Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Lesson Not Yet Learned

The recent fall of the Iraqi city of Ramadi to ISIS forces raises serious questions about the president’s strategy in the region. Questions that were actually answered years ago.

The American people have made it clear that they want no part of another ground war in the Middle East. The president, much to the consternation of his critics, has listened to the people that he has sworn to serve. He has employed a strategy against ISIS that calls for US military support from the air coupled with Iraqi forces on the ground. US warplanes soften the targets from the air while Iraqi forces take and control territory on the ground. It is a military strategy that has been used for as long as airplanes have been dropping bombs. It is a strategy that hinges on the Iraqi’s ability and willingness to engage and defeat their enemies.
Such was not the case in Ramadi.

By all accounts Iraqi forces outnumbered ISIS rebels by a 10-1 margin. Yet upon receiving the first word that the ISIS attack was imminent most Iraqi soldiers threw down their weapons and fled. ISIS fighters rolled into Ramadi and found little resistance. What they did find was a treasure trove of US supplied arms, tanks and supplies that had been abandoned by the fleeing Iraqi army.

The unwillingness of the Iraqi army to standup to its enemies should come as no surprise to American military strategists. In the lead up to both the first and second Iraq wars the Iraqi military was hailed as one of the best trained best armed armies in the world. Saddam’s vaunted Iraqi Revolutionary Guard manned the world’s fourth largest military. Yet in both conflicts the Iraqis fled when faced with the reality of facing America’s massive military might. Mass Iraqi surrenders were commonplace…often occurring before a shot was fired.

American taxpayers ponied up over $25 billion borrowed dollars to train and arm the Iraqi army only to see it turn tail once again at the first sight of conflict. If the Iraqi people are unwilling to fight for their own country then why should we?

Please spare me the neo-con talking points about all the reasons that we need to defeat ISIS in Iraq and Syria:

“We need to maintain access to the Iraqi oil.” No we don’t. Our oil and natural gas reserves are larger than that of any other country including Iraq and Saudi Arabia. Europe is far more dependent on Iraq’s oil supply than we are. Why not let Europe figure out how to protect those interests.

“We need to make certain that the trade routes in the area remain open.” The US Navy can make certain that those trade routes remain open from the safety of international waters.
“If ISIS is allowed to prevail they will establish a caliphate in the region that will reign terror on American interests.” Before ISIS there was Al Qaeda. After ISIS another group will take its place. There is no military solution here. Unless of course we are willing to occupy the entire Middle East with American troops…forever.

“We need to plant the seed of democracy in the region. Once the locals see the benefits of a democratic way of governing they will come around.” Under the watchful eye of the American military democratic elections were held in both Iraq and Afghanistan; Malaki and Karzai named the respective victors. These two fine gentlemen rewarded our efforts by extorting tens of millions in CIA funneled bribes while they got cozy with Iran, Russia and the Taliban.

“We need to stem Iran’s influence in the region.” See above.

“We need to demonstrate American leadership.” Please!

The Middle East is complicated. Any reliance on the locals to set aside centuries of conflict to suddenly link arms with “American infidels” is both simplistic and foolhardy.

There is no military strategy in the Middle East. One would think that after all these years we would have learned that lesson.

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