Friday, September 12, 2014

What does winning mean?

Great comments yesterday on my post, and on ASM826's post about conflict in the Middle East.  It's made me think long and hard on what it takes to actually win a conflict.

We did it in World War II, where we demolished the mythos of the Übermensch and the similar mythos of the Samurai.  We did this by destroying their will to fight, to support the fight, and to want to do it again.

The questions for the Middle East are:
  1. Who fights?
  2. Who supports these people?
  3. Who wants to keep doing it?
If we look at it this way, things get more complicated, and simpler.  The answers are:
  1. Lots and lots of people.  ISIS is only the latest of a long like of jihadis.  We can treat them as the Übermenschen or followers of Bushido.  In the short term, all we can do is kill them in bushel loads.
  2. Lots and lots of people, most importantly the royal houses of the Gulf States.  Not only do the royals not like us, but they have been keen to play the game of shipping their malcontent jihadis off to die fighting us, not at home.  It's no accident that 18 of the 20 9/11 hijackers were Saudi.  We will need to cause these people massive pain to get them to stop supporting the jihadis.
  3. Lots of people.  Large overlap with #2, but also includes Iran, most of Europe's Intelligentsia, Russia, China, and most of the geopolitical stage.  We will need to carefully analyze which of these we can peel off, and how to twist the arms of the others.
I posit that #1 is immediate and tactical, and actually air strikes may not be a bad approach - although we will need serious air power, not the pin pricks likely from the current Administration.

#2 is the most urgent strategic goal.  The approach we should take here is a list of demands for the Royal Houses - round up and kill these jihadis, throttle back on Wahabi exports, dry up the flow of money.  The "Or Else" is that we will (a) open public lands for oil fracking, aiming to drive the price of oil down to $70/bbl (lower than that it's not economic to extract the oil) and (b) withdraw entirely from the region.  No more protection from the US Military for the Royal Houses.

Whether this will work or not, there will be a lot of late night discussions in Riyadh and Qatar.  And in Moscow and elsewhere.

Europe likes to natter on about how we exercise "hard power" while they exercise "soft power".  Well OK, then.  Check out this soft power, biatches.

This game is about changing how people think, just like 1944-45 was about changing how people think.  We will never change that without changing how we think.  Whether the US Government is up to the task is a question for another day.


Dirk said...

To use serious air power, not the game of patty-cakes the current administration is so enamored with, there will have to be a willingness to accept non-combatant casualties. Unfortunately, the targets like to surround themselves with such, knowing we'll bend over backwards to avoid such casualties.

lelnet said...

Ironic how effective #2 would be likely to be, long term. "Do what we want, or we _won't_ use our military [the way you want us to]." Power doesn't get much softer than that, without ceasing to be power at all. Yet, it'd probably work pretty well. Eventually. (But then, given the current state of affairs, "eventually" is pretty much all we can hope for from _any_ strategy short of saturation nuclear bombing of the entire Middle East plus most of the capitals of Europe and Dearborn, Michigan.)

Alan said...

You're assuming that "winning" is even a goal.

I'm not at all sure that's the case.

Patrick Henry, the 2nd said...

The only winning move is not to play. We need to stay out of fighting the world. It only leads to needless deaths, wasted money, and less liberty at home.

Glen Filthie said...

I don't think that you can win as long as leftists, libertarians, peaceniks and pacifists have a say in gov't.

I saw some graffiti on the wall once that said it best: "the middle east is a dump because of the *&$#@ that live there."

The author was basically correct. Arabs despise any and all authority, they regard treachery and deceit as art forms, and any agreement you make with them is not worth the paper it is printed on because they will cheat if there isn't a loaded gun at their heads to keep them honest.

The only way to "win" against them is to offer them the same deal their god did: submission or death.

The politically incorrect truth is that everyone lived better in colonial times where they were forced to behave themselves.

Divemedic said...

#2 will never happen. We cannot even drill for oil off the coast of Florida, where the Cubans and Chinese are already drilling. Why? Because the environmentalists in the state keep saying "What if you get another spill..."

Independence from Middle Eastern oil, and the wars that result, will not happen until there are no alternatives.

Jake (formerly Riposte3) said...

