Sunday, September 14, 2014

Winning by not destroying ISIL

I think the president is well aware that he is involving America is basically a family quarrel which outsiders should stay out. Unfortunately the region just have a knack of sucking you back inside. You just have to limit your cost and involvement. There is too much enmity and hatred in the region in a very complex web. Friends or just partners sharing common interests and enemies switch sides frequently. That is why it would be hard to forge a steady coalition against ISIL.

Moral principles are strained to the limits when you operate in this region. Containing rather than bringing peace to the region may be the only achievable objective. A lot of thought would be spent on how to avoid further entanglement and not allowing the situation to deteriorate further. Again this is a matter of luck because the situation is basically unpredictable. You can destroy ISIL but what will come after them? Might be better to just degrade them and let them fill a limited vacuum. When children fight and you can't stop them, the best option might just be let them exhaust themselves completely. You will need infinite patience. Let them use their resources, not yours. Your focus is achieving the best possible humanitarian outcomes. You wait for these impossible circumstances to evolve to one where you can do something helpful. That is why the Americans are giving themselves three years to work on this and that is an eternity in US politics. In between now and then there is plenty of wiggle room from crossing the stream by feeling the pebbles underneath. Sure you have to pay ball with the media but what is public and popular which is often naive will not be the true strategy dealing with the situation in that region.

Meanwhile Israel only care about its interests with no regard of anyone else. I don't think they are selfish but they recognize that at the end of the day they are on their own. They are totally familiar of the shifting alliances and loyalties in the region. So they are clear minded that the most dire threat to the region is a nuclear armed Iran. Destroying ISIL and an Iraq under the influence of Iran is a more dangerous set up on the chessboard than a balance of terror between the forces.  The Shias running Iraq can never be trusted to treat the Sunnis and other minorities right. ISIL or any Sunni deterrence would be needed to get the Iraqi government to behave and check the Iranian power ambitions. The Kurdish though a minority will have an out-sized role eventually.

Of course my analysis would likely be short lived. The circumstances could change rapidly and a new way to think of the situation would become necessary again.

I think David Brooks and Thomas Friedman are among the few writers who gets it about Obama. I always feel more secure with a reluctant leader in charge. In fact closer to home, I wish I do not have to wonder if my leaders were such types or they were enticed by the high pay.

The situation in Iraq will remain fluid and unpredictable but at least I think I have a fair grasp of what Obama meant by, "don't do stupid things".

Update: 10:10pm

Just came from reading Thomas Friedman latest piece in the NYT: What's their plan?

Friedman has loftier objective to my more modest even somewhat Machiavellian one. The difference is he writes for all of us and I blog for myself. He doesn't have my licence to write as I wish.

I don't think the feuding and conspiring parties will easily allow America to be the air force of the decent against the troops and assets of the barbarous. Reality is you would have to cajole and threaten others and constantly keep a clear mind of American interest only. You want to stop the inflow of foreign jihadists and if you can't, they must be destroyed. Containment rather than defeating ISIL from becoming a threat to America and her allies is all we could ask for. Talk to these Arabs and Persians is cheap. They are only willing to grasp the tangibles of carrots and sticks.


  1. Pope Francis warns 'piecemeal' World War III has begun
    Saturday, 13 Sep 2014 | 7:06 AM ET
    how true - humanity is at its ebb low!

  2. ISIS' Next Target: The Suez Canal
    So what is next on the strategic timeline for the Islamic State?

    According to one source, Al Arabiya, which cites Egyptian experts, the answer is none other than the Suez Canal, and the country it is located in: Egypt.

    “There is definitely a threat from ISIS to Egypt,” Mohammed Badr, a professor of political science at the University of Germany told Al Arabiya News, adding that the group has the country in its “line of sight.”

    “All extremist groups represent a danger for Egypt,” Badr said, adding that “ISIS, the Muslim Brotherhood, Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis [an Islamist militant group] are all dangerous for Egypt but the level of their threat is different.”

    And while Egypt may or may not be the next territorial expansion for ISIS, a new threat is emerging in the Middle East/North Africa region.

    According to Reuters, a new armed group calling itself the Caliphate Soldiers in Algeria has split from al Qaeda's North African branch and sworn loyalty to the radical breakaway group Islamic State fighting in Syria and Iraq. A breakaway of key Algerian commanders from Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, known as AQIM, would show deepening rivalry between al Qaeda's core command and the Islamic State over leadership of the transnational Islamist militancy. As we expected several months ago, as Al Qaeda's reputation in the terrorist world plummets and is replaced by the "bloodthirsty" ISISites, more and more splinter terrorist groups will gravitate to the "cool, new" clique.