual fighter, population, or insurgent group.

Ideology employed is more a function of the facts and culture of a time, place and population, and does not trump the defining factor described above. To attack these symptoms is to probably miss a cure to the fundamental factors I describe above. The fundamentals of insurgency are tied to human nature and vary little over time. Our understanding of those fundamentals, however must evolve, as we are now in an era where popular power is far more empowered to thwart state power than in the eras our doctrine is derived from.


Robert C. Jones

Sat, 12/12/2015 - 1:47pm

In reply to by Bill M.

Bill, the fundamentals are simple. When we create impossible policy goals, and when we overly focus on the insurgent, rather on the insurgency, is when we quickly find ourselves mired in "complexity."


Bill M.

Sat, 12/12/2015 - 12:28pm

In reply to by Dave Maxwell

Ok, although I have read much of this already, I'll review it again. When I started the Q course in 1979 the focus was communist insurgencies, and an undeserved hero worship of Mao and Maoist insurgency. When I read Bob's comments I see the the same ideas again. It wasn't that simple then, and it isn't that simple now.

Dave Maxwell

Sat, 12/12/2015 - 7:19am

In reply to by Bill M.

I recommend you both read the ARIS project section on Revolution Based on Religious Fundamentalism page 605- 724 and at least just read page 607-608 if you do not want to read the three case studies. We do understand this phenomena if only we would study it. This is one of the five types of revolutions in the 20th and 21st century.

Modify the Type of Government
NPA, FARC, Shining Path, Iranian Revolution, FMLN, Karen National Liberation Army
Identity or Ethnic Issues
LTTE, PLO, Hutu-Tutsi Genocides, Kosovo Liberation Army, PIRA
Drive out Foreign Power
Afghan Mujahidin, Vietcong, Chechen Revolution, Hizbollah, Hizbol Mujahedeen
Religious Fundamentalism
Egyptian Islamic Jihad, Taliban, Al Qaeda
Modernization or Reform
Niger Delta (MEND), Revolution United Front (RUF), Orange Revolution, Solidarity

I would also recommend reading Human Factors Considerations of Undergrounds insurgencies.

And Undergrounds in Insurgent, Revolutionary, and Resistance Warfare

All three of these publications integrate religion and religious fundamentalism as a basis for revolution, resistance, and insurgency. We do not look at this purely from "enlightenment theory" or communist revolutionary theory and in fact they are compared and contrasted throughout the studies.

Bill M.

Sat, 12/12/2015 - 6:07am

In reply to by Robert C. Jones

You have a solution for the wrong problem as Jeff correctly pointed out. You have this nostalgic view of the world based on our collective flawed understanding of insurgencies and revolutions that started with JFK. More than half of what we learned in special forces about revolution was wrong because it was based on an enlightenment paradigm, which is an ideology. An ideology we tend to assume that everyone in the world embraces.

The Sunnis throughout their troubled history have thought to impose their extreme views upon others, so thank Allah that Shia and others do seek to oppress their expansion. Claiming this is simply about oppressed Sunnis in Syria and Iraq seeking political space is equivalent to claiming the Mongols and Napoleon were only seeking their their political space, and if left alone they would threaten no one outside their borders.

We try your approach of opting out, even if it is political suicide for any American politician, and therefore unfeasible, how do we keep other state actors out? Sitting back on our hands quit being a viable option decades ago. We have interests beyond our borders, and we certainly have interests in protecting American lives. One example of interest that can't be ignored is the multi billion dollar impact they can have on the travel industry via terrorism. Appeasement is not a proper response.

Robert C. Jones

Fri, 12/11/2015 - 9:55pm

In reply to by Bill M.

Well, I disagree with that assessment. No way to prove in advance, but since my theory is one that is actually within our powers to implement at reasonable cost and yours is not, I say we try mine first. Worst case it fails like every thing else we've tried to date.

Bill M.

