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On tactics (because we don't have a strategy)...

Liberal Christians Call On Obama To Stop ISIS Using “Community-Based Nonviolent Resistance”…

 As someone who has studied and lived conflict my entire adult life, I don't find this as stupid as some do. Especially in terms of the article linked in the article. Which could serve as a rebuke for the approach we took in Iraq, and aptly so.

While you should read the pablum above, this is the one I'm more interested in, which most commentators on the right just ignored or didn't read, preferring instead to just react to the headline on Weasel Zippers: How Nonviolent Action Could Thwart ISIL’s Advance in Iraq

We certainly should try something different, as the old approaches aren't working all that well, and I'm pretty sure we aren't ready to go all 1945 on them.

But I *am* a well-known squish.

I'm saying there are aspects here that are worth considering, and not just ridiculing out of hand. And the second article acknowledges the risks inherent in the approach.

The beheadings are happening anyway. What's the added risk to trying? If nothing else, there is a heathier infrastructure in place after you just go kill everything that moves, which seems to be what people propose for the alternative.

I see a lot on our side just saying, "Nope, nope, nope." And not offering suggestions for alternative approaches aside from the ones we're comfortable with.

I say we need disruptive approaches. And spare me, peanut gallery, the old bromide that "A JDAM is pretty disruptive."

And I frankly am all for trying something new that doesn't leave divisions of young men and women sitting in Iraq. Been there, done that, didn't work out all that well.

And before we go into the "If only Obama hadn't..." stuff - yes. But let's be honest and let ourselves acknowledge that we also screwed the pooch with our previous approach - and if we're going to end up going back- let's not just keep making the same mistakes over and over again, because "This time it will be different."

It wasn't last time. I don't see any reason it would be this time.

Lastly - if you aren't going to bother to read the two articles in question - then just move on and don't comment. Just commenting via your gut reaction to the headlines will be... boring.

8 Comments

I read both articles before seeing your note. About the only time the resistance the Libs propose have worked is when your opponent is basically decent and adheres to western standards of behavior. OTOH, if your opponent does not adhere to such standards, then nonviolent resistance is problematic. Against ISIS/ISIL I would expect the result to be a blood bath no different than what is happening now. ISIS appears to be in late stage guerilla war and have stood up as there has been no significant resistance. Unless you meet them on the same terms they have taken the field I don't see you accomplishing anything. Anyone trying Ghandi's methods against them had better prepare themselves for a very violent, painful end. ISIS appears quite willing to kill anyone that won't work with them.
 
But we didn't "screw the pooch" with our previous approach. That is just plain wrong. While it took six years to achieve what the CENTCOM planners thought could be accomplished in five, we were accomplishing our goals in Iraq and the region in general. If we had followed through instead of going off on a 270 degree tangent we would be in a much better place right now. We would have a couple BCTs at a time rotating through a base or two out in the desert. They would be training with the Iraqi military and, on occasion, running combat patrols (similar to Korea "after" the war). The SOCOM folks would still be doing what they needed to do - just less of it. Things would not be perfect and there would be problems but we would be moving in the right direction. ISIS would not have emerged at all. In the end, it is the Obama world view and his subsequent policies that have screwed things up.
 
Our political class has, since Viet Nam, been able to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory on a consistent basis. They, as a group, have not studied history except as it concerned diplomatic and political matters. Our nation should be and has been based on civilian supremacy over the military and rightly so. With a few exceptions notable that of President Reagan, the civilian leaders have looked upon the military as a political toy to be used as a social experiment and the base of a spoils system. The use of the American military as "Observers", "Peace Keepers" or such is a waste and destructive to core of morale that makes the armed forces a power to be reckoned with. The use of any armed force should be to overwhelm and totally destroy the opponent, then remain in place until a legitimate effective local government can be established. I would cite the Philippines, and Japan as examples of this process.
 
I have read the 2 articles, plus the linked letter to Obama. I do believe many people wish that their approach would work, but I think it will take more than just that. But if you look at the other side of the coin and look at the whole Iraq experience, that approach did not work out as hoped. Much of the reason is the failure to understand the culture of your adversary. John, I think you are correct about the screwed pooch, in fact, he is quite sore and angry. Everybody is looking for a balanced approach, but to do so, there is a lever and a fulcrum. The problem is this, we may control the lever and they control the fulcrum. We will never get a balanced approach because they don't want one. This is a tribal culture and each tribe works towards the goal of gaining more control. As we look at this war, we may need to look at ourselves and ask some very tough questions. We have American citizens living in some of these areas by their own choice. These reasons might be employment, family or a whole host of other issues, this includes education and tourism. Americans need to make up their minds about their own allegiance to this nation. They need to choose between moving their citizenship to the host country or coming home to the US. You cannot have both, choose! Sadly, people will die, this includes men, women and children, no matter what we choose to do. Everybody needs to be accountable for their own decisions and this is a part of it. This is not just a Civil War, but it is also a proxy war and will go on forever. I hate to put it this way, but I do believe it is the most accurate. Take Hitler and clone him about 20 times and put those clones in places of leadership of the terroristic tribes. They are spread in the Arabic, Persian and North African portions of the world. 
 
