Leftover Turkey Day and How Do We Solve a Problem Like Syria
November 27, 2015 7 Comments
A little bit of leftover business from Jess’ new post yesterday, she also had a message for us as Americans:
As some of you know, I spent a year in America when I was younger, and that intensified a love of America that came from a crush on John Wayne and a love of American films. It’s so easy, looking and admiring that great nation, to forget how precarious were its origins, and now, with so much political correctness, almost to have to apologise for them. But those brave Pilgrims might easily have suffered the fate of those Vikings who had tried to establish settlement much earlier, and in fact almost did suffer that fate. But their faith in God which led them to cross a vast ocean in vulnerable wooden ships, kept them firm and saw them through. May that be said of us all – and let us always give thanks to Him who alone is truly worthy of all thanks and praise.
I don’t think truer words were ever
But that isn’t to say that all of our problems are due to political correctness, although it has much to do with why we can’t seem to solve them. As Jess and I both know, in order to solve a problem first you have to define it, and then define a plan for dealing with it. And that is much of the problem with IS (which someone this week defined as Islamic Scumbags, which I like). A retired British officer wrote about this in The Spectator this week. You need to read the whole article, but I’m going to give you a few highlights.
Like most British soldiers of my generation, I fought in Iraq and Afghanistan. Few would now justify the reasons for invading Iraq; most of us who fought there at first recognised the amateurish nature of the strategy and its lack of realistic political objectives. But in 2007, under General Petraeus, the coalition adopted a new strategy that was underpinned by coherent policy. This stemmed from the recognition that unless common cause was found with moderate Sunnis, a workable Iraqi polity could never be established.
The rapid improvements that flowed from this change were impressive but disgracefully shortlived. The US departure from Iraq in 2010 allowed the Shi’ite Nuri Al Maliki a free rein to threaten Sunni interests and explains the Iraqi half of today’s tragedy in the Middle East.
In the other half, the West has shown similar strategic illiteracy in Syria. Efforts to excite opposition to Assad were unsupported by even the remotest understanding of what might follow. Just as with Saddam and Gaddafi, no credible alternative to Assad waits in the wings.
Part of this stems from the crisis of confidence experienced by both the US and UK as a result of Iraq and Afghanistan. The prevailing judgment is that all interventions are ill-advised, especially those involving boots on the ground. The best the West can do is to bomb from a safe distance and make half-hearted efforts to raise local militias. Bombing and drone strikes have their place if properly targeted, but no aircraft has ever held ground. Without western forces, local militias will continue to be highly unreliable.
[…] Until there is a change of policy, Obama is unlikely to provide the lead that he should. And Cameron has shown no appetite to have the sort of relationship that Churchill had with his military chiefs, preferring instead the advice of his intelligence agencies. Agency heads can give you the intelligence, but they are unqualified to determine the solutions.
(Emphasis mine) I think that is a good nutshell description of the problems we face in the UK and US.
The House of Commons should therefore ask itself the following questions:
— What is the political objective and is it realistic?
— Can a grand coalition of the willing be created under US leadership which can coalesce around the same political objective?
— If a grand coalition cannot be created (without for instance Russia and Iran), how would this affect the strategy?
— What military resources will be needed to achieve the objective?
— If, for political reasons, the right military means are judged unacceptable (notably ground forces), then would doing nothing be better than doing something?
— After the political objective has been achieved, are we willing to show strategic patience and stay the course?
If the government can produce sensible answers to these questions, then its strategy should be supported. But if not, the House of Commons would be wise to wait.
So emphatically should Congress, because we know the executive hasn’t the knowledge or the will to, and it should resume its rightful place as one of the keys of the American system, which seems nearly as doubtful, as is anybody doing the work of defining this problem and then its solution.
As I said above, you should read the whole article. It is: How to defeat Isis, by a retired British commander.