Category Archives: America’s Long War

Our longest war, fought for uncertain goals — with no visible end.

Martin van Creveld asks who will stop the Monster, the Islamic State?

Summary:  Today Martin van Creveld looks at the Islamic State. Are they ethnic militia unable to expand from their home zone, or a modern version of the Asiatic hordes? Who will stop them?  (1st of 2 posts today.}

Not how they see the Islamic State

 

The Monster

By Martin van Creveld
From his website, 13 August 2014

Here with his generous permission

The monster — the Sunni militias which, equipped by the Saudis with the active backing of the U.S, have been waging civil war in Syria for over three years — has risen against its benefactors. Unable to make headway against Syrian dictator Basher Assad, they have turned to the much softer target that once constituted Iraq but is now, thanks to George Bush Jr, no more than an awful mess. Doing so, they shed any “secular” and “liberal” character they may once had possessed. Instead they revealed their true colors as murderous bandits who wage war with a ferocity rare even among Arabs.

Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city and home to one of the world’s most important oil fields, has already fallen to them. As resistance seems to be crumbling, the capital, Baghdad, may well be next in line. Should that happen then the way to Basra and the Gulf countries in the south will be open. The outcome could well be another Afghanistan threatening to export terrorism, and perhaps more than just terrorism, both to the Gulf States in the south and to Jordan in the west — not to mention what may happen to the world’s economy should one of its main oil-exporting countries be knocked out.

And the West? Following more than a decade of warfare in Afghanistan and Iraq, its armed forces are exhausted and urgently in need of recuperation. Many of them have also been made the subject of endless cuts. As a result, their strength has been reduced to a fraction of what it used to be even as recently as the early 2000s. For some of them, the American ones in particular, new threats are looming in other parts of the world such as Southeast Asia. Perhaps most important of all, the politicians responsible for the wars in question have been largely discredited. Their successors, with President Barak Obama at their head, may engage in loose talk about the need to use force, as German President Joachim Gauk recently did. However, as President Obama has said, they will not spend any considerable resources to intervene in the ongoing struggle.

Nor, in truth, is there any reason to believe that, if Obama did respond to Iraqi Government pleas and did spend such resources, the outcome would be at all satisfactory.

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Prepare for terror on the 4th of July!

Summary: Another holiday, another rumor of a terrorist attack. Here we examine today’s alarm, show why it’s probably baseless, and discuss the purpose these fear attacks serve.  It’s a fit subject for the 4th of July weekend, a time for us to compare the Founders’ hopes vs. what we’ve become.  {2nd of 2 posts today.}

“He who has overcome his fears will truly be free.”
— Attributed to Aristotle.

No Fear

The partnership of al Qaeda and America’s Deep State has reshaped our society in ways we don’t fully understand and cannot clearly see — but has made us more fearful, perhaps cowardly. Since 9/11 we have had these holiday warnings (fortunately they’re getting less frequent, and getting less attention).

Meteorologist Anthony Watts runs Watts up with That, one of the largest climate websites (by audience) in the world. Today he posted “About the Fourth of July and ISIS – from a friend who is a police officer, and a ‘spook’“, opening with this from Jeff Greeson’s Facebook page (I can’t find it):

To everyone that reads my wall, ESPECIALLY in big cities: The freakout over the 4th of July is real. I get intelligence that you don’t get, and the FBI is serious this time. Go out and be an American, but keep a charged cellphone with you, and don’t let fear of being called a racist stop you from calling [in] something in that is suspicious. And for the sake of all that’s holy, if something makes your Spidey sense tingle, GET YOUR FAMILY AWAY FROM IT.

He points to this by pseudonymous “Nate Hale”, allegedly a “retired military intelligence officer” who posted a scary note at In From the Cold

Two days ago, former Deputy CIA Director Michael Morrell said there was “nothing routine” about warnings of possible ISIS attacks in the CONUS during the 4th of July weekend. At the time, we noted it was quite unusual for a former intelligence official to be so blunt in his assessment.  Mr. Morrell (who made the observation on CBS This Morning) went on to say that he “wouldn’t be surprised if we’re sitting her a week from today talking about an ISIS attack in the United States over the [July 4th] weekend.”

