Fighting in Iraq and its lessons

Despite Iraqi Army having the most modern US equipment as well as large numerical advantage, it has performed badly against Islamist fighters of ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Levant, also called ISIL). Before going into how and why, a little history is needed.

ISIS has first appeared on scene after the US invasion of Iraqi in 2003. It was taking actions to broaden the scope of Sunni-Shiite civil war in Iraq by targeting Shiites, and it has been trying to take over Shiite territory for far longer. Since US troops withdrew in 2011, ISIS has focused its attack on government targets.

ISIS itself has been greatly helped by US neoliberal policies established after 2003 – a process of “de-Baathification”, which essentially disbanded the Iraqi military while not providing any new jobs for dismissed soldiers, as well as dismantling the social state present while providing nothing in exchange. These soldiers – who were now out of job and angry at the new regime – formed the core of the initial insurgency, and now form the core of ISIS. Al Quaeda, which arrived in Iraq after the US overthrew Saddam’s regime in 2003 (radical groups were not present in Iraq before US invasion), was disbanded after Sunni populace turned against it in 2006-2008. But Maliki government’s sectarian policies infuriated Sunnis and helped ISIS’ formation. In 2011 ISIS successfully freed a number of prisoners held by the Iraqi government, and on February 3rd, 2014, Al-Quaeda has renounced ISIS as “too extreme” after ISIS disobeyed a direct order from Al-Quaeda leader to reduce a number of civillian casualties.

Large amount of funding for ISIS has been coming – at least until relatively recently – from Saudi Arabia, a US ally. United States have also provided a large number of weapons to rebels fighting Syrian governmental forces; most of these weapons have found their way into hands of ISIS fighters, as ISIS was (and is) the largest and most competent group opposing Al Assad.

ISIS’ advance across Iraq and Syria has been extraordinarily fast. This despite the fact that it does not posses much in terms of military hardware, and is heavily outnumbered by its opponents (Iraqi Army has 1 million men, compared to ISIS having 100.000 at most – and possibly far less, maybe as little as 20.000 – in both Iraq and Sirya). In comparision, United States have spent 25 billion USD on training and equipping the Iraqi military. So far, however, ISIS has mostly managed to take over areas in north of Iraq, where Sunnis are a majority. These maps clearly show the situation. ISIS also only acquired some heavy weaponry recently, when Iraqi military abandoned a number of tanks and helicopters while escaping Mosul.

ISIS is actually using maneuver warfare, thus acchieving far greater effective presence than simple numerical comparision would indicate, as following quote shows: “They’re like ghosts: they appear, strike and disappear in seconds.”. Its opponents however seem to be primarly relying on World War I style static warfare. It also has secure rear areas in Sirya and Iraq, one of the most important factors in determining success of any insurgency. Iraqi government is doing nothing to adress these issues, instead concentrating elite units around Baghdad.

This is a repeat of Coalition war against Iraq in 2003 – poorly motivated Iraqi military units massively surrendered to Coalition military, and in some cases to journalists. Others tried to run, and only very few were willing to fight. Those that did fight were utterly outmatched, and not because of the technological disparity. Leadership was also incompetent, and most Iraqi units never even engaged the Coalition forces as excessive centralization meant that orders never reached them in time, or weren’t given. Between June 10 and June 13, 2014, at least, ISIS advanced as quickly against Iraqi government forces as US military did against Saddam’s forces in 2003 invasion, capturing two towns north of Baghdad on June 13. (This is also a deathknell to any claims that it was US hardware superiority that decided the success and outcome of 2003 invasion).

Core reasons that were responsible for Coalition’s success against Iraqi military are also responsible for ISIS’ success against the same: ISIS’ fighters are motivated to fight, while Iraqi military is, as always, low on morale – nothing more than a shiny rabble. In fact, it is possible that Iraqi military (or some of its elements) might even be cutting deals with ISIS. Mosul fell quickly because Iraqi Army units defending it surrendered. Four generals were sacked for dereliction of duty; however, in a properly motivated and trained military, most weight is at low-level commanders, meaning that they can continue to fight even if top brass is completely eliminated. In the end, two Iraqi divisions – numbering 30.000 troops – were defeated by 800 Islamic fighters. They didn’t fight, but simply turned tail and ran, leaving all equipment to militants. At the same time, Kurdish Peshmerga fighters have been relatively successful in fighting the ISIS, despite not being nearly as well equipped as the Iraqi military.

Aside from structural weakness of Iraqi state itself, poor motivation of the Iraqi military and ISIS’ own motivation, there are other reasons for ISIS’ success. ISIS seems to be following Mainstein, Guderian and Boyd in their approach to war. It approaches war primarily on the moral level, with strategic/tactical level of war being based around the maneuver warfare. As this post shows, ISIS uses local numerical advantage to punch through the defense lines, then spread across the rear areas and wreak havoc.

