Steyn on the World
At Friday's Department of Defense press briefing, Brigadier General Thomas Weidley gave it the full Baghdad Bob:
Etc. Americans interested in an honest assessment of what's happening are better off skipping the Pentagon briefing and listening to the locals hightailing it outta there:
Indeed. The Pentagon has an unrivaled comic genius when it comes to naming its operations. General Weidley is Chief of Staff, Joint Task Force for "Operation Inherent Resolve". If one had to name the single quality most obviously lacking in local ground forces, in the "60-nation coalition" and in US strategists, that would be it. Iraqi troops fled their US-supplied government buildings and then, at the edge of town, abandoned their US-supplied Humvees to melt into the local population, hopefully with nothing US-supplied about their person to give them away. The Humvees and the buildings are now in the hands of Isis. That's the great thing about taking on a "60-nation coalition". When you roll over them in nothing flat, the stuff they leave behind is world-beating state-of-the-art.
Almost exactly twelve years ago, I spent two days in Ramadi - one coming, one going. I wandered around the streets, browsed the shops, ate in the cafes, all in the same suit-and-tie get-up you can see me in on stage and telly. And I got the odd surly look but no beheading. Because, in the spring of 2003, the west was still believed to be serious. Now they know we're not.
That's a terrible thing to tell your enemy. And once you do, alll that's left is to boast of the scale of your ineffectualism. As General Weidley assured us:
That and $4.75'll get you a decaf latte at the CentCom Starbucks.
In America Alone (personally autographed copies of which, etc, etc), there's a passage where I'm on the highway to Ramadi through the western desert, and, over the charred ruin of an Iraqi tank, pondering the words of Sir Basil Liddell Hart - that what matters is to destroy the enemy's will, and, if you're not prepared to do that, destroying his tanks makes no difference. Nor do 420 sorties, nor 420,000 sorties. "Sortie", by the way, is French for exit. Maybe something's getting a little lost in translation here, but it's hard to tell the difference between a sortie strategy and an exit strategy.
And, of course, when you let one enemy know you're not serious, everyone else gets the message, too - from Putin in the Ukraine to Beijing in the South China Seas to Assad bringing his temporarily mothballed chemical weapons up from the basement to every ragtag jihadist militia minded to overrun a US consulate.
What does Isis on "the defensive" look like? They're now in Afghanistan, and controlling Libyan seaports. Any reason why they should stop there? From today's Daily Mirror:
The Mirror and the rest of Fleet Street are tapdancing around the genius of what Isis is doing: They conquer territory, terrorizing the locals, beheading and raping on an industrial scale, and sending millions fleeing - and then, having caused a "humanitarian catastrophe", they turn it into a cash cow. In effect, Isis is now running the humanitarian rescue from Isis. They're simultaneously the Nazis and Schindler - if Schindler's list were full of crack German agents he were smuggling into Britain. Which is a hell of a business model.
Where do these guys want to flee to? Europe.
No problem, says Isis. We'll become co-owners of the human-smuggling racket. It's all upside: we overwhelm EU refugee procedures, ensure that among all the losers in the hold are plenty of the savvier jihad boys - and use the cash to fund expansion in other areas.
Once you start ceding territory, where does it stop? Why should Piraeus prove any more of a fortress than Ramadi? Richard Fernandez writes:
There's a lot of truth in that. A state needs territory, but Isis doesn't. Having stolen everything it wants, killed everyone it hates and destroyed everything in sight, it can abandon Ramadi for new killing fields. The Islamic State is less a state than a state of mind.
Then again, most western nations are not states, either - not in the conventional Westphalian sense of coherent entities pursuing state strategy. Unlike Britain, America has chosen to run its global order not through conventional expressions of national interest (the British Empire) but through post-Westphalian institutions - the IPCC for "climate change", the "60-nation coalition" for war. The UN-style post-state model strikes me as all but useless. By comparison Islamic imperialism has come up with a form of post-state transnationalism that's boundlessly flexible, encompassing conventional war, global crime syndicates, and the ability to spontaneously ignite "lone wolves" from Sydney to Copenhagen to Garland, Texas.
Meanwhile, our official no-Islam-to-see-here brings only the certainty of further retreat. Even if one accepts the view that this is a "tiny minority" of "bad apples", absolving Islam of responsibility for the cancer that nests within it ensures that there's nothing left to do but what Liddell Hart tells us is strategically pointless: bomb vehicles and buildings. And, given that western taxpayers paid for those vehicles and buildings, it's even more stupid.
Where's our wit and nimbleness and "ability to reconfigure on the fly"? After 14 years, we've learned nothing. Announcing another 473 bazillion sorties and marveling at how swimmingly the US-funded Iraqi Army Please-Don't-Run-Away-Quite-So-Quickly Program is going is not only a sign that we're losing, but that we don't even know enough to know we're using the wrong metrics.
~On the other hand, according to the geniuses at Slate:
I'll buy that theory when the editorial staff at Slate are lined up in their orange jumpsuits while Mike Huckabee's sharpening his scimitar.
from Steyn on the World, May 18, 2015
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