Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Just 27 Months to Go!

Killing jihadis is nice, but aerial attrition is just a holding action until we defeat them on the ground.

Warfare isn't just a matter of killing all your enemies. It is about defeating them by driving them out of the land they hold, eliminating their hope of victory, and discrediting their cause in the population the enemy recruits from.

While this is good news in the sense that the only good jihadi is a dead jihadi, it is not a metric of winning:

"We have seen a lot of losses within Daesh since the start of this campaign, more than 10,000," Blinken said on France Inter radio, using a mildly derogatory term for Islamic State. "It will end up having an impact."

I hope the latter comment is recognition that attrition is valuable only if it sets up the enemy for defeat on the ground. At best, we are "shaping" the battlefield.

At worst we believe this is the sum total of our effort to defeat ISIL.

I don't believe our military believes the latter. They know better these days.

But you never can tell about a civilian leadership with a "kill list" mentality. The list is getting awfully long, you must admit.

It's like hope and change have no effect on these monsters!

Blinken said not to worry because we are only 9 months into our 3-year plan. But even if we've killed 40,000 ISIL jihadis from the air by then, we won't have victory without defeating them on the ground.

Remember, we killed far fewer jihadis and other enemies in Iraq in more years of war to achieve a battlefield victory--perhaps 27,000 in a little over 8 years.

We did this because we beat them on the ground; deprived them of hope for victory (until we took our foot off their neck), and even discredited jihadis to reduce their recruiting (for a while).

If it is just attrition--even at a much faster rate--victory relies on the enemy getting tired of being killed before we tire of killing them. Will we commit to that endless war?

We're fighting people who believe they are on a mission from God, remember, before you answer that question that is fully intended to be rhetorical.

And ISIL recruiting from a large recruiting pool doesn't seem to be a problem, now does it?

Retired Gen. John Allen, appointed by U.S. President Barack Obama to build a coalition against Islamic State, told a conference in Qatar the group was not merely an Iraqi problem or a Syrian problem but "a regional problem trending towards global implications".

The group has lost about a quarter of the populated areas it once held in Iraq, but countering its ideology might take a generation or more, he told the Brookings Institution's U.S.-Islamic World Forum.

Despite the body count, ISIL has the image of the strong horse in this fight. As long as jihadi wannabees believe that, the recruits will keep coming--to Iraq, Syria, and perhaps a shopping mall near you.