Main ISIS’ advantage however is most likely social instead of military or organizational. It is an (until recently relatively small) group with strong social feeling, which contrasts with its opponents who tend to be more individualized. Iraq in particular is highly fractured with no national feeling. Shia and Kurdish militias, with their far stronger sense of purpose and national identity, fare better against ISIS than Iraqi state military, which is regularly defeated by ISIS.

Should NATO put boots on the ground in Iraq in order to fight ISIS? Yes and no. While wars cannot be won without having boots on the ground, and strategic bombardment actually has little to no strategic benefit, rushing in would be counterproductive – any civilian casualties would serve to bolster ISIS, and ISIS could claim that it is fighting a Jihad against Western Crusaders. Only effect that air strikes carried out by NATO so far had was an increase in ISIS recruitment rate, but NATO countries should also not take over fighting; main responsibility should be placed on the legitimate Iraqi government and Kurds, with NATO only taking up a support role (logistic, advisory and training role). United States lost the war in Vietnam the moment US regular troops were sent there – presence of foreign troops definetly did not endear Saigon regime to the populace. In Spain, Spanish peasantry raised against French rule – not because it was opressive (in fact, it gave peasants land and freedoms they never had before), but because it was not Spanish.

ISIS understands all that, and seems to want to draw West into the ground conflict. To that end, it is carrying out executions of Western journalists and reporters. Reason for that is that ISIS can draw on tribal allegiances, as well as a fear of West, to bolster their ranks. Directly fighting a number of great powers (plus possibly the only world’s superpower) can also serve to bolster ISIS ranks by showing it as a credible threat. Such an effect is already happening (albeit on a far smaller scale) with ISIS successfuly capturing a number of Iraq’s cities, which in turn brings in money, hardware and manpower.

That being said, Iraqi military clearly needs help, so Western militaries could provide training, intelligence, engineering and logistics support, plus possibly limited combat role (special ops). But only US interest seems to be in defending the Kurdistan region, where US oil firms – Exxon Mobil, Chevron etc. – have major investments. Same help should be provided to the Kurdish Peshmerga as well as Syrian regular army – while too strong to be defeated by insurgents, Syrian army is also too weak to defeat them. But Assad won’t yield, and is far better option than ISIS is. Peshmerga are an effective fighting force, and Saddam had to negotiate with them, while Iraqi regular army might become an effective fighting force with some time and patience.

However, ISIS will, in the end, destroy itself. As a number of atrocities it performs increases, and accounts of disillusioned fighters get out, it will loose legitimity – first signs are already appearing, as large number of Sunni civilians are leaving ISIS-controlled areas. But what will happen until then? It is impossible to tell. Napoleon’s maxim should be always kept in mind: moral is to physical as three is to one. In order for ISIS to be destroyed, it has to loose any and all moral superiority it might claim – and neither military intervention or air strikes help with that.

US and West in general should establish a clear goal and focus on it. As bad as Assad is, any notion of removing him from power should be forgotten as long as ISIS is active, else someone even worse may come in his place – and that “someone” is likely to be ISIS.

Further reading

http://slightlyeastofnew.com/2014/06/21/iraqi-bitzkrieg/

http://slightlyeastofnew.com/2014/08/08/tactics-of-the-islamic-state/

http://slightlyeastofnew.com/2014/06/24/is-blitzkrieg-enough/

http://www.bloombergview.com/quicktake/iraqs-brittle-nationhood

http://www.juancole.com/2014/06/promises-modern-history.html

http://rt.com/op-edge/168344-us-absolve-isis-rise/

http://rt.com/op-edge/182104-western-intervention-iraq-divide/

http://rt.com/op-edge/187592-obama-isis-perpetual-war/

http://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/how-to-not-lose-to-isis/

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38 thoughts on “Fighting in Iraq and its lessons

  1. What a continual cascade of bad decision making… Would be interesting to know more about the decision to de-Baath Iraqi – that single event would seem have led to all kinds of negative consequences, many of which ought to have be been predictable. I have heard Powell’s chief of staff, Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, say that when that decision was announced, State was shocked, as their understanding had been that this was not going to happen just shortly prior to it’s announcement. Wilkerson speculated that Bremer must have somehow gotten to the President otuside of the normal chains of command and convinced him that de-Baathification was what they needed to do. I wonder what is the real story on that decision and if anything’s been written on it?

    • “Would be interesting to know more about the decision to de-Baath Iraqi”

      IIRC, it is discussed in more detail in Naomi Klein’s “Shock Doctrine”.

      “many of which ought to have be been predictable.”

      They were predictable, but decision makers, guided by neoliberal ideals of low greed, did not care enough to even try to predict long-term consequences of their actions.

  2. Perhaps the greatest flaw of the US right now is that it has lost all capacity for self-correction.

    The US government seems willfully ignorant. It is determined to ignore the hard earned lessons of history, and to repeat the mistakes of past generations. It’s not just war, defense spending, etc. It’s in social policy, public spending, and a whole lot of other matters. As far as what happens? Well the statistics are pretty grim. Compare the US to Western Europe in terms of things like poverty, healthcare, etc, and you’ll know.

