The View From Olympus: Uncle Sam Orders the Usual

In America’s ill-conceived war with ISIS, Uncle Sam has ordered the usual, i.e. airstrikes. They are having the usual effects, which is to say they are working to ISIS’s net benefit.

In an article titled “Airstrikes Blunt ISIS, But Draw Civilian Ire,” the November 14 New York Times reported that random airstrikes not coupled to any ground campaign are succeeding at the physical level of war but failing at the mental and moral levels. The Times wrote that

American airstrikes on the Syrian city of Raqqa, the vaunted capital of the Islamic State’s self-proclaimed caliphate, have scattered its fighters and disrupted the harsh system they had imposed, residents and visitors there say. But they see no gratitude toward the United States.

Rather, they suggested in interviews, many people are angry at the Americans. Food and fuel prices in Raqqa have soared, power blackouts have prevailed, and order is now threatened by a vacuum of any authority.

The last point is the most significant in any 4GW situation. People’s first requirement is order, because without order you don’t have anything else. If  you do, anyone stronger than you can come and take it from you. And they will.

Syrian Sunnis foolishly thought they could destroy the ordered state maintained by the Assad government without falling into disorder. They were wrong. Now, they are desperate for order. ISIS brings order, so despite its many unattractive features, they welcome it. Harsh order is preferable to an absence of order.

The American bombing campaign, unsupported as it is by any credible force on the ground, only brings more disorder. That ramps up the locals’ support for ISIS, as of course does the Goliath Effect. In Syria, we could couple our air campaign with the Assad government. I suspect that if you could hold a referendum in Syria on the question, “Do you want to restore the situation in Syria to what it was before the rebellion against the Assad government begain?”, it would win overwhelmingly, including in Sunni regions. But Washington’s ideological blinders have ruled that single realistic option out. In fact, it appears the Obama Administration is edging closer to expanding its air campaign to target Assad. Nothing could more safely ensure continuing disorder in Syria and the loss of any chance of restoring a Syrian state.

The same issue of the New York Times reported that, in a hearing before the House Armed Services Committee, one that showed the complete muddle that is the Administration’s and the Pentagon’s thinking about our new war, General Martin E. Dempsey, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said he might recommend sending U.S. combat troops back to Iraq. He was simply acknowledging the inevitable result of our current policy, a policy established by President Obama’s idiotic promise to defeat and destroy” ISIS. More, if, or more likely when we do send in American combat troops, they will lose. As we have shown over and over again, our military does not know how to win Fourth Generation wars. In effect, the threat we utter against 4GW entities everywhere is, “If you piss us off enough, we will go to war against you and lose.” That’s some threat.

All of this points to the single most important fact about the Washington defense and foreign policy establishments: they cannot learn. All they are capable of doing is the same thing over and over again. That same thing always ends the same way, in an American defeat. No country can sustain so disastrous a course indefinitely. favicon