A Foreign Policy Conducted so Stupidly that it Burns
[by Mark Safranski, a.k.a. “zen“]
Karl Marx once said history repeats itself, first as tragedy and then as farce. The United States, on the other hand, has in a short quarter-century moved from parody to farce:
SNL Desert Storm Press Conf (3 34) from Wendy Hall on Vimeo.
Only the outcomes are likely to be tragic.
Barring a Bugs Bunny-level reverse-psychology Information Operation in progress, we have a highly centralized White House whose micromanagement of military campaigns by amateur staffers includes briefing the enemy:
An Iraqi military operation to retake the country’s second largest city from Islamic State is likely to begin in April or May, according to a US official.
A force of 20,000-25,000 Iraqi and Kurdish forces will aim to seize back Mosul from an estimated 1,000-2,000 IS fighters, who took it last June after government forces melted away in the onslaught.
The planned spring assault on the city, with a population of over a million, will involve about 12 brigades, five of whom will soon have coalition training, the official at US Central Command added.
No decision has been made on whether small numbers of US military advisers might need to be on the ground close to Mosul to direct close air support.
The main attack force would include five Iraqi army brigades, the official said.
Three smaller brigades would act as a reserve force, and three brigades of Kurdish Peshmerga troops would contain the city from the north and isolate it from Islamic State forces further west.
A so-called Mosul fighting force consisting mainly of former Mosul police officers and tribal fighters also is being assembled for the assault, the official said.
A brigade of counter-terrorism troops would also be employed in the fight, he said, adding if Iraqi forces were not ready by April or May the operation could be delayed.
Hey, good to know! No word yet as to whether the dime store “caliph” of Daesh, Abu Big Daddy or whatever he’s calling himself, will be sharing defensive battle plans with Wolf Blitzer.
The story continues:
It is very unusual for the US military to openly discuss the timing of an upcoming offensive, especially to a large group of reporters.
I’ll say. It pretty much only happens when the military is ordered to do so by some gaggle of clueless civilian officials without military experience who are consistently too goddamned arrogant to listen to those who do.
Predictably, this Einstein play by our generation’s best and brightest immediately stirred guarded criticism from the hired help and bombast from the evil Republicans (TM); So Operation Countersplainin’ was immediately launched, using one of the administration’s faithful scribes, with full twitter battalions supporting:
….So why did a senior military official spill the details of the war plan to rout the Islamic State from Mosul?
The answer: The Pentagon and Iraqi military commanders are hoping to avoid a massive, bloody battle in Iraq’s second largest city. “We want Mosul to look a lot more like the liberation of Paris than Stalingrad or Fallujah,” said a senior military official familiar with the planning. In other words, U.S. and Iraqi commanders are hoping that they can convince most of the Islamic State fighters to leave the city before the big battle…..So far it remains unclear whether the strategy will work.
SPOILER ALERT!: Uh…no….no it won’t. And if it did, so what?
This non-strategy “strategy” is akin to squeezing a semi-filled balloon – and that’s assuming ISIS chooses to go along with the script provided by the White House apparachiki and not, say, pull off a bold counter-move to embarrass the administration while it is taking a Mosul victory lap. This is war and diplomacy being carried out by bluster and posturing as if it were subject to the same dynamics as social dominance contests in the cafeteria of an elite college prep school.
Telegraphing an unwillingness to get into a real fight is probably a lot more unhelpful than silence in dealing with ISIS. The Daesh leadership may be extreme Islamist-Mahdist fanatics, sociopathic degenerates, rapists, slavers and war criminals of the worst description since the Khmer Rouge began seeding killing fields with bones, but stupid they sure as hell are not. And even the inbred, half-retarded, bearded Orcs from Europe’s finest ghettos who increasingly fill ISIS rank and file understand the smell of fear and appeasement.
….White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters Friday that he didn’t know that U.S. Central Command officials would be briefing reporters. But the news of the disclosures didn’t seem to bother him too much.
“I guess if I did sign off on these background briefings, then I’d be accused of …micro-managing the Department of Defense, and I certainly wouldn’t want to be accused of doing that,” Earnest said. “Right?”
I wonder what clever bon mot this smarmy, smirking, asshole will say if and when an American adviser dies in the administration’s Mosul goat rodeo?
