Third time lucky ?

So, it seems, we are signed up for our third Iraq war in 20-odd years. Obviously, this isn’t because the last two turned out brilliantly. So, what is the reasoning here? More precisely, given that Australia’s policy is just to follow the US without question, what is the reasoning of the world leaders, most importantly Obama, who are pushing this war? There seem to be two main points here

* ISIS/ISIL are barbaric terrorists who behead hostages. That’s a good reason for trying to capture and try those responsible, and perhaps for trying to kill them if that’s not possible. But there’s nothing special about this particular group. There are plenty of barbaric terrorists out there. And one of our leading allies in the fight, Saudi Arabia, routinely beheads people for such crimes as apostasy and “sorcery”. None of this justifies a war that is going to cost tens of billions of dollars (Australia alone looks to be up for several billion, assuming a long war) and an unknowable, but potentially large, number of lives.

* ISIS/ISIL threaten to take over large non-Sunni areas of Iraq and undertake ethnic/religious cleansing. That threat looked like a significant a month or two ago. But some limited air support for Kurdish and Shia militias appears to have turned the tide. As far as I can tell, ISIS/ISIL are now confined to Sunni areas where they have a fair degree of popular support. Changing that will be a costly and bloody business.

I expect most readers here will agree with me, and don’t plan to argue about with those who haven’t learned from the past. But I would like a pointer to any serious analysis making the case for a new war.

139 thoughts on “Third time lucky ?

  1. @Ken Lovell

    I used the fake surgeon analogy to demonstrate that you don’t use the fake surgeon to fix up the damage he has already done. The US is the fake surgeon with “surgical strikes”, “democracy implants” and the “routine dictatorectomy”.

  2. I view the Islamic State as part of the Arab spring phenomenon; but a Saudi phenomenon. How else did anyone expect the Saudi spring to look like? I’ll make some points because I guess I should be making an informed comment on this.

    There was great hope after the fall of Mubarak in Egypt. There was almost uniform acceptance even by the Muslim Brotherhood in the parliamentary system. The Muslim Brotherhood across the Arab world had committed itself to the parliamentary system (not democracy) and looked to Egypt for leadership. This included groups in Syria (who lead and now form part of the Syrian revolution). With the counter revolution in Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood as well as the perspective in favour of a parliamentary system collapsed. All of this was supported by the Saudi’s who miscalculated in crucial ways.

    In Syria, this mean that al-Nusra became the dominant force in the civil war, which strengthened its leadership in Iraq. The vacuum also meant that IS in Iraq was able to attract former Baathists, which is partly evidenced by the exceptionally articulate official Arabic language documents that they started distributing sometime last year (something unusual for Islamic groups) [perfect Arabic is difficult to write even if you are an Arab Muslim scholar]. It is also evidenced by the fact that they have been able to reopen Baathist smuggling systems and finance themselves in a way that is reminiscent of the days of Iraqi sanctions breaking.

    Importantly, the IS declared a caliphate (something that would have been laughable prior the the collapse of the Egyptian parliamentary system) but which seems to have gained a nod as a governing system by many. They are not the first to declare a caliphate, it was done in Algeria. They were the first in the modern era to declare one in a way that is somewhat consistent with Islamic law. In particular, al-Baghdadi though Iraqi can also trace his roots to the Hashimite tribe of Quraish (of Mecca). One cannot be a caliph unless this is the case. The Saudi royal family is not from Quraish, thus even within the Salafist perspective they have no inherent right to rule.

    The Caliphate in Islamic law is exclusive, there can not be two Caliphs, and if there is, then the second must be killed. In that sense, the declaration of the Caliphate in Iraq poses a direct challenge to the Saudis. The Caliphate has gained such significant support in conservative Saudi centres that it now forms an internal threat to the regime. The Saudi’s also understand that if they challenge the IS Caliphate militarily, then it is likely that their conservatives will rebel and a revolution like Syria’s will happen. So the Saudi regime is in a bind and threatened by the IS.

