Bone hard realism from US Major-General Robert H Scales (Rtd).
The bottom line is simple. In a firepower approach to war, escalation and mission creep are both inevitable and necessary. As the enemy grows more skilled, we will be left with two unattractive alternatives: Escalate until tragedy occurs or accept battlefield stasis until the American people tire of these “targeted strikes.” And when we fly away with the Islamic State still dominant on the battlefield, the terrorists will proclaim to the world that the United States is a cowardly country that has been beaten again.
The Islamic State will not be easy to contain, much less turn back. They are proving to be capable and adaptable, fueled by a deeply held belief in the rightness and inevitability of their vision.
If they are to be successfully countered, locals with an unavoidable stake in the outcome must take on most of the burden. The years since 9/11 have hammered home that core truth. Or at least they should have.
Insofar as Iraq is concerned, here’s Col Pat Lang (Rtd).
A strategy of splitting off the Sunni tribal groupings from IS is what should be adopted. These tribal groupings are made up of large numbers of people who live in villages and substantial towns. Do not think of nomadic Beduin when you think of Sunni tribesmen in Iraq. Some will argue that the authority of tribal leaders is not what it was. That may be but I would argue that an approach to the Sunni tribes is really the “only game in town” as an approach to pushing IS back to the north and west of Baghdad.
An added benefit in such a program might well be defection of some Sunni arab military experts from IS to the tribes.
Logic may not prevail, of course. Even if such an approach is tried, he fears it could all too easily be scuttled by internal Iraqi politics.
In a comment, Brigadier General F.B. Ali (Pakistan, Rtd) picked apart some of the ironies and internal contradictions of US foreign policy.
“….develop a reasonable relationship with Iran…”
If you, or people like you, were shaping US policy, what a different world this would be!
The only enemy the US has (in the sense of an entity wishing to use force and violence to harm the country and its people) is the Jihadi movement. But US foreign and military policy is based on considering Russia, China and Iran as enemies, whereas the former two are just competitors, and the latter not even that.
Instead, the US allies itself with the Saudis and Gulf emirates, who created and financed the Jihadis. It provides diplomatic, financial and military support to Israel, whose use of deadly violence against Muslims turns the Muslim world against the US and ensures a steady supply of recruits for the Jihadis and much sympathy for them.
The Jihadis are recognized as enemies only in US internal policy, where this has been used to turn the country into a ‘security state’.
A rational policy would ally the US with Russia, China and Iran (all of whom see the Jihadis as a threat) to defeat this menace. And, then, perhaps move on to deal with the other threats that face us all (as TTG implied the other day: one can still dream!).
Who knows? Perhaps the alarming, galloping advent of IS will belatedly squeeze some rationality back into these matters.