Islamic extremism and what lies ahead? Part II: The War on ISIL and Syria

Airstrikes in Iraq

Airstrikes in Iraq

President Obama and his top military advisors have learned nothing and have made a grave mistake starting a war with Syria using ISIL as the pretext.  Just as I was confident and proven correct that this situation would materialize, I am equally confident in my analysis that this new war will lead to America’s greatest foreign policy disaster to date.  Neither war with Syrian nor ISIL will be decisive, successful, or lead to greater security for the American people.  However, the war may indeed turn out to lead to America’s unwinding as the world’s sole superpower and economic bankruptcy.  This post will continue my analysis on the on-going crisis unfolding in the Middle East respective of Obama’s newest war.

To begin, let’s recap key predictions from Part I of the series that have already come to pass.  The full article can be found at: for reference.  I warned from the onset of this “crisis,” that we would be drawn gradually deeper and deeper into the conflict.  I was specific that Obama’s plan would fail and the failure of their lessor means would be used to justify greater military intervention to include heavier airstrikes and boots on the ground.  In particular, I noted that special operations support to the Iraqi military and limited airstrikes would be insufficient to dislodge ISIL.  It was as clear then as it should be now that the Iraqi army had neither the will nor the skill for a successful fight against ISIL.  Note, the Kurds who I have repeatedly pointed out as our only real ally in Iraq, do have the will to fight, but are the ones we are helping the least.  As proof of the Iraqi army’s weakness, just this week Obama admitted that he underestimated the will of the Iraqi security forces.  Obama also reiterated the blatant lie about how our intelligence was surprised by the rapid rise of ISIL, which I also previously rejected.  Using the irrefutable proof that every analyst I know was aware and warning of the growing ISIL threat, it is hard to imagine how the American public can swallow such over the top shirking of responsibility by the president.  The president is derelict in his duties and cannot claim to be on top of his job when he skips over 60% of his intelligence briefs.  That would be analogous to a student failing a test and blaming the teacher even though he skipped over half his classes, didn’t read any of his assignments, and turned in no homework.

Specific to Obama’s battle plan, I predicted that the airstrikes would prove to be a liability and generate a negative effect.  Unless you include a thermonuclear option in your airstrikes, they simply have been proven to never net decisive victory.  This fact is even more relevant today because we will not bomb heavily enough to kill the necessary numbers of people to force the enemy to yield.  Further, I pointed out that the airstrikes would undoubtedly cause civilian casualties, which would be used as a jihadist bat symbol to rally global extremists to ISIL’s cause.  Just as I predicted, the cry to mitigate and stop civilian casualties from airstrikes has already begun.  Syrians are mad that the strikes are killing civilians and degrading their access to services and fuel.  Since we are bombing critical infrastructure that ISIL has been using to provide governance and generate revenue such as grain silos and fuel depots this is not hard to understand.  The Free Syrian Army is also mad because we have also come very close to bombing their positions, which are often set up right beside ISIL bannered units.  This is no accident because there really is no such thing as a moderate rebel force and the so-called “moderates” operate jointly with the extremists.  As a result of our bombing, the anger has garnered support for both Assad and ISIL, while generating hatred of America.  Like the Syrians, the Iraqi people and government are also demanding an end to airstrikes, which are killing civilians and being broadcast all over Middle Eastern media outlets.  This has further galvanized the Iraqi government’s will to prevent any wide spread use of airstrikes in Iraq against ISIL and doomed Obama’s plan to failure before it even began.  Even the Kurds, which have benefited from the strikes, have said they are not effective.  Couple this with the Obama Administration’s hypocritical criticism of Israeli strikes against Hamas and you have the nucleus of a major propaganda storm that will quickly steam roll any claims of good American intentions to stop ISIL.  In fact, this will quickly turn our “allies” back into the enemies they always were and we will find ourselves alone on the battlefield, shot in the back, fighting against an undefined enemy, for an undefined goal for an ungrateful country.