    The question for Obama must have been if it is in America’s interest for a civil war to start in Saudi Arabia. I’m not sure about the possible outcomes of such a civil war, but I don’t think any good can come from it. So Obama decides that it is in the national interest that the US tries to defeat IS in Iraq before things get bad in Saudi Arabia.

    I don’t have a firm opinion on this new war, but I’m not hopeful that anything good will come from it. I do think that this almost exclusively a Saudi problem and the Saudi’s must find their own longterm solution to it. To my mind this should trying to resuscitate parliamentary democracy in Egypt.

  3. ISIS/ISIL are barbaric terrorists who behead hostages…[b]ut there’s nothing special about this particular group. There are plenty of barbaric terrorists out there.

    Ah, but not many barbaric terrorists who succeed in beheading Americans on prime-time TV. Why do you attribute some tortured foreign policy rationale for Obama’s actions when he has a domestic politics imperative? I suspect Obama knows this is unlikely to end well for anyone, but he’s basically doing what he has to to get Congress off his back.

    Of course ISIS’ actions here were deliberately designed to create that imperative – they want to portray themselves as fighting Western infidels. People don’t seem to learn that it is rarely a good idea to do exactly what your opponent wants you to do.

  4. @derrida derider

    I doubt that those particular beheadings were aimed “deliberately designed to create that imperative – they want to portray themselves as fighting Western infidels.”

    I think that the IS is sufficiently decentralised that that particular group of British hoodlums were upset that they were not being paid for the hostages which they paid paid Syrians good money.

  5. Note commentary by Andrew Bachevich http://www.abc.net.au/religion/articles/2014/09/17/4089354.htm
    Supporting and motivating humanitarian action (supposedly our initial concern and a theme repeated by Tanya Plibersek on behalf of the ALP on RN Drive this evening) by neighbouring countries with an interest in stability might actually be easier if US, Australia et al weren’t charging in with military intervention that looks like a war – certainly to any civilians hit by bombs from air strikes.

    Current action by ALP is going to shore up some support at least at the margins for the Greens who have at this stage attempted to at least ask questions about the intent and longer term impact of the policy.

  6. Sotloff was sold by US controlled ‘moderates’ to IS (also US controlled, of course).

    The US is playing everyone for fools so they can continue the MIC/Resource wars and destruction of anything in the middle east that could even vaguely challenge Israel to a fair fight.

    The false choice (do nothing or kill more Iraqis) is cheap and lazy framing by the pro-war/neo-con propagandists. We must stop killing people – everywhere, but specifically in the middle east.

  7. Pr Q said:

    Obviously, this isn’t because the last two turned out brilliantly.

    Actually it is not “obvious” that the first Iraq War was not “brilliant”. The US s first Iraq War turned out better than anyone hoped for. The US s second Iraq turned out worse than anyone had feared. I don’t see much point in lumping them together, apart from knee-jerk pacifism.

    Pr Q said:

    So, what is the reasoning here? More precisely, given that Australia’s policy is just to follow the US without question, what is the reasoning of the world leaders, most importantly Obama, who are pushing this war?

    Obama is not “pushing for this war”. He is being pushed into it by “events, dear boy, events”. It hardly qualifies as a “war” in any case, since the forces deployed are mainly commandoes, drones and sir strikes. And the enemy are sadistic bandits rather than a proper state. This is more of a policing action.

    The “reasoning here” is the same reasoning the US has used since 1950 when it outlined its global security strategy in NSC 68: denial of its enemies access to critical assets. The US correctly employed the same reasoning in ejecting Hussein from Kuwait.

    Back in 2003 I pointed out that Lefts “War for Oil” slogan was a fallacy. It was more like a “War against Oil”, specifically letting high priced oil fall into the hands of US enemies intent on turning it into weapons:

    The political issue in the Gulf is the military…revenue benefits to the US admin’s enemies, not the oil…costs for the US admin’s allies.