Fri, 12/11/2015 - 7:53pm

In reply to by Robert C. Jones


I do respect your political analysis, and in this case that issue served as a starting point for this movement to gain traction. It is not the issue that drives this conflict, the underlying ideology that drives this movement globally is a vision for a global caliphate. 20,000 plus foreign fighters are not there for a local political spat. Attacks in Europe and the U.S. are not due to a local political spat. Expansion into Libya, Nigeria, Yemen, etc., are not due to a local political spat. That tension certainly plays a role, but that is one of many issues, and an ideological thread underlines all the reasons.


Fri, 12/11/2015 - 4:15pm

In reply to by Robert C. Jones

That is very well said!

Robert C. Jones

Fri, 12/11/2015 - 4:02pm

In reply to by Bill M.

Are these examples of "ideological war," or are they examples of standard, run-of-the-mill wars where the sides happened to adhere to different ideological beliefs?

I think many put far too much emphasis on the sales pitch, rather than on the product.

For me, the "COG" for ISIS is that they are the only ones actively working to address the very real and reasonable concerns of the Sunni Arab populations of Syria and Iraq who find themselves in an untenable situation living within Shia dominated states; and also the very real and reasonable concern of Sunnis everywhere over the compression of Sunni influence space, and the expansion of Shia influence space, created by the US removal of Saddam's regime in Iraq.

Whoever wins the competition as the champion of those two causes wins the battle of the COG. I suspect the populations in question would much rather have someone else as their champion, but first the US has to get out of its own way and be willing to give up trying to make our plan for the region work, and instead focus on framing and supporting a workable plan.

Bill M.

Fri, 12/11/2015 - 6:52am

In reply to by Jeff Goodson

Granted that you can never defeat an idea, but you can defeat those trying to impose the idea upon you. If this point is agreed upon, then it would seem logical that we need to worry less about targeting their ideology and focus on targeting those who want to forceably impose ideas on others. Based on this assertion, does the COG change?

Jeff Goodson

Fri, 12/11/2015 - 12:31am

In reply to by Bill M.

Points well taken. But remember that in World War II we didn't defeat fascism. We defeated Germany, and Italy. And in the Cold War we didn't defeat communism. We defeated the USSR. (Russia, by the way, does not now nor has it ever thought that the Cold War is over.)

Fascism is alive and well, and so is communism or at least something akin to it in places like Venezuela, and North Korea and Cuba. You can defeat the national manifestations of the ideology, but the ideology remains.

Bill M.

Thu, 12/10/2015 - 9:15pm

In reply to by Jeff Goodson

WWII was an ideological battle that determined the international order, one where democracy trumped fascism. The ideological battle was won via total war, because in an ideological war the stakes are between two incompatible ideological systems. Compromise wasn't an option for either side. The cold war was also ideological, and one side basically defeated themselves when their system not only failed to deliver, it subjected it's people to severe cruelity. It took decades for the USSR to collapse. We don't have decades to wait and hope that ISIS may collapse. Our efforts to counter their ideology has only made them stronger, because our actions and words validated their assertions. The longer we pretend we are not at war, and can simply defeat this threat by promoting better ideas,the longer we allow this threat to expand.

Jeff Goodson

Thu, 12/10/2015 - 8:27pm

Captain Bertram,

Very good article. Thanks for adding your thinking to the debate. I really have just one issue with the piece, and that is Action #5: "Reach out with real economic/social plans to Muslims around the world."

I would argue that your statement that "ISIS's COG is their ideology" is pretty much dead on target. This is at its core not just an ideological war, but a religious ideological war--a Muslim holy war--not a war resulting from social or economic inequities. While it can always be argued (and usually is) that social or economic issues "feed" or "contribute to" or "exacerbate" a problem, the reality is that in this case it is fanatical religious ideology that is the COG.

One of the biggest takeaways from Afghanistan in particular, I believe, is the question of whether all of the social and economic development in the world can have more than a marginal impact on ultimately winning what is, at its center of gravity, a religious war. That work may be critical to Afghanistan's long-term stability as a nation, but it will never defeat the ideological religious fanaticism that drives the war there.