Parallel to the US beginning airstrikes, I assessed that ISIL would quickly change their tactics and do so quicker than we could react.  ISIL’s shift to lower profile operations with smaller, more dispersed units occurred almost overnight.  Their heavy weapons were hidden in the cities, their movements are mingled with civilian traffic, and their leadership has gone to hiding and limited or ceased its use of electronic communications.  Further, ISIL is winning the propaganda war and gaining allies and recruits faster than we can kill them.  These converts are not just in the Middle East, but here at home in the US.  For those that disagree I would suggest they read about the lady beheaded in Oklahoma by a radicalized Muslim acting on ISIL’s call to behead infidels that went out just days before the brutal murder.  Again, all of this was foreseen by some random blogger named Guiles Hendrik, but the CIA and DOD somehow didn’t see it coming according to the White House.  What is worse, even after the warnings were made clear, the “strategy” Obama touted still in no way effectively combats the proto-ISIL state and its guerilla army.  In fact, the strategy is so mismatched for the war at hand it is stupid.  I will say it again, “the strategy is stupid.”  We have bombed Iraq for a quarter century and have not achieved a strategic victory.  To continue to drop a few thousand more bombs in no way changes the situation decisively.

Now that we have recapped the state of the war, it is important for you to understand why Obama’s policy will fail.  Let’s begin by taking a moment to go on the record and outline some of the key failures in both Obama’s policy and his military “strategy,” a term I use very loosely.

To begin, in Obama’s address to the nation, he laid out what he called a strategy that in reality was nothing more than a set of political goals with respect to ISIL.  Based on this, the astute listener would conclude that neither the president nor his staff has any clue about what they are doing.  To be specific, the official definition of strategy by the United States Department of Defense is: “Strategy is a prudent idea or set of ideas for employing the instruments of national power in a synchronized and integrated fashion to achieve national or multinational objectives.”  President Obama’s “expressed goals” are not prudent and they do not define how to apply national power in a manner that will defeat ISIL.  Obama’s goals simply cannot be converted into an integrated or synchronized strategy and don’t clearly lead to achieving any national objectives.  In fact, I really don’t have to go beyond Obama’s stated “strategy” to guarantee both a military and policy failure in Iraq.  To summarize this master plan conceived by our brightest generals and the White House is difficult because of the complexity of its stupidity.  Nonetheless, I will attempt to put it in plain language so we all can understand why this war is off to a very bad start and will end even worse.  We (being an unknown coalition comprised of the US and perhaps our shadow) will go to Iraq or Syria, but maybe some other places too and drop a lot of expensive bombs on some stuff that cost far less than the bombs we are dropping (we know this because we already paid for the stuff we are bombing and gave it to people that don’t like us).  We will drop bombs so that we can kill some people we can’t really identify, but know exist and therefore must be bad (we know this because we trained them and gave them Stinger missiles to shoot down airplanes).  We don’t know exactly where these bad people are, but we are pretty sure they are in the Middle East or Africa or Europe or North America or Asia or your grandfather’s sock drawer (can’t be too careful).  We will also use about no, 50, 100, 1000, 5000,… a bunch of special guys (you know they are special because they can float and their boots never touch the ground) to help guys that tried really hard to kill us the last time we were in Iraq and train them to fight better because we now know why they didn’t learn anything from the first 13 years we taught them to fight (we used guys that didn’t float high enough and we only had 160,000 guys to teach them).  These previous bad guys, now good guys, fighting with our special guys, will also get lots of new guns because they gave all of the other ones we gave them to the guys we are fighting (that’s another way you know they are bad…they are fighting with guns we gave them).  We will then continue to drop bombs while the special guys float beside guys that hate us for an unknown amount of time until an undefined outcome occurs at some point after an election where the politicians deem that their campaign donors in the banking, finance, energy, and defense industries have been sufficiently profitable to declare a new democratic government viable and announce our withdrawal.  All hyperbole aside, it really is about that ridiculous.