    This war against ISIS is no different. It’s something that the US is determined to ignore the mistakes of the past on. It’s also I suppose an opportunity for the MICC to make more money.

    • “It’s also I suppose an opportunity for the MICC to make more money.”

      That. US are not ignoring past lessons for nothing, but because it is profitable for corporations. United States right now are merely a bunch of corporations with puppet state added.

      • That is true of many governments if you think about it. Plutocracies at heart, pretending to be democracies.

        ISIS, although tactically brilliant, doesn’t really have a long-term solution for the fact that as you and Chet have noted, the majority of their supporters are relatively secular (by Arabic standards anyways), who only supported them because of the injustices of the Shi’a and their actions. In that regard, they’ve neglected the strategic sphere.

        Even if they could defeat ISIS, a similar group would quickly emerge. The issue right now is poverty, social misery, and the corruption of the Iraqi government. Most of the blame can be traced back to the US and the invasion of Iraq. I suppose this is a form of Blowback.

        Interesting article:
        http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/oct/05/isis-islamic-state-bombing

        I like the Guardian for that reason – you get articles that others in the mainstream are unwilling to publish.

        • “Even if they could defeat ISIS, a similar group would quickly emerge. The issue right now is poverty, social misery, and the corruption of the Iraqi government. Most of the blame can be traced back to the US and the invasion of Iraq. I suppose this is a form of Blowback. ”

          Indeed. US simply don’t get the fact that insurgency and terrorism are, at their heart, social and not military problems.

      • You have to surely consider that much of what is done is purposeful. There are many opportunities that come out of chaos. It also makes a nation easier to manipulate and control at the levels that matter.

        The key is as you said. The US is under the control of corporations and their combined special interests.

        The costs are paid by the citizens of Iraq and the US. We pay higher taxes to support operations and thousands of young Americans have died or been crippled for life. The gains go to the rulers (thats the real corporate rulers).

        As they seem to think, its all a reasonable price to pay for billions in corporate profits.

        So sad!

        • Indeed. And EU is no better, it is only slightly “late to the party” compared to US. Russia might be in similar crap too (oil mogules etc.).

        • Russia might be other way around. Putin looks to be in total control there. Regardless none of us have a democracy. Its either a dictator or a few rich and powerful that buy, get elected, and control the politicians and therefore the laws.

          All lack true free press as well. In US most of press is controlled by handful of moguls and even the smaller press outlets can and probably are controlled by the ruling classes power and money.

          Not to mention that in the US, the government owned (and therefore owned by the ones who control the politicians) NSA can keep track of all our movements, associations, financials, and even what we post online.

          If you get in their way they can discredit you, vilify you, and simply plant things in your record. Or they can ignore you and not allow the press to pay you attention so everyone will forget who you are, or never know you.

          Most Americans still think we live in a democracy. All these wars to supposedly protect our freedom and it has been taken from within by cunning and deception. By the same people who send us to war.

        • Yep its all happening.

          The number of people becoming aware is growing. If it keeps growing they will have to figure out a way to either deflect the attention, hide it better, or create enough confusion & ambiguity around the subject that people start fading it out as background noise.

          Its like they did with UFO sightings. Make it seem like only people coming out on subject are a bunch of dim witted hillbillies, or other weirdos. Then, no one wants to associate with topic. And, throw out enough bogus BS into the fray that people start getting tired of BS and start ignoring subject altogether.

          Soon people like you and I will likely be painted as a bunch of delusional conspiracy theorists.

  3. IF Assad was not toppled before ISIS…..I guarantee that ISIS would never disappear ….ISIS is the reaction of the Sunni oppression in Iraq and Syria ..unless the majority of the Syrians who are Sunni ruled Syria …..Syria will never be stabilized country ..you cannot defeat ISIS as the US already knew in 2010 unless you pleased the Majority of the Sunni in Syria …..key fact …85 % of the Syrians are Sunni ….

    • Problem in both Iraq and Syria was that regardless of wether Sunni or Shiites were ones ruling, they invariably opressed other sect. So there are two possibilities that I see:
      1) a representative democracy but with large amount of independence on local level which would allow people to rule themselves with minimum interference from central government, thus preventing any possible governmental bias from creating friction
      2) redrawing of borders, thus dividing Shiites and Sunnis into separate states

      • The problem with redrawing the borders is that some areas are “mixed”. Who gets the mixed areas?

        The other is who gets the oil rich regions? There’d have to be some sort of sharing agreement and that would be very contentious. A lot of the fighting centers around that oil.

        Finally the Kurds want independence, something both Turkey and Iran object.

        There’s no easy solutions to this mess I’m afraid. It’s one of the dark legacies of the European colonial era and since then, corporate imperial interventions. The irony is that in the case of ISIS, this could have been avoided had they never invaded in the first place in 2003 under the false pretext that Saddam had WMDs.

