Sunday, September 28, 2014

PETER HITCHENS: Dragged into a war by clowns who can't even run a railway

By Peter Hitchens
Wars cause far more atrocities than they prevent. In fact, wars make atrocities normal and easy. If you don’t like atrocities, don’t start wars. It is a simple rule, and not hard to follow.

The only mercy in war, as all soldiers know, is a swift victory by one side or the other. Yet our subservient, feeble Parliament on Friday obediently shut its eyes tight and launched itself yet again off the cliff of war. It did so even though – in a brief moment of truth – the Prime Minister admitted that such a war will be a very long one, and has no visible end.

The arguments used in favour of this decision – in a mostly unpacked House of Commons – were pathetic beyond belief. Most of them sounded as if their users had got them out of a cornflakes packet, or been given them by Downing Street, which is much the same.

Wild and unverifiable claims were made that Islamic State plans attacks on us here in our islands. If so, such attacks are far more likely now than they were before we decided to bomb them. So, if your main worry is such attacks, you should be against British involvement.

The same cheap and alarmist argument was made year after year to justify what everyone now knows was our futile and costly presence in Afghanistan. Why should the Afghans need to come here to kill British people when we sent our best to Helmand, to be blown up and shot for reasons that have never been explained?

Beyond that, it was all fake compassion. Those who favour this action claim to care about massacres and persecution. But in fact they want to be seen to care. Bombs won’t save anyone. Weeks of bombing have already failed to tip the balance in Iraq, whose useless, demoralised army continues to run away.

A year ago, we were on the brink of aiding the people we now want to bomb, and busily encouraging the groups which have now become Islamic State. Now they are our hated foes. Which side are we actually on? Do we know? Do we have any idea what we are doing?

The answer is that we don’t. That is why, in a scandal so vast it is hardly ever mentioned, the Chilcot report on the 2003 Iraq War has still not been published. Who can doubt that it has been suppressed because it reveals that our Government is dim and ill-informed?

As this country now has hardly any soldiers, warships, military aircraft or bombs, Friday’s warmongers resorted to the only weapon they have in plentiful supply – adjectives (‘vicious, barbaric’, etc etc). Well, I have better adjectives. Those who presume to rule us are ignorant and incompetent and learn nothing from their own mistakes. How dare these people, who can barely manage to keep their own country in one piece, presume to correct the woes of the world?

Before they’re allowed to play out their bathtub bombing fantasies, oughtn’t they to be asked to show they can manage such dull things as schools (no discipline), border control (vanished), crime (so out of control that the truth has to be hidden), transport (need I say?) and hospitals (hopelessly overloaded and increasingly dangerous)?

None of them will now even mention their crass intervention in Libya, which turned that country into a swamp of misery and unleashed upon Europe an uncontrollable wave of desperate economic migrants who are now arriving in Southern England in shockingly large numbers.

We have for years happily done business with Saudi Arabia, often sending our Royal family there. It is hard to see why we should now be so worried about the establishment of another fiercely intolerant Sunni Muslim oil state, repressive, horrible to women and given to cutting people’s heads off in public. Since we proudly tout our 1998 surrender to the IRA as a wonderful and praiseworthy peace deal, it is hard to see why we are now so hoity-toity about doing business with terror, or paying ransom.

We gave the whole of Northern Ireland to the IRA, to ransom the City of London and to protect our frightened political class from bombs. Why can we not pay (as other NATO members do) to release innocent hostages? We conceded the principle of ransom years ago. Talk about swallowing a camel and straining at a gnat.

How is it that we have allowed our country to be governed by people so ignorant of history and geography, so unable to learn from their mistakes and so immune to facts and logic?
Can we do anything about it? I fear not.

Read more:

Friday, September 26, 2014

Former NATO commander: Syria strike a bad move

The Perils of War From 30,000 Feet

Obama and the Road to Hell in the Middle East 

September 25, 2014

The Economist recently published an article with the curious title, “Brains, not bullets: How to fight future wars.” The essay’s theme is intriguing because it implies that with enough brains in the right places it’s possible for the United States to get things right, to immunize America’s use of force against bad policies, the wrong senior military leadership and the impact of special interests on an uninformed American public.

If this were true, it would be a revelation. Unfortunately, in open ended conflicts with weak opponents, against people with no armies, no air forces, no air defenses and no naval forces the mental and moral qualities of senior military leaders which are all important in war are suppressed in favor of compliant and obsequious personalities.

 After 9/11, the willingness of senior officers to endorse the fiction that the wars of occupation in Iraq and Afghanistan were progressing well, that liberal democracy was sinking deep roots in the Middle East was always far more important than demonstrated character, competence or intelligence for promotion to three or four stars. Put differently, having sex with the wrong person or involvement in legally questionable activities could and will destroy careers, but the readiness to go along with policies and plans that made no military sense was and still is career enhancing. Today’s bench of senior leaders are a product of the last 15 years.

