[by Mark Safranski, a.k.a. “zen“]
TOP BILLING! Small Wars Journal (Gary Anderson) Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and the Theory and Practice of Jihad
….Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is not a formally trained military commander. However, he is not illiterate or a common thug such as Abu Musab al-Zarqawi who led al Qaeda in Iraq until his death in 2006. Al-Baghdadi holds a doctorate in theology from a theological seminary and appears to be a keen student of American tactics as they were passed on to the Iraqi Army, as well as the military practices of his Syrian Baathist opponents. Whether he is a military prodigy or merely a very talented student and practitioner of military art is irrelevant. To date, he has shown himself to be a very effective commander.
Like the prophet Mohammed from whom he claims descent, al-Baghdadi sees himself as a soldier-Imam and recognizes no difference between fighting, governing, and religion. This allows him to flow seamlessly between mediums. If we write him off as a mere terrorist, we make the mistake of underestimating him. He is generally considered to be a crackpot by serious Islamic scholars, but he controls a tract of land that includes most of al-Anbar province, much of eastern Syria, and Iraq’s second largest city; that makes him a serious player in the region. However, we should also beware of making him out to be ten feet tall. If we are going to deal with him, we need to understand how he fights and governs as well as his strengths and weaknesses.
….PRACTICE MANEUVER WARFARE. The army of the newly proclaimed Caliphate is well versed in the theory and practice of maneuver warfare. Maneuver Warfare is not just about movement. It is about putting of all of your force’s effects where they will do the most damage to the enemy. Al-Baghdadi has proven adept at the key tenants of maneuver warfare:
Avoiding Surfaces and Exploiting Gaps. Al-Baghdadi understands the concept of striking the enemy where he is weak and avoiding his foes’ strengths; this is true of physical military capability as well as the exploitation of enemy moral weaknesses. He exploits reconnaissance and intelligence to gauge whether an operation is doable. In Mosul, al-Baghdadi judged Iraqi army leadership to be rotten to the core and was able to take the city with a main force of about 800 men routing thousands of Iraqi government security forces after their leaders fled. However, when Iraqi government commandos provided steadfast resistance at the Baji oil fields, al-Baghdadi’s commander on the scene recognized a surface and moved on to softer targets.
Attack the Enemy’s Moral Cohesion. Through the selective use of terror, al-Baghdadi has gotten inside the opponent’s decision cycle. Iraqi government commanders in Baghdad found themselves issuing orders to subordinate leaders who have left the field. Junior soldiers woke up to see their commanders boarding mini-busses and panicked fearing the fate of fellow soldiers who had previously surrendered only to be massacred. This deliberate use of terror is selective as was the case with Genghis Khan. He massacred the populations of the first cities of any region that he attacked, and the word got around that resistance was futile. The great Khan conquered many cities, but based on his reputation, he had to lay siege to very few….
A tour de force piece by Anderson.
….Kennan lists in this section his reservations and qualifications on what he has described as the Soviet viewpoint. Kennan’s words in italics.
First, it does not represent natural outlook of Russian people. Although Vladimir Putin’s approval ratings are at record highs, similar highs during the Georgian crisis of 2008 quickly subsided. Russians will support their government, and this government is giving them a sense of self-respect and standing in the world through its annexation of Crimea and bold stand on Ukraine. A heavy propaganda campaign has reinforced these feelings.
Second, please note that premises on which this party line is based are for most part simply not true. This has been bothering me about Russian claims for some time. Many of them are arguable or have a couple of ways of being seen. For example, NATO expansion can be seen as a Western plot to encircle Russia and a betrayal of promises made in the 1990s. However, an examination of that expansion shows that, while there was discussion of Germany and NATO, no written guarantees were made, and that, further, the former Soviet satellites and republics that have joined NATO were eager to do so in order to escape the threat of renewed Russian expansionism. Both Russian and Western actions have led to today’s circumstances, but Russia emphasizes a narrative of its victimization rather than agency.
Russian arguments that the West is economically weak and about to fail are based on the crash of 2008 and a weak European recovery. Russia’s economic position, however, has its own problems. In the twenty-plus years since the wrenching conversion from Communist economics, Russia has failed to develop an industrial economy and relies on oil and other resource exports. When oil prices are good, its economy is good. But both the fall of the Soviet Union and the ruble crash of 1998 were associated with drops in oil prices. Russia is also vulnerable economically, more so than the West.