 NNEVETS - I disagree, completely.  We screwed up going in, with nowhere near what we needed, because of Rumsfeld's overweening ego and hubris.  We didn't truly have a plan beyond hoping Chalabi was was right.  We totally hosed our HUMINT, failed to properly engage the " whole of government" approach, and did not truly have a clear plan to the end game.  Just because we, via the blood of the youngsters, eventually started to turn things around does not mean we did it right, did it well, or did it smart.  Rumsfeld and the Generals failed badly.  And no one was held to account for it.


The troops didn't fail, but the senior leadership did.

 
 
John, I was at CENTCOM for all of OIF. We had a plan, executed the plan and accomplished the goals. That isn't to say that things couldn't have been done better. I'll grant you that the SECDEF made mistakes and that some of our generals were lackluster (I claim no more than that myself). The enemy disrupted our efforts at the operational level but we got back on track. Our troops and, in fact, our whole force engaged at the tactical level in Iraq did a tremendous job throughout. One note on "whole of government". IMHO, I don't believe we can truly apply a whole of government approach to a significant conflict with the way our government is currently set up. I've worked on several whole of government initiatives and we have gotten better over time but a complete overhaul is required if we truly want to execute in that manner. Our government is set up to be inefficient. At a minimum, it will require that we re-work the way DoD, the CIA and DOS are configured. It would be best to include other parts of the government as well. The hardest part will be reconfiguring the committees in congress. You can imagine what that would take. From my point of view it boils down to unity of command - to borrow a military phrase - and even then, the concentration of power may not get us what we want. Until someone comes up with a better way I guess we'll continue with our Joint Interagency Coordination Groups and so on. Well, I've spent too much time and I didn't mean to go so far OT. In any case, keep up the good work - I enjoy your posts and read out loud the names of the MOH recipients. Take care.
 
 You sort of make my point.  The troops did fine.  The March Upcountry went as well as could be expected, because if there is one thing we do well, is smash an Army.  And that's where everything went south.  Because, like it or not, our post-MCO plan was a hope and a prayer - not based on a sound understanding of the situation going in.

As to your comments about government, I don't know how long you've been reading me, but I said going in, back in 2003 (I was not a fan) that this wasn't going to be the war we were going over there to fight, and that it was going to be the kind of war we actually suck at fighting.  And that I had no confidence the political leadership understood that, and that Rumsfeld wasn't going to be a good counterweight, because he was eager to show us how brilliant his ideas were.

I wasn't, and haven't, criticised the performance of the troops.  But the senior leadership, military and civilian, failed, and we're not held to account.  


I stand by my earlier assessment.  We did it wrong, we did flex and adapt, but we were embarking on a Brit-style (think India) cultural hard-core that this nation does not have the gumption for.  And that last isn't a complaint.  It's an observation.  Because I don't think reporting ourselves into a U.S. version of a Brit-style Victorian/Edwardian/Georgian government is a good idea.



 


 
 
Vice the no-plan dicussion, I once took the time to examine the troops to civilians ratio of effective occupations, and was shocked to see we used something like one-tenth the needed troops to effectively occupy Iraq.

I also recall Pournelle's statement that we really screwed up by disbanding the Iraq Army. His point was that civil order trumped de-Baathifying the armed forces. Then again, he opposed the invasion in the first place. :-/

Some of the approaches suggested in Stephan's article might be useful, such as winning confidence amongst minorities, and addressing corruption, etc. What concerns me there is that we might have to genuinely occupy the country in order to get the locals to listen. They aren't naturally corrupt, but the past several thousand years of life experience has taught them that they can trust themselves, their family, their clan, and their tribe. In that order. Anyone outside of those circles is either an enemy or a target.

For those who love them some JDAM, I'll point out you need troops on the ground to ID targets, and there we go again! Unless, of course, you follow the "kill them all; God will know his own" approach, at which point I have to wonder who's worse. Not to mention wonder why we're there in the first place, if all we do is race ISIL to see who can kill more, faster.