Bringing the discussion back to series discussion, one should know that Obama’s strategy is dead on arrival because it is predicated on there being a unified Iraqi government.  This pipedream dissolved the moment we invaded Iraq and deposed Saddam Hussein, but for the optimists, it ended in 2006.  It never materialized when we occupied Iraq and it certainly won’t now.  The Kurds have completely become an independent nation, taken over the Kirkuk oil fields, and expanded Kurdistan into Syria to absorb their Kurdish regions.  They aren’t going back.  The Sunni regions of Iraq are now controlled by ISIL and won’t be retaken primarily because the Sunnis in those regions support ISIL and hate the Shias.  Finally, the Shias have alienated all of the above to the point that none of the parties can or will deal with the others and are now in danger of being run out of Baghdad by a joint Sunni-ISIL rebellion.  The sum of this means that while we are supposedly fighting to destroy ISIL, our strategy pitting Kurd against Sunni against Shia ensures that the fractures in Iraq become insurmountable chasms.

Next, as I already eluded too, the idea of training and advising has always been a joke and an abysmal failure.  The counterinsurgency (COIN) training and advising paradigm is nothing more than a way politicians can do nothing while claiming to do something and sell a war on the cheap.  You can’t fight a war half-hearted and win.  By Obama linking our strategy to training and advising Iraqi forces, he has created another key failure point in our strategy.  Two wars and a decade of real world testing should have proved this conclusively.  As of September 2008, over 545,000 Iraqi security forces were trained and this number only increased as we approached the 2011 political retreat.  Nonetheless, with nearly ¾ of a million trained and equipped fighters, the Iraqi military buckled and fled after first contact with ISIL.  There is no amount of training we can do to remedy a situation where a force is unwilling to fight.  A people unwilling to defend themselves are a people unworthy of our time and beyond the capability of our efforts.  In 100 years of named insurgencies, not once has a foreign army successfully used training and advising to defeat an insurgency decisively, especially when that insurgency has with cross border sanctuary.  The bottom line is that a few thousand troops are not going to be able to accomplish what we weren’t able to do with 160,000 troops and a decade of time.  Any officer that recommended this as a serious option should be relieved immediately of command and sent to peel potatoes.  I will go further and say that “training and advising” and perhaps the entire COIN doctrine should be eradicated from the military as a tried, tested, and failed method of warfare.

President Obama’s strategy implies that we can separate ISIL from the civilian population.  Somehow they seem to think we can drop bombs and only kill ISIL.  If that isn’t the case, then Obama and John Kerry are very big hypocrites because they certainly held Israel to that standard when it attacked Hamas.  Of course the truth is we can’t discriminate, Obama and Kerry are hypocrites, and we know we will kill civilians.  As with past conflicts, this will become a very big problem for Obama’s strategy.  He can’t carry out his strategy (successful or not) without dropping bombs and he cannot drop bombs without killing civilians and incurring both domestic and international wrath.  This is almost karma, because the very same international bodies and laws Obama’s administration has sought to impose upon other nations will be the ones to condemn Obama for his actions.  The more Obama bombs and kills civilians, the more the people he is there to “help” will hate him and the more power ISIL will gain.  Further, in areas like Mosul, which were never pacified during the Iraq War, the entire population is hostile to the US and support ISIL to a greater or lesser degree.  ISIL was able to take Mosul with ease because it had always been there and only put up a new flag.  Therefore the notion of somehow dissecting ISIL from the civilian population is impossible and demonstrates the futility of this war and the false premises it is based upon.  Following this logic further, unless the US is willing to bomb all of Mosul and kill nearly all of its inhabitants, which it is not, the US cannot win.  It wouldn’t end with Mosul either.  The bombing would have to be expanded to include Fallujah, Ramadi, Tikrit and other enemy cities where the population is nearly completely hostile to the US.  If the US cannot win with its strategy, then why start a fight you know you will lose?  At the least, common sense would dictate a change in strategy, but this is not going to occur.  Hopefully, the folly of our intervention is now making sense.

