No easy road ahead

Minutes ago, I watched a heated exchange between Bill O’Reilly and Kirsten Powers over what to do about ISIS.  Bill O’Reilly advocates the saber-rattling – “Let’s round up some troops and go kill them!” type approach and Powers defended President Obama’s do next to nothing approach.  The solution, if such can be sought, will not be an American imposed solution, but instead will require dynamic and bold American leadership to rally Gulf State leaders, Russia, China and European leaders to work out a way forward to not only defeat ISIS, but to create some sort of regional security framework for the collapsing Islamic world and to forge ahead, despite huge obstacles, toward working out some sort of, if not peace, then truce in the ongoing Sunni-Shia conflict, which complicates every attempt to quell some of the escalating violence in the region.

ISIS, in my view, while creating horrific, attention-grabbing videos, remains a band of drugged-up, dangerous psychopaths, led by a few savvy politically-minded leaders.  The attempt to actually create some sort of government will be more akin to the Taliban than any dreams of a new Caliphate. ISIS, in my opinion, grabs headlines, but is truly only a symptom of the larger failing and failed states (huge power vacuums) in the region.

Defeating or toppling any one regime or even ISIS, without a comprehensive, long-term regional stabilization plan, agreed to by the power-players in the region, European leaders, and China, Russia and the US will lead to more chaos in the region and perhaps even wars spreading beyond this current hot zone.  What is needed is not a “Let’s go kill ISIS” plan, but a “Let’s work out a comprehensive long-term plan to stabilize the region”.  My suggested way forward would require all sides to make some compromises and to make some painful concessions.

If the goal is to stop the collapse of Islamic civilization and create an environment where moving the political ideological tenor of the Muslim world to a more moderate position, then Islamic religious leaders must engage in the process too, which creates another formidable obstacle.  The power they wield can be used to foment more hate and more deaths of innocent Muslims caught in the crossfire of this religious extremism they continue to aid and abet or they can seek to save Muslim innocents and help build a more prosperous Muslim future. They must decide if they are men of hate or men of God. Or, they can continue to help destroy the Islamic world, because assuredly failed states are not safe for even the self-righteous, pious Muslims.   They are zones where criminals, drug lords, and psychopaths roam free to terrorize innocents. There are no easy choices for anyone involved in this struggle.

From what I can see Syria remains the center of gravity for ISIS and to deal with Syria will require engagement with Russia and Assad, because Assad, must be a part of the solution, if there is to be any solution.  Russia and other Arab leaders, must present the choices to Assad, he can either lose Syria to growing radicalized Islamists or he can do the honorable thing for his country and his people and work to defeat ISIS, then step aside and work to help Syria form an interim government.  He has lost all credibility with the Syrian people and can not possibly remain in power.   This is all my opinion, of course, if I were in charge of leading American foreign policy, these are the avenues I would pursue.  A big picture geopolitical regional security framework would be the goal, to minimize the killing required to subdue the virulent Islamists and to work with Arab regional leaders to unify their military and political efforts in an effective way rather than these disjointed hit or miss, reactionary responses.

As to the O’Reilly, pie-in-the-sky demands of let’s send X-amount (usually large numbers) of US troops to defeat ISIS, this is the alarming reality of US ground troop readiness in America (April 2015 Army Times report):

“The unrelenting budget impasse has compelled us to degrade readiness to historically low levels,” Odierno said.

“Even today we only have 33 percent of our brigades ready, when our sustained rate should be closer to 70 percent. We are unable to generate readiness for unknown contingencies, and under our current budget Army readiness will at best flatline over the next three to four years.”

The ability to deter and compel more than one adversary at a time is in doubt.

The situation “requires us to hope that we can predict the future accurately, something we’ve never been able to do,” Odierno said.”

Tough choices, many huge, almost insurmountable obstacles blocking hope, but with determined global leadership and America taking a resolved stance, perhaps other countries will attempt to help move this mountain, understanding that this will require many hands to lug huge boulders, many miles, for a long time. There is no easy road ahead.

24 Comments

Filed under Foreign Policy, General Interest, Islam, Military, Politics, Terrorism

24 responses to “No easy road ahead

  1. Minta Marie Morze

    As you well know, my friend, the problem is that you actually want to find sensible steps to “move this mountain”, and all around us there are clever and powerful people who are determined that the mountain will not only stay as a huge monument to Evil, but that it will grow more and more formidable with time.

    To change metaphors for a moment, there is a huge worldwide conflagration threatening, here and there catching the dry timber of human depravity and setting it ablaze with unspeakable horror, and, all the while, the Commander-in-Chief of what should be the most powerful country on Earth is amusing himself destroying the military and homeland, and playing with matches.