After 9/11, the political appetite inside the Washington beltway for intervention and the massive defense spending it justified went off the rails. The use of American military power against weak opponents in Haiti, Somalia, the Balkans, Iraq and Afghanistan lulled American politicians into a false sense of superiority to the point where the conflict’s strategic outcome no longer mattered to policymakers. Conditioned to respond to clich├ęs, slogans, uniforms and digital images, Americans went along for the ride, at least until the bill, at least three to four trillion dollars and the human cost, at least 45,000 casualties finally hit home.

Fast forward to the present and history is repeating itself. The judgment of America’s national political and military leadership is yielding to rosy expectations of American military success in the Middle East that are not justified. Throngs of retired senior officers and former appointees are on television encouraging Americans to forget that National Military Strategy must comply with the demands of geography, culture, economy and military capability; that the application of military power demands a single directing mind imbued with clarity of purpose.

When there is no clarity of purpose battles can still be won, but wars are far more likely to be lost. Lyndon Johnson (LBJ) and George Bush initiated military action they hoped would be decisive and successful, but they failed to provide realistic answers to the questions of strategic purpose, method and end-state before and during military operations. President Obama and his advisors have embarked on a similar course. They are about to rediscover how hard it is to figure out what is being accomplished from 30,000 feet.

Equally disturbing is the revelation that Obama, like LBJ, will personally approve targets in the former territory of Syria and Iraq for air strikes. General “Tommy” Franks did that in Afghanistan in November 2001 and thousands of al Qaeda and Taliban fighters escaped while he dithered with his legal advisors. Today, the unwillingness of the Arab States and Turkey that border Mesopotamia to commit ground forces to fight the Islamic State makes matters worse. It means that Americans will spend billions of dollars to kill thugs in pickup trucks and bounce rubble for months, even years with doubtful effect. Thanks to Washington’s duplicitous friends in Ankara, Doha and Riyadh that provide money, arms and recruits to the Islamic State’s fighters, the Islamists will are likely to survive and regroup around new fanatics.

C.S. Lewis described the road to hell as a gradual descent, a soft, moderate slope that is hardly noticeable until the destination is reached. Mr. Obama is on his way.

If Americans are to turn Mr. Obama away from the hell that awaits us, Americans must abandon the illusion that precision guided munitions obviate the requirement in war for the lethality that springs from disciplined, physically and psychologically hardened men inside highly trained ground combat units to kill effectively.

Americans will have to rise up and collectively drive a stake through the heart of the late Secretary of Defense Les Aspin’s concept for the use of American military power; the task of “punishing evil doers.”

Finally, Americans will have to demand a national military strategy that focuses on protecting Americans, American territory, and core American commercial interests rather than attempts to breathe new life into the comatose body of failed American military interventions that litter the Eastern Hemisphere. As the Cold War alliance structures wither and die because the threats that supported them no longer exist; the importance of clarity in American national military strategy cannot be overstated.

 U.S. Army Colonel (ret) Douglas Macgregor is a decorated combat veteran and the author of five books. His most recent, Margin of Victory, will be published next year

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

CTV News Video Network: Combating the Islamic State

Retired U.S. Army Col. Macgregor says airstrikes against the Islamic State is not really a strategy to combat militant group.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Second American killed by ISIS

September 3, 2014 - 02:43 PM
By Morgan Gilliam

Macgregor interview September 2, 2014

ISIS has released another video, showing the brutal execution of American Steven Sotloff. The video comes two weeks after the death of James Foley and continues to warn the U.S. against involvement in Iraq.

Retired Army Colonel Douglas Macgregor, executive vice president of the Burke-Macgregor group, discussed the execution and the crisis in Ukraine with Capital Insider

Escape the Middle East Vortex

When Arab nations really want to get rid of the Islamic State, they can give the U.S. a call



By Sarwar Kashmeri

During the winter of 1990, just weeks before the start of the first Gulf War, my wife traveled to India on a holiday. In the U.S., media headlines had been roaring for months about how then-Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein was evil incarnate, and Americans were ready to support the war against Iraq to slay this dragon. American opinion was, the media intoned, the voice of the international community.

Imagine my wife’s considerable surprise then when she landed in Bombay and found most of the porters at the airport proudly wearing Saddam Hussein T-shirts! Somehow, the consensus of the international community as transmitted by the U.S. media had passed these porters by. I flew into Bombay a few days later and found that the same love for Hussein extended to a large swathe of Indians, Muslim and Hindu, who were transfixed by an Arab leader who was about to challenge the mighty United States of America on the field of battle.
What was true then is true now: The so-called international community outside the West is mainly comprised of the middle-class, educated elite — a thin veneer in much of the East and Middle East. The United States is about to discover that support for the Islamic State (also known as ISIS or ISIL) is much deeper than the president’s advisers assume, and Arab support for this, the latest in a 13-year American effort at nation-building in the Middle East, is a mirage.