    In the present case, the US wants to deny ISIS the oil revenues it craves to fund national, regional and global terrorism. ISIS have developed a strategy to either commandeer or sabotage Iraq’s oil wells. That takes them out of the realm of national tactical nuisance and puts them in the cross-hairs of regional strategic threat.

    ISIS control, or denial, of a significant part of Iraq’s oil fields would constitute the biggest victory of Islamists in the War on Terror. There is no way a US Commander-in-Chief would let that happen. CNN recently discussed the unpleasant implications of an ISIS slice of “the Prize”:

    How much of Iraq’s oil market do ISIS control?

    ISIS control just a few marginal fields in Iraq’s north, but they are enough to fund the terrorist group’s self-sufficiency. A month ago, the ISIS–controlled oil market in Iraq was reported to be worth $1 million a day. Now, with expansion, further control of oil fields and smuggling routes, the market is believed to be raising at least $2 million a day. This could fetch them more than $730 million a year, enough to sustain the operation beyond Iraq.

    One important factor for the stability of global markets: ISIS is not yet in the south of Iraq, where the country’s true oil bounty lies. Capturing the southern assets of the country would be mission impossible for the group.

    What is ISIS’ ultimate aim and how does oil wealth play into it?

    In the short to mid-term, the impact will be minimal as Iraq’s south is its dominant producer. However, there are enough rich assets in the midlands and the north part of Iraq that ISIS could reach out to, a potential capacity that could ramp up to a million barrels a day — from its current 30,000 barrels a day — should they seize control the oil-rich city of Kirkuk and its surrounding districts.

    If they succeed in controlling those assets, cash inflow could stretch their empire of terrorism beyond imagination. But so far, ISIS oil trading has remained local with buyers in Jordan, Turkey, Syria and Iran via middlemen network and truck owners.

    However, the instability created by Iraq effectively being broken up would have a ripple impact, in terms of hindering investment prospect in the country.

    There is the cynical Luttwak view to “Give War a Chance” by letting the locals slug it out and ethnically cleanse each other until dome national equilibrium is achieved. This more or less is how things worked out in Algeria.

    But ISISs aims appear unlimited and it’s methods are beyond the pale. It is not Hamas or even Al Quaeda. A low intensity campaign could degrade them long enough for Suuni nationalists to once again get their act together and force them out of section, as per Anbar Awakening. Hopefully then using their power to force the Shia into masking some reasonable concessions. Well, that’s my plan, unless anyone else has got a better idea.

    In any case, The US will not allow a sworn enemy of a Israel get hold of billions of dollars per annum in discretionary revenue. So, much against my reconstructed instincts, I’d gave to vote for this action.

  8. @Jack Strocchi

    What is the relevance of:

    methods are beyond the pale

    if Saudi Arabia’s beheadings are not “beyond the pale”?

    Can Saudi’s behead people based on creed with no upset in the world’s media?

  9. Ivor, get your eyes off the three white guys. ISIS routinely commits mass murder. Check out their videos if you want to see “beyond the pale.” What happened to those three hostages is just the very tip of an extremely bloody iceberg. If they capture land in the South, in addition to the ramifications of oil, they will also commit communal slaughter on a grand scale. Along with various other crimes against humanity such as rape, torture and slavery.

    I don’t agree with Jack that these guys are just bandits, but I certainly agree with him that Obama is being dragged into this by events. Two Americans have been beheaded; the President has to at least be seen to be doing something. Now they have released a video promising more fighting, with grainy footage of a drive by of the white house. What could that possibly mean?? I guess Obama shouldn’t take it seriously, right?

    These guys have in common with a certain violent dictator of the last century that they have acted on everything they said they would do. They aren’t blustering and making empty threats. When they say they will “terrorize their enemies” and “hound them to their deaths,” when they say they will have blood up to their elbows, they mean it. What’s a self-respecting Leader of the Free World meant to do when they start threatening to export terror?