    Liberty, you want to bring people together to fight what is pure Evil, but our President wants to tear people apart.

    Keep thinking, keep writing, keep praying, and keep an eye out for America’s next George Washington, who, God willing, is in the shadows right now. The time is ripe for a great creative soul to emerge.

  2. Do we have ANY Historians out there besides me? Anyone who has pretensions to bringing “peace” to the Middle East has not read history. From the beginnings of recorded history, starting with Ur, the region has been one of continuous conflict and major wars. The regional animosities, the tribal and clan blood feuds, the religious clashes, the attempts of outside actors to bring some kind of order to the chaos there—actually, it is more accurately described as “Southwest Asia”, because Afghanistan should be included—dictate that there will never be “peace in the Middle East.” It is a desert or semi-desert area with scarce resources and too many people, geographically located on one of history’s major fault lines, at a nexus of world trade. I read recently of a U.S. State Department diplomat who claimed to “understand the Middle East” because he had spent his entire career there negotiating an end to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. (He didn’t seem to see the irony in that statement…) America, arguably, at least until 6 years ago, the world’s sole remaining superpower, had the wherewithal to impose peace on the Middle East by military force and occupation if we had chosen to do so. It was a really bad idea, and frankly the American people are tired of pouring out their treasure and the blood of their sons and daughters in aid of “world peace”. It would have taken an extended occupation of the region for a minimum of 50-70 years, and we weren’t willing to do that, nor should we have. Cynically, the best solution to the conflicts in the region was suggested by an old military friend of mine, who said we should cooperate with the other world powers to build a high wall around the entire region, construct large catapults just outside of it, and catapult pallets of ammunition over the wall until the shooting finally stops…

  3. Kinnison, I do read history, lots of it in fact. You approach the world like just about every historian worth his salt, but just because this is the way it’s always been does not necessarily mean this is the way it must be forever more. America, that unique experiment in self-governance, would not exist if our founding fathers and all the faceless, nameless of their generation did not grab destiny by the reins and commit to pull hard and change course.

    The US can’t solve the Mid-East problem, only the various combatants there can solve it, but we can’t just build a high wall to keep them confined either. Their most determined death cults keep becoming more radicalized and unfortunately for us, intent on killing us too. We aren’t in dire straits yet, but as the power vacuums and weakened regimes totter, the most virulent of them are demonstrating the will to fight for control. They have repeatedly told the world that the US and the West are their ultimate targets. I choose to believe them.

    Other regional leaders, thus far, look to me to either try and appease the most virulent Islamists and hope they hate the West more than them or they engage in looking to the West, primarily the US, for help. The Obama approach has been to pay lip service and not follow through and to clandestinely, to use your word, throw more matches into the fire, by tossing more weapons into the region.

    What we would rather do and what has always been won’t get us one step further to solving the problem, which you insist shouldn’t be attempted, because no one in all of history has accomplished it. The US alone can’t solve the problem, but I do believe several leaders working together can. I am not talking about some new international “Peace” group or utopias, Kinnison, I am talking about leaders (individuals) who decide to try something new. Most of those will have to come from the Arab world.

    Most assuredly, everyone in the world looking to someone else to do something or just saying, “that’s the way it’s always been there!” leads to the post “Arab Spring” world spinning more wildly out of control and the whole world will be impacted as the Islamic world implodes.

    We can be angry that it’s not our problem, but in the end, we won’t be able to isolate ourselves from the problem. And to be clear, I don’t advocate pouring tens of thousands of US troops into Iraq to fight ISIS immediately, but what I do advocate is for the US to take a leading role in putting this issue on the front burner in talks with other world leaders and demonstrating an American can-do attitude – not whining and appeasement, as our current President offers. And by working with other leaders, I believe the challenge can be met, if these leaders, with support from other world leaders, plan carefully and remain committed to moving this mountain.

    • LB, you might want to try to sell that to all the Marines that died taking Ramadi, now that Obama’s and Hillary’s incompetence and fecklessness have given it back to the Jihadis, if your calling plan includes local calls to Valhalla. “Talks with world leaders”… Yeah, that should work… And as for your little friend with a distain for Historians, you might let him know that I am also a retired lieutenant colonel and Marine, and speak with some authority when it comes to war.

      • Kinnison, It’s precisely because of Obama and Hillary’s incompetence, that God willing, we are done with both of them after 2016, that we (being the US) will have to talk to other world leaders and will be forced to deal with the disaster left in their wake. There is no go it alone way (“plan”) ahead for any world leaders as the Islamic world continues to implode, because it’s going to continue to impact all of us.

