Friday, July 4, 2014

The Suspicious Underpinnings of ISIS

You have to be pretty far out in the weeds for Al Qaeda to consider you too "extremist", but the so-called Iraqi Syrian Islamic State rebels have managed to gain that dubious title.  For that matter, Hezbollah doesn't like them either.  Neither does anybody else in the middle-east -- except the Syrian rebels and a lot of assorted Jihadist hotheads, many of whom are flocking into northern Iraq to join them.  They're polarizing the middle-east as fast and thoroughly as Boko Haram did northern Africa.  

In fact, ISIS -- which is now shifting its name to The New Caliphate -- has made so many enemies so quickly that one has to wonder if this was, dare I say, planned?  ISIS was obviously backed by a lot of money, which everyone assumes came from the rich fanatic sheiks of Saudi Arabia and Qatar, but where did those rich Jihadist fanatics get the idea that now was the time to start the great war to establish Moslem rule over the world?  Well, certainly the inability of the angered governments of northern Africa to stamp out Boko Haram, and the departure of the American troops from Iraq, and the Palestinian kidnappings and murders in Israel, might have encouraged them, but wouldn't caution have warned them to wait and see if those Africans and Israelis eventually came up with effective reactions?  Wouldn't any sensible military adviser have told them not to assume that, just because Allah was on their side, that all the world would fall before them?  Where did they get the idea that everybody else in the world is a collection of cowards, weaklings and fools who are ripe for the conquering?

Is it possible that somebody who's not a Jihadist carefully sowed that idea in their heads?

Not everybody in the western state departments are fools, and -- much though it might surprise China -- western governments are capable of playing a long, slow game.  It was not by accident that the USSR was encouraged to spend itself into collapse, so that it crumbled without anyone in the west firing a shot.  Nobody who has carefully followed events since then could doubt that the next big threat to western civilization was going to be the Jihadist movement;  after all, the Muslim militants have been building toward this confrontation for the last century, at least.

So, how to deal with it?  How do you fight armies who boast that they love death as westerners love life, who are happy to die if they can just die killing a few more innocent people, who are quite happy to slaughter noncombatants -- including children -- and who boast that they have a potential recruiting pool as big as the population of China?  How do you make war on a political/religious movement which is not tied down to any one location or government, and armies that wear no uniform but hide among civilians?  Genghis Khan managed, centuries ago, by having no compunctions about slaughtering whole populations, but that sort of thing is frowned on these days;  anyone who tried it would find the rest of the world allied against him for pure self-preservation.  So how do you stop them?

Well -- and here's where my hard-learned practical political paranoia kicks in -- you make them fight each other, to the death.  This isn't as hard as it might appear.  Religious fanatics have a long track-record of turning on each other for being insufficiently holy, as various Muslim sects have done many times before.  In fact, the only thing that has ever managed to unite fanatic religious sects in the past has been a common enemy -- and even that is no guarantee.  Despite their handy unifying hatred of Israel, for the past 60 years Arabs have merrily fought each other over any good excuse.  The long-standing civil war in Syria has killed more fanatical Muslims than all the western troops in Afghanistan and Iraq combined.

Now considering how fast the Arab Spring came and went in other middle-eastern countries, why has the civil war in Syria dragged on so long?  You might consider the question of where both sides are getting the weapons to keep fighting it.  No country has visibly or officially sold or given weapons to either side in a very long time, yet both sides manage to keep getting them -- always small arms and small artillery: not serious enough to invade any neighboring countries, but enough to keep killing each other (at least 100,000 at last estimate) for year after year.  For all the UN's whaffling about "international arms smugglers", it's clear that a volume of weapons like this could only be supplied by the government of an industrialized country -- or several countries.  And how many governments in the world have good reason to want as many Jihadists as possible dead?  How many countries -- from Britain to Burma -- have had problems with demanding Muslim fanatics inside their own borders?  The not-so-subtle attempts by Jihadists to spread their power in other countries has raised a quiet but sizable backlash all over the world, and I strongly suspect that civil resistance is the least of it.

So why did the Syrian rebels, who haven't even conquered their own country after all this time, suddenly decide to run next door and conquer Iraq?  Did they -- and their Saudi/Qatar backers -- really think they could get away with it, just because the American troops were leaving?  Or were they subtly encouraged -- by people who had observed the effects of the Syrian civil war -- to make their move toward worldwide Jihad too soon?  After all, it should be obvious by now that the one sure effect of the ISIS invasion will be the slaughter of an awful lot of fanatical Muslims.

Here's my prediction about what those "300 military advisers" Obama is sending to Iraq will do.  They'll mainly concern themselves with operating fleets of drones -- some of them these days are small enough to be disguised as small birds or insects -- to spy out exactly who and where the Jihadists are, and provide pinpoint navigation for American smart missiles, and airstrikes by other countries' bombers.  The earlier campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan dragged on so long, and at such expense, because the American troops (and their civilian "reconstruction" teams) bent over backwards to be nice to the natives: being painfully careful not to harm innocent civilians, not to knock down mosques(no matter how often Jihadists fired from them), to provide supplies and medical treatment, to rebuild the infrastructure and economy and government, and generally leave the population a lot better off where they'd passed.  Of course the Jihadists sneered at this behavior as "weakness" (or "cultural warfare" once they realized how effective it was), but the 85% of the natives who aren't fanatics and just want to get on with their lives certainly noticed.  Once the pinpoint bombing begins, the natives will also see just how murderously effective the non-Jihadist troops can be.  That should encourage them, in good historical everybody-love-a-winner fashion, to fall upon the Jihadists -- and their whole New Caliphate movement -- with great enthusiasm.

