Monday, November 16, 2015

How to Beat ISIS. By Walter Russell Mead.

How to Beat ISIS: The President Is Partly Right. By Walter Russell Mead. The American Interest, November 16, 2015.


To cut the flow of recruits and funds to ISIS, we must make ISIS look unattractive and weak—drab. This is what we have to teach our enemies and those tempted to join them: disenchantment.

In a contentious press conference, President Obama vowed to stay the course regarding his ISIS policy in the wake of the Paris attacks. The AP reports:
President Barack Obama on Monday conceded that the Paris terror attacks were a “terrible and sickening setback” in the fight against the Islamic State, but forcefully dismissed critics who have called for the U.S. to change or expand its military campaign against the extremists. 
“The strategy that we are putting forward is the strategy that is ultimately is going to work,” Obama said during a news conference at the close of two days of talks with world leaders. “It’s going to take time.”
Both in the United States and abroad, the reaction to the President’s statement has been largely negative. There is a very widespread view that President Obama’s own dilatory leadership style and his refusal to engage seriously in Syria gave ISIS the room it needed to take root and grow. It’s likely that future historians will agree; this president is unlikely to be hailed as a strategic genius by anybody not on his payroll.

Nevertheless, it’s worth noting that President Obama isn’t just blowing smoke when he talks about successes against ISIS. In particular, the strategy of helping the Kurds push ISIS back has led to significant progress on the ground. Just last week, the Kurds cleared ISIS out of Sinjar, and as a result of its military setbacks, ISIS has less access to fresh supplies and recruits coming through Turkey.

This matters. Groups like ISIS depend on two power sources. One is the radical jihadi ideology that now circulates widely among discontented Muslims and rootless young people in the Middle East and elsewhere. The other is the sense of victory and drama. ISIS needs to create wins and excitement to lure new recruits and keep its current fighters loyal and inspired.

The self-styled caliphate isn’t a major military power and has only been able to acquire and hold territory because of state breakdown in Iraq and Syria. For the last few years, ISIS has been following a successful formula: Rapid military gains on the ground led to a huge international profile, which in turn attracted jihadis from all around the globe and established the organization as the new leader of radical Islam. ISIS advertises its success with the pornography of jihad: bloody executions posted on the web, widespread announcements that it is selling captured girls in slave markets, massacres of the “heathen.”

The goal of the terrorists has always been to escape the drab realities of ordinary history and events, to create a kind of magical space—a return to the 7th century, the age of the Prophet, of miracles and legends. Joining the group offered a real life version of a video game.

The problem the jihadis are now facing is that while it is easy to create this kind of illusion in the short term, it is very hard to make it work over the long run. History grinds that kind of illusion down and drags those who tried to sustain it back into the world of real forces, real obstacles, real (as Clausewitz would say) friction.

We’ve seen this before. After 9/11, the great and dramatic attack created a legend, but then al-Qaeda was dragged down, and dogged by its adversaries. The group managed to survive the U.S. attacks on Afghanistan, but, despite that, this attrition little-by-little (and sometimes big step-by-big step) damaged the brand. ISIS represented a new approach, and its victorious march across Syria and Iraq electrified the jihadi universe. But now ISIS, too, is beginning to sag.

On the ground these days, ISIS is engaged in a war of inches that will likely test its capacity to the limits, like its (lack of) ability to manage and operate supply lines, for example. The poor training and quality of its fighters will also now matter more. And the absence of dramatic victories, indeed the reality of setbacks and retreats, will reduce the enthusiasm and undercut the morale of current fighters, to say nothing of the impact on potential recruits.

This may be one reason why ISIS has apparently shifted to prioritize attacks like the Paris horror. It likely needs the acts of drama and violence to replace the revolutionary theater that its military advances once gave it. Running wild through the streets, gunning down the crowds in a night club: This is fantasy violence, video games brought into the real world. ISIS is again the coolest of jihadi brands, the cutting edge of the war against the real. The intent is not so much to terrorize the West as to galvanize the faithful.

Understanding ISIS’ methods can help us counter its aims. One key for us: to step up the grim war of attrition against ISIS on the ground. Life for the average ISIS fighter has to become a miserable affair of holing up, getting shot, running out of food, and putting up with bad medical care and low supplies even as the higher-ups live it up in the ruins of Raqqa. That word needs to filter out across the jihadi grapevine. To cut the flow of recruits and funds to ISIS, we must make ISIS look unattractive and weak—drab. If at the same time we work aggressively to reduce its ability to repeat the Paris attacks, ISIS will continue to fade.