That is why in his speech to the nation this week, President Barack Obama was unable to name a single Arab country that had offered to put its troops on the ground to fight the Islamic State. The situation remains the same two days after Secretary of State John Kerry traveled to meet America’s Arab allies to ask for their military support. Even Turkey, a NATO member, has offered little beyond rhetoric.

There is an important reason no Arab country has hopped on the American battle-wagon. They recognize that, in that part of the world, today’s terrorist may well become tomorrow’s statesman. Think Egypt’s Gamal Abdel Nasser and Israel’s Menechem Begin, who both led movements that believed in killing opponents to support their cause, but after attaining their objectives morphed into statesmen, and then ably led their countries.

The Arabs know the Islamic State is already a functioning, self-supporting state spread out over an area the size of Indiana, with close to 8 million people within its borders. The Middle East’s wealthy layers of society and its autocratic monarchs may despise that, but they know that a swathe of their oppressed majority populations are probably rooting for Islamic State warriors who are taking the fight to U.S.-supported autocracies in the Middle East, and winning.
The Islamic State's leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, appears to be cut from a far more ruthless and despicable cloth, but in the Middle East, can one really be sure he will not one day be a political force with which to be reckoned?

So why is America so worked up about the Islamic State? For humanitarian reasons? As that formidable engine of realpolitik, Henry Kissinger, warned, “For the United States, a doctrine of general humanitarian intervention in the Middle East … will prove unsustainable unless linked to a concept of American national security.” And there is no such link, as an article in the New York Times points out: “Despite the attention [the Islamic State] has received, when American counterterrorism officials review the threats to the United States each day, the terror group in not a top concern ... [The Islamic State] has no ability to attack inside the United States … and it is not clear to intelligence officials that the group even wants to.”

Perhaps the president wants to satisfy those who want retribution for the bloody beheading of two American journalists. Here too the United States is on shaky territory, as the Washington Post wrote this week of Kerry’s effort to charm the leaders of Saudi Arabia: “Saudi Arabia is conspicuous in being the sole country to regularly carry out beheadings; last year, a reported shortage of trained swordsmen led to some hope that the practice could wane, but recent evidence suggests otherwise. It's an uncomfortable irony given that the United States' current military mobilization was triggered after the Islamic State beheaded two American journalists.”

The United States is being sucked back into the Middle East’s bloody vortex. It is time to leave the region to its inhabitants and mind American business at home. When the Arabs set up a coalition to fight the Islamic State, they have America’s telephone number.

Sarwar Kashmeri is a fellow of the Foreign Policy Association and an adjunct professor at Norwich University. His most recent book was “NATO 2.0; Reboot or Delete?”

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Stars and Stripes: Retraining Iraq's fractured army: Will it work this time?

By Heath Druzin
Stars and Stripes
Published: September 11, 2014
 Arif Akil Salma, an Iraqi Army trainer, leads a course in building clearance at the Besmaya Training Center on Dec. 17, 2009. Much of the training at the American-funded center was led by an Iraqi cadre of some 800 soldiers. Sixty civilian contractors and 21 American military advisers also worked at the center
Stars and Stripes
WASHINGTON — As American troops prepared to leave Iraq in December 2011, the former head of the military training mission there, Lt. Gen. Frank Helmick, had this to say about the Iraqi Security Forces:
“My gut tells me they will be capable to do this — they are doing it today,” Helmick said. “Yet to be determined, longer term.”

Helmick’s doubts were validated this summer as a stunned world watched several hundred Islamic State militants and their allies send divisions of Iraqi soldiers in full retreat.

An eight-year, $25 billion effort to reorganize, train and equip Iraq’s military now seems all for naught — undermined by corruption and sectarian divisions.

Now, the U.S. is starting from scratch with a new mission to urgently revamp the Iraqi military in hopes it can roll back the militant group that calls itself Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL.

Many politicians and experts say the U.S. has little choice but to try to salvage the Iraqi military. Yet some current and former U.S. military officers involved in the effort to stand up an Iraqi force wonder whether the new effort will succeed where the first one failed.

One senior Army officer, who served as a battalion-level trainer for the Iraqi army, said fixing deep problems within the Iraqi army’s leadership would take years and do little to combat the Islamic State in the short term.