If the US will also lend a few drone-operating "advisers" to the various angered/embarrassed governments in Africa, Boko Haram will soon be obliterated also -- and so will the other Jihadist organizations in the region.  If Israel chooses to bomb Gaza flat, not much stink will be raised in the UN, either.  In all the noise and flurry, not many people will notice if Burma expels its entire Muslim population.  It will be interesting to see what happens to the Jihadist groups in Indonesia, too.

In brief, the noisy excesses of ISIS actually spell the turning of the tide against the Jihadists, everywhere in the world.  Thus World War Three -- between the Jihadists and everybody else -- may yet be avoided, or at least nipped in the bud, simply by the trick of encouraging the Jihadists to show their hand too soon.  And yes, I suspect the wiser heads of the various state departments of the western governments of having given the Jihadists enough rope to hang themselves.  Well done, boys.  Well done.

--Leslie <;)))>< 





tagryn said...

Leslie - I don't know about the Western governments' influence in this one, it seems to fail the "don't ascribe to cunning what can be explained by stupidity" test.

But Iran (Shia) and the Saudis (Sunnis) have been playing a mini-Great Game in the Persian Gulf area for a while now. Its known that Hezbollah has strong ties to Iran; the Saudis prefer to keep their influence more shaded, but they have a history of being not especially discerning as far as helping jihadi causes as long as its all kept beyond their borders.

ISIS/ISIL aren't a new group, they evolved from Al Qaeda in Iraq (Zarqawi's group), and also have a loose alliance with former Ba'ath members from the Naqshbandi Order group, among many others. Like a lot of groups like this, what is being called "ISIS" in the media is more an alliance of convenience among a bunch of different entities which will probably fall to infighting when they try to divide up who gets to rule what.

Leslie Fish said...

Hi, Tagryn. Al-Qaeda's position in this is interesting. One day they're denouncing ISIS as "too extreme", the next day they're sending troops to join them. Well, that serves to concentrate the jolly jihad-nuts in one place.

Agreed, that stupidity can sometimes work in our favor, but I can't believe that the entire state department is made up of idiots who don't know how to take advantage of a situation like this. It's best to lance and drain a boil after it's headed up.

--Leslie <;)))>< )O(

Paradoctor said...

The partition of Iraq became inevitable when idiot Proconsul Bremer disbanded the Iraqi army. The Bushites wanted real change in the Middle East, and boy howdy, now we're getting it.

Kurdistan will probably be OK; their ambitions are local-ethnic and hence self-limiting. Rump Iraq will be troublesome, but ultimately Iran's headache. It's Sunnistan, now called ISIS, or IS, or The New Caliphate, that's a loose cannon.

The partition of Iraq was inevitable after the American army's equally-inevitable departure. So the peshmerga had time to plan and prepare; and evidently so did Isis.

Don't you love that name, BTW? Isis! I'll use it, uncapitalized, just to make it the same as the name of the ancient Egyptian goddess of motherhood. Weird! Why would devout Moslems allow themselves such a name? It sounds like the kind of mystical crapola that the Illuminati or the Freemasons would foist on the world!

tagryn said...

PD - there's a line from an old Washingtonian article about Bremer, Tenet, and Franks getting the Presidential Medal of Freedom, noting that "in harsher societies, all three might have been taken out and shot."

L - I hope you're right, my own gut feeling has been that our intelligence community has grown overly reliant on signal intercept and interpretation vs. feet on the ground. To be sure, even when the CIA was in its golden years we still got surprised, but there's only so much we can get from listening in at a distance. The bin Laden operation couldn't have been pulled off using intercepted communications, as one example.

I have no problem with the jihadis killing off one another, but one thing that the intel services are apparently starting to get concerned about about (from previous experience in places like Chechnya and Afghanistan) is that this tends to kill off the stupid, the reckless, and the inexperienced, leaving the strong and smart ones with extensive experience at the end of the day, and those are the ones we have to worry about coming back to the West after all this is over.

Leslie Fish said...

Hi again, Tagryn. It's pretty obvious to me -- therefore should be to State Dept. professionals -- that the best spy department in the middle-east is the Mossad. If for only that reason, and there are plenty of others, the US should keep close friendship and alliance with Israel, regardless of the personal tastes of any given administration (I name no names). This fact must be apparent to the smarter Jihadis too, which explains their long and intense campaign to spread antisemitism -- and particularly anti-Israel attitudes -- among the young, passionate and stupid in the western nations. This is what we've got to work hard against, because the Mossad is the one bunch who knows how to deal with the stronger and smarter Jihadis who'll be left standing when the fools have killed each other off.