        About the sacrifice of our blood and treasure, let me just for the record state, that while you are a retired officer, I am an Army wife of a sergeant major. Long ago I served a short time of active duty and swore the oath too, although being a woman, we decided that one of us should hang up the combat boots and be the one to carry our newborn back to the States, as we were in Europe, if something should happen and my husband being an outstanding infantryman remained a dedicated soldier. I never forgot my oath and I dedicated as many hours as I could to helping Army families and soldiers, volunteering. My husband is a veteran of Grenada and Desert Storm, my son is a veteran of Iraq.

        You can scoff and dismiss my ideas, it matters not one whit to me. Every time I go on the military installation near my home and drive past the parade field where they erected walkways lined with trees as a living memorial to the soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice I try not to weep, but even while GWB was President, I also began to get angry that our country’s leaders could send our brave soldiers to war with such a shabbily constructed strategy. They deserved better then and they deserve way better under this alarmingly incompetent administration, As this mess in the Islamic world does not appear (from my amateur historian’s eye, because assuredly I have no degree, although I would put my 30+ years of extensive reading on history as probably more extensive than most historians with advanced degrees) to be going away any time soon – America will be called upon to act. I don’t want US troops to carry the burden for the Islamic world, but we will be called upon to lead or we can choose to sit it out and see how that pans out. I don’t dismiss history, I just refuse to accept that all that has gone before means we are destined to repeat, while strangely enough historians say we must learn from history – I try to learn. I read military history and military strategy seeking answers, I take notes and try to learn from past successes and failures, I try to apply concepts to our modern day thinking.

        As I am a nobody, homemaker, I am used to being discounted and dismissed, but I will say when I say I have a plan, that means I have a plan. I got used to being patted on the head and ignored decades ago. This blog post was a general testing where we are as far as the larger geopolitics. You scoff at talking to world leaders, well, before we commit anymore soldiers to fighting in this “war on terror”, I suggest we start with putting every bit of effort into our diplomatic fights first. This can’t happen with Obama, because he is dismissed as a blithering idiot by other leaders. The next President will need to deal with the wreckage gathering around our feet.

      • JK

        Ah yes. That Sir is a “given.”

        http://www.nps.gov/libi/learn/historyculture/lt-col-george-armstrong-custer.htm
        ___________

        Lieutenant Colonels speaking with authority – “Hey there’s some Injuns, me being a Mustang who’d you rather trust?”
        ….

        Certainly not a dinkus Navy LCDR ’cause he (or she) isn’t claiming at a later date to be a Historian too.
        ____________

        “[Y]ou might let him know that I am also a retired lieutenant colonel and Marine, and speak with some authority when it comes to war.”
        __

        I’m impressed. But not in the War of 1812 sense – you’ll not be minding hotshot?

    • First LB I do not consider “officer” a dirty word, especially since I am a “mustang” like my father before me, and was once a Marine NCO. Second, I never suggested that history means things never change. Of course they do. And history doesn’t repeat itself, but it does move in cycles. I put us roughly at about 1937-38, with storm clouds a’comin. Which world leaders would you have us talk to? Russia? China? Neither are our friends. The British? The French? Why? They are largely at fault for the current mess in the Middle East because of their dividing up the spoils of the Ottoman Empire via a map in Paris in 1919, plus neither has the military wherewithal to make any significant military contribution…and one thing you can be assured of, and that is that the leaders in the Middle East respect superior force, and that is ALL they respect. We intervene militarily in a significant way or we sit back and watch the carnage, because as I pointed out earlier the talking has been going on in this round since about 1948 and has gotten exactly nowhere.

  4. JK

    LB?

    If you can find it (I’m kinda busy just now) you might look up Henry Kissinger’s suggested solution from, I seem to recall, almost precisely a decade ago.

    (If I recall the sequence correctly, the Russians had just *allowed* the US to move supplies – by rail – from the Med to Afghanistan via Kazakhstan. ‘Bout all I can recall in the way of a hint until oh, maybe this pm.)

  5. Robert

    This is a good discussion. Much better than subjecting myself to an argument between O’Reilly and Powers. Isn’t it interesting that in all this ME turmoil, Israel as the region’s problem, has fallen by the wayside? They never have been the “problem”. Islam is the problem. So far, one voice, Egypt’s al Sisi has stepped forward to call for a review of and “reformation” and enlightenment of present day Islam. I hope he lives long enough to succeed. The King of Jordan would be agreeable too I’ll bet.

