Category Archives: Our Long War

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

Martin van Creveld warns us about Syria

Summary: Martin van Creveld is one of the top experts on modern war. That means non-trinitarian war, more commonly known as fourth generation war (4GW). Today he gives a typically brilliant briefing on the war in Syria, more similar to the Thirty Years War than anything in recent history. While a tiny and poor nation. Syria has become a focal point for the many conflicts twisting our world. We ignored his warnings about Iraq and Afghanistan. Let’s not do so a third time.

“What you understand well, you can explain briefly.”
— Paraphrase from “The Art of Poetry” by Nicolas Boileau (1674).

Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov

Russian carrier Admiral Kuznetsov in the English Channel on 21 Oct 2016.

We Shall Win This War, and Then We Shall Get Out.
By Martin van Creveld.
Re-posted with his generous permission.

No, this is not Vladimir Putin speaking. This is Winston Churchill, not long after returning to power in 1951. The context? The conflict in Malaysia, which at the time had been ongoing for three years with no end in sight. The immediate outcome? The war came to an end and the Brits left. The ultimate outcome? To this day, whenever anyone suggests that brushfire war, alias guerrilla, alias people’s war, alias low intensity war, alias nontrinitarian war, alias fourth-generation war (currently, thanks to my friend Bill Lind, the most popular term of all) is beyond the ability of modern state-owned armed forces to handle, someone else is bound to ask: but how about the British in Malaysia?

In response, let me suggest that, had Israel agreed to get out of the territories (I wish!) it could have “won” the struggle against Palestinian terrorism in twenty-four hours. But this is not what it pleases me to discuss today. It is, rather the situation in Putin’s own stamping ground, i.e. Syria.

The following is the story of the war, as far as I can make it out. It all started in May 2011 when terrorism against Assad dictatorial regime got under way. At first it was local, sporadic and uncoordinated. Later the opposition coalesced and assumed a more organized character; even so, by last count there are, or have been at one time or another, about ninety different groups fighting the regime. And even this mind-boggling number includes neither Hezbollah, nor Daesh, nor the various Kurdish militias, nor the so-called Baby Al Qaedas.

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Trump prepares for a strong military response to jihadists. We’ll win anyway.

Summary: Trump’s two key defense appointees, General Michael Flynn as National Security Advisor and General James Mattis, suggest Trump will intensify our war with jihadists. Obama did so, and only helped spread the jihadist struggle. Trump is unlikely to do better because this is primarily a cultural conflict — with America the overwhelming favorite to win. This is a repost from May 2015, about a lesson refused to learn.

“They hate our freedoms: our freedom of religion, our freedom of speech, our freedom to vote and assemble and disagree with each other.”
Speech by President Bush, 20 September 2001.

Crusade vs Jihad

We attack Islam with invincible weapons

The people of fundamentalist Islamic regimes suffer an unrelenting bombardment by a callous great power that casually and thoughtlessly destroys their society with high-tech weapons against which they have no defense. It attacks at a people’s most vulnerable point: their children, interrupting the delicate transfer of beliefs from one generation to another.

Radio, television, rock music, Hollywood blockbusters, video games, the internet — all bombard their children with images of affluence, of easy sex, of enjoyable booze and drugs, of freedom from patriarchal authority — showing them a more attractive way of life. We attack them like a high-tech Pied Piper.

Western culture acts as a virus, with the American strain its most virulent. A more accurate analogy is that our culture acts as a mass meme displacing weaker ones. In Silicon Valley they speak of “mindspace.” America exports our ways to fill the minds of the world’s people — crowding out their native culture. Martin van Creveld describes this as “colonizing the future.”

The vital centers of Middle Eastern Islamic culture — Egypt, Iraq, Iran, Syria — adapt, albeit slowly and painfully. But what of the more fragile and rigid societies? Such as Saudi Arabia (and the other Gulf States)? To survive in the 21st century their leadership class must understand western methods. So they send their young men to western schools, from which most return infected with western values. They hide their vices behind the walls of their wealth, with weekends in Paris and Bahrain. But their people nonetheless know. This undermines the Princes’ shallow authority and inevitably weakenes the Princes’ alliance with the Wahhabi ulema, the state’s foundation.

