Regardless of what can be said about the Taliban, IS, al-Qaeda and the rest, they are fighting for an ideology they deeply believe in, says Larry Beck.
Trying to figure out the battlefield conditions in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria is a truly perplexing task. Being perplexed may be the one thing that I share with the great thinkers at the US Defense Department and on President Barack Obama’s crack national security team. So, I have been working on this a bit and believe that I have some insight that might be helpful in arriving at a strategy to win whatever it is America wants to win and overcome what seem to be continued odds stacked against us in this endeavor.
The first thing that seems to be seriously missing from ongoing analysis is how the United States and its lame-ass “coalition” partners can continuously choose the wrong team to support. Our teams always need US military support, US arms, US training, US assistance, US soldiers and US strategic guidance to do anything. To make matters worse, our teams never seem able to make any constructive use of all of the support they previously have been given. Every day is a new day that requires more US support to have even a chance at minimal success.
The other teams seem to need nothing from the US to succeed, beyond what they can take from our teams. How can this be? After 14 years of warfare, training, equipping, assisting and bribing our way to an Afghan army, the Taliban are still seen as an unstoppable force unless the US military continues its support mission. Our very own “can do” military apparently can’t train and can’t equip our chosen team there to do much of anything unless we are by their side in perpetuity, and even then the outcome remains very much in doubt.
In Iraq, US efforts to even find a team to choose are constantly in flux and subject to extremely bad blood in the locker room. Our draft pool is composed primarily of Sunnis, Shias and Kurds, none of whom want to take even a shower with the others, never mind going to war with them. This has left the killing field almost exclusively to the Islamic State (IS) and its band of well-organized merry men. Despite unrelenting and mindless US bombing for cover, our trained and equipped minions apparently cut, run and leave behind their equipment at the sight of the IS hordes.
In Syria, we were able to find a very few good men, but the rest we chose, trained and paid for can’t beat IS or anybody else and have been as quick to abandon everything we have given them as their mighty Iraqi counterparts.
(Note: To be fair, the Kurds have acquitted themselves well in battle, but are fighting for themselves and their own people, as they have been doing for over a century.)
This battlefield situation is made even worse by the seeming ability of IS to tap into a veritable wave of formidable kids who show up as a result of social media advertising. We are told that these formidable kids can tip the balance, so we should arrest them in America and elsewhere before they can take up arms against us in a foreign land. Somehow, no defense spokesman or “expert” commentator seems able to explain how this group of kids becomes an instant fighting force for the other team when over a decade of training and equipping our teams of men produces so little.
Press conference after press conference reveals a stunning record of failure that seems to have only one resolution: Do more of the same for longer and it will work better. But no one seems to tell our chosen teams. Maybe it is a language problem. Maybe we forgot to teach our chosen teams English at the outset, so all of our instruction manuals, training manuals and hands-on training were for naught. We said, “Shoot the other team” and they heard, “Shit on the other team.”
An Enemy From Afar
But that cannot be the whole story. One possibility is that the Taliban, IS, al-Qaeda and the other collective “terrorist” tribes actually have all the bigger, stronger and braver players, so much so that US weapons, bombs, cash, training and field support cannot come close to leveling the playing field.
A far stronger possibility is that the other teams are fighting for something they actually believe in, and our teams simply are not.
America itself is deeply split as a nation about the wisdom of our overseas adventures, and many who support the effort despair of its longevity and utter lack of strategic success. The soldiers we send to fight, train others and provide battlefield assistance in foreign lands reflect our nation’s division. They go because they are told to do so, not because they have some deep commitment to the land, the culture, the religion or the people they are supposed to be supporting. They all hope to survive, and most can’t wait to go home. Many serve a commander-in-chief they don’t respect.
Whatever else we can say about the Taliban, IS, al-Qaeda and the rest, they are fighting for an ideology they deeply believe in, for land they covet and for the power to define their own future. They will fight to the last man against those in their way, against an America that kills their women and children, and against their fellow countrymen who lack commitment to much of anything.
The US can overwhelm them with men, arms and money, but it will never win this war. America’s only commitment is to fighting on someone else’s soil for a world free of perceived threats to its own homeland. On the other hand, America’s targeted enemies are committed to fighting real threats to all that they hold dear.
*[A version of this article was also featured on Larry Beck’s blog, Hard Left Turn.]
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.