  10. @faustusnotes

    My point should not be reduced to some false claim that ISIS only deals with “three white guys”.

    My interest is the seemingly passing-over of the mass murderings by the Saudis who behead people for their beliefs?

    I remember a French text I once read that predicted that the values of 16th century empire buoilding (mass murder, genocide, slavery, rape, terror) would be revisited back by subjucated people when they got the means and chance.

    You only have to read a bit of colonial history to know that all of the infamy of ISIS was contained in several centuries of European slaughter that still underpins today’s global distribution of wealth and opportunity.

    Those who want to oppose ISIS terror have to oppose all terror. If beheadings are beyond the pale for ISIS then they are beyond the pale for Saudis too.

    So that is why I seek clarification as to the apparently different treatment for saudi beheadings as with ISIS beheadings.

    Not to excuse any other tactics by any other group.

    What are self-respecting free thinking people to do when Indonesia, Israel and America export their terror?

  11. @Gaius X
    Apparently we’ve had about 60 go there from here. Do you have any information on which western countries the other nn40 may have come from? No, I thought not.

  12. Ivor, Saudi Arabia doesn’t routinely kill men in their hundreds does it?

    Sorry for the Godwin mOnty, I just wanted to point out that sometimes we under-estimate the brutality and purpose of organizations because their claims seem too fantastic to be true. And sometimes we come to regret those mistakes. It’s a case of the boy-who-cried-wolf, I know, we’re all sick to death of the US intelligence services making grandiose claims about how dangerous fragmented and weak terrorist groups are. But in this case it’s not the intelligence services making the claims: it’s the group itself, which then broadcasts evidence of what it’s done and will do. I think in the circumstances Obama doesn’t have much freedom not to act.

    What’s he going to do, go on TV and say “oh yeah, those dudes beheaded two Americans and slaughtered several hundred of the soldiers we trained, but we’re going to do nothing. Let the Saudis clean it up”?

  13. Perhaps, we might have reasonably expected the Prime Minister and The Leader of the Opposition to both provide a serious analysis making the case for a new war. The PM is so inured, it seems, with populist posturing, sloganeering, and perhaps short term political advance, that detailed analysis and assessment of consequences does not enter into it. Nor it seems, does he deem to consider it necessary to past sequence of events in the Middle East. So far this has worked well enough with the media, if not the polls. Of course, it may be that UAR might meet the bill for the new guests, whose services may not be required. Thus Tony Abbott has a PR coup and the budget emergency is not further imperilled. Shadow play as politics make serious analysis fraught, if not impossible.

  14. The claims that ISIS is uniquely evil seem very similar to those made about Saddam in the leadup to the last war.

  15. The obsessive harping on the beheadings as “barbarian”, and the perpetrators as being therefore beyond-the-pale crazy savages, is illustrative of the way the developed world expects everyone else to play by its values. I suspect many in the Muslim world regard it as beyond barbaric that Americans can sit in air-conditioned comfort in Texas and use a video console to execute this week’s extra-judicial assassination list that just got emailed from the White House. Or that pilots can drop bombs with impunity from 30000 feet and wipe out -oops! a wedding party, sorry about that. Or that a helicopter gun ship can blow away kids gathering firewood because, you know, sticks look like guns from a distance and fog of war, stuff happens!

    We don’t turn a hair about that kind of stuff because it’s civilised and we don’t sully the media with pictures of the gory outcomes. We just look at the pretty explosions from afar. But personally I think it’s even more inhuman and degrading than the guy who uses a knife.