"I posit that #1 is immediate and tactical, and actually air strikes may not be a bad approach - although we will need serious air power, not the pin pricks likely from the current Administration."

The solution is MOABs. Many, many MOABs.

Not that any politician [spit!] will have the guts go for it.

Goober said...

I don't think that you can win as long as (people who don't agree with me) have a say in gov't.

Fixed that for you.

If you can't see the problem with that statement, then I can't help you.

The only time on Earth, in the entire history of the humanity, that we've ever had 100% agreement on anything, ever, is when there have been boots on throats, informant networks five layers deep, and fear and repression ruled the day.

Stalin was pretty decent at it.

Good decisions can be made without lockstep agreement. And often times, there is more than one valid option.

You know, if Obama would say "we've got nothing to do with ISIS or any crisis that they are causing. it isn't our fight, it isn't our war, and it has nothing to do with us. Fuck it." Throw up his hands, drop the mike, and walk off stage, I think I would disagreewith that call, but completely understand why he made it, and probably even live with it.

If he said "ISIS is gonna be a grease patch on the sand by this time next tuesday!" and then followed through on it, it would be fine, too.

The problem is the dithering. The inability to make a decision and do something. There is nothing more harmful than indecision. Even if he was making the wrong decision in my estimation, I would support that far more than what he's doing now, whih is essentially nothing.

Goober said...

Patrick Henry;

I've been an advocate for action for no other reason than they publicly murdered American citizens, in an effort to manipulate us into doing their will.

It is not a good precedent to set that we will allow the unanswered murder of our citizens without repurcussion.

If government isn't meant to kill barbarians that behead it's citizens, then what IS it for?

Otherwise, i think I'd agree with you.

Jeffrey Smith said...

We can not say "or else" to the Saudis. At least as long as the Russians and Chinese are around, and looking to replace us whereverthey can. And since it is in their self interest to replace us (and our self interest to not let them) "or else" is just wishful thinking.

Unknown said...

I was thinking of an unreserved agree, but several of your commentators made me reassess. Not sure any of your points are wrong in the abstract, however, the reality remains that absent another 9/11 we have lost the hardness of heart to brush off the inevitable collateral damage from serious intervention. Taking our toys and going home is not realistic either - it can be spun by IS as "intimidation works" and/or "no one can stop us now".
We need to determine our goals and they need to be hard us-interest-only goals, work out the most effective means to achieve those and execute without international collaboration, approval or consultation.
Differ (from Mummy's house)

Jester said...

All of those posted points are great but you know what? Till the media is behind something you have nothing. It is interesting to me at least that for as little as I thought of the second Bush, he was savaged by the media. Needless war, get out of Iraq, there is nothing there for us. Obama gets us out and the media is cheering him to get back in. Replace Saddam with the IS types now and there is not a whole lot of difference when you look at genocide. Now you can sure make the arguments that they are not our people, genocides happen everywhere and we don't stop all of them. You can try to state why this group hell bent on genocide is more important to stop than other groups. But when you get down to it in one Arab nation we will support the Sunnis. In another we support the Shiites. Those two countries will border each other so we apparently have no real plan for dealing with it as a whole. I've been to Iraq twice. The same people that are now begging for our help were tossing bombs at us just a hand full of years ago. As soon as we go kick the current maniacs out of the area they will likely start to complain and go back to tossing bombs.

I'm not quite willing to say we need to engage another conflict when we have our own alphabet soup agencies, IRS, EPA, FBI, Justice Department for just some examples that are out right breaking laws and doing so with impunity. Then, and only then perhaps we can look at other things abroad if they will directly impact us in a negative way.

Richard said...

As to #3-Russia and China are hard to do anything about but Europe is easy. Plus there are reasons other than the Middle East to be more assertive with Western Europe. As Nixon might say, they are a pitiful, helpless giant. Their economy is a bigger mess than ours, their military is a joke and their will to even support their continued existence is lacking. As a price for staying in NATO we should demand that they devote a comparable percent of GNP to their military and enlist a comparable percent of the population to the US. They have been living on the US defense dole for generations now. Second, we should demand that they support Israel and any US efforts to do so. Obviously, we can't compel them to do this but they can't compel us to defend them either. Without US support, the only question is whether they are taken over by Russia or the Caliphate.