        • “The irony is that in the case of ISIS, this could have been avoided had they never invaded in the first place in 2003 under the false pretext that Saddam had WMDs.”

          Indeed. But whenever West intervened militarily in order to make a situation somewhere better, it became worse. Even limited intervention in Iraq and Sirya so far had already bolstered ISIS.

        • “But whenever West intervened militarily in order to make a situation somewhere better, it became worse. ”

          One would think that based on extensive evidence of the above, this would push rational decision makers closer toward some sort of conservative principal in their actions but, sadly, this does not seem to be the case.

        • Your statement assumes that Western decision makers care about such things. But keep in mind – war is profitable, to some people at least, and these same people tend to have enough money to push decision makers into making decisions said people want.

  4. “One would think that based on extensive evidence of the above, this would push rational decision makers closer toward some sort of conservative principal in their actions but, sadly, this does not seem to be the case.”

    Several issues:

    1. The US appears to have totally lost the capacity for self-correction. It willfully ignores the mistakes of past wars.

    2. There’s also the special interests. They are fighting to make the MICC rich.

    3. Th ideologues are in power. What conforms to their ideology goes. What doesn’t is ignored.

    • Considering that ISIS would not have exited unless the US invaded Iraq in 2003, it would kill a lot of the victims of the situation.

      That and the morality of using nukes – it would lead to a further loss of American image and likely set things in motion for the end for the NPT.

  5. There is so much wrong here, it’s hard to know where to start.

    1) Strategic bombing has not made wars harder to win. It has made them easier by destroying enemy assets and forcing the enemy to replace them, thus attriting them. Without strategic bombing, Japan wouldn’t have surrendered in WW2 and the Allied and Soviet invasions of Europe would’ve been impossible. Strategic bombing doesn’t win wars by itself – but it’s of enormous aid.

    2) The idea that ISIS can be won without US troops on the ground is a fantasy. The Syrian Army is losing to them, the Iraqi Army has broken ranks and fled, and the Kurds are now desperately fighting for their very lives.

    You need to stop reading garbage leftist sites such as RT.com, TAC, and POGO’s idiotic website, and start reading truly credible websites, such as nationalreview.com, allenwest.com, or http://www.ausairpower.net.

    • “It has made them easier by destroying enemy assets and forcing the enemy to replace them, thus attriting them.”

      To use WWII for example, each US strategic bombing sortie did cause a drop in German production. But that drop only lasted a short time (few weeks), after which production was back to normal. Not much attrition there. In both Gulf Wars and Balkans, strategic bombing had no impact.

      BTW, I do not count SEAD, DEAD and battlefield interdiction, all of which are genuinely useful missions, as strategic bombing.

      “Without strategic bombing, Japan wouldn’t have surrendered in WW2”

      Actually, Japan was ready to surrender after Midway, but US required terms that Japan couldn’t accept. It wasn’t until a) US relaxed terms (in particular, Hirohito was not forced to abdicate) and b) USSR invaded Manchuria, that Japan surrendered – and even then, it was an even vote in the cabinet, with Hirohito casting the decisive vote.

      “and the Allied and Soviet invasions of Europe would’ve been impossible.”

      It would have been impossible without:
      a) unoccupied Britain
      b) effective supression of U-boats
      c) US industrial power
      d) Pete Quesada’s P-47s

      Strategic bombing had nothing to do with it. None of the tasks set to strategic bombers – wether strategic or tactical in nature – were successfully completed.

      “Strategic bombing doesn’t win wars by itself – but it’s of enormous aid.”

      That depends. Success of strategic bombing depends on identification of crucial nodes. As competent opponent will not leave such nodes vulnerable, and will not have many of them, it is a rather iffy proposition. Air interdiction and close air support by P-47s in WWII and A-10s in Gulf wars had far greater strategic effect than strategic bombing did in either war. Ultimately, strategic bombers tended to be retasked with inderdiction in both wars.

      “2) The idea that ISIS can be won without US troops on the ground is a fantasy.”

      Having US troops on the ground will not have any lasting impact unless both Syrian and Iraqi military (and politicians!) use that reprieve to get their shit together.

      It is entirely possible that you are correct… if you are, however, then it is a war that cannot be won, period.

      “the Iraqi Army has broken ranks and fled,”

      That is all they ever did. In Iraq-Iran war, they got defeated by a predominantly light-infantry army with little in terms of mechanization.

      Reason? Neither Saddam’s regime, or current government, commanded any loyalty from the people.

      “You need to stop reading garbage leftist sites such as RT.com, TAC, and POGO’s idiotic website, and start reading truly credible websites, such as nationalreview.com, allenwest.com, or http://www.ausairpower.net.”

      It’s not leftist garbage, you clearly don’t understand importance of psychology in warfare. If Western troops are sent to the Middle East, it is likely – almost certain – that they will be seen as occupiers, especially after US went to Iraq and acted like an elephant in a glass shop. If that happens, it will lead to increase in support for ISIS, which means that situation will be even worse.

