MILITARY INTERVENTION BUT NOT OCCUPATION
In many ways it seems that America expects to win wars in the late 20th Century and early part of the 21st Century just as we did in WWII. Certainly unconditional surrender is winning a war, any war, anywhere, anytime in history.
Given the current technology available to wage war, our ability to kill enemies and destroy property of such enemies, globally, has gone far beyond our ability as a nation to use less military power and still achieve reasonable National Objectives. America still struggles, politically and militarily, to clearly state National Objectives that can be achieved without the full use of available military power. We have been doing exactly that since WWII, with one exception, the limited objective to drive Iraqi forces from Kuwait in the late 20th Century.
In fact America continues to establish National Objectives that are popular but requires far more military power to achieve that America is willing to use, politically.
Let’s begin with a simple reason why any nation maintains a form of national defense, men and women usually in uniform and armed with deadly weapons to some degree. If nothing else the job of such organizations is to defend the nation creating such forces. Only a few nations today maintain sufficient armed forces to successfully invade and remain in lands previously ruled by others. America, Russia, China and perhaps a few Middle Eastern nations now have such capabilities.
The only reason that very large and relatively rich nations maintain huge forces at hand is to deter war against them by other large nations. Deterrence was the key to preventing real WAR during our geopolitical conflict with the communist controlled Soviet Union. Deterrence still remains the key to prevent military engagements between large nations today, nuclear nations if you like.
It is not the purpose of this blog to write again of reasons why nuclear deterrence remains critical in today’s unsettled geopolitical world. But it is my intent to apply the concepts of deterrence to our conflict with ISIS, Al-Qaeda, “terrorists”, huge criminal organizations controlling to a great degree entire national governments (like Russia if you will), and others of the sort.
Driven by technology and like it or not, the world of the 21st Century is very different than any time before in human history. Unless we as humans decide to literally destroy life as we currently understand it, never again will nations line up on opposing sides, unleash all the technology available (including nuclear weapons) and go for unconditional surrender, not matter what, today or in the future. Total war is unthinkable today (but not just 60 plus years ago for sure).
Yet we have enemies that still think in terms of Total War today. Enter the world of radical Islam, people today just as driven by religion and conversion of all humans to only one faith, as the “western world” was so driven during the Middle Ages in Europe. How is it possible to create a sense of deterrence to prevent the onslaught of ISIS wherever ISIS believes it can win, unconditionally?
I maintain it is possible to achieve such deterrence to prevent crazy and criminal actions around the world. But the use of force is required as well, like it or not.
Take a domestic example in America, a time after WWII when large and very violent criminal organizations tried to control swaths of America, large American cities if you like. I speak of the Mafia.
It remains impossible to eliminate crime from any society for sure. Police forces designed to protect society are and will always be needed. There will always be criminals that will challenge the authority of society to protect itself using police, but rarely do such criminal societies gain and sustain real control of societies in America in general. Deterrence keeps some potential criminals at bay and physical force limits the ability of criminals to actually “govern” much at all. Imagine if possible the reaction in America if the Mafia in fact gained control of Chicago or NYC. The Mafia would not have remained in such power to govern for long, I am sure and nuclear weapons would not have been employed as well.
Now think of ISIS as a transnational criminal organization. How best can “civilized” societies counter such a criminal threat? Is that not the real challenge to America and the rest of the civilized world today, to send ISIS, the people consisting of ISIS, back into their caves and having little effect on societies in general?
Our current National Objective, as stated by the President is to “degrade and ultimately defeat ISIS”. That’s it as far as I can tell and we sure are arguing about how to do just that, degrade and then defeat a bunch of criminals, world-wide.
Well permit me to ask if you believe we have now degraded and defeated the Mafia in America? I suggest that we have done just that to the extent that criminal actions by a “Mafia” today are not anywhere in the public mind now. Sure there are some criminals believing they are big shots and some making lots of money, but a War on Crime (domestically) is not in the American psychic today, at least in my view.
Now think of ISIS as a “global Mafia” today. Then consider how American society degraded and ultimately “defeated” just the Mafia. I submit innovative technology and the effective use of raw physical force by police, the FBI and others did the job, eventually, for the sake of society.
Could American society have defeated the Mafia without “boots on the ground”? Of course not and anyone thinking that we could have negotiated with the Mafia to make them stop criminal actions would be laughed out of any public discourse at the time. Economic pressure on the Mafia would have failed as well. What are you going to do after you shut down all the grocery stores in a Mafia controlled area of NYC, I wonder???