When it comes to the Muslim holy war, we need to focus primarily on the core problem--i.e., your "center of gravity". Humanitarian work and social and economic development have their place in dealing with ancillary problems like the millions of Middle Eastern refugees, but I would suggest that they have little role to play in this or most other counter-terrorism operations--at least until counter-terrorism segues into stability operations.

Jeff Goodson

Dave Maxwell

Thu, 12/10/2015 - 9:23pm

In reply to by Bill M.

Roger on kindness:

"Kind hearted people might of course think there was some ingenious way to disarm or defeat an enemy without too much bloodshed, and might imagine this is the true goal of the art of war. Pleasant as it sounds, it is a fallacy that must be exposed: war is such a dangerous business that the mistakes which come from kindness are the very worst..... To introduce the principle of moderation into the theory of war itself would always lead to logical absurdity.” Clausewitz

We over think CvC's center of gravity concept. 200 years since he has passed we still have those educated beyond common sense scratching their heads attempting to determine what he meant. Our doctrine added critical capabilities and vulnerabilies further confusing the COG with a targeting process. His description seems quite simple when reading it. Weight your effort against the bulk of their army, or capture their capital. During his era and the type of wars he principally wrote about, that was fair advice if you add had more military power than your conventional adversary. He fully recognized people's wars were messy and didn't conform to conventional defeat strategies.

I'm fairly confident that ISIS's leadership is not their COG, they are mature enough to replace them and evolve. We should target their funding, but with realistic expectations. With more than 7 percent of the global economy being black or gray, they will prove resilient even if degraded. Targeting their ideology is a pipe dream. We won't change their ideology anymore than we changed the ideology of the Nazis.

Taking their capital is a start, but they can establish a capital elsewhere. If I'm correct then the option left is to destroy their soldiers, whether or not they're on the front line, or a terrorist cell in the West. This killing of the adversary must be pursued aggessivel to be effective, otherwise we leave too much space for them to adapt.

Getting to Dave's point about the idea being easy, but the practice difficult, we still have a number of other related issues such as Assad, Russia, Iran, etc. ISIS doesn't exist in a void. CvC also wrote it was foolish to try to conduct war with kindness. A lesson we have failed to learn.

I applaud Capt Bertram in his efforts to give this a different approach, but I disagree completely with two of his 7:

- Accept Syrian refugees. Absolutely not, and the ideology is the reason. Islam and Sharia Law is not compatible with US society. One need only read Surrahs 2, 3, 5, 8, 9, and 47 to understand this basic fact. We know ISIS has infiltrated the "refugees" and that it is impossible to vett whether or not a Muslim agrees with those tenants or not. To be clear, the San Bernandino jihadists had followed the edicts of the 9th Surrah to the letter.

Accepting these undesirables from ISIS controlled territory only helps ISIS rid them of a problematic population that must be fed, watched, etc...

The best method is to create a safe zone in Syrian territory where the refugees can be settled. That will take boots on the ground.

- COIN. Forget it. COIN has been a failure. We are now 14 years into a COIN-heavy effort in Afghanistan and recently ANSF forces had to recapture a Taliban-controlled prison in Kandahar that somehow formed without being contested to begin with. Not killing the enemy is not working. Trying to win over the population by not killing the enemy is not working. We used to win wars rather simply. We completely destroyed the ideology and armed forces of Nationalist Socialism and Imperial Japan. Gen Curtis E. LeMay, a general Capt Bertram should be familiar with, said it best: "Kill enough of 'em, they stop fighting."
The primary purpose of government is to secure our rights and to do that the government must combat and destroy our enemies, foreign and domestic. Playing kumbah ya with the enemy gave us Paris and San Bernadino. It's time to make Raqqa a crater.. It is time to do what the Russians do: ignore "kinder, friendlier, war." War is not supposed to be nice. It is not supposed to be pretty. It is not supposed to be neat. Crater Raqqa now.

- IO. I agree. This is longball. We have to fight the ideology and IO is the best way to do it. But IO must be complimented by the like-minded in the population. Which Muslims take issue with Allah's word in Surrahs 2, 3, 5, 8, 9, and 47? Somehow Sharia Law must be changed to challenge the hateful messages of those Surrahs and redefine them so that all Muslims understand the new frame...Islam needs reform. Islam needs a "Pope."