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Obama’s last gift to America: a global assassination program

Summary: One of Obama’s legacies is the normalization of assassination, despite its 8 years of failure. As a parting gift to America he expanded the powers and scope of our assassins. Bet on Trump to expand the program, both in the number of killings and the scale of its failure. We’re trying to set the world on fire. Perhaps we will succeed.

It’s America’s new logo!Team Assassin: the new American logo

The Left’s amnesia about their Nobel Peace Prize President

“The demagogue who promised to kill terrorists along with their families is moving his own family into the presidential palace.”

— David Runciman (Prof History, Cambridge) in “Is this how democracy ends?“, London Review of Books, 1 December 2016.

Professor Runciman’s amnesia is astonishing since as he write Obama was giving a last gift to America, expanding the power and scope of the assassination program. “Obama administration expands elite military unit’s powers to hunt foreign fighters globally“. “Obama Expands War With Al Qaeda to Include Shabab in Somalia“. After eight years of assassination the jihadist insurgency is stronger than when he was first elected. So the rules of our mad War on Terror require that America double down on failure.

How did we get here?

Following decades of direct and indirect assassinations programs by the US during the Cold War, political assassinations were banned by President Ford’s Executive Order 11905 on United States Foreign Intelligence Activities, 18 February 1976. Carter’s Executive Order 12036 forbids indirect U.S. involvement in assassinations. Reagan’s EO 12333 reiterated these prohibitions.

The “war on terror” slowly rolled these back. On 24 December 1998 President Clinton signed a Memorandum of Notification authorizing the CIA to assassinate Bin Laden (CIA officials lied to the 9/11 Commission about this). In the days after 9/11, President Bush Jr. signed a “Finding” authorizing the CIA to kill bin Laden.

Obama began authorizing assassinations soon after becoming President. These eventually became a formal kill list, known by the Orwellian term “disposition matrix.” The Most Transparent Administration Ever™ has kept the process shrouded in secrecy. We can guess at its logic by one detail they’ve revealed: all military-age males killed are considered combatants (the same logic that inflated “body counts” during the Vietnam War).

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Commemorate the 15th anniversary of 9/11 by understanding what followed

Summary: On 9-11 al Qaeda scored one of the biggest wins in history, as our response put America on a new path. We’ve helped set the Middle East aflame and given up important rights, with no end in sight to either. On this 15th anniversary of 9/11 let’s learn from our mistakes and begin the long process of reforming the damage we have done to America.

Osama Bin Laden

“We were attacked on 9/11 by a group of Saudis, Emiratis, and a Lebanese, led by an Egyptian. Which is why we’re at war in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen.”

From DuffelBlog, one of America’s few reliable source of insight.

How will future Americans see our time?

“He [VP Cheney] would have worked through the whole lot, Iraq, Syria, Iran, dealing with all their surrogates in the course of it – Hezbollah, Hamas, etc. In other words, he thought the whole world had to be made anew, and that after September 11, it had to be done by force and with urgency. So he was for hard, hard power. … We’re coming after you, so change or be changed.”

— UK PM Tony Blair in his memoir A Journey: My Political Life.

What will 23rd century 8th grade history textbooks say about our time, the era of the Boomers? Only time strips away the trivia, showing future generations the key events of the past. For example, the events at Runnymede on 15 June 1215 seemed of little import to that generation. On August 24 the Pope declared the Baron’s agreement with King John invalid, the next month King John repudiated it, and it was one of a series of such compacts. Yet Magna Carta remained influential, and lives to this day.

I suspect that many prominent events, such as the Vietnam War, will be forgotten. Some, like the moon landing, will get brief mention (noteworthy, but of no significance in history). Children will learn about those events proven to be inflection points. 9/11 will be prominently mentioned. It was the one of the most effective single military operation in the history of the world, and probably the most cost-effective military operation ever.

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The third wave of Jihad begins. We will soon see its power.

Summary: Jeremy Harding at the LRB looks at the next big step by jihadists, and the amazing oddity of the West’s response.

Islamic Jihad

 

Introduction

Modern jihad has gone through several phases, each stronger and more virulent than the predecessor. First came Afghanistan’s Mujahideen, who burned out in internecine conflict (defeated by the Tailiban). Al Qaeda came next, destroyed in the years after 9/11. Then came ISIS, now being destroyed after its premature shift to phase three insurgent operations (per Mao’s schema: holding territory and waging conventional warfare). Now jihad takes a new step, resuming phase two operations (terrorism) — but expanding their operations into Europe.

