Category Archives: history

FOXNEWS: West Point report describes Islamic State threat as crisis 4 years in the making

A new report from the West Point counterterrorism center challenges the notion that the Islamic State only recently became a major terror threat, describing the network’s gains in Iraq as a crisis four years in the making.

Meanwhile, Fox News has learned that top aides to President Obama expect the threat from the organization, also known as ISIS or ISIL, to outlast Obama’s time in office.

The details underscore the challenge facing the U.S. government and its allies as the president and military advisers weigh how — and where — to confront the Islamist militant forces.

“ISIL did not suddenly become effective in early June 2014: it had been steadily strengthening and actively shaping the future operating environment for four years,” the report from the West Point center said.

Sure, 4 years in the making, but the choice, if anyone was thinking about it to make a choice, I think was just which four years.

I’m not sure it wasn’t inevitable, no matter who was President; just a matter of sooner or later. The only solution is to raise our game to a level of ruthlessness that our modern sensibilities will not countenance. We don’t have to go full Mongol and kill them all. We don’t even have to go biblical and kill all the men and take the women and children as our own. But we do have to decide that Total War can be an imperative, that we must engage in it.

As for our sensibilities, the—well “reasons” gives too much credit for thinking it through, but I don’t know a better word—the reasons that we lack the mettle to be ruthless is our cultural sensitivity.  If there is a population out there that is so near the edge, that they can be radicalized by how we fight the war, then by all means, push them past that edge and let them die on our pikes as they charge. Let them become enraged by our actions. Enraged opponents may be fierce, but emotional people make mistakes that we should be happy to seek out and exploit.

And we have to remain unemotional doing it.  We can neither afford to love it or hate it and warriors that find themselves doing either must be sidelined.  We have to be cold and dispassionate about the business even while being energetic and passionate in executing it.

We have to shake off the traditional American lack of fervor in the fourth phase of warfare, which is pursuit.  We must pursue—hunt them down and kill them where we find them with whatever means we have available for doing it.

War and Civilization

And yet, long-term history also gives us cause for optimism. We have not managed to wish war out of existence, but that is because it cannot be done. We have, however, been extremely good at responding to changing incentives in the game of death. For most of our time on earth, we have been aggressive, violent animals, because aggression and violence have paid off. But in the 10,000 years since we invented productive war, we have evolved culturally to become less violent—because that pays off even better.
Ian Morris writing in The Atlantic

Mr. Morris’ point is about how war has been a net positive in human history, a thesis that I have long embraced. But this paragraph leads me to change the subject a little. Decreasing aggressiveness and violence as a net positive is, I believe a fallacy. We’d be better off to be more aggressive and more violent in the prosecution of wars once begun.

Robert E. Lee famously observed that it was a good thing that war was a terrible as it was. But we have managed, in the intervening century and a half, to civilize the waging of war, W.T. Sherman notwithstanding. The result has, perhaps, not been exactly what Lee told us it would be, that we would come to enjoy war, but we have certainly learned to live with it, even viewing it as normal.
In the US context, somewhere between the Soldier engaged in a firefight and the President, there is a rapidly declining sense of ruthlessness. The trigger-puller has no choice, given a desire to live. His leaders, at some remove from the survival imperative, somewhere lose their aggressiveness and considerations aside from achieving victory and accomplishing strategic goals take precedence. So much so that the result is a willingness to keep putting warrior’s lives on the line in the furtherance of “something else,” where that something is anything other than martial success.

And the general public, the least aggressive and violent participants in any question other than the decision to go to war, is okay with that.

In some ways then, we need to be more barbaric as a society, especially where, contrary to Mr. Morris’ point above, our opponents are not as “culturally evolved” and so retain that aggressive nature, because, confronted with an opponent like us, that pays off better still.