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Mad Dog Mattis – Blogger

[by Mark Safranski, a.k.a. “zen“]

General James N. “Mad Dog ” Mattis, USMC (ret.), the semi-legendary, no-nonsense, fighting general of our recent wars, beloved by his Marines, has accepted a Distinguished Visiting Fellowship at the highly regarded Hoover Institution, where he has been writing an online column. A fancy way of saying that General Mattis has become a blogger.

In fact, he’s quite good at it.

His most recent post can be found here:

Using Military Force Against ISIS

….Following more than a decade of fighting for poorly articulated political goals, the Congress needs to restore clarity to our policy if we are to gain the American people’s confidence and enlist the assistance of potential allies, while sending a chilling note that we mean business to our enemies. With enemy influence expanding rapidly, patience or half-measures cannot replace a coherent strategy for taking measured steps, aligned with allies, to counter the mutating Islamist threat in the Middle East. The AUMF that Congress passes should be constructed as one building block in a coherent, integrated strategy for dealing with a region erupting in crises. Thus the AUMF needs to serve an enabling role for defeating this enemy, and not a restrictive function. Congress’ voice in the AUMF must not reassure our adversary in advance about what we will not do:

  1. We do not enter wars to withdraw; when we must fight, we fight to win. We should not set arbitrary deadlines which would only reveal that our hearts are not really in the game and would unintentionally embolden our enemies with the recognizable goal of outlasting us.
  2. We should not establish geographic limits in a fight against a franchising, trans-national terrorist group and its associates.  Our AUMF must be fit for the purpose of defeating this specific enemy (a non-state entity) and whoever stands with them, but not be hidebound by the rules for how we fought previous wars against nation states.  We must adapt to our time and the threat and not try to fight as we did in the past using rules no longer effective or applicable.
  3. The AUMF should put the enemy on notice that we will deploy all our military capabilities, as well as our diplomatic and economic tools.  If employing our ground forces will help build the international coalition against ISIS, will hasten the enemy’s defeat, will help to suffocate ISIS’ recruiting through humiliating them on the battlefield, or negatively impact their fundraising cachet, then our Commander-in-Chief should have that option immediately available to achieve our war aims.  When fighting a barbaric enemy who strikes fear into the hearts of many, especially those living in close proximity to this foe, we must not reassure that enemy in advance that it will not face the fiercest, most skillful and ethical combat force in the world. 

While I am not enthused about the idea of a large ground deployment back to Iraq – mainly because our national leadership has no idea on how to assemble a constructive political end that a decisive military victory would buy them, nor a willingness to entertain realistic, stabilizing outcomes (like Kurdish statehood) that would mean changing longstanding US policies – I’m very much in tune with Mattis that any warfare should be waged without a set of needless, self-hobbling, anti-strategic restraints. Note what he writes here:

The AUMF must also make clear that prisoners taken from forces declared hostile will be held until hostilities cease. There is no earthly reason for the Congress to acquiesce to funding a war in which we do not hold prisoners until the fight is over, as is our legitimate right under international law. The AUMF should make clear that the same standards that applied to prisoners in Lincoln’s or FDR’s day will be imposed today. This will ensure that we have a sustainable detainee policy instead of the self-inflicted legal quandary we face today, with released detainees returning to the battlefield to fight us.

“Catch and release” by the Bush and Obama administrations – and the latter tightening ROE in Afghanistan into the gray, blurry zone between military force and law enforcement, was self-defeating and probably is responsible for a sizable number of American casualties.

Mattis writes with admirable clarity and focus. More importantly, his military reputation lends invaluable credence toward educating the public and civilian officials about the nature of strategy and the uses and (more importantly) limitations of military force. Hopefully he will gain an even larger platform in time, but for readers at ZP, here are previous posts by the “Mad Dog” :

A New American Grand Strategy

“The Enemy Is Not Waiting”  

The Worsening Situation in the Middle East–and America’s Role   

Pruning the U.S. Military: We Will Do Less But Must Not Do It Less Well

27 Responses to “Mad Dog Mattis – Blogger”

  1. Dave Schuler Says:

    He should stick to ways and means and stay away from political pronouncements. Once he’s begun I think he has a moral obligation to explain how he’s going to muster political support for the century or more long occupation of Iraq that would be necessary to secure the gains.

