Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Annihilate and Humiliate

For too long the West has been playing defense. It hunkers down waiting for the next terrorist attack. Being a soft target, it obsesses about soft issues: the environment and health care.

Ever since Barack Obama took over leadership of the Western alliance it has been all about appeasement and containment. Obama fostered the growth of ISIS and refused to do what was necessary to destroy it. Ever since, the threat has been metastasizing.

Some believe, rather cynically, that if ISIS fighters lose in the Middle East they will escape and bring their war into Western Europe and eventually America. If that is part of the threat,  the Defense Secretary Mattis has the right plan: kill them on the spot; do not let them escape.

In the past people said that the Trump administration had no plan to defeat ISIS. Now it does. Of course, no one is noticing.

The new administration policy is: annihilate and humiliate. An excellent idea. Take the fight to the terrorists. Attack them where they live rather than waiting for them to attack us where we live. The appeasement chorus—led by former Obama administration officials-- will cower in fear, but James Mattis will not be among them.

Jacob Shapiro explains the policy at Geopolitical Futures:

In his first interview as secretary of defense, James Mattis outlined the United States’ strategy. Mattis’ words carry weight because he is one of the few subordinates U.S. President Donald Trump seems to trust implicitly and to whom Trump has delegated significant responsibility. In the interview, Mattis said the war of attrition – pushing enemies out of their locations rather than destroying them completely – failed to produce the desired outcome. The U.S. will now fight a war of annihilation and humiliation against the enemy, which is not just IS but radical Islamism in general. Mattis expects the war to be a long fight, but he also expects to win.

Evidently, it is not the easy way. And it will produce what is called collateral damage.

Mattis pointed to the battles for Mosul and Tal Afar as models for how these tactics will be implemented in other places. In both cases, forces on the ground, some with U.S. help, have surrounded IS targets to try to prevent Islamic State militants from retreating and foreign fighters from leaving the battlefield to return home. The forces then advance and clear these cities block by block, a hard task that takes time. This is what Mattis described as annihilation. The Islamic State’s greatest strength on the battlefield has been its ability to retreat and regroup, and the goal of annihilation is to destroy that strength. 

Mattis added that we need to attack the message of hatred and violence that ISIS is peddling. But, wasn’t that what President Trump did in Saudi Arabia a few weeks ago, to the chagrin of those who were pining for a return to the days of weak-willed appeasement:

Mattis said the Islamic State’s recruiting and fundraising capabilities must be destroyed. The way to do this is to degrade the IS “message of hatred and violence” and any nation that would support it.

Shapiro is shakier on the question of humiliation. First, this is not a war about ideas, as everyone seems to think. It’s a war about prestige. It’s about winners and losers, offense and defense, the strong and the weak.

ISIS fighters and other terrorist entities must be shown to be losers. We did so when the administration organized an alliance among Sunni Arab nations in Saudi Arabia, under the aegis of the Saudi King. If Muslim nations are leading the fight against Islamist terrorism, you are not humiliating Muslims; you are humiliating terrorists.

Strangely, Shapiro seems to question the strategy of humiliating the enemy. He notes that allied forces decided to humiliate Germany after World War I; we know how that turned out.

Yet, an alliance of Sunni Arab nations fighting terrorism and even fighting nations that have supported terrorism—that would be Qatar—will provide Muslims a path away from the humiliation that the terrorists are about to experience.

As for the situation with Qatar, some commentators, drunk with their hatred of everything Trump has done, see it as a sign that his grand strategy is failing. They would do well to read David Goldman’s comments:

The diplomatic isolation of Qatar is a masterstroke. Qatar’s royal family is a nest of extremist sympathizers sitting atop an enormous gas bubble. Egypt has a score to settle with Qatar for its longstanding support of Hamas, the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, which is complicit in Muslim Brotherhood terrorism against the Egyptian government. Saudi Arabia has a score to settle because of Qatar’s dalliance with Iran.

Under the Obama Administration, Qatar was off limits as the host to the headquarters of CENTCOM, the American command in the Middle East. It is inconceivable that Saudi Arabia, Egypt and their allies would pull the plug on Qatar without tacit American approval.

The Saudi-Egyptian action was greeted with consternation in Turkey, which also supports the Muslim Brotherhood and has maintained an on-again, off-again relationship with Hamas. Qatar has been a key source of financing for Turkey and a major source of new foreign direct investment. President Trump’s stern warning to Muslim leaders last month that they had to extirpate extremism evidently has teeth. Beating up Qatar sends a message to the Turks that they have to behave themselves.

The other night on Fox News Washington Congressman Adam Smith was bemoaning the fact that Trump’s presumably Islamophobic sentiments would make it impossible for him to form alliances with Muslim nations. Perhaps Rep. Smith’s constituents are so out of it that they take what he is saying uncritically, but surely they recall what happened in Riyadh a few weeks ago. Their memory cannot be that bad. They are not so ignorant that they failed to notice that President Trump was welcomed as a friend and ally by the assembled Sunni nations while President Obama was treated with far less respect.

Now, if only Donald Trump would learn how to control his tweeting habit and would present himself as a dignified leader of a coalition that is going to annihilate and humiliate ISIS. You cannot humiliate ISIS if you look like you do not know who you are and what your job is.

7 comments:

Ares Olympus said...
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Ares Olympus said...
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Ares Olympus said...
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Sam L. said...

Perhaps we should consider that Trump may be a magician, distracting and confusing the media so they just cannot see what he does not want them to see. Just a thought.

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

It may be a battle for prestige for us, but it's a battle of ideas for the Islamists.

Anonymous said...

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ffHUG5rv1Mo

Jonh Henry said...
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