Shock and Awe, the war on ISIS is not. The junior varsity team President Obama has repeatedly denigrated has spent this spring scoring a series of strategic victories that has left the U.S.-backed Iraqi Army in shambles. Our response? Seventeen air strikes since mid-May. An Air Force general violated the basic tenants of OPSEC to crow about bombing a building. Oh, and the President admitted this week that we don’t have a strategy.
We have spent the last year proving that you cannot fight a war half-heartedly and expect anything but an enemy victory.
The long-term security ramifications of our weak response to ISIS are extremely troublesome. ISIS has been given time to develop tactics to counter our firepower and technology. They’ve become even more effective on the battlefield. They’ve now got thousands of American armored vehicles that they have captured from the Iraqis. Their recent assault on Ramadi included waves of explosive-laden Humvees driven by suicide bombers into Iraqi Army defenses. Their strategic mobility in the face of our complete air superiority demonstrates a masterful grasp of logistics and camouflage.
The longer the West lets ISIS survive, the more capable they become. Australian intelligence reports now indicate that ISIS has acquired enough radiological material from captured hospitals or other sources that they can now build an effective dirty bomb.
If the Australians are right, the junior varsity has the capacity to build and deploy a WMD. This is the same junior varsity that tortured a fourteen year old boy to death on camera for propaganda purposes, and recently threw three gay men off a hundred foot tall building in Mosul before a crowd of hundreds of onlookers who had been armed with rocks and told to finish off the prisoners should they miraculously survive the fall. ISIS has institutionalized violence, torture, mass killings and then glorifies their brutality with internet propaganda videos. If anyone thinks ISIS will show restraint with WMD weapons, or will negotiate them away in some future diplomatic summit, they are delusional.
Our policy has been to supply and train the Iraqi Army. That policy has failed. If there are any doubts of that, just look at the numerous photos and footage of ISIS fighters wearing American ACU’s, carrying M4 rifles with ACOG scopes and using American-made Hummvees and even M1 tanks.
Meanwhile, the Kurds are fighting bravely with fierce determination and are begging for weapons and ammunition since the Baghdad government has played politics with such deliveries. The Kurds are about the only ones who have resolutely fought ISIS, and the West has not properly armed or equipped them. One wonders what they could have done with all the armored vehicles and weaponry the Iraqi Army left behind for ISIS.
A good step in the right direction would be to give the Kurds everything they need. But that’s only a step on a much longer path ahead if the human agony we are witnessing in the Middle East is to ever be stopped.
What is going on here is a slow motion train wreck caused by the United States’ refusal to lead a coalition of the willing into delivering decisive military intervention in the Middle East. Instead, the half-measures and over-reliance on a dysfunctional Iraqi Army and Iranian-backed Shia militias has only prolonged the anguish of countless innocents now living under ISIS rule. These were the very people for whom American blood was shed for so many years the previous decade. Now, we have thrown them to the wolves, and their suffering is our shame. The longer the West continues to half-heartedly fight this war—a war against an energized and dedicated foe—the more civilians will perish in horrifying ways. To not intervene decisively will only ensure their blood is on the West’s hands. History will not forget the abandonment of these defenseless people, and the global implications of our betrayal of them will linger for generations.
John R Bruning