The Mighty ISIS

The news brings word that ISIS has sacked Palmyra and Ramadi. To what degree they control these cities and their populations is disputed. There are reports that Ramadi is mostly in the hands of the Iraq government with some terrorism from ISIS fighters. I’m not sure it matters a whole lot as the main story is the collapse of Iraq into anarchy and sectarian war.

If you look at a map, it is not hard to see why Iraq is nearly ungovernable as a single state. Arabs are highly clannish, with primary loyalty to their lineage-based tribe and a natural hostility to those outside the tribe. Layer on this map and you see that Mesopotamia is additionally riven by deep religious differences. Those Sunni – Shia difference may seem small to us, but they are everything to them.

Just to make things interesting, according to this post from HBDChick, Iraq has very high levels of cousin marriage. They have cousin marriage rates as high as 50%, including double cousin marriage, which is when the children of one man marry the children of his brother. That may explain why Iraq has a national IQ of 87.

The assumption of most Americans, including the people in charge, was that Saddam was a ruthless dictator because he was a sadist or evil. Saddam simply liked doing horrible things to his people, like using poison gas on them. Reality, of course, was more complex. To run Iraq requires overcoming the tribal and sectarian hatreds, along with the limited smart fraction. That means murderous force.

In fairness to all of the neo-cons who championed the Freedom Agenda in the Bush years, getting rid of Saddam sounded good and was well intentioned. They truly believed that they could arrange things in such a way that the Arabs of Mesopotamia could join the modern world with modern governance and modern economics. Their analysis was not all wrong, in this respect. It was simply naive.

But, they were wrong and removing Saddam was a terrible mistake that resulted in the current mess. Maybe we should have kept troops in country longer. Maybe we should have blown up more stuff and killed more of their males. No amount of who struck John arguments will change the fact that the region is a disaster and mostly because of American policy the last 25 years, particularly the last 15 years.

Note that the timelines here are becoming generational. Assuming a generation is 20 years, we are now into the second generation of mucking about in this region. The typical Iraqi is 27 years of age, which means he has known nothing by the US dropping bombs on him. That’s a long time to engage in any public policy. At some point, people expect to see some positive results and that’s not the case with the Near East.

That’s what I found a bit strange about the reaction to Rand Paul’s latest riffs on ISIS. This bit from Roger Simon jumped out at me because he has always struck me as a level headed guy. In this case, he appears to have thrown his dress over his head and ran screaming into the night.

Alas Rand (I had higher hopes for him), like father Ron, has a mega-chauvanistic view of the world.  The USA is so big and strong it causes everything, including, at one point, 9-11, and now ISIS, if you can believe that. Never mind that the Islamic State is just another avatar of Islamic imperialism’s desire for a world caliphate that has been going on for centuries, long before our country was in existence — the Battle of Tours (732), the Siege of Vienna (1683) and on and on. The violence has been there forever, too.  As any literate person knows, it’s in the Koran and the Hadith.  Beheadings were part of Mohammed’s game plan. It’s what he did and what he called for. This was not invented by a cabal of neocons in Chevy Chase, Maryland, in 2003.

I take a backseat to no man in my disdain for libertarianism and I’m no fan of Rand Paul. His comments on ISIS are not measured, but they are not outlandish or even wildly incorrect. They are simply incomplete. A long series of mistakes and general stupidity by US policy makers gave us the current mess. No one intended for it tot happen. No one intends to hit a tree with their car, but we accept blame for it when it happens.

That’s what makes Paul’s comments incomplete and careless. He leaves the impression that it was intentional. We did create a Muslim force in Afghanistan in the 1980’s and it did become Al Qaeda. That’s indisputable. It was not, however, the intent of guys like Clarence Long and Charlie Wilson who pushed for arming the Afghans. They simply could not see over the horizon and know where their schemes would lead.

Similarly, breaking up and disbanding the Iraqi military sounded like a good idea. No one thought about what would happen when all of those paranoid and unemployed Sunnis who used to work for Saddam decided on what to do next. No one thought about how the new Shia government would react to those Sunnis. No one imagined ISIS or anything like it.

Lack of foresight, however, is not a blameless act. If I don’t know what is behind door number two, I am obligated to consider the possibilities. If I just blunder through it, I have no one to blame but myself for the results. We expect our rulers to look down the road and consider the possibilities. Very serious men cautioned that removing Saddam would lead to chaos.

Team Bush and the mainstream conservatives rejected those warnings and ran off the old paleocons from the Reagan years. The great schism that plagues the American Right to this day was caused by the rift over Iraq. It is what causes Roger Simon and The Weekly Standard crowd to fly into hysterics whenever one points out that this mess in Mesopotamia and the Near East is due to the mistakes of American policy makers, primarily the hawks in the GOP.

Now, none of this should be taken to mean I don’t think ISIS is a problem. It is a problem and a significant one. How much of this problem we need to address and how to address it starts with understanding why this problem exists in the first place. That means owning up to our own mistakes and avoiding a repeat of them going forward. That also means putting the light on the hawks who were so terribly wrong and knocking that smug look off their face.

That’s really what the hysteria over Rand Paul is about, I suspect. Any discussion of the past means revisiting the predictions and polices of those who turned out to be all wrong about Iraq after Saddam. It’s hard to remain in the debate if you are, to some degree, responsible for creating the mess. Roger Simon, I suspect, would like to everyone to forget he was all wrong about this.

The result is a strange moral panic on the Right anytime the issue is raised. If you are not fully on-board with forever war, then you get labeled a Neville Chamberlain who is insufficiently tough on terrorism. In other words, it is all about shifting the focus away from the errors of the past and onto the lack of faith of the person trying to discuss the past. Simon even resorts to the old Progressive trick of projecting their racism onto others.

Rand, again like father Ron, is essentially racist in blaming this on America and not recognizing other cultures have belief systems to which they truly adhere and that those belief systems may be dangerous, even evil.  America did not evolve Islamist ideology anymore than it did Nazism, but the Islamists have the potential to wreak just as much havoc if they are not stopped.

The undeniable fact is the forever war types like Simon cheered on the Iraq invasion arguing that Arabs were just like us, loving what we love and hating what we hate. Implicit in their claims was a denial that there is even such a thing as being Arab or Muslim. The whole point of the invasion and occupation was to erase the Arab identity and replace it with a Western one.

For that reason I hope Rand Paul continues his critique, but polishes it up a bit by dropping the conspiratorial tone so common amongst libertarians. It was not a conspiracy by the Deep State, the military-industrial complex and the Israel lobby that caused this mess. It was a combination of ideological irrationality, triumphalism and misplaced American optimism. I’d throw in a failure to appreciate the diversity of the human animal.

The only way to arrive as a solution is to cast the spotlight on guys like Simon and their wrongness with regards to the region going back two generations now. Otherwise, they will keep hooting down everyone that wishes to try something different in an effort to put the lid back on the cauldron that is Mesopotamia.

15 thoughts on “The Mighty ISIS

  1. Why did we invade Iraq? First, the coalition we had put together to contain it was falling apart. France and the Turks were out. The Saudis were in the process of physically kicking us out of their country. The Brits and the Kuwaitis were getting wobbly. There was a real panic going on in certain capitals that wasn’t making it into the media.

    Second, I don’t think that all of those capitals thought Team America would pull the trigger. Once they realized that not only were we going in, but the Rumsfeld had configured the force for a strategic raid with regime change as the mission and no “Phase IV,” the panic increased.

    Third, heads of government and foreign ministers in those same capitals got on the phone with Colin, James, Ed and all of the other “reasonable” members of the Bush machine and gave them some variation of the “you broke it, you own it,” speech.

    Fourth, rather than quickly turning over the government of Iraq to some Sunni crooks and hightailing it out of there, we handed over the reigns to State and spent eight years fighting COIN. (I will spare you my opinion as to whether or not we won.) After all of blood and treasure spent, we turned over Iraq to a bunch of Shia crooks instead.

    I’m not a Rumsfeld fan, and was appalled by his team’s plan as anyone else. There were plenty of opportunities to off ramp (that seems to be what the smart set calls it) from the eight-year guerrilla war. E.g. we could have set up an Iraqi confederation with Kurd, Sunni, and Shia states as members. There still would have been ethnic cleansing and low-level warfare. Maybe even A-Q would have gotten control of the Sunni statelet. But how is that any different than what we face right now?

  2. The war may well be coming, at least here in Europe. The muslim invasion is well-established, and their friends in the media (who will find themselves up against the wall with the rest of us no matter how much they bleat about tolerance and ‘love’ ) are working tirelessly to tell us what good thing it is to have lots of brown-skinned people who don’t want to be like us. Integration? Only if we integrate into what they want, on their terms.

    I fear, though I have to accept, that this war will divide our own people. There will be, the way the ‘useful idiots’ of socialism always do, those who support the muslim hordes and help them achieve what they want (as I say, until it becomes all too obvious even for lefties that the invaders’ demands are, well, just too damned demanding). I also fear that the US will, understandably, draw in its horns as it has been emasculated by the likes of the Obamas and probably the Clintons. Isolationism may protect the US for a while but not for ever, but then politics has always been about the short term over the long term.

    As we are on our own in Europe, sacrificed as halal meat, it will not be pretty. Still, while it is not what we voted for (the choice was never put to us) the people we voted for have their own agenda — and their own ‘get out if the going gets rough’ avenues.

    The other day at the dinner table a relative asked what I thought of all the migrants pouring across the Med. Al-Beeb keeps pumping out the propaganda of doe-eyed babies being rescued from sinking boats, saying how kind the Royal Navy is in helping. They even showed an inflatable boat beaching on the shore of Kos and the newly-arrived African men (no babies, and all male) running, helter-skelter, into the streets of the local town, pulling on woolly hats to disguise themselves while a compatriot stabbed the rubber boat with a knife and then fled too. No adverse comment, only merely informing us these people have reached safety and freedom.

    What did I think? I was honest. ‘It is over for us. We cannot keep taking them in, housing and feeding them all, cannot hope to sustain what we have already. We are lost.’

    The reactions as shocked. When I looked at a relative who teaches I asked him how many children did he teach. ‘Altogether, all classes… 400,’ he said.

    ‘We haven’t got jobs for those. Not now. More people, all coming here uninvited to ‘work’ and improve our society supposedly… We can’t look after what we have. A lot of your 400 won’t get jobs, whether we take in more or we say stop today. But, it is too late. Free money from our failing system will be sent to relatives still in Africa and the Middle East, and they will come too. Free healthcare? Why not have more children. How many more kids do you want to have to teach? Your 400 will become 500, then 600, many with rudimentary grasp of English. Standards — which matter to teachers like you — will drop like a stone. Tribalism will explode, factions form. School hallways will be run by gangs.’

    The reaction was muted silence, but fortunately not at the BBC, who still keep telling us it will all be alright if we just accept.

    ISIS can blow their part of the world apart, but already they are slipping their agents into the packs and we await their input here in crowded European cities — all with increasingly limited hospital wards — with interest, and fear.

  3. The dissolution of the Iraqi Army was a contentious decision. Unfortunately, we all woke up one morning to discover Bremmer had pulled the trigger. Unlike post war Germany and Japan, the Iraqi Army was in part a jobs program. We would have been better served by disarming them and confining them to the barracks with pay. In my reading, I’ve come to the conclusion that the proximate cause of many post war problems was a blatant disregard for the principle of unity of command. We should have appointed a military governor who reported directly to the President through the Secretary of Defense. Instead we drifted into a conflict between a military that wanted no part of the post conflict and a State Dept that wanted all the perks of empire with none of the hard work of governing. Douglas Feith’s book has the best take. Like any memoir it’s partly self serving, but his recounting of the squabbling between State and Defense led me to question the maturity of anyone who served at the policy making level of the Bush administration.

  4. “How much of this problem we need to address and how to address it starts with understanding why this problem exists in the first place. That means owning up to our own mistakes and avoiding a repeat of them going forward. ”

    Honestly, I don’t think that’s even possible anymore. The near-deification of The State has led to a sort of pretension to infallibility on the part of its minions. To admit a mistake is to declare oneself unfit. Why else did the press incessantly nag George Bush to confess to having made a mistake, or gotten something wrong? They knew that merely admitting such a pedestrian fact would implicitly invalidate his right to “rule”. (He wouldn’t have thought in such terms, but they do.) I think Bush understood what they were up to, because he resisted giving them the satisfaction. Obama never admits to being wrong about ANYTHING; when you pose as a god, you can’t be seen to bleed.

  5. Our biggest mistake in foreign policy is to assume the “others” have the same value system as the West and if we could only get them to stop savaging long enough why they will have free elections and democratically march into the future with peace and love for all. How’s that working out?. As with any combatant, it is wise to asses at bottom who your adversary is. The Art Of War is instructive in this matter. The West is continually trying to overlay Western ideals of democracy on tribal societies with little or no success. Taking western might and overpowering an adversary is not always the way to win. We have misunderstood our “enemies” for many years now and are reaping the fruits of the seeds sown before. If it is to be war, then let it be full on, take no prisoners, salt the earth and win or stay home until such time that it becomes necessary to to engage. But don’t worry, we now have Marie Harf advising John Kerry on Middle Eastern affairs so all is sure to end well. As per Z’s observation, they can surly see “over the hill” as to where their actions will lead.

  6. US foreign policy sins of omission and commission certainly contributed to the rise of ISIS, but we didn’t invent Islam, nor did we invent the desire of the adherents of Mohammed to bring the entire world under an Islamic caliphate. By helping to create a power vacuum in the Middle East in regards to Iraq, the Islamists seized the opportunity they’d been waiting for. Perfect timing for them. They have been busily depopulating the conquered areas of Christians and anyone else who is not on board 110% with their agenda. When their work is done there they will move on, like locusts. Eventually Syria will fall to them, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they started to move closer to Southern Europe for future incursions. What’s Europe gonna do, fight back from the fetal position?

    • Doubtful ISIS will go against EU countries. Since it is basically a Sunni sect they will most likely go at Iran. Centuries of bitter Sunni Shia rivalry is been played out in Iraq and Syria now. Besides eu is an oil and gas customer and you need money to wage war and post those videos on YouTube.

      • I might agree with that assessment re: Iran if Iran wasn’t so dead-set on obtaining nukes. They wouldn’t think twice about using them against ISIS. True about the oil and gas, but Europe is not their only customer. And Europe has plenty of Moslem enclaves to help out any invading “brothers”. After all, Europe was almost overrun in the 17th century by the Mohamadens. They were stopped at the gates of Vienna by Polish King Jan Sobieski and his men.

        • I know I live 3 hours away from Vienna . But Muslims of that time were on a comparatively even technological level with western Europe. Not so much today. Any terrorist attacks should be relatively easy to deal with for a competent police force.

          Also ISIS started as a Saudi project to get rid of Assad. Caliphate business is just marketing to recruit soldiers and Iran is Saudi biggest enemy. Lets say you are caliph and you are able to consolidate your rule in Sunni areas of Iraq and Syria. You are surrounded with countries with advanced weaponry (Saudi, Turkey, Jordan,Israel) supported by eu and us. Why would you go after them when you have the holiest Shia cities in south of Iraq only a few hundred miles away?

          Also no need to fear about European countries. One word from Angela Merkel and you will see afrika corps again in action

          • You’re talking like this is just one big geopolitical machination. Tell me how many Moslem countries there are today. How many Moslems are in the US compared to just 10 years ago? The vast majority will never assimilate for they are here as part of the Hijra. Same in Europe. ISIS is just the “warrior” group consolidating power in the ME for the larger picture. They are not the “JV” team Obama makes them out to be.

        • And I thought we were stupid for hitting a Nissan truck with a couple of guys with RPGs in the back with a million dollar missile.

          Now, hitting that truck with a nuke… I reckon that says something. I’m not sure what, though, unless it’s that you’re really, really, serious.

  7. “Simon cheered on the Iraq invasion arguing that Arabs were just like us, loving what we love and hating what we hate.”

    I’ve known Simon since around 2003. This is utterly wrong.

    • How so? I’m not going to pretend to be his confidant, but it is my understanding that he was a supporter of the Bush policies. if I’m wrong please explain. I would not want to misrepresent him or his views on purpose.

  8. Simon is a western Jew. It is almost without exception, impossible for such a man to think that an ethnic group is beyond his power to persuade, educate, and reform, The Hassid, who share the same mixed DNA, despise everybody. So perhaps what is learned can be unlearned, but there’s no sign of it.

  9. Mindful of “what is meant”…
    Is “Nazism” a suitable word for the German rendition of “workers party” and so-called “socialism” in the same tent?
    Is it meant here to imply all the other stuff “behind the curtain”, JUST in German “leadership’s” particular historic camouflage with “national socialism”?

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