  16. @patrickb

    Wake up and smell the coffee:

    Although precise figures are hard to verify, the number of Westerners now fighting alongside militants in Iraq and Syria has by all accounts surged. A June report by the New York-based intelligence organization The Soufan Group describes a region transformed into an “incubator for a new generation of terrorists,” with more than 12,000 foreign fighters from at least 81 countries stationed in Syria alone. Of that number, approximately 2,500 are from Western nations, including the United States, Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany and Great Britain.

    Many other sources give much the same figs.

  17. Derrida Derider @53:

    Ah, but not many barbaric terrorists who succeed in beheading Americans on prime-time TV. Why do you attribute some tortured foreign policy rationale for Obama’s actions when he has a domestic politics imperative? I suspect Obama knows this is unlikely to end well for anyone, but he’s basically doing what he has to to get Congress off his back.

    Peter Beinart offers some interesting analysis on this point.

  18. @Jack Strocchi

    I take your thesis at face value. The US fights in the M.E. to secure oil. This makes it the most expensive oil ever imported. At a rough average, the US has imported about 8 million bpd from the rest of the world since 1990. (Starting at 6 million bpd in 1990, rising to nearly 11 million bpd in 2007 and slumping back to about 8.5 million bpd now.) The wars in Iraq alone have cost and/or will cost (veteran costs etc.) US $3 trillion. That is roughly $120 billion per year or roughly $330 million per day. So it’s $330 million divided by 11 million barrels = $30 a barrel excess costs. And this amortises the costs over all US oil imports not just M.E. imports.

    In fact, a bit less than half of US oil imports come from the Arab part of OPEC but let’s call it half. Now, this means the US has paid $60 a barrel surcharge on Arabian oil. Meanwhile what happens? China now gets more oil from the M.E. than the US does. How much has China paid in wars to secure M.E. oil? Not anything, IIRC. All this looks like a massive own goal by the U.S.

    China understand Napoleon’s dictum “Never interrupt your enemy when he’s making a mistake.” No doubt Sun Tzu said it first.

  19. @Gaius X

    You need to get some perspective. The numbers you quote are historically insignificant. Napoleon’s Grande Armée in 1812 was composed of about 550,000 men. This included 300,000 Frenchmen and 250,000 soldiers of other nationalities. So 250,000 men of other nationalities, albeit temporarily part of the French Empire, went and fought the Russians with Napoleon. World population then was about 1 billion so an equivalent today would be seven times that number or 1,750,000 men. When ISIS/ISIL attracts 1,750,000 men of other nationalities in addition to its local M.E. soldiers then I will sit up and take notice. Until then, I will not be subscribing to this immature hysteria about a tiny force by any hisorical standards.

  20. John, everyone knew western govts were lying then, it was as clear as day, and lots of people said there was no alternative to Hussein. This time around the evidence is being released publicly and proudly by the perpetraors, and there are clear alternatives to them. Why do you insult your readers with such a facile comparison? Have you read or watched any of the work of ISIS? These people are not some shadowy boogeyman like al Qaeda was in 2005 or 2006, they are a serious threat to several states in the Middle East, threatening communal violence on a mass scale and known to carry out their threats.

    So many opponents of intervention here still fighting the last political battle, using the one-size-fits-all “American interests” and “bush lied” logic. This is a classic failure of analysis … You have to assess events in terms of what is actually happening, not the imperialist phantoms in your head!

  21. @Gaius X
    Well that puts things into perspective, a relatively small number given the aggreate of the populations of the countries mentioned. I’d also caution against swallowing figures from terrorism research outfits. Some of the rhetoric from people like Greg Barton is positively hysterical. And it appears to me that there just as many bodies researching terrorism as ther are miltant groups, there’s obviously no shortage of funding. I wonder why noone questions their motives in the same way deniers question climate researchers?

  22. @faustusnotes
    So all it takes is killing two or three white dudes, and videoing a driveby of the White House, to suck the West in to spending billions to ship armament to the Middle East? That is almost as flimsy as the justification for Gulf War II.

    I would like our leaders to show more backbone than that. Hawks are lily livered cowards. IS is not Hitler.