  2. Lexington Green Says:

    “…the century or more long occupation of Iraq…”
    Destroying a gang of fanatics does not require a permanent occupation.
    Punitive raids are one of the oldest forms of warfare.
    Garnet Wolseley’s attack on the Ashanti is one of many example.
    Incidentally, the initial attempt to make a useable army out of local human material failed there.
    The British had to go in and do it themselves.
    That has also happened many times in the past.
    The Brits mauled the Ashanti, and their neighbors, seeing them weakened, picked them apart.
    Also, the Iranians are going to be occupying Iraq by the look of things.
    Too bad, but we probably can’t prevent it at this point.
    We mainly need to be seen to be punishing ISIS for murdering Americans.
    Visible vengeance to restore our honor and reputation is the main thing.
    Damaging ISIS to help its regional enemies finish it off is the next thing.
    Damaging ISIS, breaking its momentum, and causing it to lose territory will undercut its claim to be the new Caliphate. That may have major repercussions.
    We should never try to do nation building, at least not trying to build constitutional liberal democracies, especially in a place with an endogenous community family culture. It won’t work.

  3. Dave Schuler Says:

    I was unaware the Ashanti were Arabs in the Middle East. Last year it was Al Qaeda. This year it’s DAESH. Who will it be next year?

  4. T. Greer Says:

    I agree with Lex, punitive raids are the way to go. I disagree with Zen and Gen. Mattis, however, for unless “anti-strategic restraints” are placed on the campaign then U.S. efforts will inevitably become much more than punitive raids.


    There is a bit of inconsistency to Gen Matti’s call–you cannot ask for a “coherent, integrated strategy for dealing with a region” and an open-ended mandate to use anything and everything to war against ISIS. Strategy is about making choices. To open one door we must close another.


    Lynn recently had that great blog post on America’s warped priorities. We focus on ISIS and forget Russia, we forget the nukes because we can watch youtube. ISIS is a manifestation of a much larger and very dangerous phenomena. However, ISIS itself is quite weak. It does not pose a direct threat to the United States and barely poses an indirect one. I am much more worried about mission creep than I am about ISIS’s street fights in Tikrit and Mosul. WWe can’t afford to spend the next decade, heck, even the next two years, absorbed in this fight. Greater problems loom on the horizion. In Ukraine they are already at the door step.

  5. Grurray Says:

    “Also, the Iranians are going to be occupying Iraq by the look of things.”
    That’s right. The Iranians own about 1/2 of Iraq now, but that may be the extent of it. It doesn’t look like we’re going to help them take over anymore.
    It remains to be seen whether they can do much more without our air power and coordination. It’s important to remember that they were losing and ISIS was winning before we stepped in.
    “We should never try to do nation building, at least not trying to build constitutional liberal democracies, especially in a place with an endogenous community family culture”
    There is a combat force on the ground we should be supporting, and it’s rallying despite the Administration’s efforts to ignore it.
    It consists of the free peoples of Rojava

    Syria is a dead country and Rojava is naturally emerging out of the ashes to forge a new future for the region. I’m not sure where they’re classified in the anthropological taxonomy. Kurdish identity has been described in the past as more of a lifestyle than an ethnicity. This could be an extension of that. Whatever you want to call it, they believe in liberty, private property rights, and decentralization. This is a departure from the usual Arab culture we’ve gotten used to around there. Maybe it could be something that had been suppressed for a long time, but now that it’s unburdened is now being restored.

  6. Lexington Green Says:

    “I was unaware the Ashanti were Arabs in the Middle East.”
    I was unaware you would say something petty and silly like this since I know you are smart.
    Punitive raids against the Ashanti, Pathans, Chitralis, and many others were successful economy of Such operations are a proven military and political tool.
    There is no reason this basic approach cannot be used against ISIS.
    I would prefer to ignore the region but we can’t do so entirely.
    We do need to avenge the murdered Americans, which is what people there will expect and they will perceive us as weak if we don’t, which will provoke further attacks.
    “Who will it be next year?”
    Whoever murders Americans and needs to punished in an exemplary fashion to deter further such actions.
    “Lynn recently had that great blog post on America’s warped priorities.”
    Yes, a great post.
    And it was absolutely correct.
    The limitations imposed on the US Military fighting ISIS should be the scope and length of the mission, which should not be announced. During the course of the operation, overwhelming, exemplary and telegenic violence should employed. The initial American effort should be brief, and extremely noisy and violent. We would announce victory, and back away to a supporting role for regional forces which we can align with, presumably the Kurds, possibly others.
    Then we can turn our focus onto Russia, and China.