Now, we’re beginning to see why Morrell offered such a dire prediction.  Shepard Smith of Fox News reported last night the FBI is establishing special command centers in 56 cities around the country, to prepare for possible terrorist attacks during the holiday period.

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Why is America militarizing, becoming a 21stC Prussia?

Summary: Like fish in water, we cannot easily see the trends shaping our world. Such as the militarization of America, both foreign and domestic. We’re becoming in some ways like Prussia, sad since Prussia/Germany proved that the time for such behavior has passed. It’s not too late for us to take the reins of the nation and change course.  This is a sequel to Why are we militarizing American society?   {2nd of 2 posts today.}

“Know thyself.” — Carved into Apollo’s Oracle of Delphi.

Know Thyself

After so many years of US wars in so many nations — mostly against purely local insurgencies — a question arises that requires an answer. It’s frequently asked by our most perceptive geopolitical analysts.

  1. Is America Addicted to War?” by Stephen M. Walt (Prof International Relations, Harvard), Foreign Policy, 4 April 2011 — “The top 5 reasons why we keep getting into foolish fights.”
  2. Is America Addicted to War?” by Paul Solman (journalist), PBS, 28 November 2011
  3. America: Addicted to War, Afraid of Peace” by Gregory A. Daddis (Colonel, US Army; Professor History at West Point), The National Interest, 11 June 2015 — “After decades of being at war, the United States has come to the point where it can’t live without it.”
  4. “Hi, I’m Uncle Sam and I’m a War-oholic” by William Astore (Lt. Colonel, USAF, retired) at TomDispatch, 15 June 2015.

It’s not just our fighting overseas — more frequent than by anyone else since WWII — or our massive military/intel spending (a multiple of the spending by all our potential enemies combined), but the way America conducts its affairs. Looking at this Franz-Stefan Gady (foreign policy analyst, East West Institute) asks “Is the United States the new Prussia?” at the Small Wars Journal.

In few other democratic countries in the world have more generals found places in administrations or indeed have become heads of states (one notable exception is Israel). Almost every four-star general in the United States sooner or later is presumed to have presidential aspirations. Interestingly, it is the presidents who were former generals who usually display the least confidence in the performance of the armed service, such as George Washington, Grant, and Dwight D. Eisenhower. The military influence can be seen acutely in foreign policy. A report by the Advisory Committee on Transformational Diplomacy states…

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Stratfor: The Islamic State’s Pretense of Strength in Yemen

Summary:  Today Stratfor provides another bulletin the front (one of the many fronts) in our mad global war on groups we don’t like (excerpt when they’re allies, or we accidentally put them into power).   {2nd of 2 posts today.}

Stratfor

The Islamic State’s Pretense of Strength in Yemen

Stratfor, 18 June 2015

The Islamic State launched multiple suicide bombings in Sanaa aimed at Houthi rebels’ political headquarters and two mosques June 17, the eve of Ramadan. According to the Yemeni Health Ministry, the attacks killed at least four people and wounded at least 50 more.

It was the Islamic State’s fourth attack against mosques in Sanaa. The first and most deadly occurred March 20, when suicide bombers killed over 140 people in the bombing of two mosques during midday Friday prayers. Because al Qaeda has eschewed assaults on places of worship, the attack was unexpected and Islamic State suicide bombers were able to easily sneak into the mosques.

In response to the March attacks, authorities increased security at religious buildings, making it more difficult for militants to carry bombs or weapons into places of worship. To evade security, the Islamic State has adjusted its tactics and started planning more complex attacks. On May 22, the group sent a suicide bomber into a mosque with explosives hidden inside his sandals. Once detonated, the bomb resulted in 13 injuries but no deaths because of the small amount of explosives. Security officers at a mosque thwarted another would-be bombing on May 29 when they detained another Islamic State suicide bomber with explosives in his shoes.

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Madness walks the streets of America. We can defeat it.