      ISIS wasn’t a threat, *at all*, until US went to Iraq. ISIS’ existence and popularity is a direct consequence of US presence in Iraq in 2003-2010, yet you believe that more of the same can solve the problem?

      http://online.wsj.com/articles/SB1029371773228069195
      “An attack on Iraq at this time would seriously jeopardize, if not destroy, the global counterterrorist campaign we have undertaken.”
      “and could even swell the ranks of the terrorists. ”
      – which is precisely what happened

      If Iraqi government asks for a direct military help, then it might work. It is not certain, however, and it is not a permanent solution.

      And ausairpower credible? I wouldn’t be so sure. In one article, they simply assume 70% Pk for WVR missiles against modern fighters without checking why such Pk was achieved in Falklands war.

      • Air Power Australia is far, far credible than any website you’ve cited here. It is run by people who actually know what they’re talking about, including retired military pilots, unlike the ignorant self-appointed “experts” at POGO and the CDI who have never even served a day on active duty.

        They assume an around 70% Pk for IR WVR missiles for contemporary, not historical, reasons. IR-guided WVR missiles are capable of sustaining even 20 Gs, and being heat-seeking missiles cannot be fooled by chaff or other decoys. The only thing that can fool them is flares or incendiary rounds. Within the range of these missiles, the hottest aircraft loses.

        As for Iraq – the US military may be seen as occupiers… by those who support the Islamists anyway. But it would likely not be seen that way by those whose very survival is now threatened by ISIS. And in any case, ONLY US ground troops can beat ISIS. The Kurds and the Syrian Army have proven themselves completely unable to do so. Sending US ground troops there isn’t a “great” option – it’s simply the least bad of the options on the table. The West has already tried everything else and it has failed.

        As for the surrender of Japan, it was produced by strategic nuclear bombing of that country, not the USSR’s very late (and irrelevant) entry into the war – contrary to one of your heroes’ desperate insistence on the contrary.

        As for Europe, without strategic bombing, none of your precious

        “a) unoccupied Britain
        b) effective supression of U-boats
        c) US industrial power
        d) Pete Quesada’s P-47s”

        would have mattered one iota if Germany and German-occupied Europe had been left free from Allied and Soviet bombing. Without that bombing, Germany would’ve had a lot more war material and weapons at its disposal, would’ve successfully repelled the Normandy invasion, and its development and production of jet fighters, Elektroboote, and nuclear weapons would’ve proceeded much faster without strategic Allied bombing.

        In Vietnam, the US could’ve won easily by bombing the DRV to hell (or simply bombing the Red River dykes and thus flooding the country) – which was what the North Viets feared most. Once it became clear to them that the US would not do so, they proceeded with their war of aggression with impunity.

      • “Air Power Australia is far, far credible than any website you’ve cited here. It is run by people who actually know what they’re talking about, including retired military pilots, unlike the ignorant self-appointed “experts” at POGO and the CDI who have never even served a day on active duty.”

        APA has some good articles but I have found crap articles as well, and they have a very clear agenda. More than a few articles I have found there are crap, or have parts that are utter crap; for example:
        http://www.ausairpower.net/APA-NOTAM-270109-1.html

        Overview of kill chain is OK, but conclusions are bullshit. They assume 74% Pk for WVR IR missiles and 17% Pk for RF BVR missiles; former they state is “confirmed” by IR missile performance in Falklands while failling to note that all or almost all missile shots in Falklands were against low-flying bomb-loaded aircraft with crap situational awareness, no MAWS, no countermeasures, and whose canopies have oftentimes been rendered nearly opaque by salt – which meant that Argentine aircraft had too slow cruise speed to prevent rear-quadrant approaches even by slow-cruising Harrier, and had no means to notice the Harrier behind them until they got an IR missile up their tail pipes. In other words, kill probabilities APA assumed in the article linked are only realistic against AWACS, large transport aircraft and such, and only if they have no onboard countermeasures. Against fighters? Forget it.

        BTW, I didn’t know that Harry Hillaker and William S Lind are “ignorant self-appointed experts”.
        http://spsaviation.net/story_issue.asp?Article=307
        http://www.codeonemagazine.com/article.html?item_id=37
        http://www.airpower.maxwell.af.mil/airchronicles/aureview/1983/sep-oct/lind.html

        “They assume an around 70% Pk for IR WVR missiles for contemporary, not historical, reasons.”

        I noticed. Problem is that those contemporary reasons are pulled out of their a**. In particular, they assume greater missile reliability than even modern missiles achieve in wartime, as well as greater ability to kill maneuvering targets. Their assumption of RF BVR missile Pk is still far more realistic than USAFs, but they failed to note than BVR missiles will likely be “ripple-fired” in salvos of 3 or 4, and a 3-missile salvo will have a total Pk of 17,1 + 14,2 + 11,7 = 43%, for average Pk of 14%. Even this is far too optimistic.

        Entire article strikes me as that they arrived at conclusion before writing it and then “massaged” everything inside to fit their conclusions.

