The War against ISIS is turning out to be uncomfortably familiar in some aspects. The U.S. Congress has managed once again to avoid engaging with it in any fashion other than an extremely limited resolution related to arming groups in Syria. We seem to be totally failing to interdict jihadi volunteers moving into the region, in the thousands (if press reports are correct) and while its agreed that the ISIS internet media campaign is one of its most effective weapons, we apparently have engaged in no cyber warfare against them. It also appears that our military is operating under severe policy micromanagement – refer to the following article on that.
If you are old enough to have experienced Viet Nam or if you have read Shadow Warfare, this may sound frustratingly familiar. And in one respect it seems surprising since President Obama has previously been praised (and condemned) for delegating a high degree of military autonomy to JSOC and the counter terror groups for their operations.
But after pondering this a bit, it strikes me that what we are seeing is a repeat of what I call the Janus Factor. President’s Johnson and Nixon have been roundly condemned for micromanaging military operations in both South and North Vietnam – where the U.S. was publicly engaged. However covert operations in Laos were far more autonomous, largely under control of the CIA and the US Ambassador in Laos. In the Obama Administration, we have observed an ongoing serious of clandestine JSOC activities and a dramatic (if low profile) growth in Military Assistance and State National Guard partnership programs with foreign nations. With virtually no media coverage, the US is now involved in 68 such National Guard partnerships around the world.
What seems to occur is that if a President is politically exposed in overt warfare, there is a huge temptation towards micromanagement (something that did not exist prior to and during WWII). In covert and clandestine operations, with limited media exposure, the military is allowed far more autonomy (cynically this could also seen as political deniablity). It is a phenomena that seems to affect all of the modern day administrations. But to date it shows little sign of being positive for actual military operations….