    As far as outsiders having influence, America at present has no credibility. Russia is and has been a dirty operator, China is not trustworthy and Europe is deeply distrusted since forever it seems, or at least since 1919. Muslims will kill each other along sectarian divides until they find a way to reform their management of religion and state.

    In the midst of this Islamic sewer, the tiny western state of Israel thrives.

  6. JK

    “By the way, I admire the hell out of Kirsten Powers, even though she’s a Dem (why Lord, why?): she has beauty, brains, and (the female equivalent of) balls. And she puts up goodnaturedly with the sometimes obnoxious Bill O’Reilly. But I admire the hell out of him as well. That leftists despise a moderate such as him shows what contemptible extremists they are.”

    http://maverickphilosopher.typepad.com/maverick_philosopher/2013/09/good-reads.html

    • Robert

      Right now, Powers has her side kind of angry with her over her new book.

      • JK

        S’probably Robert, less to do with her book than, as Bill V. notes, Miss (Mrs?) Powers “having balls.”

      • Robert, I have some political views that cross partisan ideological lines, as I suspect many people aren’t “ideologically” pure, so to speak. I admire that she speaks out on issues based on her beliefs and doesn’t just recite partisan talking points.

  7. Robert

    hollyasbury, I view Powers the same way-sometimes. Eg the Obamacare roll out when she was an early victim with loss of her policy, also the IRS abuse of power and one or two more. Also, I understand, she recently had a spiritual revelation that must have been profound. That’s more than I have ever had. Her side of the isle needs more like her.

    • JK

      Oh I think Robert you’re not giving yourself the credit I give you. Provided; you’re the same Whitewall I initially noticed over on [Gratuitous Dog Pictures ring a bell?] then Greenfield’s then D&N and now here?

      You recall me “paraphrasing” something you’d said I recall best as I can having been posted on a Waka thread?
      __________

      Given – it mighta not been strictly speaking of the spiritually revelatory but, if I recall correctly – and providing you are the same fellow I engaged (along with a “James”) speaking on the subject of a possible Israeli strike on …. – I think you Sir, however you might put it now, I consider it was indeed “a revelation.”

      That’s solely my personal opinion but in some circles – and depending evermore frequently I’d give, on my lucidity – there was a time or two my opinion counted for something.

      Not in this Administration for damn sure but, there was a before.

      • Robert

        JK, I am indeed WW. I have a feeling I need to look my best on this forum though, hence my proper name. I recall your engagements elsewhere.

      • This is an informal blog Robert, kind of like chatting around my kitchen table. As long as you don’t blow your nose with the edge of the tablecloth, you’re welcome here, lol.

  8. JK, I don’t remember that Kissenger article you referred to, but if my “plan” sounds like his – I will fully admit his strategic-thinking has influenced me a great deal over the years – in fact he assuredly was one of the primary shapers of my interest in foreign policy since I was very young, beginning when I was 11 years old actually. I bought his book, World Order, but haven’t gotten to it yet.

  9. JK

    I realize it’s very complicated but if it wasn’t complicated, heck Obama coulda done it months ago when he had Hillary running all the shit.

    http://www.strategicstudiesinstitute.army.mil/pubs/summary.cfm?q=907

    And Michelle Obama coulda do what she knew best – doing children’s lunches and running all kid’s shit. Green and runny; certainly fibrous and regular.
    _________________

    And then there’s George Clintonopolis and like – when I said a few weeks ago over on Malcolm’s, The Press is a Whorehouse with 500 piano players nobody knew what I meant.

    http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2015/05/21/george_clintonopoulos_126665.html

    __________________

    Doesn’t matter whether LB you even ever knew there was as you had in your first paragraph’s retort, all the faceless, nameless The Historians don’t give a shit what you say anyway – unless they can either, opine it out of their own excuses or, see it in some archive.

    There are Historians – despite – just as or more than espousing bullshit than are Politicians.

    Genghis Khan it is reputed had catapults constructed outside walls hurling “ammunition” in – and we saw by the time of Tamerlane how well that worked out.

    I suppose it comes down to whether one is a Historian or a Politician. Each profession knows all but, in spite of being the second and third oldest profession by each – neither can teach (or admit) a damn thing.

    Probably why incidentally – a customer of a hooker say’s “Wow!”

    And a customer of either a Historian or a Politician says, “I think I just got screwed.”
    ____________________

    Lawyers actually being the world’s fourth oldest profession.

    Anybody failing to recognize that truth not realizing whores are politicians, historians dissatisfied and lawyers to watch whether any are what.

  10. Robert

    LB, I thank you and will leave the table cloth alone and instead use my shirt tail for nose blowing like a “proper retired gentleman” should.

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