ISIS, Al Qaeda, etc.

Obama’s IS Strategy (part 3)

 The crux of the problem for Obama and the US is that American leadership of the effort is a sure formula for inflaming anti-Americanism throughout the Muslim world. But, if ISIS is not stopped, it will completely destabilize the Middle East. So, Obama must buy time with the air campaign while pressuring the Saudis, Jordan and others to take the lead. Were Obama to follow the advice of some Republicans and the Neocons, these Muslim countries would not step up to the plate, and the US would again be mired in a ground war in Iraq, and Syria as well.

Fortunately the Saudis are beginning to get their act together in the form of the Gulf Cooperation Council, which is said to be working now on an anti-ISIS offensive. This would not have happened had Obama started out saying he had a strategy and charging is as the hawks would like. It’s a fools errand for the US to shoulder all the burdens of the Middle East, and for the life of me I cannot see why so many Republicans, starting with Dick Cheney, favor this approach.

For an understanding of ISIS, read the most knowledgeable Ahmed Rashid. In short, ISIS is not waging war against the West as al-Qaeda is. As Rashid explains:

This is above all a war within Islam: a conflict of Sunni against Shia, but also a war by Sunni extremists against more moderate Muslims—between those who think the Muslim world should be dominated by a single strand of Wahhabism and its extremist offshoot Salafism and those who support a pluralistic vision of Muslim society. The leaders of ISIS seek to eliminate all Muslim and non-Muslim minorities from the Middle East—not only erasing the old borders and states imposed by Western powers, but changing the entire ethnic, tribal, and religious composition of the region.


Obama’s IS Strategy (part 2)

A few military and Republican leaders are criticizing Obama for saying that “American forces that have been deployed to Iraq do not and will not have a combat mission.” But he and the American public are right to draw this line, and they are right strategically as well. If he had said, “Well we just might have to go back in,” that would give the military another option, but it would also send a signal to Baghdad that, if they keep screwing up, we’ll come dig them out. “Buck” McKeon (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee should be able to figure this out.

America is not responsible for Iraq, but it does have in interest in stopping the spread of terrorist Muslims. They wreaked havoc on 9/11, and the recent plot in Australia along with recruitment of US nationals shows they would do it again if they could. A stable base of operations—which they had for 9/11—would certainly up their chances.

Obama’s ISIS Strategy

 It is now clear why Obama recently said he had no ISIS strategy. Ten Arab states, led by Saudi Arabia just announced they would join the US in a strategy to destroy ISIS. It’s much harder to bring players like that on board if you announce that you’ve decided everything and just want them to join you and do what you’ve decided needs doing. So in fact he had a much more subtle strategy than the hard left and hard right could imagine, and the first step was to gain crucial support from the Arabs.

In fact, those complaining about his strategy understand little about war or about strategy in any competitive game. You don’t announce your strategy, that only helps your opponent. And in politics is makes no sense to announce that you have a great strategy, but you’re not telling what it is. So the only course is to play your cards close to your vest.

The Saudis

  We know that 19 out of 20 of the 9/11 hijackers were Saudis, as was bin Laden, but consider this: “We know from WikiLeaks that the US government regards the Saudi monarchy as a “critical financial support base” for al-Qaeda, the Taliban, Lashkar-e-Taiba, and other terrorist groups.” (NYRB xlnk.gif)