Gee, can I be a Guardian pundit?

By Lorenzo

A US former special ops officer argues that ISIS is just using tactics (via) that al-Qaeda had previously used, which work against Arab forces, but not Western ones:

AQI/ISIL quickly learned to never use these tactics on the Americans. They regretted it in 2005 when they carried out a complex multi-prong attack on Abu Ghuraib prison – it was a virtual slaughter of all the attackers. On the other hand local Arab forces respond poorly these tactics.

Which provides an opportunity:

A massive defeat on ISIL could decimate their professional spearhead of veterans and break the image of invincibility. Just one drone and a Special Forces forward control team with a B-1 bomber package with could do that with ease.

Provided, of course, one can specifically target such.

Foreign trucks and weapons, local homicidal hatred.

 Jonathan Freedland, writing in Comment is Free on the Guardian website, identifies the success of ISIS as being primarily the result of the collapse of state power–in Syria and Iraq. In Syria because of the civil war, in Iraq because of the US overthrow of Saddam and the sectarian incompetence of the Maliki Government.

Which is also, of course, the US’s fault. Yes, getting rid of authoritarian dictators can let loose unexpected difficulties. But Iraqi PM Maliki has consistently refused to follow US advice. Which, as the elected head of an independent and sovereign state, he was free to do. Maliki’s incompetence is his fault. This making only Western/US agency count is a tiresome game. (Also, do we remember that Saddam’s wars killed far, far more people than the current unpleasantness?)

Now, whether the US should have committed itself to maintaining the backwash of European imperialism: probably not. But redrawing the Middle Eastern map in that way would have caused all sorts of diplomatic difficulties. Which would no doubt have been denounced by Guardian pundits as an outrageous use of American power.

Meanwhile, Freedland goes on to lament the lack of power on the world stage. So, the world system needs a manager–who promises not to do anything that a Guardian pundit might complain about. No responsibility and moral superiority too. Can I be a Guardian pundit?

Arab messes
The trouble is, whether the US directly overthrows a tyrant (Iraq), helps a populace overthrow its tyrant (Libya) or refuses to get involved in an attempt to overthrow a tyrant (Syria), it all ends up in a similar mess. Which rather suggests that the problem is not US policy, but Arab states not grounded in Arab realities.

 So, what should the US do? Provide military support for the Kurds and Maliki (the UK’s plan to attack ISIS’s fundraising has the right sort of target) and prepare everyone for breaking up Iraq. And probably Syria as well. But that would take more sense of history than is likely either in Washington or the offices of The Guardian.

There is, after all, not much evidence that the Obama Administration has either the perception or the stomach for such an approach. So, flailing around trying to shore up the backwash of European imperialism it seems to be.

 

11 Comments

  1. Mel
    Posted August 11, 2014 at 11:11 am | Permalink

    The trouble is, whether the US directly overthrows a tyrant (Iraq), helps a populace overthrow its tyrant (Libya) or refuses to get involved in an attempt to overthrow a tyrant (Syria) …

    WTF? The US is involved in Syria:

    Under the administration’s division of labor, the State Department is in charge of supplying nonlethal aid (includes food rations and pickup trucks, not tanks and bullets), while the C.I.A. runs a covert program to arm and train the Syrian rebels.

    So, what should the US do? Provide military support for the Kurds and Maliki (the UK’s plan to attack ISIS’s fundraising has the right sort of target) and prepare everyone for breaking up Iraq. And probably Syria as well. But that would take more sense of history than is likely either in Washington or the offices of The Guardian.

    Great idea. America and the West could then flush another few trillion dollars down the toilet and set another half century of catastrophic unintended consequences that fuel anti-Western sentiment and Jihad at home and abroad.

    A far better and infinitely cheaper option would be to diplomatically quarantine the whole Greater Middle East and let the bastards work through their angst just like us Europeans had to work through ours (as an aside, I’m currently reading CV Wedgwood’s The Thirty Years War, eek!).

  2. Posted August 12, 2014 at 9:08 am | Permalink

    [email protected] That is still a pretty minor level of involvement in Syria: not nearly enough for US policy to be causative in any serious sense.

    And I wasn’t proposing invasion or troops on the ground. Just negotiated settlements without the presumption that current borders as sacrosanct.

    Oil rather precludes just letting them fight it out.