  7. Lynn C. Rees Says:

    When thinking about foreign policy, contemporary Americans need to think about what stocks they want to keep stocking and what flows they want to keep flowing. Gen. Mattis, though a cut above most contemporary American defense thinkers, carries certain past assumptions forward that need to be examined in light of contemporary conditions, both desired and undesired.


    For example, many Americans consider alliances a stock and a flow unto themselves. The stock and flow of an alliance is not an end unto itself. It’s stocking and flowing in support of some higher state of stocking and flowing. Does the U.S. need a NATO or other alliance to secure continued stocking and flowing of its preferred ongoing condition? Or is the stock and flow of our alliances an unnecessary stock turned sunk cost and an unnecessary flow turned drain?


    Does the United States’ have to support, acknowledge, or even pay attention to obscure peoples of Eurasia? Is it to adopt the Franco-Russian policy of the 1800s of being the protector of Christians, Jews, and other Fertile Crescent minorities against majority Muslim misrule? Is it the offshore bandwagoner to the newest Eurasian land menace? Valid rationales can be offered for and against such policies and their like but 1) we can’t do everything 2) we shouldn’t do everything 3) what we do should be stocked and flowed properly.

  8. Dave Schuler Says:

    Culture matters, Lex. IIRC you wrote a book on the subject. Violent radical Islamism is endemic in Arab culture. Maybe it’s the tribalism. I don’t know.
    My point is the one T. Greer makes so articulately. A punitive raid or even repeated punitive raids will not accomplish the presumed objectives other than on a very temporary basis. There’s a great likelihood of escalation.

  9. T. Greer Says:

    Right. I would further add that the most important thing missing from General Mattis’s call to “fight to win” is any clear notion of what “winning” means. Is it the death of Baghdadi? Pushing ISIS out of Iraq? The death of every man and woman who has ever fought for the caliphate’s cause? Until we know what winning means I do not want my representative to authorize the President to do everything in his power to win.

  10. Lynn C. Rees Says:

    Punitive raids only serve their intended educational and communication purpose if they are in fact punitive. That means, minimum, they must produce a degree of circumspection on the part of the presumed target. The target must feel punished. They must tangibly fear future punishment.


    Punishment meted out on Saracens since 1979 has inconvenienced them. Inconvenience raids have a place. They provide a little domestic political dazzle. However, the Saracens know American military operations have self-imposed political constraints. The Saracens have none. If they can take some temporary hurt, they can get along just fine. They’re not going anywhere.


    Saracens broke into the Fertile Crescent of 634 with a purpose, to create a “tended garden protected by our swords”. They were also there to stay. There was no “winning” defined as a definite end state artificially carved in time and space. They were there to maintain a going concern with open-ended replenishment of stocks with open-ended flows of milk and honey over an ever expanding House of Submission in both reach and duration.


    Abu Bakr started a Saracen tradition of entrepreneurial raiding later formalized by Muawiya and abd al-Malik. The Saracens would raid, often only to short-term punitive effect, but they would opportunistically and strategically expand for the long-term if they found favorable lodgment.


    Heraclius correctly checked this opportunism by creating a dead zone anchored on the Taurus Mountains. The Saracens launched annually raids into this dead space without gaining any strategic traction. While these raids could be described as punitive, I don’t think they had a punitive effect. Central Anatolia was a wasteland i.e. the Romans themselves had pre-punished it by leaving it a desert and the Roman leadership remained unpunished and unpunishable behind the Bosporus and the Theodosian Walls. It took the Turk to overcome that obstacle to the umma.