Finally, as a kind of capstone to this sad enterprise, the cannon fodder in the pay of Teheran also weighed in, possibly for comic relief:
(Reuters) – Iraq’s defense minister criticized the United States on Sunday for declaring a time frame for an offensive to recapture the Islamic State’s northern stronghold of Mosul, saying military commanders should not show their hand to the enemy.
Hire the man. He’s already more qualified than Susan Rice.
February 23rd, 2015 at 7:02 am
When Jimmy Carter wakes up every morning he probably thanks God for Obama as he has replaced him as our worst President. Obama and his circus of clowns posing as elite advisors are the most dangerous bunch of fools ever assembled to advise a US President–and they’ve had some serious competition in some of our recent past Administrations. But Obama’s spoiled children win the Oscar on this Hollywood patting itself on the back weekend. Unfortunately, the Obama Administration’s incompetence oscar has grave, dangeous, bloody implications for the US, not a golden ststute to gather dust in some trophy case.
February 23rd, 2015 at 3:09 pm
Foreign policy is hard, Mark. It’s even harder when the sole interest is domestic electoral politics.
Treading the fine line between being accused of being soft on terrorism and what some of the president’s staunchest supporters would want (“Come Home, America”) isn’t easy. However, I think you’re right to point out that the first American “advisor” that gets burned alive in a cage will throw the present policy into a cocked hat and launch us willy nilly into a fullscale shooting war that has no clearer strategic objectives than our present efforts.
February 23rd, 2015 at 8:07 pm
I only have one word to describe what’s going on here: disinformation.
February 24th, 2015 at 4:35 pm
These people are so clueless! I’s sure the bad guys appreciate the warning.
February 24th, 2015 at 8:09 pm
nonetheless, i still wonder: recent criticisms of obama administration statements presume americans are the primary audience. but maybe they aren’t; people in the middle east and north africa are.
consider the beheading of egyptian christian coptics in libya. the critics here at home got angry that obama didn’t stress that it was about islamists killing christians. instead, he just identified the victims as egyptians — a framing that works far better in egypt than would the framing his right-wind american critics advocated. did that make it easier for the egypt to launch airstrikes and talk about more coordinated strategy?
consider the case of publicly telling isis we are attacking mosul soon. again, the critics lambasted the obama administration and military for strategic and tactical ineptitude. but that assumes isis was the main audience. maybe it was secondary; maybe iraq’s government and military were the main targets. could it be that the main purpose was to help smoke out, verify, and ultimately energize the iraquis’ dubious levels of commitment, so they don’t turn and run again or even play duplicitous games?
i’d like to see answers to such questions before i join in fully giving up on our government’s sense of strategy (or lack thereof). it’s a strange world out there.
February 24th, 2015 at 8:37 pm
I may be restating David’s point here, or not — his thought is certainly the trigger for mine.
Is strategy a zone in which Occam’s Razor should be applied — or are there so many “simplest explanations” on offer that discussion needs to be between assumptions rather than building on one specific assumption-set taken as beyond question?
Hoping the above makes sense without further unpacking.. and is not too foolish..
February 24th, 2015 at 10:16 pm
David has a good point. Did al-Sisi mention the word “Christian” when he addressed his country after the beheadings? I’m not sure if there’s an English language transcript?
Al-Sisi hasn’t seemed to have had a reason to hide talk of Christianity in Egypt, and he hasn’t seemed to have made any attempt to hide his feelings about them. He was the first Egyptian leader to attend a Coptic Mass on Christmas Eve, and Copts overwhelmingly back him.
Obama has been critical of al-Sisi’s crackdown on Muslim Brotherhood members, and the two don’t seem to be on the same page withe Islam in general. Al-Sisi’s recent “Islam Reformation” speech was given at the same location as Obama’s 2009 “Outreach Speech”, and if that wasn’t intentional it still drew a stark contrast between the world view of each leader.
In Libya, Egypt is backing former general Khalifa Haftar, who is firmly opposed to Islamists groups, including ones supposedly aligned with the Muslim Brotherhood. Hafter is a CIA guy and holdover from the days of assets and rent-a-coups, which probably doesn’t place him on Obama’s preferred list.
The conclusion I’ve come to is simply that Obama supports the Pan-Islamism movements like the Muslim Brotherhood because he occupies common ideological ground with them. He opposes military regimes because they must suppress Islamists and, by default, he opposes Semitic Christian groups who depend on regime support.