  3. Mel
    Posted August 12, 2014 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

    And I wasn’t proposing invasion or troops on the ground. Just negotiated settlements without the presumption that current borders as sacrosanct.

    And Donald Rumsfeld and his chums thought just getting rid of Saddam and establishing democracy in Iraq would delight everyone in Iraq, cost pin money and every American soldier would be home for thanksgiving.

    Any “negotiated border settlements” reached with US involvement, no matter how appropriate, would forever be deemed another example of American hegemony by my crazed friends on the Left and by the formidable anti-American forces and public opinion in the ME. It would be best if America absented the stage entirely.

    Oil rather precludes just letting them fight it out.

    No it doesn’t. It would be a case of enlightened self-interest to wean ourselves off Middle East oil, allow world oil prices to reach a new equilibrium and to spend a portion of the multi-trillion dollar peace dividend on transitioning to a post-oil economy.

    If weaning ourselves off ME oil dependence helps lure China and/or Russia into the ME tar baby, that would be an added bonus.

  4. conrad
    Posted August 12, 2014 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

    I imagine providing weapons to the Kurds is a bit of a balancing act — Presumably you want to give them enough fire-power to defeat ISIS but not enough for them to then start bothering Turkey. Personally, being the largest group of people without their own homeland, and living in the homeland of extremely unpleasant others, I have a lot of sympathy for them. If I was Kurdish, I’m sure I’d want my own homeland too.

  5. Posted August 13, 2014 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

    [email protected]

    to wean ourselves off Middle East oil

    Very much a long term plan.

    Crazed friends on left should not drive anyone’s policy and settlements would involve winners and losers, nor is anti-Americanism universal in the Middle East, still less the Muslim world more broadly.

    “Just leave” is not a practical policy. So, hard-headed realism suggests that new borders are going to have to be part of the answer, the current ones clearly don’t work.

    [email protected] Yes, helping the Kurds is something of a consensus position in the West, for good reason.

  6. Mel
    Posted August 13, 2014 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

    “Just leave” is not a practical policy.

    Why? What is the worst that could happen?

  7. Mel
    Posted August 13, 2014 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

    … nor is anti-Americanism universal in the Middle East …

    Ahem.

  8. Mel
    Posted August 17, 2014 at 8:34 am | Permalink

    Stop evading the question, Lorenzo.

    What is the worst that could happen? Lie down on the couch and tell us about your fears.

  9. Posted August 23, 2014 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

    [email protected] The worst that can happen is an outbreak of complete Hobbesian war and massive disruption of world oil supplies.

    Of course, the amount of Western “intervention” needed to block that is pretty minimal.

    Then there are such things as the Yezidi unpleasantness, where doing nothing seems inhumane. I would see useful policy as shoring up the Kurds, rescuing folk as such as the Yezidis and getting the relevant states to start talking about breaking up Iraq and Syria more permanently. (In particular, that the Turks and the Iranians are just going to have put up with a Kurdish state.)

  10. Mel
    Posted August 26, 2014 at 8:34 am | Permalink

    [email protected] The worst that can happen is an outbreak of complete Hobbesian war and massive disruption of world oil supplies.

    Yes but literally trillions of dollars would be freed up to find alternatives to ME oil, so I’m sanguine about that. ME oil will start to run low/become expensive in 50 years anyway.

    I also imagine a complete pullout would mean:

    # hundreds of billions of dollars would no longer have to be spent on anti-terror measures in the West as the resentments that fuel such terror would no longer exist,

    # we could ditch illiberal anti-terror laws

    # China and Russia potentially being drawn into the mess and less likely to meddle elsewhere.

    # we could redraw that moral bright line that should separate us from them, a line that both Bush and Obama have tainted with drone strikes, torture, propping up illiberal regimes like Saudi Arabia etc.

    All sounds good to me.

  11. Posted September 1, 2014 at 6:16 pm | Permalink

    [email protected] I doubt the level of disruption to the world economy would be at all pleasant to live with and be at all sustainable as policy.

    As for the notion, that if we left the jihadis would stop hating us, that strikes me as very naive.

    And relying on the Russians and Chinese for anything much does not strike me as a sensible policy.

    Anyway, shale and tracking may be doing the job for us anyway. In which case a slow withdrawing is likely to happen.

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