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.

6 comments:

Ares Olympus said...

Stuart: 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.

Agreement there. And with Comey testifying on Thursday, who can say who is going to be humiliated. No more crazy tweets showing his terror against his declared enemies.

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Donald J. Trump - James Comey better hope that there are no "tapes" of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!
7:26 AM - 12 May 2017
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Loose lips sink ships, and Trump can't even control his own, much less his white house.

Ares Olympus said...

Jacob L. Shapiro: 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.

If Mattis is successful in his humiliation campaign, perhaps Trump will yet get his "Muslim ban". FDR was afraid of Japanese people in the US during WWII, and preempted their potential for sabotage by rounding them up.

Surely our domestic "soft targets" are boundless, so if we have a "long fight" ahead, we may capture 99.9% of the "hearts" of Muslims in America, but 0.1% can cause a lot of mischief.

If we accept 0.1% of Muslims can "punch above their weight" and kill 10 Americas for every one of their death. If we say there are 3 million Muslims in America, and 1/1000 become suicidal attackers, each killing 10 people, that suggests we should be willing to accept "collateral damage" in the U.S. of about 30,000 civilians.

Considering SOS Albright said the death of 500,000 children in Iraq due to our sanctions was "worth it", and perhaps 500,000 Iraqis died in our war to take out Saddam, it is sensible to say that 30,000 Americans is a small price to pay, as long as we win.

It'll be interesting to see if Clinton supports Mattis's plan. Perhaps the left and right hawks together can unite behind this bold plan.

Ares Olympus said...

I was unable to find any opinions on Mattis by Clinton, but found this from March 2016, suggesting Mattis run third party for president in 2016, proposing he could win in the Republican House if no candidate got a majority in the EC. A missed opportunity.
http://www.thedailybeast.com/this-man-can-save-us-from-trumpand-clinton

If Mattis's mission as Secretary of Defense wasn't such a "long fight", perhaps his success now would put him into the position of Eisenhower to run in 2020 or 2024? Although Ike was 63 when he was elected while Mad Dog is now 67, and will be 70 in 2020 (same as Trump was), and 74 in 2024.

America is going to need a strong leader who can carry us through potentially 3000 domestic terrorist attacks in the next decade while we annihilate and humiliate ISIS, Al-Qaeda, the Saudi Wahhabists, and whatever comes next.

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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