Thursday, September 11, 2014

Deconstructing obama's Speech

Thursday night barack obama gave a major speech outlining his strategy for dealing with the terrorist group ISIS. True to his out-of-touch-with-reality nature, he insisted on calling it ISIL. But that's a minor quibble. The rest of his speech was full of much bigger foolishness.

First, he seems to believe that air power alone can defeat an opponent. While there is no doubt that air strikes can inflict severe harm on the enemy, to thoroughly defeat them requires a physical 'in your face' presence - the much-ballyhooed boots on the ground. That critical component is missing from his plan. (I understand the reasons for not committing American ground forces. Very few Americans are game for another Gulf War. But I don't see how ISIS can be "degraded and destroyed" with someone getting their hands - or in this case boots - dirty.)

obama seems to think that a combination of the Iraqi military, Syrian rebels, and Kurdish militia will do the trick. The problem is that (1) ISIS has already kicked the Iraqi's butts, and (2) arming insurgents has not worked out very well in the past.
Past decisions by the U.S. to arm insurgencies in Libya, Angola, Central America and Afghanistan helped sustain brutal conflicts in those regions for decades. In the case of Afghanistan, arming the mujahideen in the 1980s created the instability that emboldened extreme militant groups and gave rise to the Taliban, which ultimately created an environment for al Qaeda to thrive.
In fact, ISIS is now armed to a certain extent with weapons the U.S. gave to Syrian rebels in 2013.
Islamic State fighters appear to be using captured US military issue arms and weapons supplied to moderate rebels in Syria...
So it appears that obama's plan to substitute 'sandals on the ground' for professional military forces is doomed to failure.

Complicating obama's plan to employ air power is uncertainty over the political repercussions of air strikes inside Syria. The Assad regime has said that such strikes would be considered an act of war. Not that a war with Syria worries me over much, but it would further muddy the waters.

More worrisome is the likelihood that air strikes within Syria could actually strengthen ISIS.
The prospect of the first American attacks on Syrian soil during three years of brutal civil war captivated Syrians on Thursday, prompting intense debate over whether airstrikes on the extremist Islamic State in Iraq and Syria would help or harm President Bashar al-Assad, his armed Syrian opponents and war-weary civilians.

Many warned that if weakening ISIS strengthened Mr. Assad and was not accompanied by political enfranchisement of the Sunni majority in Syria, the strikes could backfire, driving more Sunnis to support or tolerate ISIS.
obama cited the examples of Somalia and Yemen as instances where air strikes have made a difference. The last time I looked, neither place was a model of political stability or a stronghold of individual liberties. In fact, airstrikes in those two countries have done little to stop terrorists.
The US launched its first airstrike in Yemen in 2002...

(In 2009 the US became) actively involved in Yemen, with a series of drone and other missile strikes that targeted AQAP (al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula ) and its leadership cadre. In addition, the US has provided intelligence, logistics, weapons, ammunition, and other support to the Yemeni military and security services.

By 2011, AQAP seized control of much of southern Yemen, and held it for more than a year despite an intensive US-led drone campaign. Yemeni troops (emphasis added) prevented AQAP from openly controlling the provinces of Abyan and Shabwa by mid-2012, but the jihadist group shifted its fighters to other provinces and still controls large areas of central, southern, and eastern Yemen.
Note that it took "Yemeni troops" to stop AQAP - NOT air strikes.
The situation has hardly improved throughout 2014. AQAP has openly challenged the state for control of the eastern province of Hadramout even as the US has continued counterterrorism operations.
As for Somalia:
In Somalia, the US has been supporting African forces in their fight against Shabaab and its predecessor since 2006. Shabaab took control of much of southern and central Somalia by 2009, but was forced out of most major cities in an offensive that began in 2011. Shabaab still controls much of the countryside in southern Somalia to this day. And it has successfully expanded the scope of its terrorist operations throughout the region, executing attacks in Djibouti, Kenya, and Uganda.

In July 2013, the UN's Monitoring Group for Eritrea and Somalia issued its assessment of the situation. The UN found that Shabaab has "suffered conventional military setbacks, particularly in urban centres, including the loss of Kismaayo, as the forces of AMISOM and the Somali National Army expanded their areas of territorial control."

The UN observed, however, that, Shabaab "continues to control most of southern and central Somalia and has shifted its strategic posture to asymmetrical warfare in both urban centres and the countryside." Unfortunately, Shabaab's "military strength ... remains arguably intact in terms of operational readiness, chain of command, discipline and communication capabilities." By shifting its tactics and "avoiding direct military confrontation, it has preserved the core of its fighting force and resources."
So our failed president wants to employ a failed strategy in a feeble and futile attempt to deal with a tough, smart, and determined enemy. Good luck with that. I just hope and pray that there is little or no loss of American life resulting from this ill-conceived and doomed to failure 'strategy.'

Since a picture is worth a thousand words, below is a concise summary of obama's speech - not just last night's speech, but anytime he opens his ... mouth...

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