Well I thought I would let Washington go first on the strategy thing – strangely they never called – so I’ll just following along with a few thoughts.
As I imagined, the Obama Administration chose to go tightly focused on ISIS rather than presenting a broader strategy for the much wider radical jihadi threat – which crosses North Africa and continues on into the Pacific, branching off through the now independent former Soviet Muslim republics across Pakistan and India into Kashmir. Judging the stumbling response of Congress and much of what I’ve seen on the news the last two days that was the right choice – the American public truly does not understand the broader threat so its best to focus on ISIS. I saw a tragically sad interview with the House leadership in which the interviewer simply asked why Congress was not moving to prepare not just a new authorization for military force but could not even seem to move on moving funding including training of surrogates – given that they keep complaining that they want to be part of the process. His answer was just sad, something to the effect that in the past they have always waited on the Commander in Chief. Talk about both sides of the mouth…but I digress.
The lack of comprehension is also reflected in all the stumbling over terminology – look folks, it can’t be a “war” unless Congress declares it as one. That is a Congressional prerogative – so if they want a broader and more aggressive strategy, as I kept hearing on FOX, well then they just need to declare war and fund it. Of course on the ground it will look like war….would have been best just to say military action or combat and not get wrapped up in it. Probably the closest to technically correct usage is the Administration portion that ISIS evolved from al Qaeda and the 2001 AUMF allows military action against those groups who organized and supported the 9/11 attacks. Actually, unlike the military action we have been taking in Somalia, Yemen and in other African locations there is a good argument for ISIS. Of course then they fell into the trap of implying the AUMF actually provided legal justification similar to Somalia and Yemen…..which it does not.
OK, now that I got that out of my system, there are two major things missing from the ISIS strategy. The first is the lack of a cyber warfare campaign to eliminate the highly effective ISIS recruiting. We ought to be taking down any server, email account, Facebook page etc ASAP. Now clearly there are legal issues there…and the likelihood of offending international relationships. If we had truly declared war it would be no problem, perhaps a new AUMF might address it but I don’t see Congress having the stomach for that. All of which means we will be fighting with arm tied behind our backs. The second is even dicier, the talk is about taking out their funding…..but that has been a goal since 2001 and clearly has not worked (have you asked yourself exactly how ISIS buys all those airline tickets to get its recruits to the fight)? The only real, bruit force approach to disrupting funding would be to begin publicly identify all those individuals, groups and organizations which actually route money to them – knowingly or unknowingly (find out where the money for the tickets came from; most likely we already know all this). But since that would embarrass too many of our Arab “allies” its just not going to happen. So that leaves one arm and at least one leg tied behind the back as we start the combat. Let’s just pray that nobody tries to impose the same geographic boundaries to actual combat we saw in Vietnam…..or that President Obama begins “channeling” LBJ.