This is a way to weaken ISIS, but it won’t solve the problem of jihadi violence. The cultural fugue of the Islamic world will continue to generate new disorders, new radicalisms, new waves of hate and murder. And the stories of the glory days of the Caliphate and legends of ISIS will continue to resonate and inspire new waves of jihad, just as the legend of al-Qaeda did before it.

But defeat hurts—and the more we keep whacking moles, the more discouraged the other moles will be. So the defeat of “terrorism” is a long way off. But the defeat of individual terrorist groups and forms of jihadi ideology, while short of a complete solution to the problem, is good in and of itself, and it contributes to the long term solution: the definitive disillusionment of potential radicals.

This is what we have to teach our enemies and those tempted to join them: disenchantment. There is no magic road back to the 7th century triumphs of Islam. That door is closed. The Islamic world, like the rest of us, must live in the real world of the 21st century.

So President Obama is partly right. The American partnership with the Kurds has inflicted real damage on ISIS. But he’s wrong if he thinks what we have done is enough, or that a few incremental shipments of ammo and MREs will do the trick. The battle against ISIS is one campaign in a long and brutal war. The bloodiest battles and the greatest dangers may still lie ahead.

Paris: The New Normal? By Walter Russell Mead.

Paris: The New Normal? By Walter Russell Mead? The American Interest, November 16, 2015.


The whole world has its gaze fixed on Paris these days—and rightly so, given both the horrific nature of the attacks and the reverberations the massacre has already sent through European and American political discourse. The shock is still fresh. The wounded are still in the hospitals; the dead have not yet gone to their rest. The politicians are making speeches, and President Hollande has declared that France is at war, but it is already painfully clear that nothing France or its allies can or will do in response will end the threat of Paris-type attacks.

Regardless of what kind of response the West ultimately launches, military efforts in the wake of Paris will not spell an end to terrorism. There is no chance for a cure for the causes of terrorism anytime soon, no matter how much Paris may have stiffened Europe’s resolve. Across the Middle East, democracy isn’t taking hold, economic development is further away than ever, and bad governance is still endemic. This “civilizational wound” isn’t going to be cured, and the sense of backwardness, bitterness, alienation it creates isn’t going to get better. The Arab world as a whole is no closer today to, say, an East Asian-style development miracle than it was in 1950 and neither the West nor anybody else has the slightest idea how to change that.

Meanwhile, in the West, Muslim populations in Europe will be economically underprivileged for a very long time. They’ll be facing a future with few jobs, bad schools, and popular prejudice running against them. This will increase the radicalization that we are already seeing in places like Belgium.

We have had “never again” moments before in COFKATGWOT (the Conflict Formerly Known as the Global War on Terror). There were the attacks in Mumbai and in London. There was the Madrid train bombing. And, of course, there was 9/11 itself. We have used bombs and ground troops. We have engaged in efforts to build bridges to the Islamic world. We have collaborated with “moderate Islamists.” We have promoted democracy, both by the former President George W. Bush method in Iraq and the President Barack Obama method in Egypt. We removed despots in Libya and Iraq; we have supported strong men in Egypt and Turkey. None of it has made the jihad go away.

Nothing we do after Paris is going to make it go away, either. We can kill Osama bin Laden. We can (and we should) crush ISIS. But we can’t change the reality that jihadi ideology is alive and well, feeding off the discontent and disempowerment felt so widely in the Islamic world. We can strengthen our security at home, we can continue to improve intelligence collection and to disrupt the ability of terrorists to communicate, to travel, and to raise and move money. None of these measures can ever be completely successful, and new jihadi movements will likely spring up to replace the ones we defeat. But we cannot relax our vigilance. The price of failure is too high.

To survive and to thrive, the West will have to become more like Israel: guarding ourselves constantly against a threat that can’t be eliminated. The terrorists will continually try to develop new tactics to get around our security measures, and our security forces will have to find countermeasures against new and shifting terror attacks. Life in the West will be marked by periodic episodes of violence, which will be followed by security increases—but life will still go on.

Grave dangers remain. The terrorists are still on the hunt for WMD. Chemical weapons are being used in Syria; the jihad knows no scruples when it comes to their use. The dirty bomb, the chemical attack, the poisoning of reservoirs: These dangers grow over time.

But for now, Paris simply reminds us that, like the Israelis, we live in a dangerous world. The peace and security of the western world, our ability to enjoy the amusements and the diversions of the greatest and most beautiful cities the world has ever known, all depend on the vigilance of our security forces and the competence of their leaders.