        “IR-guided WVR missiles are capable of sustaining even 20 Gs, and being heat-seeking missiles cannot be fooled by chaff or other decoys. The only thing that can fool them is flares or incendiary rounds. Within the range of these missiles, the hottest aircraft loses.”

        Modern IR missiles tend to have IIR seeker. So you need special flares to fool them, and maneuverability is as important as ever. So yes, hottest aircraft looses – and that typically means largest aircraft (though the F-35 might be an exception in that it’s quite hot due to its powerful engine, thin skin and no IR signature reduction measures). Western fighters with lowest IR signature are Gripen and Rafale.

        “As for Iraq – the US military may be seen as occupiers… by those who support the Islamists anyway. But it would likely not be seen that way by those whose very survival is now threatened by ISIS.”

        Many people were perfectly fine with US occupation post-Saddam until they realized that it is more permanent than they thought. In particular, moment that the first Iraq’s government was assigned (Iraqi Provisional Authority) instead of elected, and when Western firms started entering Iraq instead of letting Iraqi firms do the work – such as Royal Dutch Shell, Exxon Mobil, Chevron and others. Western oil firms are still present in Kurdistan, and you can see full list in the link below. There is likely to still be a lot of bad blood about it, and US reentering Iraq might actually swell ISIS ranks. Of course, if Iraqi military proves completely incapable of countering ISIS then there might be no other option, but even then it should be UN or at least NATO operation as opposed to unilateral action by US.

        http://www.iraq-businessnews.com/2013/06/25/list-of-oil-companies-in-kurdistan/

        “And in any case, ONLY US ground troops can beat ISIS. The Kurds and the Syrian Army have proven themselves completely unable to do so. Sending US ground troops there isn’t a “great” option – it’s simply the least bad of the options on the table. The West has already tried everything else and it has failed.”

        Maybe, but a) it has to go through UN, b) it has to be done with at least some degree of cooperation from the Iraqi and Syrian governments and c) it must not be “the plan”, simply an emergency measure until such time that Syrian, Iraqi and Kurdish militaries can be trained enough to stand against ISIS on their own. Otherwise it will be a temporary relief at best. Terrorism is like a Hydra, killing terrorists won’t do unless accompanied by rebuilding effort that will remove the terrorists’ recruiting ground – just as Hercules had his friend (can’t remember the name) burn wounds left after Hercules cut off any single head.

        “As for the surrender of Japan, it was produced by strategic nuclear bombing of that country, not the USSR’s very late (and irrelevant) entry into the war ”

        Japan has attempted to negotiate a peace with US at several points during the war – first time after Midway. All these attempts went through the USSR, and when USSR turned hostile, Japan lost the last hope for an “honorable” peace. Even so, Japan surrendered only once US gave up on their requirement for Hirohito to abdicate. A-bombs had little to do with it.

        “would have mattered one iota if Germany and German-occupied Europe had been left free from Allied and Soviet bombing. Without that bombing, Germany would’ve had a lot more war material and weapons at its disposal, would’ve successfully repelled the Normandy invasion, and its development and production of jet fighters, Elektroboote, and nuclear weapons would’ve proceeded much faster without strategic Allied bombing.”

        1) German war output continued to increase through the war. There were a minor setbacks after each bombing raid, but as USSBS has shown, these were too few and far between to have any lasting effect. Literally only positive effect that strategic bombardment of Germany had was luring out Luftwaffe fighters, thus making it impossible for it to even challenge Allied air superiority over Normandy later on.
        2) Germany only suffered shortages of petroleum after USSR captured Ploesti fields, and lack of weapons was caused more by German insistence on overly complex designs than by anything else.
        3) Soviets tried strategic bombing against Germany, but quickly ceased it as ineffective.

        In fact, both strategic bombardment of UK by Luftwaffe and of Germany by RAF and USAAF had an effect of *increasing* war production, since it forced production process to become more streamlined and freed up workers from inessential labours and forced their transfer to industries directly related to war effort. It was also a major motivator for the attacked side. Only air campaigns that had direct effect on war on the ground were close air support and interdiction campaigns undertaken by Quaseada’s P-47s, plus the air superiority campaign that made these possible.

        “In Vietnam, the US could’ve won easily by bombing the DRV to hell (or simply bombing the Red River dykes and thus flooding the country) – which was what the North Viets feared most. Once it became clear to them that the US would not do so, they proceeded with their war of aggression with impunity.”

        US bombed Germany, Japan and later North Korea to hell yet it had no effect. US *did* bomb Vietnam, maybe not to hell but there was an extensive strategic bombardment campaign undertaken. It had no effect.

    • Sounds interesting, I’ll read it when I get time, right now I’ll just note that aerial bombardment was only effective when a) done by specialized CAS aircraft and b) used in conjuction with ground maneuver that forced the enemy to leave their fortified positions. Never has a well-dug in army been destroyed from the air.

