Now that some of the dust has settled out from the Paris terror attacks, we’re developing a new focus. Those who responded to the previous post, are just as divided as we are. The problem, aside from the moral issues, is not if we should stop ISIS, but how do we stop them.
We’re reasonably certain that the long march of re-education and demonstrating our willingness to beat swords into plowshares won’t sway the enemy in this or the next four generations. We’re also certain that geopolitically we can’t give them their own homeland, even if we ask Syria, nicely, to hive off a piece of their holdings, to serve as an Islamic Caliphate for those who wish to return to 632 AD in their Captain Wayback Time Machine.
We’re saddled with ISIS, like it or not, so we have to deal with them.
We know that rationally we can’t bomb them back to the Stone Age: We tried that in Viet Nam and it didn’t work, because a subsistence guerilla insurgency doesn’t need a vast infrastructure to operate. There is no ISIS-operated central warehouse of suicide vests that is the only source for ISIS. The insurgency is dispersed in living rooms and back yard sheds, all over the planet. Hitting one, or a dozen, all at the same time (ooh, Shock and Awe again) does nothing useful. Bombing only makes the group dig in harder, doing more with even less, despite what Giulio Douhet or Curtis LeMay might have thought. Where massed strategic and tactical air power does work is against an organized, managed military, like Version II of the Iraq war.
Boots On The Ground is the working theory that we know will work. Unfortunately, the political fallout is too grisly to contemplate. Look at how well we’ve treated our returning veterans from Afghanistan, Iraq or Bosnia as proof that pudding only tastes of blood, burned flesh and tears. The West (by that we mean, more or less the First World) does not have the stomach or the will to go there and ISIS knows it. That’s why they can pull off their particular brand of barbarism. Even vaporizing Jihadi John with a Hellfire missile from a drone won’t put much of a dent in the insurgency. By definition, these kinds of groups are loosely organized with somewhat misty lines of command and control, unlike a conventional military force.
Which leaves us with no viable course of action we in the First World can take to solve the ISIS problem.
Now that is not exactly true, but going full-barbarian/savage is not something we do in the First World. We have the capability, no issue there, but declaring everyone at a particular map reference a target means there will be many lives lost who through pure happenstance are there when the rain of Bad comes down. Conceptually we could surround the area with a big fence, nobody in or out and start killing anything that walks or crawls, but that is beyond pale for the First World. It would work, in that the ISIS leadership, members, supporters, hangers-on and fans are made to go away, but cannot happen. We are not barbarians.
Or should we, as the First World, draw the line and say enough. Hold our nose, do the unthinkable, grit our teeth to mercy and become that which we wish to destroy before it destroys us.
Not a nice contemplation for a Sunday.