November 16, 2015

Burn Out the Nests: "Each Flare Is Not a Separate Case"

For all the rhetorical fire directed against ISIS, from the denunciation of its massacres, outrages and cruelty, it has not been heavily hit. Its capital Raqqa, while seedy, still proceeds much as normal, unmarked by the damage and ruin which has overtaken so much of Syria, as this Wall Street Journal video shows. The bridge over the Euphrates which until lately supplied much of the city was knocked out only on November 5, 2015 — and by the Russian aircraft to boot — a testament to how careful Obama’s campaign has been. -- Belmont Club

From War in the Absence of Strategic Clarity by Mark Helprin, 2003

"The enemy must and can be defined. That he is the terrorist himself almost everyone agrees, but in the same way that the United States extended blame beyond the pilots who attacked Pearl Harbor, it must now reach far back into the structures of enablement for the sake of deciding who and what must be fought. And given the enormity of a war against civilians, and the attacks upon our warships, embassies, economy, capital, government, and most populous city, this determination must be liberal and free-flowing rather than cautious and constrained, both by necessity and by right. The enemy has embarked upon a particular form of warfare with the intent of shielding his center of mass from counterattack, but he must not be allowed such a baseless privilege. For as much as he is the terrorist who executes the strategy, he is the intelligence service in aid of it, the nation that harbors his training camps, the country that finances him, the press filled with adulation, the people who dance in the streets when there is a slaughter, and the regime that turns a blind eye.

"Not surprisingly, militant Islam arises from and makes its base in the Arab Middle East. The first objective of the war, therefore, must be to offer every state in the area this choice: eradicate all support for terrorism within your borders or forfeit existence as a state. That individual terrorists will subsequently flee to the periphery is certain, but the first step must be to deny them their heartland and their citadels.

"Recognizing that the enemy is militant Islam with its center the Arab Middle East, it is possible to devise a coherent strategy. The enemy's strengths should not be underestimated. He has a historical memory far superior to that of the West, which has forgotten its thousand-year war with Islamic civilization. Islamic civilization has not forgotten, however, having been for centuries mainly on the losing side. Its memory is clear, bitter, and a spur to action. And it dovetails with a spiritual sense of time far different from that of the West, where impatience arises in seconds, for the enemy believes that a thousand years, measured against the eternity he is taught to contemplate and accept, is nothing. Closely related to his empowering sense of time are his spiritual sense of mission, which must never be underestimated, and Islam's traditional embrace of martyrdom.

"This militant devotion, consciously or otherwise, pays homage to the explosive Arab conquests, which reached almost to Paris, to the gates of Vienna, the marchlands of China, India, and far into Africa. War based on the notion of Islamic destiny is underway at this moment in the Philippines, Indonesia, Sinkiang, Kashmir, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Chechnya, Iraq, Palestine, Macedonia, Algeria, the Sudan, Sub-Saharan Africa, and throughout the world in the form of terrorism without limitation or humanitarian nuance -- all in service of a conception far more coherent than the somnolent Western nations seem to comprehend. The object long expressed by bin Laden and others is to flip positions in the thousand-year war. To do this, the Arabs must rekindle what the 10th-century historian Ibn Khaldun called 'asabiya, an ineffable combination of group solidarity, momentum, esprit de corps, and the elation of victory feeding upon victory. This, rather than any of its subsidiary political goals, is the objective of the enemy in the war in which we find ourselves at present. Despite many flickers all around the world, it is a fire far from coming alight, but as long as the West apprehends each flare as a separate case the enemy will be encouraged to drive them toward a point of ignition, and the war will never end.

"The proper strategic objective for the West, therefore, is the suppression of this fire of 'asabiya in the Arab heartland and citadels of militancy -- a task of division, temporary domination, and, above all, demoralization. As unattractive as it may seem, in view of the deadly alternative it is the only choice other than to capitulate....

"The war in Iraq was a war of sufficiency when what was needed was a war of surplus, for the proper objective should have been not merely to drive to Baghdad but to engage and impress the imagination of the Arab and Islamic worlds on the scale of the thousand-year war that is to them, if not to us, still ongoing. Had the United States delivered a coup de mainsoon after September 11 and, on an appropriate scale, had the president asked Congress on the 12th for a declaration of war and all he needed to wage war, and had this country risen to the occasion as it has done so often, the war on terrorism would now be largely over.

"But the country did not rise to the occasion, and our enemies know that we fought them on the cheap. They know that we did not, would not, and will not tolerate the disruption of our normal way of life. They know that they did not seize our full attention. They know that we have hardly stirred. And as long as they have these things to know, they will neither stand down nor shrink back, and, for us, the sorrows that will come will be greater than the sorrows that have been.

Posted by Vanderleun at November 16, 2015 2:08 AM | TrackBack
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