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Wednesday, September 10, 2014

President Obama Announces Airstrikes Against ISIL

List: Obama Orders Bombing of ISIL

Tonight, on the eve of the 13th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terror attacks in New York City and Washington DC, President Barack Obama announced that the U.S. Air Force would be conducting bombing raids into both Syria and Iraq to downgrade and ultimately destroy the Islamic State of the Levant (ISIL) terrorist group. ISIL is the direct descendant of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) terrorist organization that was almost destroyed by U.S. forces in Iraq in 2006-2007. The remnants of AQI hunkered down in the deserts around Tikrit and Ramadi until they were strong enough to become active in the recent quagmire in Syria. Once the U.S. pullout in Iraq began in earnest, AQI stepped up its activities in northern Iraq.  The ISIL discussed by President Obama this evening is stronger than ever, and militarily active in both Syria and Iraq (who are we kidding; I'm sure they are all over Jordan and Lebanon as well).

In his speech, President Obama outlined a multi-faceted approach to defeat ISIL, including providing support to allies already engaged on the ground. This is the place where we usually get into trouble. Who is it exactly that will be receiving U.S. military hardware and ammunition? I'm very curious which groups have been identified as "the good guys". Better yet, how did the administration (through the CIA more than likely) make that decision? It matters a great deal to me. We have made a habit lately of arming our enemies by arming our surrogates. No doubt its much more palatable for the administration to conduct a war without U.S. troops, but finding other folks to die on our behalf (maybe a bit is their fight as well or they wouldn't be there) does not come without a price tag.  In the late 1970s the CIA armed the Afghan Mujahedeen with all sorts of yummy killing accoutrement. I can tell you that on more than a few occasions, those same weapons have been used to kill young American soldiers. Then we decided to train and arm the Iraqi Army before pulling out recently, and where are those weapons? An unpleasant number were left on the battlefield by deserting Iraqi troops before a shot was even fired. And now, if this conflict does eventually require U.S. troops on the ground, ISIL will have American-made weapons to use. Recently I wrote a post in which I called for immediate military assistance to the Ukrainian Army. I did so safe with the belief that whatever we give the Ukrainians will not one day end up pointed at U.S. soldiers. I could be wrong, but I doubt it. Another group that gets my full approval for military support is the Kurdish Peshmerga.

If you've been reading my blog, you've probably already noted my affection for the Peshmerga. They may not look like much to the naked eye, but they are as disciplined and intelligent a military organization as you will find. They work well in smaller units, and can transport just about any piece of equipment great distances in no time. They have shown a tendency to avoid prisoners, and they are loyal to the Kurdish cause to the death. I've never known the Peshmerga to leave weapons on the battlefield because I've never known them to lose a battle. The Peshmerga enjoy fighting in conditions that others avoid, which is one of their best assets.  The next time you are visiting Sulaymaniyah, have a walk through those rugged mountains where the Peshmerga train.  You'll understand why they all seem to be in great physical shape. Oh, And they stink really bad...not big fans of deodorant.

President Obama's plan includes all the hallmarks of his foreign policy as we have come to know it.  Once the air campaign begins (still no concrete date), the U.S. Air Force will target ISIL in both Syria and Iraq. One year ago today, this administration was contemplating an air campaign against ISIL's enemies, the repugnant Bashir al-Assad regime. Now we will be bombing Assad's opponents. There is no way that this will not tremendously help Assad and the Syrian military (let me see....the friend of my enemy is my friend, or my friend is my friends enemy, or is it my friend has an enemy who is also my friend, or....I quit!). As a traditionalist, I don't like war that is undeclared, and I don't like conflict that basically involves only one branch of the military. But I am all for ending blood sacrifices in this part of the world without a clear and bold strategy to turn the enemy into a pile of dust.

Basically, I appreciated the speech and I'm glad that we will be raining death upon these bastards somewhere. I understand that there was some concern about where exactly we would be dropping the bombs. I can assure everyone that the Air Force and our intel targeting guys and gals RARELY make mistakes, but someone will be inconvenienced (okay, so someone's house and goat herd may get blown to smithereens...we usually provide some sort of compensation). Also, be prepared for the bodies of innocent victims that will be paraded around. I remember one occasion in Iraq when the locals dug up a previously buried body and declared the corpse to be the victim of "American artillery".  Unfortunately the body was roughly 100 yrs old, and when the arm fell off they realized the game was up. As for President Obama and the new strategy to attack ISIL, he has my full support.  Again, I don't believe in "sorta" fighting a war. When you have identified that a foe has reached the point of being a deadly threat to the United States, then you utilize all of your resources to defeat the enemy in the quickest time frame possible. This strategy saves lives and makes the necessary point.

I won't spend too much time on the parts of the speech that I found disturbing.  Here we go again with the coalitions. How many are we talking about? We have NATO, which is more or less a living coalition.  We have separate coalitions in both Bosnia and Kosovo and we have the coalition which has been working with us in Afghanistan. When Obama spoke of a coalition including the United States, and then mentioned a coalition of Arab nations, was he referring to the same coalition? First and foremost, coalitions involving Arab states don't usually achieve much. And if they had any inclination to get involved in this mess, wouldn't they have done so by now?  Hell, most of them have internal elements that are raising money for ISIL. And just when President Obama had me warming up, he had to remind us that this conflict is not about religion, and that Islam is about peace. We've heard it ad nauseam, Mr. President. By repeating that same mantra, you enable the average, peace-loving Muslim to avoid getting involved.  Regardless of the numbers, true, peaceful Muslims need to stand up and be heard!  And not to yell at me, but to do something about these fanatics in our cities and in our own neighborhoods who are using bastardized versions of your holy book to recruit killers.  No one gets a free pass anymore.  Everyone has a part to play.

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