Summary: The front pages of major American newspaper these days read like the community newsletter for a high-class asylum, written by and for educated but mentally dysfunctional people. Those of the far Right read like the Arkham Asylum newsletter, written for and by brilliant but deranged people. While a natural reaction, it’s wrong. They prey upon our fears because it works, and generates cash for their patrons.  Understanding that is the first step to reform. This post gives two unusually clear examples.   {2nd of 2 posts today}

No Fear

Contents

  1. ISIS: a threat as big as the NAZIs!
  2. We must risk a nuclear war!
  3. For More Information.

(1)  The Islamic State poses a threat as serious as NAZI Germany

To our warmongers it’s always 1939. Threats are always like NAZI Germany. Negotiation always risks a repeat of Munich. Why don’t we laugh at the work of these people — such as “The Evil of our time” by Frederick W. Kagan at the American Enterprise Institute, 10 June 2015 — Excerpt…

The Islamic State (ISIS) is not a terrorist organization. It is an army of conquest destroying all traces of civilization in the lands that it holds. It has taken root in Iraq and Syria, but its evil threatens the whole world. The US must find an answer.

The greatest evil of our time has taken root in Iraq and Syria. … Comparing ISIS to the early Nazis is not hyperbole. … The threat of ISIS is more complex and insidious than that of Nazism.

… It is causing a humanitarian catastrophe on a scale not seen since World War II.

… There is no easy answer to the question: “What should we do?” But we must find the hard answer soon and gird ourselves for the pain and effort it will require. If not us, who? If not here, where? If not now, when?

Political rhetoric masquerading as analysis is the tool of choice for modern warmongers, and it has worked well. After 15 years of almost uniformly bad advice, the Kagan clan still has a prominent role in American geopolitics — a remarkable demonstration of our inability to learn from experience.

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Stratfor asks Why al Qaeda survives the assassination of its leaders?

Summary: Stratfor gives an answer to an oddity of US geopolitical strategy. We have killed so many enemy leaders, yet the flames of fundamentalist Islam continue to spread. See the links at the end for other explanations. But the answers matter not, as our foreign wars run beyond beyond logic — and beyond our control.  {2nd of 2 posts today.}

Stratfor

Why Ideologies Outlive Ideologues

By Scott Stewart at Stratfor, 18 June 2015

“Killing ideologies is harder than killing people.” Last week I made this statement when I was writing about how the al Qaeda form — or brand — of jihadism should not be written off as dead. It is quite possible that the al Qaeda brand of jihadism could even outlast that of its competitor for jihadist hearts and minds: the Islamic State.

The following points are among the several I made to support this argument: Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has been able to gain considerable strength in Yemen’s current chaos, and high-profile Sahel-based jihadist Mokhtar Belmokhtar recently denied that he had sworn loyalty to the Islamic State.

However, these particular considerations seemed to dissolve this week when Libyan government officials announced that Belmokhtar had been killed by a U.S. airstrike June 14 and when Yemeni sources noted that the leader of AQAP, Nasir al-Wahayshi, had been killed by a U.S. airstrike June 9.

The death of Belmokhtar has not been confirmed. Jihadists associated with the Libyan militant group Ansar al-Sharia, which was reportedly involved in the attack on a U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi in 2012, provided a list of those killed in the airstrike in Libya that did not include Belmokhtar. It appears that Belmokhtar may once again have escaped an attack that was reported to have taken his life.

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Are we at war with ISIS? Does it make a difference what you call it?

Summary:  Today Chet Richards (Colonel, USAF, retired) looks at our conflict with the Islamic State. What kind of conflict is this? What is the nature of our foe? Victory becomes a matter of luck without answers to these questions.  {2nd of 2 posts today}.

What's in a name?


Does it make any difference what you call it? Yes, because what you call it affects how you think about it. Here’s just one example, from John Basil Utley’ “12 Reasons America Doesn’t Win Its Wars” in The American Conservative: “During wartime who dares question almost any Pentagon cost ‘to defend America’?”

Sun Tzu suggested, in the opening lines of The Art of War, that “War is a matter of vital importance to the state, the province of life or death; the road to survival or ruin.” (Griffith trans., p. 63.)

It follows, then, that if what you’re looking at isn’t a matter of survival of the state, it isn’t war. Can you, with a straight face, claim that the United States is engaged with an existential enemy outside of its own borders? 

So if it isn’t war, how should we deal with it? Well, let’s look at what one of our opponents is doing (one can have “opponents” in many fields other than war). The title of this article from today’s New York Times pretty much tells the story: “Offering Services, ISIS Ensconces Itself in Seized Territories.”

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