Friday, August 29, 2014

Another ISIS Commentary, Or Whatever They Call Themselves Now

ISIS 1st Battalion "Allah's Ackbars"

I know, two posts from me in the same day is kind of crazy. But don't get too apoplectic about it. And yes, that was a shamless use of the word "apoplectic" so's I could link to an article showing a picture of Tom Brokaw being apoplectic, which I think is hilarious.

Moving on...

I rarely try to analyze the craziness in the Middle East too much because, well, it's crazy. And for the most part our enemies there have worse barks than bites. Iraq seemed pretty formidable, for instance, until we steam rolled them like a Pro club would your kid's Pee Wee team. Even Iran isn't a big deal when it comes to a military vs military face-off. And terrorist groups are annoying and elusive, and they can cause a lot of damage when they strike. But for the most part, terrorist groups spend 99% of their time being elusive, not striking. Still bad, but not take over chunks of the world bad.

But the President goes too far with analogies as it pertains to the Islamic State, aka ISIS, when he calls them a "JV" team. Many laughed at that, even some of the press included. But from what I keep reading around the internets, all sides of the political spectrum seem to be misnomerizing ISIS (I made that word up).

Everywhere you look you see the IS labeled as a "terrorist state" or a "terrorist group" or a dozen other things that trivialize and, quite frankly, misunderestimate what they are (W made that one up, but I like it). But ISIS aren't terrorists. As a whole, they don't commit terrorist actions. Yes, some of them have done so, and some of them have been full time terrorists. But they aren't merely terrorists. They have more in common with an army. Actually, what they are is a Horde.

I did a couple years in the army guard as an analyst, and I've been in a few TOCs and have had some training on asymmetric warfare and strategies for fighting against it. However, I want to make it clear that I am in no way, shape, or form an expert, or even much of an amateur when it comes to military strategy. But I do study history, and I am seeing parallels between ISIS and some past bad guys that nobody knew how to deal with.

I suspect the smarty pants in the Pentagon have all of this figured out by now, but the media doesn't and apparently the President doesn't either. When I look at ISIS, I see a Horde. Like the ones that came out of the Steppes and swarmed through eastern Europe sacking cities and leaving destruction in their wake. I see the horde that established the Mongol Empire. I see something that the world hasn't seen in a long long time: ransacking and pillaging. 

That's not how war is fought nowadays. You wear uniforms and take orders and are paid every two weeks. You don't pillage or murder people for no reason. But that's how ISIS does things. They are an "old school" barbarian army. And with the added bonus (danger) of being religious fanatics. Even the old hordes of history didn't care all that much about what their victims worshiped. As long as they had stuff they could steal from them and didn't cause trouble, they might live. The Mongol Empire was famous for their religious tolerance, even paying towards different religions in different regions to keep the peace and thus their conquests.

ISIS will kill anyone who doesn't accept their specific brand of Islam. And they have no respect for "things". They have no economy but what they steal. They have no capitol. They have no specific hardpoints to bomb. They have just enough structure and command and control to function, but not enough to disrupt anything seriously. They are very much like Biblical locusts, swarming over everything and devouring it, for the sake of devouring it.

How do you stop such an enemy? I try to picture military leaders strategizing in this scenario and I can't think of what they might come up with. Bombing? But what do you bomb when your enemy is so fluid and nomadic? Using special ops? Head on, there are just too many ISIS to kill that way (10-20,000). And our special forces can't do much to disrupt things. Maybe an assassination of al Baghdadi could disrupt things, but then I'm not so sure. 

That leaves a full fledged military "boots on the ground" action. But even then, it will be bloody and I am not sure Americans have the will to press on in such a war. They've had enough of war. And by all accounts, these ISIS nuts don't throw down their weapons and run like your average Iraqi Baathist or Taliban. These fanatics WANT to die for Allah. That's why they are there. That's why they are embracing all of the blood-drenched insanity of a full fledged Jihad. They don't worry about living with what they've done because they don't expect to live much longer.

I don't know. I just don't see a clear way to fight these guys. They seem to be a mix of something from the Dark Ages and a dangerous cult, but with modern weapons. And they will destroy anything and everything for their cause. How do you fight that with a modern army? Without suspending ROE I mean. Because we will never suspend ROE in our quest to always be morally superior to our enemies, no matter how many innocents die. As long as we aren't the ones killing them. 

The other problem besides how do you defeat these guys is that our government still seems to think that containing ISIS is the way to go. Not only do they, at least publicly, not seem to understand the nature of ISIS, they also seem to think containing them will somehow fix things. That's like marking off a mine field. Sure, maybe you can contain it...but it's still a minefield. It has to be dealt with eventually.

I just might not see the obvious, but I don't see how to defeat ISIS without going to the extreme. One thing is for sure though; golfing and fundraisers won't do the job.


  1. Organize an arak summit?

    Sernly worded hashtag placard?

    ISIS bucket challenge?

    Potential strategies exhausted.