      For this reason, air power is best used to support maneuver warfare forces, which then means that pilots have to:
      1) train for single mission (or set of closely related missions) only; most important air missions in this regard are battlefield interdiction, close air support and reconnaissance in front of ground troops (best done by CAS aircraft); combat air patrol, air sweep and interception (best done by light, specialized air superiority aircraft); tactical airlift and aerial resupply (done by STOL dirt strip air lifters, whose pilots are trained in flying to/from short, austere air strips, even when under small-arms fire).
      2) be versed not only in aerial but also in ground combat. While this is not very important for air superiority pilots, pilots of CAS and FAC aircraft simply have to be capable of understanding, and effectively reacting to, situation on the ground. This also means that they have to come down low and slow – high altitude aircraft with their tunnel vision may be technically capable of destroying targets on the ground (or not…), but they cannot properly react to changing conditions in a ground battle.
      3) be part of the Army. Air forces have always focused on strategic bombardment and air superiority. While latter is genuinely useful mission, resources spent on former would be better used for close air support and battlefield interdiction. And not only should pilots be part of the Army, squadrons of CAS aircraft should be directly assigned to Army units which will they then support in combat – this means that pilots should live with ground troops, and would be under operational command of ground commander of the unit they are assigned to.

      • I have read the discussion concerning the “flaws” of the F35 (and the “pro’s” of the Rafale) and i did not, until this post , see the one of real reasons for the popularity of a “lead sled”. That is, that in the Netherlands at least, the Air Force wants to be part of the airwar in the high end of it i.e. To go “mano a mano” against the Soukhoi’s etc. My point is, that today and in years to come the supportive role to the “boots on the ground” (cas and air dominance) is the most important. A position the “flyboys” do not like ( the marines pilots exempted). Thanks to the position in the decisionmaking process the Dutch special forces (commando, marine and airborne) will likely not have sufficient protection from the air in the conflicts to come. This in turn will severely influence the decision whether to put boots on the ground. The latter is for strategical and tactical reasons necessary. The events in Gaza made clear that a big part of the motivation of the (European) jihadis to fight for Daesh was their anger over Gaza. On a tactical level Gaza also gives an indication: it is what Mao said:”Be like a fish in the ocean” meaning the terrorists will make it nearly impossible to be eliminated without “collateral damage” ie dead civilians. For the european nations it will mean that because they will not dare to risk their JSF’s, who are very few thanks to their astronomical costs and bad at the cas role anyway, and therefore will not deloy the troops. This will mean long distance bombing as is done now, whilst Deash will keep on trying to provoke the west to come in and fight through ever more cruel acts (burn 17 Kurds now). The west in refusing to do so will look indecisive and be seen as cowards. The war in winning the hearts and minds of large parts of the muslim people will be won by them.

  6. I think US should slowly get out of the middle east. Arab countries (GCC, Jordan, Egypt, Algeria, Iran, Pakistan, etc.) and Israel need to take over the role of fighting its own criminal elements. No end is hurt more by ISIS/Al-Qaeda than the countries in that area. Rest of the world (especially China & Japan who dont get involved, as well as Turkey and Europe) would suffer even more than US if Middle East oil gets cut-off. US can now supply most of its own oil. Why should American $$ and blood be expended when others with more at stake sit by idle. we should also stop supporting Israel and allow them to handle their own business with Arabs. Supporting Israel and protecting Saudi Arabia is the original reason Al-Qaeda made US their enemy. Than came the STUPID! decision to invade Iraq so that American Oil and Defense firms can get richer.

    This place is just a mess and we need to pull-out and allow the effected parties to solve their own issues.

      • If it was my call I would say bye bye Middle East. But, that is not going to happen in real world. thats why I wrote the following post.

  7. But, since my previous post is just wishful thinking, I think we need to more strongly:

    1) Pressure our Arab “allies” to get involved not just in air but also on the ground in some role and financially. Israel needs to provide logistical and financial support since this is their fight more than ours.

    2) Arm and support the Kurds in Iraq and Syria.

    3) Tell Turkey when they object to either K*** my A** or send their own troops to do what Kurds will.

    If Arab Sunni countries wont step-up than we need to:

    1) Work with Iran and Alawites to defeat ISIS.

    2) Help Hezbollah and Iraqi shia militias to take the fight to ISIS.

    3) Still make Kurds the best armed and supplied faction.

    Long-term in scenario 2, we want Alawites/Hezbollag/Iran/Iraqi Shia to come out of the fight bloodied and weakened but we need to help Alawites/Hezbollag/Iran/Iraqi Shia defeat ISIS.

    Conclusion we want from scenario 2 would be:

    1) Syria back under control of Assad government as before but this time greatly weakened and drained due to long fight. Hezbollah will be victorious but greatly weakened from fight.

    2) Current Iraqi (Iranian controled probably) Government defeating ISIS and establishing control of Iraq (without Kurd areas) like Saddam used to.

    3) Iraqi and Syrian Kurds taking out chunks of Iraq & Syria and forming their own nation. Damascus & Baghdad will be in no position to object and Iran and Turkey will have to swallow it.