We can only guess at what form this will take, and what jihadists learned from their previous failures. Here Jeremy Harding explains this stage in jihad’s evolution, and the great oddity of the West’s response. Red emphasis added.

Third Wave Jihadism?

By Jeremy Harding. Excerpt from London Review of Books. 15 July 2016.
Posted with the author’s generous permission.

Gilles Kepel, a specialist on ‘Islam and the Arab world’, wrote last year in Terreur dans l’Hexagone – a study of French jihadism – that the Charlie Hebdo killings were ‘a sort of cultural 9/11’. The jihadism that we’re now confronted with, he argued, is a third wave phenomenon, superseding the mujahidin in Afghanistan (the first) and emerging in the long twilight of al-Qaida (the second).

“The latest wave is specifically targeted at Europe, with its significant Muslim population (about 20 million in EU countries): the approach is ‘horizontal’, favouring networks rather than cells; disruption, fear and division are the tactics; the radical awakening of European Muslims, many already disaffected and marginal, is the immediate objective. The murders at Charlie Hebdo’s offices and the kosher store in Paris brought the third wave ‘to a paroxysm’, in Kepel’s view, just as 9/11 brought the second ‘to its pinnacle’. At the time of writing, no one has laid claim to the atrocity in Nice: more than 80 dead, 50 hospitalised (‘between life and death’, in President Hollande’s words, earlier today).

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A new study explains why people join ISIS (with unexpected answers)

Summary: Insurgencies can’t be fought like conventional wars. Patton’s Third Army didn’t need to know what motivated the NAZIs. The nations of the Middle East cannot defeat ISIS without understanding it, while America’s ignorant efforts (invading, occupying, bombing, and assassinations) have helped destabilize the region. But academics have begun to provide answers, puzzling though they are. Here is one useful new paper.

ISIS spreading the word

Beheading of James Foley on 19 August 2014.

What Explains the Flow of Foreign Fighters to ISIS?

A paper by Efraim Benmelech (Prof Finance, Northwestern U)
and Esteban F. Klor (Prof of Economics, Hebrew U).
National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), April 2016.

Les Picker describes the paper in the June 16 NBER Digest.

“As of December 2015, approximately 30,000 fighters from at least 85 countries had joined the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Although the great majority of ISIS recruits come from the Middle East and the Arab world, there are also many from Western nations, including most member-states of the European Union, as well as the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. Thousands of fighters from Russia and hundreds from Indonesia and Tajikistan also have joined. ISIS’s recruitment of foreign fighters is a global phenomenon that provides the organization with the human capital needed to operate outside the Middle East.

“{The paper explores} how country characteristics are associated with ISIS recruit flows. They discover more about what does not motivate the foreign fighters than what does.

“They find that poor economic conditions do not drive participation in ISIS. Rather, the number of ISIS fighters from a given country is positively correlated with that country’s per capita gross domestic product and its place on the Human Development Index. Many foreign fighters originate from countries with high levels of economic development, low income inequality, and highly developed political institutions.

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Stratfor: What the Ramadan Attacks Reveal About ISIS

Summary: The fall of Fallujah and the Ramadan attacks mark a decisive retreat of the jihadist (led by ISIS) from Mao’s Phase 3 operations (holding areas) back to Phase 2 (attacks on the government, terrorism). Last week Stratfor looked at Fallujah; here is their analysis of the Ramadan attacks. Eventually it will get crushed as was al Qaeda, setting the stage for Jihad 3.0.

Stratfor

What the Ramadan Attacks Reveal About the Islamic State

Lead analyst:  Scott Stewart
Stratfor, 7 July 2016

Islamic State spokesman Abu Muhammed al-Adnani called on the group’s followers in late May to launch a spate of attacks during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Looking back on that month, which ran from June 5 to July 5, it is clear that his call was answered. This year’s Ramadan has been the bloodiest on record since the Islamic State declared its caliphate in June 2014.  {See info about the Ramadan Offensives in in 2003 and in 2006.

That is not to say that past Ramadans did not see their share of violence, too. In 2015, the holy month brought significant attacks against a tourist beach resort in Sousse, Tunisia, and against a military reserve center in Chattanooga, Tennessee. But this year’s carnage has far surpassed last year’s in both scope and body count, in spite of the Islamic State core’s notable losses of territory and fighters in Iraq and Syria.

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