    Let the Kingdom fight their own battles. The Sauds created this monster, expend their blood & treasure to fix it, not ours.

  23. Faustusnotes, isn’t it cowardly of you to to constantly taunt and insult the host of this blog while hiding behind an anonymous moniker? Why all this attention seeking behaviour? Don’t you have a life to go to?

  24. Yes, I know Bex had phenacetin in it which is now banned. Phenacetin metabolises into paracetamol. Hysteria metabolises into stupidity.

  25. Ah, our Saudi allies in the fight against barbarism and death cultism:

    A public beheading will typically take place around 9am. The convicted criminal walks into the square and kneels in front of the executioner. The executioner uses a sword known as a sulthan to remove the criminal’s head from his or her body at the neck. Sometimes it may take several strikes before victim is decapitated. After the criminal is pronounced dead, a loudspeaker announces the crimes committed by the beheaded criminal and the process is complete. This is the most common method of execution in Saudi Arabia because it is specifically called for by Sharia Law. Professional executioners behead as many as ten people in a single day. The severed head is usually sewn back on, and sometimes put on crucifixes for public display. In 2011, an Indonesian maid’s dead body was hung from a helicopter for display.

  26. Q. What’s the difference between a cult and a religion?
    A. A few thousand members.

    Every religion started as a cult. This includes all of today’s major religions. Modern monotheist religions are only reasonable and humane insofar as the humanist and scientific revolutions took ethical and empirical ground from them. They lost appeal as death cults (all unreformed monotheist religions were death cults until well after the reformation in Europe) and put on newer and more reasonable robes. Only the humanist and scientific revolutions forced monotheist religions into a more reasonable and moral form. Periodically, some fundamentalists of all monotheist religions revert to death cultism. That is, they return to their roots.

  27. @DP

    Religion is indoctrination into beliefs which are without any empirical basis. Why should I spare pointing that out? This doesn’t mean I simplistically assert that all science is good. Nor do I subscribe to excessive scientism where it tends to reductionism and claims of absolutely certain knowledge. Typically it is religion which makes the most claims about absolutely certain truth with the least evidence to support it.

  28. @Paul Norton Peter Beinart gets to the heart of the matter, IMO. Anxiety drives politics and Abbott successfully harnessed public anxiety – over the economy, invasion by foreign forces in boats, loss of normality.

  29. @Ikonoclast
    Reason, which includes of course, ‘meta-reason’ — an examination of the integrity of reasoning — and based on that, an intellectually robust specification of salient data and its evaluation and realted inference-making are foundational for those seeking insight into cultural usage and their relationships with them.

    That’s not a guarantee of access to truth of course. Truth is elusive, assuming that it can exist at all, but in the absencve of the effort to apply reason and its associated practices, one must surely abandon all hope of insight.

    I think it was Mencken who said that to attempt to reason with someone whose method was faith was as useful as administering first aid to a dead person.

  30. m0nty, it seems to me that this will be enough to draw Obama back in, along with the death of soldiers we had trained, risks to allies, and sunk cost fallacy. Although today Obama seems to be insisting no troops will be on the ground. It appears he is aiming for the policy that will show America at its most ineffectual…

    You say that the Saudis should sort it out, but Rabee points out here before and in his/her blogpost that the Saudis can’t fix the problem – they are in trouble whether they act or not. If they can’t fix the problem, what then?

  31. Bombing with no infantry has been tried before by a Democratic president in recent history, with a lot better effect than ground wars under recent Republican presidents.

    American air support to clear ISIS out, then Saudi ground troops to winkle out the remnants would seem to me to be the most obvious answer. If there’s a spring clean for House Saud at home as a result, that’s just a bonus.