J Bullock

Thu, 12/10/2015 - 2:20pm

CPT Bertram,

I applaud your willingness to tackle a difficult subject. I wanted to ask: did you intend for the 7 points you listed to correspond with ISIL COG vulnerabilities as you see them? If so, it would be cool to see your thoughts on the other components of the COG model, Critical Capabilities and Critical Requirements, and how these support the vulnerability analysis.

A few other thoughts. I would tell you after 10 years of influence planning in this war, it is not a message or theme, or even an ideology we are countering. It is an experience. All narratives are essentially built on individual experiences, even the so called meta-narratives actors use to communicate strategically. Ultimately, it is the experiences of target audiences in their interactions with American foreign policy which must change. Ergo, American foreign policy must change, as you suggested. No amount of messaging, or theme tweaking, or narrative intervention is going to change that.

Finally, I'm not sure I agree with your assessment of ISIL's COG. Given the nature of the problem set, I would submit ISIL's COG is much more tangible than an ideology. ISIL's COG is the swath of geography it holds, and calls the caliphate. You allude to this in your paragraph describing the "land between the rivers". Thoughts?

Thank you for a thought provoking piece.


Bill M.

Sun, 12/13/2015 - 10:11am

In reply to by DisruptEve

I don't want to get wrapped around doctrinal definitions for the center of gravity, because there are many, and they all differ from the way Clausewitz described it. It is a concept that should be removed from our doctrine. However, there are many decisive points (and they don't have to be tied to a COG). A decisive point can be tangible or intangible, a person, thing, place, etc. that when acted upon gives one an advantageous over his adversary. They can also be viewed as opportunities and challenges. Since most wars are not linear, it would seem obvious there is no single center of gravity that if attacked will result in victory. Both sides will adapt, but that doesn't mean there are not important things we should focus on.

I think the grayzone DisruptEve described is a decisive point for both sides. It will shift of the balance of power decisively in some locations if either side can mobilize this grayzone to act. The potential rise of the far right in Europe and Trump's recent comments may push many in the grayzone into ISIL's camp. How we assess trends in the grayzone is important. What way are they leaning? Why?


Sun, 12/13/2015 - 5:19am

Here's as an echo to Captain Ian Bertram's article.
It was originally published on November 14, 2015, on the Disruptive Bazaar.



Some in the West call it “the silent majority”. The Islamic State refers to it as “the grayzone”. In both cases, they represent the center of gravity in the ongoing battle for hearts and minds.

One can sometimes hear the wish that “the silent [Muslim] majority” should voice its opinion. Plainely said, it means that it should come out of the woods and pick a side because the West is afraid that it might be, or turn into, a 5th column.

In the featured article "The extinction of the grayzone" in the issue #7 of the Islamic State’s magazine "Dabiq", there is a quote from "Shaykh Usāmah Ibn Lādin" who reportedly said that:

<blockquote>The world today is divided into two camps. Bush spoke the truth when he said, ‘Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists.’ Meaning, either you are with the crusade or you are with Islam (1)"</blockquote>

For the Islamic State, the grayzone went into three stages. The endangerment of the grayzone with 9/11, the withering of the grayzone which slowed or almost halted with the Arab Spring and the establishement of the Islamic State bringing the grayzone to the brink of permanent extinction. (2) Indeed, now that there is an Islamic State, true Muslims have no more excuses for standing on the sidelines.

Accordingly, the objectives of the Islamic State attacks such as yesterday’s seem to be twofold:

. Push Muslims out of the grayzone to pick a side in-between the only two possible camps while weeding out the hypocrites;
. Full aware of the existing tensions with the Muslim communities in Europe and the potential it represents; exacerbate these tensions and, in turn, lay a trap for the West.

Faced with atrocities such as yesterday’s, the West could very well be tempted to push the aforementioned silent majority to pick a side… thereby falling into the said trap. Admittedly, by leaving this “silent majority” be, the West takes the risk that some decide to choose the Islamic State in its stead.