As well, while the full array of American society’s power, including law, technology and raw physical power was levied against the Mafia, there were many law abiding citizens that actually supported the Mafia in their towns and neighborhoods. But ultimately the legal forces of society overcame such sentiments. If nothing else that shows that popular opinion is not always right and government must do what is needed to keep society safe, popular opinion in a neighborhood notwithstanding.
Same with ISIS in my view, globally.
OK, what to do specifically in America’s conflict with ISIS today. I suggest we treat them as a global criminal organization that uses brutal, inhuman means to gain and keep control, sort of like a global Mafia is you will.
Take a given “neighborhood”, even a nation or significant portion thereof (like Iraq today). Use technology to define exactly where those criminals are located and what “laws” specifically, they are breaking in such neighborhoods. Then form a task force of cops, send them in to arrest and kill every criminal that can be found. Capture those criminals, en masse, haul them off to ………., then leave the neighborhood to let normal government sustain the safety of the remaining society therein.
You see when the FBI and even a mass of local cops acted as a task force to “degrade” the Mafia in a neighborhood, that task force did not remain for very long to occupy the neighborhood, for months or years until…….
I suggest America desperately needs the ability to intervene but not occupy in various areas of the world today, using military power. That is a “lily pad” concept of “defenses”, which actually is a set of mobile but still very powerful forces to intervene, act as a legal task force, to clean out a rat’s nest of criminals and then leave, soon thereafter.
As the debate of using a “lily pad” concept for defenses, American armed forces first became a topic of discussion in around 2005 or so, most Americans simplistically thought of a bunch of SEAL or Delta Force teams available to ……. Nope that is not the type of force structure I now call for.
I am thinking in terms of at least battalion or brigade size ground forces, in some cases even a division size force, ready and able to go into a given area and clean out a rat’s nest of criminals.
Such a concept applied to the Middle East containing ISIS today is rather simple and straight forward today. Doing the same in the Ukraine is a different matter as major powers would be head to head, Russia and America if you will. It would still be doable, but……… and I won’t go into all those “buts” in this blog.
But take a specific example of say Mosul in Iraq, today. Consider just this approach. Ask the current Iraq government if they want Mosul back under their control. Assume they say yes and are willing to do what is needed to achieve that goal. That makes American military intervention, but not occupation, of just Mosul possible, legal and probably approved Congressional action as well. Iraq asks for our action and we provide it to return Mosul to Iraqi government control. We announce that intention to the world, including all the citizens in Mosul. We encourage all those law abiding citizens to leave Mosul or hide deep within shelters at a minimum.
Then we retake Mosul, probably with a brigade size force, including armor, artillery and complete control of air space over Mosul. After that initial “remote” onslaught that will kill a lot of people remaining in Mosul before we send in a brigade of Chris Kyle-like trained men and women, we send in just those sorts of warriors, clean out the rats nest, turn it over to Iraqi forces immediately and move on to the next town on our list compiled with the Iraqi government.
Never forget that so far in the history of warfare, air power alone does not resolve geopolitical conflicts. Neither does Sea Power alone as well. It takes boots on the ground to win a geopolitical conflict with physical power is involved. And just as local cops did not have the power to defeat the Mafia alone (it took a lot of help from the FBI), most countries today cannot alone fight and win against the likes of ISIS today, at least in the Middle East and now even North Africa it seems.
What can America do better today? Intervene, with raw and effective military power but do not occupy in any way. Just turn over a cleaned out rat’s nest to the law abiding society in that region and let them try to better govern, again with diplomatic and economic support for the “normal” world a world where law and order prevails in a sustainable manner.
One big argument (and a bunch of little ones I am sure) against this approach is the potential inability of a given society to actually occupy itself, regain control using physical power to enforce the laws. Such places exist today for sure. Well if we still believe Iraq cannot “occupy itself” today, well we don’t intervene until they can do so. If or when that happens, we simply contain all of Iraq until they as a nation can effectively govern themselves. It would be a very unpopular decision, like just removing the FBI for NYC and containing the rat’s nest from NJ and CT for a while. But all of such thinking is a much different blog than this one.
Herein I only speak of my view of a better way to degrade ISIS to the point of their continued existence as a criminal force that nations can deal with locally and without geopolitical conflict on a global scale. France and other European nations, so far, do not need our help to degrade ISIS. But they will never defeat them, unconditionally, as well and neither will America. But certainly ISIS can be marginalized to the point of insignificance, geopolitically, world-wide if you will.