  32. This may be surprising. Friedman of the Times makes not the silliest argument you’ve read for circumspection regarding Islamic State matter:
    nytimes.com/2014/09/17/opinion/thomas-friedman-isis-and-the-arab-world.html

  33. Jesus, everytime one of the idiots in charge opens their mouth to make some grandiose and at once vacuous statement it leads to further division and rancour. Abbott ups the ‘terror threat rating’, police run rampant through the streets and skies of major cities, people are (apparently) brandishing ISIL flags and making threatening statements from moving vehicles outside schools. Way to keep the public calm boys. And I wonder who the ‘random member of the public’ was … and why they were chosen over just a ‘member of the public’?

  34. As far as I can tell, ISIS/ISIL are now confined to Sunni areas where they have a fair degree of popular support.

    Is there any strong (or weak) evidence for this assertion?

    I’m highly skeptical that ISIS has a great deal of popular support given the speed of its advance (owing to the collapse of the Iraqi army) and the extreme violence that it uses on civilians/prisoners.

  35. Reports in european papers suggest ISIS is working to deliver services to the Sunni communities in place of apparently non-existent services from the previous Iraqi government.

  36. There is a doco from Vice news that shows in some detail what is going on in ISIL controlled Iraq. It’s well made and not very pleasant but it does give an insight into ISIL’s attempts to set up their versions of the institutions of state. Worth a look.

  37. They also claim to be setting up welfare systems and distributing food. Their magazine juxtaposes mass murders with pictures of aid distribution. They have a story about capturing a pharmaceutical plant and distributing medicine. I wonder if they’ll handle the measles vaccines a little better than the free Syrian army have managed…?

  38. @Ken Miles

    DuckDuckGo (or, if you must, Google) gives lots of hits to a search on Isis+support+sunnis. Obviously, I don’t have any special knowledge, but the existence of substantial Sunni support doesn’t seem to be contested seriously. In turn, that creates big problems for an operation aimed at driving them out of Sunni areas, even of plenty of people in those areas would secretly welcome it.

  39. Ikonoclast @ #20 said:

    I take your thesis at face value. The US fights in the M.E. to secure oil. This makes it the most expensive oil ever imported. In fact, a bit less than half of US oil imports come from the Arab part of OPEC but let’s call it half. Now, this means the US has paid $60 a barrel surcharge on Arabian oil….Meanwhile what happens? China now gets more oil from the M.E. than the US does. How much has China paid in wars to secure M.E. oil? Not anything, IIRC. All this looks like a massive own goal by the U.S.

    No iknonoklast, you have not “taken my thesis at face-value”, more like ass-backwards. Ive banged on about since this whole mess started, way back in 2003, that the US does NOT make war for oil. In fact it went to much trouble to impose sanctions on Husseins oil industry which evidently harmed its economic interests.

    The rationale for US strategic intervention in the ME is not to get cheaper oil costs for its own allies industries, but to deny expensive oil revenues to its enemies militaries. This is based on the fundamental strategic principle that denying your enemy assets is a more efficient way to use strategic power than increasing ones allies assets.

    That is why Hitler, correctly, made Army Group South’s drive towards Stalingrad the priority over Army Group North’s move on Leningrad and Army Group Centre’s attack on

    The US has little choice but to destroy ISIS as its current strategy or capturing Suuni area oil fields to finance terrorism is a threat to regional stability esp Israel. Moreover ISIS attacks on Shia and Kurd oil fields undermines Iraq’s economic viability.

    This is not a “war”, it is pest control, preventing the bugs from starting a pandemic.

  40. Pr Q @ #45 said:

    the existence of substantial Sunni support doesn’t seem to be contested seriously. In turn, that creates big problems for an operation aimed at driving them out of Sunni areas, even of plenty of people in those areas would secretly welcome it.

    It would not matter if ISIS had “substantial Suuni support” or not. The ME has always been run by the kind of guys for whom too much was not enough. What other region rewards political success with multiple wives? The stakes for political conflict are lineal extinction. Thats why ME political disputes always seem to boil down to clan feuds. As steve sailer said way back in May 2004:

    Forget the opinion polls — in an insurrection you don’t count noses, you count balls.