….Thus the huge problem for the West is that, while attempting to repel the Islamic State, it cannot identify any other local faction to champion, except the Kurds who suffered years of persecution. Indeed, the West should urgently give the Kurds the means to defend themselves. Otherwise, the least bad option is the one Obama has chosen: hit the extremists hard and fast with air power. He says there will be no U.S. troop commitment, but let us not kid ourselves: at the very least, some presence on the ground will be indispensable to provide targeting intelligence and control U.S. aircraft. Satellites and drones cannot do this on their own.
Regardless, this will leave us – and I say ‘us’, because it’s hard to see how Britain can escape participation – in a very deep hole. The fact is that Western follies since 2001 have contributed mightily to unleashing forces we cannot control, demented hordes who are killing more people than the dictators did. These are worrying times for those fearful of a descent into a historic confrontation with militant Islam. Although the jihadis in Iraq are killing Muslims as well as Christians, multiple stress points around the world – Gaza not least among them – intensify the danger that we shall eventually find ourselves going head-to-head with a vast religious grouping.
Professor Sir Michael Howard, Britain’s most distinguished historian and strategist, now 92, lamented to me last month the tottering, if not collapse, of every pillar that has supported international order through his lifetime. By that he means the UN, Nato and a strong America. I thought that he overstated the scale of the chaos that is currently unfolding, both in the Ukraine and the Middle East. But today, his words seem dismayingly justified.
al-Arabiya (Hisham Melhem) Enough lies, the Arab body politic created the ISIS cancer
….Ever since the 1967 Arab defeat in the war with Israel, Arab politics have been influenced and mostly shaped by various stripes of Islamists, including the radical and violent groups that constitute the antecedent of al-Qaeda and ISIS. Their emergence was in the making for decades. Today most of the politics in various Arab states from the countries of the Maghreb; Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and Libya, through Egypt and on to Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Kuwait, Bahrain and Yemen is highly influenced by Islamists who occupy a shrinking spectrum. Most of the debates are essentially “all in the family” of Islamists kinds of debates. The rise of the Islamists; such as al-Nahda, the Muslim Brotherhood, the various Salafists, the Jama’a Islamia, Hezbollah, Hamas and later al-Qaeda and ISIS has been facilitated by the depredations of the “secular” Arab regimes, the military strongmen and the one party rule, particularly the depravities of the Baath Party in both Syria and Iraq.
War on the Rocks ( Bryan McGrath) THE PARADOX OF AMERICAN NAVAL POWER
….The U.S. Navy is to some extent, a victim of its own success. It consistently provides presidents with flexible options for response and it rarely has to say, “No, we cannot do that.” Unless a president comes into office with the idea that the nation must begin to prepare for the rigors of great power competition again, the Navy will appear sufficiently sized to meet the requirements of crisis response, for these are the requirements against which its size and capabilities are resourced. And since there is no bureaucratic incentive for anyone within the chain of command to advocate for such preparation in the absence of presidential leadership, we may unfortunately someday find ourselves with a navy we can afford, but not the one we need.
Global Guerrillas – iWar 101: Kicking the Squirrel
Bruce Kesler – Rand Paul’s Foreign Policy: Obaman Bluster Without Substance
China Matters –ISIS Tentacles Reach Toward China
Scholar’s Stage – It’s time to talk Honestly about the US-Japanese Alliance
Chicago Boyz (Lexington Green) –History Friday: Oliver P. Morton, The Great War Governor
Watch how Western Culture migrated.
Sic Semper Tyrannis – IS Diary – 7 August 2014
USNI Blog (Alex Smith) –Cooperative Strategy in the 21st Century
David Brin –More Science: Microbes, Pathogens & Parasites
Cicero Magazine – Spymaster Jack Devine on Building a Better CIA
Studies in Intelligence – The Last Warlord: The Life and Legend of Dostum, the Afghan Warlord
PARAMETERS – Options for Avoiding Counterinsurgencies
Broken link to The Scholar’s Stage is now fixed. My apologies to T. Greer.