Air strikes won’t defeat an ideology


Bravo, President Obama. Air strikes in Iraq and Syria, combined with military advisors on the ground are sure to destroy ISIS. Aren’t they?

No, of course not. Because ISIS, like al Qaeda before it, is an ideology, not a finite army or nation. And an ideology cannot be crushed with air strikes. We can play whack-a-mole with them for years — and no doubt we will — but we will not destroy them. If even a handful of them survive, so will their ideology. And like a few cancer cells left after surgery, their numbers will eventually grow, metastasize, and reappear in the future. If not as ISIS, then in some new form.

Have we not learned this yet? Why are we going back into the Middle East in any way, shape, or form when even the nations in the immediate vicinity have not raised a hand against ISIS?

A threat to the US? What kind of threat do 30,000 or so radicals in the Middle East pose to a nation of more than 300 million, half a world away? No plots against the US have been reported, and we are in a post-9/11 state of alertness. Perhaps that’s why they’ve tried so hard to goad us into returning to the Middle East — so they can fight us on their own turf.

ISIS killed two American reporters, captured after they chose to put themselves in harm’s way. Two. For that we’re going to war — again?


22 thoughts on “Air strikes won’t defeat an ideology

  1. True since time began. And is why we shouldn’t interfere with them killing each other. When they kill one of us, however, assassinating their head honcho can be ideologically instructive.

    1. “Ideologically instructive.” You do have a way with words. Yes, I would support that. But why we should get involved in sectarian wars in the Middle East is beyond me. We armed and trained Iraqi soldiers before we pulled out. What they do now is up to them.

  2. The military part of this matter is the least concerning, if only because the ideologues (to borrow your word) who got us into the mess in Iraq – Cheney, Rumsfeld, Doug Feith, Paul Bremer, and their own Doctor Strangelove, Paul Wolfowitz, – no long infest the State Department and the Defense Department. At least for a while.

    Few people remember that, when United States armed forces were in charge of the Iraq “mission” (which I vigorously opposed, for the record), there were no insurgents, no IEDs, no attacks on American soldiers. The Army occupied Baghdad and Iraq, just as it is trained and equipped to do. I know this because my son was there from Day One.

    The wheels came off the cart with the arrival of our “ambassador”, L. Paul Bremer. President Bush put Bremer in command of American military officers, for reasons he never has explained and can be attributed only to his manifest ignorance of what military forces do.

    Bremer proceeded to banish from the country every Iraqi military officer who had previously served on Saddam Hussein’s command staff. These officers were helping our own field commanders in establishing and maintaining absolute control of Iraq’s internal affairs.

    These men now are the leaders of the military side of ISIS. When they march men and teen aged Iraqi males to the river bank and machine gun them to death, the victims are not chosen at random. The ISIS military leaders know exactly who they want to kill. And their selections are made on ideological lines, as you correctly point out.

    The President knows all this, and more – certainly much more than anyone else on this side of the Atlantic knows. No matter what anyone thinks of him and his policies, he is the only man in the world with the ability to do something material about the situation in the Middle East that the United States helped to create. Based on his statements and actions in office, it is very difficult to think he wants to commit American soldiers to combat again.

    The ISIS has demonstrated a complete contempt for the opinions and standards of civilization itself. Not just the United States – the entire civilized world. By their rhetoric and their conduct, they remind me, mostly, of Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany in the 1930s and 1940s. Most of us remember how that turned out. It must weigh on the President’s mind, that this MAY be his best chance to stop a similarly medieval and brutal regime in its tracks, before it gains real traction by establishing itself as a permanent Islamic caliphate which would make Iran and Syria seem friendly by comparison.

    So, before we armchair geopolitical experts jump to conclusions and, with our criticisms, weaken the President’s ability to achieve some military and political goals that might finally bring at least some stability to this ancient land of strife – maybe we should just let him do the job the voters elected him to do.

    1. “Manifest ignorance” is something Bush has in spades. I thought he was, in every way imaginable, unfit and unqualified to be president. By comparison, Obama seemed positively brilliant. I respect his intelligence, education, and deliberate approach to decision-making. And I’m quite confident he knows just about everything knowable about the current Middle East mess. I just don’t think we’re going to “destroy” ISIS any more than we destroyed al Qaeda. Picking off the leaders, cutting off the head of the snake, may be enough, if we can identify and find them. Time will tell. At least we aren’t committing ground troops. Not yet, anyway.

      1. I must apologize in advance because I know this is going to sound as if I am a member of the President’s Cabinet. I am not, of course. Nevertheless, I am not speculating, or making this up.