The French and their allies have every right, and even have a duty, to strike ISIS as hard as they can. The hopes and the prayers of the civilized world will go with the pilots and fighters as they bring retribution to the authors of evil. But we cannot be naive. The war against terror has a long way to go, and we must brace for more horrors like the ones so recently visited on the City of Light.

Walid Phares: The West Has No Strategy to Counter ISIS.

Expert: West has “no strategy” to counter ISIS threat stream. Video. Fox News, November 16, 2015. YouTube.

Walid Phares Explains Obama’s Strategy. By Rush Limbaugh., November 16, 2015.

See, Walid Phares Told You So: Further Proof of Obama’s Alignment with Iran. By Rush Limbaugh., November 17, 2015.

Europe’s Terrorist War at Home. By Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

Europe’s Terrorist War at Home. By Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Wall Street Journal, November 15, 2015.

Hirsi Ali:

Learn from Israel, end the open-borders policy, and dig in for a long war of ideas against Islamists.

French President  Fran├žois Hollande declared the Nov. 13 terrorist attack in Paris an “act of war” by Islamic State, and he was right, if belated, in recognizing that the jihadists have been at war with the West for years. Islamic State, or ISIS, is vowing more attacks in Europe, and so Europe itself—not just France—must get on a war footing, uniting to do whatever it takes militarily to destroy ISIS and its so-called caliphate in Syria and Iraq. Not “contain,” not “degrade”—destroy, period.

But even if ISIS is completely destroyed, Islamic extremism itself will not go away. If anything, the destruction of ISIS would increase the religious fervor of those within Europe who long for a caliphate.

European leaders must make some major political decisions, and perhaps France can lead the way. A shift in mentality is needed to avoid more terror attacks on an even bigger scale and the resulting civil strife. Islamic extremists will never succeed in turning Europe into a Muslim continent. What they may well do is provoke a civil war so that parts of Europe end up looking like the Balkans in the early 1990s.

Here are three steps that European leaders could take to eradicate the cancer of Islamic extremism from their midst.

First, learn from Israel, which has been dealing with Islamist terror from the day it was born and dealing with much more frequent threats to its citizens’ security. True, Islamic extremists inside Israel today resort to using knives and cars as their weapons of choice, but that is because attacks like those in Paris last week are now simply impossible for the terrorists to organize. Instead of demonizing Israel, bring their experienced, trained experts to Europe to develop a coherent counterterror strategy.

Second, dig in for a long battle of ideas. European leaders will have to address the infrastructure of indoctrination: mosques, Muslim schools, websites, publishing houses and proselytizing material (pamphlets, books, treatises, sermons) that serve as conveyor belts to violence. Islamic extremists target Muslim populations through dawa (persuasion), convincing them that their ends are legitimate before turning to the question of means.

European governments must do their own proselytizing in Muslim communities, promoting the superiority of liberal ideas. This means directly challenging the Islamic theology that is used by the Islamist predators to turn the heads and hearts of Muslims with the intent of converting them into enemies of their host countries.

Third, Europeans must design a new immigration policy that admits immigrants only if they are committed to adopt European values and to reject precisely the Islamist politics that makes them vulnerable to the siren song of the caliphate.

There are distinct weaknesses in Europe’s current immigration policy: It is too easy to gain citizenship without necessarily being loyal to national constitutions; it is too easy for outsiders to get into European Union countries with or without credible claims for asylum; and, thanks to the open-borders policy known as Schengen, it is too easy for foreigners, once they are in the EU, to travel freely from country to country. This state of affairs has been revealed as unsustainable by this year’s migrant flood into Europe.

Does this amount to “Fortress Europe,” with a new Iron Curtain to the east and a naval cordon sanitaire in the Mediterranean and the Adriatic? Yes. For no other strategy makes sense, given a threat like the one posed to Europe by Islamic extremism. And if Europe’s leaders persist, like German Chancellor Angela Merkel, in making a virtue of the openness of their borders, they will soon be chased out of office by populists better attuned to public feeling.

The trouble is that such people generally bring to the table other ideas beyond immigration control—not least the kind of fervent, illiberal nationalism that has torn Europe apart in the past.

To achieve all this, Europe would need to overhaul treaties, laws and policies—in other words, take steps that before the atrocities in Paris on Friday couldn’t even be discussed. Maybe this will be the watershed moment for Europe to rethink the path it has been traveling.

America’s Brave Soldiers: Lions Led by Donkeys. By David French.

America’s Brave Soldiers: Lions Led by Donkeys. By David French. National Review Online, November 16, 2015.