However, this is nothing compared with the benefits the West will reap by letting them live their lives as they see fit, without being harassed or pushed into any decision as long as they respect our way of life. This is not to mention that this so-called “silent majority” is increasingly less silent.

In the end, this is what we are fighting for: freedom, theirs as much as ours. Robert A. Heinlein never had it more right when he said that: “You can have peace. Or you can have freedom. Don’t ever count on having both at once.” (3)

It is still a battle is for hearts and minds. It never ceased to be.


(1) Unknown author(s), ‘The extinction of the grayzone’, Daqib, no. 7,…

(2) Ibid, pp. 54-55.

(3) Heinlein, R. A., Time Enough for Love (1973).

Outlaw 09

Thu, 12/10/2015 - 7:49am

In reply to by Outlaw 09

Example of what I mean---in 2004 on the steps of the Green Dome in the middle of Baqubah, Diyala Zarqawi who had taken over the little paid attention Islamist group called QJBR or AQ in the Land of the Two Rivers called out in a similar fashion his Iraqi jihad much in the same fashion that al Baghdadi did when he called out his Caliphate.

No one paid attention to the man and if you were an intel type having to write reports the name QJBR was a royal pain to first write out and then shorten.

THEN under pressure from the then Bush administration in 2005 the military overnight changed the name to AQ in Iraq or AQI --but did Zarqawi actually ever really change the name---not until the 2008/2009 timeframe did the name formally change under Baghdadi.

NOW check the current name ISIL---not much difference to the AQ in the Land of Two Rivers is there?...hidden in the first name was in fact their true strategy--control everything along the Two Rivers AND notice the term Land of Two Rivers actually means both Syria and Iraq which matches nicely to the now stated Caliphate.

If you thoroughly read the Zarqawi Green Dome and Baghdadi Caliphate statements there is not much difference in them.

So in all our haste to "win" in COIN we lost a total of going on 12 years to undertake a counter movement focusing on info warfare and counter ideology.

So actually we are starting now after Paris from the first month of a 20 year battle and yet we had the two single points of failure in our face in 2004.

What a waste of time, lives and money and now we really do not have the necessary patience to ride this out for 20 or so years.

Americans are not so big on "tactical and strategic patience".

Outlaw 09

Wed, 12/09/2015 - 5:24pm

Actually to deal with the IS is rather simple and it focus's on two specific COGs formulated as single words--BUT no one and that includes the US is willing to invest the time and effort over a twenty year period to deal with IS.

The finger in this article was pointed clearly and correctly at the single word--ideology and the second single word infowarfare.

Everyone wants a quick let's end this but that is the problem---speed is not the answer----this is indeed a race of turtles.

In the race of turtles one wins sometimes and then the other wins sometimes---lives will be lost along the way but in the end the turtle with the staying power will win--we the US simply do not have the staying power as does most of the rest of the western world AND IS has learned that lesson only to well from Iraq.

Actually that is the summation of UW guerrilla warfare--staying power

Take the time and I mean time to reread all of their public statements and videos from first QRBJ to AQI days to now IS ---it is all there--they understand the concept of staying power--we simply do not.

Dave Maxwell

Wed, 12/09/2015 - 11:27am

We could just listen to Clausewitz. The ISIS phenomena could be considered originally as a form of national insurrection (and now an international insurrection) the public opinion could be considered the ideology.

"In a national insurrection the center of gravity to be destroyed lies in the person of the chief leader and in public opinion; against these points the blow must be directed." Clausewitz, 1833.The Encyclopedia of Nineteenth-century Land Warfare: An Illustrated World View By Byron Farwell, page 424.

Then again Clausewitz has this to say about the simplest thing:

Everything is very simple in war, but the simplest thing is very difficult. These difficulties accumulate and produce a friction which no man can imagine exactly who has not seen war.
- Carl von Clausewitz.

Of course we should never try to apply Clausewitz verbatim but instead use him to develop our critical thinking and analytic abilities.