        Committing infantry soldiers is part and parcel of this President’s plan, based on the best advice he has from his generals. The fact is, we DO know where they are, and who they are, where they live, and so forth. For the last two weeks or so we have been telegraphing our intentions to them, and then watching what they do and where they go.

        Some time in the last two weeks – well before the President’s announcement – the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said on national television that the United States would have to defeat this group of criminals militarily. Sitting beside General Dempsey was Secretary of Defense Hagel. That did not happen without the President’s express permission. It was no accident. It was a message to ISIS.

        This President does not want war, but now that he is convinced this one is necessary, he is going to let professional military personnel decide how to fight it, and win it.

      2. If we know where they are, good. But if we’re going to commit infantry to the fight, the president best make that known or the public will feel they’ve been lied to. To date all I’ve heard is “no boots on the ground” and then “military advisors,” although I suppose the latter could mean a lot of different things.

        At least he’s smart enough to listen to his military advisors.

      3. Let me repeat…”This President does not want war, but now that he is convinced this one is necessary, he is going to let professional military personnel decide how to fight it, and win it.”

        If anyone is confused about what soldiers do, now is a good time to look it up. No one in this administration has ever said one word about how it will use its military resources, if that becomes necessary. No one, including the President, ever promised that American soldiers would not return to the Middle East.

        The goal of war is to win, as quickly and effectively as possible.

      4. I’ve not noticed our last couple of wars being either quick or effective. But those weren’t Obama’s wars. I wish I could believe this one will be different.

  3. I’m reminded of that “ideas are bulletproof” line from “V For Vendetta” PT which, sadly, applies just as well to the ravings of madmen as it does to heroes and saints. The world has never had a shortage of madmen, and the thing about madmen is that they rave on regardless of what the rest of the world thinks or does about them…

    1. “Ideas are bulletproof” is so apropos. I think these types will continue to spawn in the Middle East, no matter what we do. And frankly, I think our doing anything over there is part of the reason they keep spawning. We’re feeding their hate of America, proving with every bomb, every drone, every leader killed, that we are indeed the Great Satan they say we are.

  4. I hope President Obama listens to all his advisers, and by now he should know which ones are the most well-informed and trustworthy. I would not favor weighting advice in favor of military opinions, although the military viewpoint should be considered. Our generals and admirals advance their careers and create legacies in wartime. They are part of the military-industrial complex that is the crux of the problem for U.S. foreign relationships. Let’s keep American boots off the ground in the Mideast.

    1. Quite true. The military is in the business of conducting wars. They aren’t likely to advise staying home. On the other hand, if the president has decided we must attack, then certainly they’d have the best ideas of how to go about it, what force is needed, etc. I agree, no boots on the ground. I can’t imagine why ISIS can’t be taken out from the air.

  5. “I can’t imagine why ISIS can’t be taken out from the air.” One reason is we haven’t perfected bomb technology to the point they can chase specific people through the streets and into their homes yet. Humans – inconveniently, as usual – refuse to give off enough heat for a 2,000 m.p.h. ballistic device to make hairpin turns, no matter how “smart” it is.

    1. I was thinking more in terms of bombing masses of troops, camps, etc. And drones can help. But yes, civilian deaths are always a concern in war. However, if ground troops are needed, they don’t have to be, and I think should not be, American troops.

  6. I think the biggest obstacle in this matter is that Americans have become accustomed to wars that last forever, cost a fortune, and end up making things worse. Thirty years of “The Establishment” (Wolfowitz, Feith, and their phalanx of neocon “thinkers”) meddling in an area where they have no experience and less than no knowledge.

    1. No reason American’s should expect anything different from Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq. That’s why we don’t want American boots on the ground again. Not that public opinion matters in Washington anymore.

  7. There are very good reasons to expect different results, PT. Fact-based reasons. I sense, though, you already are firmly conviced that you are right and the President and his military staff are wrong, so I won’t waste more time on this, except to point out that you avoided mentioning the Gulf War of 1990-1991, which seemed to work out well for everyone except Saddam Hussein.

    1. Au contraire. Obviously the White House has the best information and advice available and I can’t argue with that. I’m just saying I don’t like it. I am entitled to that opinion.

      I did not deliberately “avoid mentioning” the first Gulf War. I was simply naming the very unpopular wars that I believe most Americans think of when expressing distaste for American intervention in other countries.

      1. Guess who agrees with you, shares your distaste, with plenty of good reason. Every senior officer of our armed forces, dating from the mid 1980s, right up to today. Unlike you, they are not allowed to say so until after they retire. Guess who they blame. They blame the people – the voters who elect stupid presidents. Especially, “conservative” presidents who act as if the U.S. armed forces are their personal gang, ready to be sent anywhere to settle a score with other national leaders who have pissed off the President.

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