In 14 years of continual combat, has there ever been a greater disconnect between our warrior class and the civilians who purport to lead them? American politicians still don’t understand our enemy, still don’t understand the capabilities and limitations of the American military, and — worst of all — they still seem unwilling to learn. They come from an intellectual aristocracy that believes itself educated simply because it’s credentialed — and they tend to listen only to those who share similar credentials. They’ve built a bubble of impenetrable ignorance, and they govern accordingly.

During World War I, German general Max Hoffman reportedly declared that “English soldiers fight like lions, but we know they are lions led by donkeys.” Over time, his criticism stuck, and popular opinion about the war hardened into a consensus that the horrors of the trenches were the product of stupidity and lack of imagination. Callous generals, the criticism held, safely ensconced themselves in the rear while sending young men to die in futile charges, unable to conceive of the tactical and strategic changes necessary to deal with the technological revolutions that defined the war. This criticism was unfair then — generals on all sides suffered high casualty rates and dramatically changed tactics during the course of World War I — but it’s entirely fair now.

Just look at the collection of senior “talent “advising President Obama on ISIS. Stanford- and Oxford-educated National Security Advisor Susan Rice has no military experience, was part of the team that disastrously botched America’s response to the Rwandan genocide, and is notable mainly for a willingness to say anything to advance the electoral prospects of her political bosses.

Stanford- and Michigan-educated Valerie Jarrett — by many accounts President Obama’s most-trusted adviser — also has no military experience, spent much of her life toiling in Chicago municipal politics, and has gained influence primarily through her steadfast loyalty to the Obamas.

Yes, Yale-educated John Kerry served bravely in Vietnam, but one of his first acts upon returning home was to turn on his fellow veterans and slander them as war criminals. He has minimal credibility in the military.

Perhaps worst of all is Smith College–educated Wendy Sherman, the lead negotiator of the administrations disastrous Iran deal. She has zero military experience, started her career as a social worker, and then made her name in radical pro-abortion politics as the director of EMILY’s List. Sherman played an instrumental role in the failed North Korean nuclear negotiations during the Clinton administration, so naturally Obama put her in charge of the Iranian debacle.

Incredibly, this gang of cocooned leftists has reportedly “iced the Pentagon out of the decision-making process” and “pushed military frustration to the highest level in decades.”

But the politicized Pentagon bears its own share of the blame — beginning with a politically correct culture where discrimination complaints are more harmful to careers than battlefield failures. Yale- and Oxford-educated Ash Carter is no doubt intelligent (he has a Ph.D. in theoretical physics) and may be an upgrade over Chuck Hagel, but he has exactly as much experience in uniform as the commander-in-chief. On his watch, the Pentagon has maintained rules of engagement that have so dramatically hampered American forces in the field that terrorists routinely and easily find safe haven from the world’s most capable military.

And while military experience — even experience on the ground in Iraq or Afghanistan — is no guarantee of either wisdom or policy agreement (after all, even the most hardened post-9/11 veterans can and do disagree on tactics and strategy), there is a reason why Senator Tom Cotton stood alone in voting against the disastrous Corker bill. He has seen jihad up close, and he knows that it cannot be appeased.

Republicans, while possessing a bit more clarity regarding the nature of our enemy, suffer from similar defects in experience. Not one of the leading GOP contenders has served one day in the military, and this experience deficit could be one reason that they sometimes substitute the foolish pacifism and appeasement of the Left for foolish saber-rattling. The Republican candidates’ near-lock-step support for a Syrian no-fly zone (with the notable exceptions of Ted Cruz and Donald Trump) reflects the worst sort of strategic thinking. Chris Christie’s vow to shoot down Russian planes if they violate such a no-fly zone was an embarrassment.

I do not believe that military service is a prerequisite for the presidency, but lack of service — especially lack of service since 9/11 — should lead to a degree of humility and openness to counsel that our political aristocracy self-evidently doesn’t possess. I know their world. I’ve lived in their world. This is a political class that reflexively distrusts the military, believes the right kind of experience can be gained by attending panel discussions from Boston to Geneva to Istanbul, and claims to gain on-the-ground insight from quick, guided tours of the safest sectors of Iraq and Afghanistan. They know nothing. Worse, they learn nothing.

The American people deserve better. This is a nation that has supplied an all-volunteer military with elite warriors for 14 consecutive years of combat. This is a nation whose sons and daughters keep exhibiting the courage of the Greatest Generation and the generations of soldiers who came before. We still raise lions. But alas, the donkeys rule.