“We just left in December 2011, so it’s not even three years later,” said the officer, who asked to remain anonymous because he is still in the military and fears reprisals. “So, if all this effort didn’t even make them capable of standing and fighting, why do we think it’s going to matter if we send a handful of advisers over now?”

A sectarian militia

Many involved in the last training mission blame former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki — who took power with U.S. backing — for turning the military into what many now see as little more than a Shiite-dominated militia.

Maliki’s policies, which put many commanders in place more for their political loyalties than military acumen, alienated the country’s Sunni minority and helped set the stage for the Islamic State, a Sunni group, to take over towns populated by disaffected Sunnis with little resistance.

Retired Army Maj. Gen. Paul Eaton, who oversaw training of the Iraqi forces in the early days of the Iraq War, said that after the U.S invasion in 2003, American trainers tried to construct a military that was representative of the religious and ethnic makeup of a country where hostilities between Sunni and Shiite Muslims as well as Kurds and Arabs run deep.

Eaton and others involved in that training program say Maliki, a Shiite hardliner, started undoing the process as soon as U.S. troops withdrew from the country at the end of 2011.

“That process broke down with Maliki — it became a Shia-dominated army,” Eaton said. “The army became illegitimate in the eyes of the people and illegitimate in the eyes of the soldiers themselves.”

In order to address sectarian concerns, the U.S. plans to stand up National Guard units made up of Sunni tribesmen to operate in largely Sunni areas.

It’s an idea with echoes of a similar program used to help bring Iraq out of a bloody civil war that engulfed the country between 2006 and 2008. That idea, known as the Awakening movement, involved paying Sunni tribesmen to turn against insurgents.

Unlike the proposed National Guard, Awakening units were never integrated into the Iraqi military because Maliki didn’t trust them.

“The Iraqi army can be a nationalizing force — although some units are predominantly Sunni and others are predominantly Shia, they all fight for Iraq,” said retired U.S. Army Col. Peter Mansoor, a brigade commander during the Iraq War. “I think it’s really critical to make sure that ethic is instituted in the Iraqi military, and any identity with militias or other groups is squeezed out.”

Mansoor said that early on in the Iraq War, the U.S. did not always pick the best officers to lead training and did not instill enough of a meritocracy in the Iraqi ranks, mistakes he said the U.S. must avoid this time around.

“We need to provide our best soldiers and leaders to be advisers and not just the most available ones,” he said. “The real dilemma was how to convince the Iraqi government to promote the most competent leaders and not the most politically loyal ones, and that’s what we got wrong and what the Iraqi government got wrong.”

But with the Islamic State making advances and the Iraqi army so far unable to beat them back, experts say time is running out for increased foreign military help to make a difference.

“There’s a window here where the new government can make some strides if it takes the central messages to heart and makes some real reforms,” said Kathleen Hicks, the director of the International Security Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “If that window closes … I think that’s a real risk for us, because we can’t train and equip a sectarian force that doesn’t have support from the population.”

‘Whatever you destroy will be rebuilt’

Some have deep misgivings about trying to repeat a program that offered little lasting benefit. Their fears have heightened after reports that government-aligned Shiite militia members have been targeting Sunni villagers in Islamic State strongholds, even beheading some in a grim adoption of Islamic State tactics.

Retired Army Col. Douglas Macgregor said any training and equipping mission will accomplish nothing as long as Sunni Muslim countries allied with the U.S. continue to surreptitiously fund the Islamic State.

“You’ve got recruiting stations and cash outlets supporting ISIS inside Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar,” he said. “As long as they exist, even if you kill 10,000 or 20,000 ISIS people inside Iraq and Syria … and you ignore the recruiting and cash outlets in these countries, whatever you destroy will be rebuilt and return.”

The other part of Obama’s train-and-equip plan calls for increased aid to moderate Syrian rebels, who have been battling the forces of President Bashar Assad for more than three years. More recently, the so-called moderates have also been fighting the more hardline rebel groups, including the Islamic State.

In his speech Wednesday night, President Barack Obama said moderate Syrian rebels can act as a “counterweight” to the Islamic State.

But moderate forces have been increasingly squeezed out. The so-called Free Syrian Army, on which the U.S. once pinned its hopes to oust Assad, barely exists anymore, said Daniel Seckman, co-founder of the SREO Research Organization, a Turkey-based group that studies the Syrian conflict.

Seckman questioned how much the U.S. can accomplish by sending more help to any rebel factions, noting that even once moderate factions have had to join with Islamists to survive.

“I don’t think the United States has any ‘friend’ inside Syria anymore,” he said.
Twitter: @Druzin_Stripes


CTV News Channel "I didn't hear any plan"

Retired U.S. Army Col. Douglas Macgregor says he didn't hear a strategy in U.S. President Barack Obama's plan to counter the Islamic State.