Obama is also relying on arming more fighters.  This in fact has already tried and has definitively turned into arming our enemies.  There are no moderate elements left in the Free Syrian Army and the Iraqi Army simply threw theirs to the ground for ISIL and ran or drove away as fast as they could.  In Syria, the “moderate” elements work closely with the ISIL elements, kidnap and sell our people to ISIL, and have a mutual peace pact.  In Iraq, the Sunnis like ISIL more than the US so will fight with them or protect them.  The Shias were a constant danger to our troops during the war and that hasn’t changed.  Sadr City and the Shia militias doggedly attacked and killed Americans at every opportunity and have openly made new threats against the reintroduction of American troops in Iraq.  The Shias are also closely aligned with Iran and Syria so when the US tries to makes its move on Assad, our “friends” we just rearmed and trained will become once again our enemies.  These peoples are not the friends of America.  In fact, the only people that we could ally with are the people we have repeatedly betrayed.  Those people are the Kurds. The Kurds are willing to fight and if given weapons, will fight better than any of the Arabs.  However, our traitorous NATO ally, Turkey, won’t allow that to happen in a manner sufficient to reverse the course of ISIL.

Finally, the insidious killer behind all wars is debt.  It brought down the Soviet Union, the British Empire, the Spanish Empire, even the Roman Empire and it all was rooted in massive debt brought about by wars.  The US is drowning in debt and can’t even pay its current bills from its previous wars.  Now, with nearly 18 trillion in outright debt, Washington thinks it is wise to foray into an even larger “long” war.  How is this going to be paid for?  The costs have already run into the billions of dollars.  In fact, the military is already crying for a supplemental funding bill to provide contingency funding and Congress will likely cut the check.  As this war progresses and the US is drawn deeper and deeper into the conflict, the costs will skyrocket.  Sure it will be good for contractors and the defense industry and creditors…for a little while, but the checks will come due.  We simply will reach a point where even at near zero interest rates, we will not be able to service the interest on tens of trillions of dollars of debt.  In fact, even without another war we are quickly reaching a point where we are adding so much debt so fast, we are adding another one to two trillion dollars a year to the national debt.  Add in the growing number of baby boomers retiring and looking for their government checks and we will default and have full on economic collapse.  Let me be clear, this WILL NOT be your children or grandchildren’s debt.  Default is approaching much faster than the government would like to openly admit and at this point it is unavoidable.  This will be our collapse…you and me

Obama can now claim the dubious title of starting an unconstitutional war with Iraq and soon he will join the ranks of leaders that have lost wars and lead their nations to disaster.  His Peace Prize should be rescinded.  It requires only elementary military analysis to see the disaster in the making.  The fact we have endeavored again upon this particular strategic course demands that our senior policy makers and military leaders all be fired.  Not just Obama, but our military has proven to have failed.  This is so obvious, yet, where are the military generals resigning in mass protest of a war that is not only illegal, but suicidal?  The military has become impotent and is no longer able to generate strategic thinkers with a clear moral compass grounded by the Constitution and the oath they swore to uphold.  The military’s leadership is either incompetent or has deliberately chosen to knowingly march our young men and women off to fight and die in an unwinnable, unconstitutional war rather than taking a stand and perhaps giving up their next star or a cushy consulting job.  This is disgusting and the epitome of dishonor.  Respective of institutional learning, the Department of Defense must be labeled as retarded in the most literal sense.  Our elected leaders, their political appointees, and our most trusted career military officers are all derelict.

For now, I want to conclude by again saying that this will be a disaster.  If you don’t know it, you’re an amateur.  Not to point out problems without giving solutions, I will continue this series with a third installment that will explain how to utterly destroy ISIL and Islamists and the price choosing indecisive action will cost.  So remember, the next time someone asks you, “how did you know that?”  Tell them, “I don’t know…Who is Guiles Hendrik?”


By Guiles Hendrik

October 1, 2014

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