February 24th, 2015 at 11:09 pm
“When Jimmy Carter wakes up every morning he probably thanks God for Obama as he has replaced him as our worst President. . . ”
Interesting. So JC is worse than GWB? The 2000 election controversy, bungling the 9/11 warnings, invading Afghanistan but allowing the ISI and OBL to escape. Then astrategically switching to Iraq and that ongoing disaster. State sponsored torture, total domestic surveillance, Wall Street running amok, the ham-fisted, self-defeating foreign policy. The war on terror, but with the Saudis and Pakistanis as our “allies” . . . the trillion$ wasted, grabbed up by war profiteers to a large extent, the crooks allowed to run away. A really, nasty, bloody game . . . But worst of all perhaps the lost opportunities . . . In comparison to which JC did what exactly? Asking as somebody who voted for Ford in 1976 and RR in 1980.
Not to mention that BHO’s foreign policy has the Dick Cheney stamp of approval all over it. His SecDefs have both been GOP. He doesn’t really control his own State Department, or would you argue otherwise? He fears Dick Cheney?
February 25th, 2015 at 12:41 am
Yes, JC is worse than GWB, not that GWB was any prize–he wasn’t. And, what is Cheney’s stamp of approval have to do with it? He never was what I would call a great strategist. But to each his own.
David and Charles: perhaps you are giving the message of the Administration more credit than they deserve. Time will tell, but I wouldn’t bet on the shrewdness of the Administration’s foreign policy message in these instances–just my opinion and, as above, to each his own.
February 25th, 2015 at 12:44 am
If we think this is bad, wait until Putin occupies one or all of the Baltic countries and breaks NATO to pieces in the process. We won’t feel a burn then because we will all be insensible from beating our heads against the wall.
February 25th, 2015 at 2:46 am
Speaking for myself only — my previous comment was intended as having a very broad scope, by no means all about the Obama administration. My question is whether there are perhaps so many frames of reference available in different sections of the world of opinion that Occam’s razor appears to revert in every case not to an opinion that actually requires fewer assumptions, but to the one that validates one’s own inclinations.
To a flat earther, the explanation of the world that says “it is flat because look” appears more parsimonious than the version that involves assumptions of a mathematical sort — whether heliocentric or epicyclic!
It’s a bit like the problem of people thinking it is “irrational” to be a suicide bomber when in fact it is quite rational to one who holds jihadist premises.
February 25th, 2015 at 1:54 pm
OK, so a fact-free opinion regarding US political history of a presidency that happened, don’t tell me let me guess, before you were born or politically aware . . .
Cheney is the opposite of a strategist (defined in Clausewitzian terms) which is my point. The series of what I have referred to elsewhere on this blog as “astrategic spasms”, which is now in its end phase, has been going on since the Defense Planning Guidance of 1992 . . .
February 25th, 2015 at 4:38 pm
For clarity’s sake — who does your first paragraph address?
February 25th, 2015 at 5:22 pm
“To a flat earther, the explanation of the world that says “it is flat because look” appears more parsimonious than the version that involves assumptions of a mathematical sort — whether heliocentric or epicyclic!”
Urban legend has assigned the quote, “Everything Should Be Made as Simple as Possible, But Not Simpler”, to Einstein. Quote Investigator shed some light on at least partial attribution to him based on a talk where he lectured on his philosophy of science https://www.stmarys-ca.edu/sites/default/files/attachments/files/On_The_Method_of_Theoretical_Physics.pdf
Besides the nod to Occam’s Razor, he addresses teh dilemma of the Copenhagen School’s quantum uncertainty where the true nature of reality may never be known completely through experience
“If then it is the case that the axiomatic basis of theoretical physics cannot be an inference from experience, but must be free invention, have we any right to hope that we shall find the correct way? Still more-does this correct approach exist at all, save in our imagination? Have we any right to hope that experience will guide us aright, when there are theories (like classical mechanics) which agree with experience to a very great extent, even without comprehending the subject in its depths?”
He didn’t accept it and pursued the so-called ‘Theory of Everything’ unsuccessfully until he died, famously saying things like, ‘God does not play dice’. Supposedly, Neils Bohr once replied to him, “Einstein, stop telling God what to do.”