Time for more venting on Congresspeople – and media – who have learned nothing from recent history. First point, strategy is not tactics. Bombing ISIS vehicles and strong points is tactics, it requires some good intelligence and is even handier if you have trusted folks on the ground lighting up the target with a laser. Otherwise you waste a lot of money and risk American military lives unnecessarily. Bombing just for the sake of bombing is stupid at best…….read Shadow Warfare and CENTCOM’S bombing strategy for the first weeks of the post-9/11 mission to Afghanistan to fully appreciate that. Bombing with no true “forces on the ground” link to the bombing is tragically stupid and about as far from strategy as you can get – read the same chapter for Rumsfeld’s classic remark about …”.if we can’t find targets in Afghanistan there are plenty in Iraq”…..and run, don’t walk away from anyone who has that attitude (run even faster if its Rumsfeld himself or any Congressperson or politician who admires him).
Afghanistan is a perfect primer for how a good strategy against ISIS would be developed and worked. The CIA guys and Special Forces who went into Afghanistan did a wonderful job with that and once they established a coalition effort with several warlords, demonstrated the true shock and awe of highly targeted bombing via laser and GPS info collected on the ground they broke the back of the Taliban in weeks – totally surprising Washington, the Bush Administration and CENTCOM who had refused to pay any attention to them. Bombing without linkage to local forces on the ground is stupid (uh, did I say that enough already), if you are trying to oust a force that has embedded itself in the local population.
We have some good circumstantial information to suggest a solid Syrian strategy was being explored on back in 2012, with American CIA types on the ground trying to ID the non radical Syrian opposition groups and get them weapons. At that point Senator McCain was meeting with the other guys, the jihadi types, and lobbying to ship them weapons – lesson to be learned, don’t take strategic or tactical advice from Congresspeople, and don’t be comfortable with a President who wants to run his own bombing campaigns as Johnson in Vietnam. If you have to do something leave it to the professionals, and these days that means good Joint Special Operations Command personnel. In any event, that initial effort in Syria largely got blown apart by Congressional politics and politicized media coverage following the Benghazi attacks (the CIA Benghazi base attack being the heart of the matter). We deal with that in SW as well.
Which meant a big reset in Obama Syrian strategy, leaving time for Qatar and Saudi to take over control of weapons shipments into Syria and ensure that the good stuff went to their radical jihadi surrogates. And yes we do have a real strategic problems with both those allies – if not the actual top levels of their governments, with their military intelligence which has a jihad oriented religious leaning – much as in Pakistan during the jihad against the Russians in Afghanistan – and all their very wealthy private donors….that’s another story unto itself.
Fast forward to 2014 and stopping ISIS…..that strategy is going to be complex, its going to involve working simultaneously – and on the ground – with a number of different local fighting forces, many with no special love for each other but now with a nicely formed sense of hate and self preservation against Isis. But that is going to take time; the last thing we need is a repeat of the Gulf of Tonkin experience, where Johnson started a decade long war simply to win the upcoming election. And if this all sounds like I woke up with an attitude – right on (a dated expression but then so am I).
Rather than responding to the Congresspersons – from either party – that you hear on Sunday morning TV, I would recommend assessments such as the one at the link below: