Thursday, June 11, 2015


Parts of the Middle East and the Levant look to be in free fall.  The additional 450 US soldiers who will be sent to Iraq will not make a difference.  Libya is imploding, the Luxor incident in Egypt is ominous, and ISIS makes further inroads into territory and minds.

The response of the West and of the White House Equivocator-in-Chief misses the point. The Sunni states and Iran cannot be part of a situation wherein their hate for a common enemy is undermined by their mutual suspicion. The so-called moderates in Syria, as trumpeted by the White House, are still hard to find. Turkey has become a riddle after having been a headache ...and one can go on.

The last rational decision was taken by President George H. W. Bush, who wisely decided that in Realpolitiker terms it was better to reduce Saddam than to crush him. One does not destroy the Hoover Dam against Iran.  After Saddam--a most despicable persona--the conflict got out of hand. The Shia--Sunni conflict is like a case of  herpes.  You can never get rid of it.  The new player is ISIS, a trans-border wave which sent the Sykes-Picot Middle East blueprint back to the leftovers of history.

It has to be recognized that it is difficult to intervene alongside Baghdad when the Iraqi army is more busy running than standing its ground. Besides, southern Iraq is a de facto Iranian protectorate. In reality there is no Iraq, except in the White House press room.  If ISIS were merely a regional dispute over territory, one might wait for the myriad camps involved in shifting alliances to be overcome by exhaustion.  ISIS is something else. It is an ideology, a "romantic" rallying point for the adventurous and the frustrated, for the thugs and the hard- core Sharia addicts.  In the past, mistakes were also made during the decolonisation period, when insurgency was not seen as a liberation movement and where escalation only reinforced the will and efficiency of an ill-equiped enemy.  Here we witness the start of a war for hearts and minds to the finish. ISIS is winning on the propaganda front. This "added value" is more threatening than territorial gains which can be reversed. ISIS is now among us and it is unavoidable that we will see its resilience and tactical disigenuity in our midst. ISIS is impervious to Marxist or Enlightenment ideas. Besides the Koran and a genocidal killer vade mecum there is no other reference but a nihilistic Caliphate. We have entered the first non- Cartesian of the 21st Century and we find ourselves without direction.

As much as one can share the reluctance to have troops on the ground it has to be recognized that here, yet again, we are running out of time. We allowed a measurable problem to become an ideological oil slick which is overtaking countries and borders and is actively manipulating fifth columns via cyber-warfare. The ISIS propaganda is slick, the control of media and social websites is impressive. The Voice of America-sounding counter-narrative looks and sounds outdated and boring.

Unfortunately, we are at a point where we end up needing boots on the ground! The US had better consider a repeat of the first Gulf War (taking into account the changes which have occured since and which require an updated strategy). The Sunni states will eventually join, so might some EU members (France,UK, Italy) who have gotten more than their share of wake-up calls in the recent past.  Iran must be confined to southern Iraq and should not be part of an integrated military intervention. Given the ideological primary component of the enemy, any operation should involve Russia, China, India, inter alia. The military intervention has to be focused on a rat pack off disenfranchised "desperados", who more often than not rule by category rather than by rally. This "franchise" gives them, by the way, a "sex appeal" which draws younger individuals from all over. This war has become an expedition, a "Sierra Madre" for the frustrated!  The destruction of anything preceding Islam, the war against "the other" are proof of an institutionalised dementia, as we have seen before (Nazism, cultural revolution), but the absence of containment (borders) makes for a spreading contagion

Vietnam was a laboratory case of mistaken atrocities, indiscriminate napalm use and disregard for others. Books have been written about the specificity of liberation movements versus classical warfare. Today clocks need to be reset about the confrontation with an ideology of neologisms which can no longer be confined to a "there" since it has found shelter "here". The more one waits to take "robust" action, the more the Jihady spiderweb will expand. Only a use of maximum force will also rally the countries of the region which are sceptical now, given Obama's denials. Criticism of the US president comes often all too easy, but he should avoid to resort yet again to a murky Delphic sophism. He said that he would not start "dumb" wars, rightly so.  Here though, he has to claim leadership in confronting a new strand of present, almost irrational danger for civilisation as we know it. If he fails to do so he will have endangered the basic principles of pluralism in the region. In the future, this passivity risks depriving one third of the world's population of freedom of choice.

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