    I would much rather deal with Assad and Iran than with ISIS. Iran would also burn a lot of resources and will be in even greater need to negotiate for economic aid.

    If the Sunni powers and Israel dont like that solution than they better jump aboard with Scenario 1.

    Bottom line in any scenario, the ones doing the fighting have to be middle eatern people, not Americans or Europeans. We have to pull back and provide logistics, inteligence, and some limited and covert air support.

    • As was indicated by mr Walker (wilson quarterly) and E.Tauber in his book, the sunnis and shiites have fought each other for centuries . Only strong regimes (ottoman, saddam, assad etc) are/were able to supress the clashes. But as the fall of dictators in inevitable so will be the restart of those fights. “leaving it alone” is no option because the “war by proxy” between iran and s-a will become an open one. This most probably will lead to an escalation and Israel will intervene. The start of ww3. Furthermore, Huntingtons “clash of civilisations” explains it perfectly. Ever since the roman empire it is the doom” of the leading nation to intervene, so it is not realistic to promote a isolationistic attitude of the usa.

      Sent from my Windows Phone ________________________________

      • I dont think Israel has to intervene. Israel would be happy to have Shia & Sunni fighting each other. Even if Israel does get involved it would not be WW3. It will be a Middle East War.

        Let them learn how to live with each other just like Europe had to.

        Not our fight. All that Oil is not worth it for America. Maybe for big oil firms but not for America.

        We can supply most of our own oil and natural gas and new energy tech is on the horizon just needs investment which will not happen until big Oil is contained.

        The only reason why its a security concern is because we keep getting involved.

        • For the sake of argument: lets suppose that after all western nations have left the M-E alone, the war between S-A aand Iran will start. One not unimportant aspect of war is, that most of the time there will be a “winner”. If Iran wins, so will Hezbollah and it will have a much bigger platform to attack Israel. Israel will not accept a victory of Iran with its nuclear capability. Suppose that S-A will win.. If Iran were to prevent such a thing to happen it will attack Israel in order to get the whole Muslim world behind the cause. Interesting: this week Erdogan of Turkey still persisted in his wish to conquer Jerusalem. Anyway, Israel will not let things go by in the clash between both parties. Thanks to its lobby in the USA ( and the fact that the USA will be messing with the M-E) Washington will stay “in business” in the M-E.

        • “One not unimportant aspect of war is, that most of the time there will be a “winner”

          Not always. Many times it ends when both parties realize that this is going no-where and negotiate an end. Actually most wars end without a clear winner. Like Iran Vs Iraq war. Even Arab Vs Israel wars no enemy was wiped out. Although Israel did fend of Arabs.

          “If Iran wins, so will Hezbollah and it will have a much bigger platform to attack Israel”

          So what? thats Israels problem not the US’s problem. Let Israel fight its own war. If we stop messing in the ME and supporting Israel all those terrorists will quickly take us of their enemy lists. They will be busy with their near enemies.

          If Iran wins it will be worn out from years of war and be weaker than today. Hezbollah will not get stronger by having the hand that feeds it busy trying to survive its own war. In fact Iran will probably be so busy that they may be unable to aid Hezbollah. If Iran wins clearly and decisively (unlikely) it might be emboldened to team up with Syria and attack Israel. But, after years of war they may not be ready for another one. Israel’s Nucs are biggest deterent.

          “Israel will not accept a victory of Iran with its nuclear capability”

          Yeah you are probably right. Israel might secretly help Sunni powers. They wont get involved cause that might break up likely Sunni coalition.

          Iran’s only possible allies would be Syria and maybe shia Iraq if they are not too busy with their own civil wars). SA would likely ally with UAE, Kuwait, Qatar, Jordan, Egypt, Sudan, and maybe even Turkey, Algeria, Morrocco, and possibly Pakistan.

          Militarily speaking Iran would get spanked but many things can happen including internal issues in Sunni powers. Saudi coalition would control sky from day 1.

          Unlikely war would be decisive no side can really fight in others territory. Battlegrounds are likely to be Iraq, Syria, Yemen and maybe Lebanon.

          “this week Erdogan of Turkey still persisted in his wish to conquer Jerusalem”

          Let them go at it. Not our problem. We can’t be world cop. + we have no real interests in Israel. Its only a media created israeli funded illusion. Israel is not our friend and does nothing for us other than cause us problems. Israel should be no different to us than any other country.

          “Israel will not let things go by in the clash between both parties. Thanks to its lobby in the USA ( and the fact that the USA will be messing with the M-E) Washington will stay “in business” in the M-E”

          Yeah it s sad but true. Israeli lobby has more power in Washington than the American people. Its not for the benefit of America. US will probably stay involved in ME due to big Oil and Israeli special interests and their lobbying power.

          We need to reform this system that allows this to happen. This is B.S. that lobbying by special interests (and even foreign powers for gods sake. Yes Israel is a foreign power) is even legal.

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