  41. Jack Strocchi @#8 said:

    A low intensity campaign could degrade them long enough for Suuni nationalists to once again get their act together and force them out of section, as per Anbar Awakening.

    Apologies for repeated self-referential quotes but a quick google shows that the same “enemy of my enemy is my friend” logic that applied back in the Anbar Uprising-Surge period of 2006-07 is applicable now, as Anbar Suunis are fighting back against ISIS bloodbaths:

    Members of more than 25 prominent Sunni tribes took up arms against the Islamic State (IS) and their allies west of the Iraqi capital Baghdad on Friday, a tribal leader and officers said.

    The uprising in Anbar province, where militants from IS and insurgent allies hold major areas came a day after Nuri al-Maliki, the incumbent premier who is widely reviled by Iraqi Sunni Arabs, abandoned his bid for a third term.

    Anbar was the birthplace of a 2006 US-backed uprising against extremist militants that helped bring about a sharp reduction in violence. The current effort could potentially be a major turning point in Iraq’s two-month conflict against an IS-led offensive.

    “This popular revolution was agreed on with all the tribes that want to fight IS, which spilled our blood,” Sheikh Abduljabbar Abu Risha, one of the leaders of the uprising, told AFP.

    This suggests that Obama is taking a leaf out of Bushs playbook by piggybacking US military force on a local militia that is prepared to stand and fight. The original “Surge” would never have achieved success had not local Suuni tribes. fed up with Helter-Skelter style Al Quaeda attacks. decided to drive the foreigners out. It looks like the same strategic logic is now at work, given ISIS seems to rely on foreigners for its more malignant “propaganda of the deed”.

  42. When looking at the local spokesmen, suspects and perpetrators of violent extremism on TV, I mainly see “youf” in all its unvarnished glory, with the old folks fighting for respectability with Norm and Edna Everage, essentially in a defensive action to maintain their insider status, and often saying “we can’t control them”. Rarely discussed is the absence of an extremist presence within the muslim sub-Boomers: the generation between the youff and the ageing snowtops.

    Perhaps OTT, but how important is the element of millenarianism (though now less centralist) amongst the ascendant generation, as mirrored in the Occupy/Indignados/Syriza/Arab Spring political movements. Previously, amongst the baby boomers this manifested as politically oriented “socialism” or dropout oriented “individualism”. And how much of the extremism is (over-simplifying here) Oedipal and hormone-related?

    I thought of this tonight having been to a couple of environmental “action” meetings recently where the modus operandi seems to be “influence mongering”, by which I mean a carefully targeted accretion of “voting intentions” to leverage policy changes amongst political parties at he local (State govt) level.

    Not the same as exerting political power through pulling together a physical presence in the street, showing a commitment (and posing a threat) greater than easy-peasey online signature provision. Grassroots agitation is rarely the way nowadays – an alternative systemic vision has been replaced by a debate about “tweaking” tactics where the masses are the battering ram for the wise leaders who arrange “stunts” which shake the establishment (irony here).

    An example on the ABC tonight was the launch of a new food advisory website by the George Institute, which was presented by the young ABC journo as filling a gap in information provision due to “delays” by the government. Yeah, right, inadvertent I’m sure, cos if there was some doubt about who calls the shots, the spokesperson for the Minister made it clear. She said she “does have some concerns” about the George Institute website because “food companies are best placed to calculate star ratings for their products” as they may hold information not available to the Institute.

    This proves the journalism here is a step backwards: the less important (yet safe) pursuit of empirics is allowed to overpower the more important analytical framework. There are no doubt many reasons for this approach taking root, including the worldview supporting a diminution of conscious class loyalties by the dominant class. But instead of fighting for truth against vested political interests, the story is framed as just one of different approaches (sigh).

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