    The Saracen’s successful strategy of standing conquest went on until the source of its strategic success, it’s appeal to nomadic horse archers, was constricted by the rise of the organizational-technological nexus of combined arms of artillery and cavalry anchored in disciplined infantry. Thearbequeses was combined with pikes into a single super weapon: the musket with socket bayonet, a pike that fired projectiles. The range of horse archers could be met or exceeded by cannon and musket. Calvary charges were met by squares of de facto pikes. Saracen military advantage was checked.


    A Saracen warlord like Nadir Shah or Muhammad Ali could still enjoy traditional success as late as the 18C and 19C but northwest Europe’s process of continuous improvement produced a sudden sea change 1840-1860 in European military might that made Saracen violent power irrelevant to this day.


    The Saracen world suffers from the treasured heritage of 1,200 years of military success. As a result, it has yet to produce a successful fusion of Saracen tradition with Western flavored continuous improvement that can either militarily threaten the non-Saracen world or hold greater appeal to Saracens than “victory disease” riven nostalgia. It’s produced none of the successful fusions that make Russia, Japan, or China dangerous. Even the most odious Saracen pathology can’t hold a candle to native Western pathologies like German Fascism that were not only militarily potent but technologically and organizationally threatening.


    An independent Saracen world has only survived because its Fertile Crescent core has usually sat astride boundary lines between competing spheres of influence e.g. between Russia, France, Germany, Britain, or the United States (lucky us). This rivalry kept second-wave imperialism from the Fertile Crescent until it was already waning.


    This gave the Saracens too small a sampling of the business end of Western power. Their education is lacking. They think they can muddle through based on what they suppose are their virtues (and oil) keeping kafir rule to an average length of 30 years. They never experienced the existential shock of full modernity the Chinese, Japanese, and Russians experienced. This inexperience buffers them against the pinpricks of contemporary Western military forays since they can dismiss them as, Inshallah, transient.


    The larger populations and greater urbanization of the 21st century makes comparison to 19th century punitive raids misleading. The small and lethal praetorian guards palatable to current Western elites have substituted firepower for manpower as a way of domestically reducing the power of their own population. However, these praetorians can only punish if they can fully utilize their firepower to compensate for the huge city-bound populations that provide the primary fortifications for those they would punish.


    The contemporary West can afford the luxury of placing ahistoric political constraints on the use of firepower. Having that luxury, Western elites exploit it to the hilt so you end up with a force that’s potent enough to inconvenience but too small to teach with. Saracen tactics exploit this, meaning you have to resort to mechanical separation of unpersuadable elements from persuadable elements to root them out, meaning you need a large and absorbent force few Westerners want to serve in or even fund.


    The sort of punitive raid possible given contemporary Western mores would produce little domestic satisfaction on our side and little chastening on the Saracen side. That barely rises to the same level as doing nothing at all.

  11. Lexington Green Says:

    Contemporary Western mores may include American Jacksonian actions like the firebombing of Tokyo.

    ISIS is asking for that sort of treatment.

    I watched a video of Peter Robinson interviewing Gen. Mattis. Mattis said that we should wait battles of annihilation against ISIS.

    Precisely correct.

    We should use brutal weapons against them. Thermobaric explosives. Very large bombs. Cluster munitions. Phosphorus and napalm. This should all be televised. We should not encourage surrender, we should attempt to put them in positions where they die rather than have an opportunity to give up.

    The atrocities these people are committing are hardening attitudes. This type of military response may be deemed appropriate by the American public.

    I agree with Dave that culture matters.

    In the case of the Saracens, as Lynn calls them, we have the example of centuries of Ottoman rule. The Arabs were generally generally quiescent. The Arabs did occasionally embarked on some violent rampage, in which case the Turks crushed them with extreme cruelty. This would keep the peace, as Dave notes, temporarily. Temporarily can sometimes be decades, which is plenty.

    The larger picture suggests that long term and permanent change may be underway. The Arab Middle East is undergoing a fertility implosion, typical of modernizing societies where women become literate.

    We may only have one more generation where there are enough young men in the region to persist in this kind of vicious behavior on a large scale.

    In the meantime we should inflict on them a punitive raid on a scale that will shock the world.

  12. larrydunbar Says:

    “Destroying a gang of fanatics does not require a permanent occupation.” But you are not really destroying a gang of fanatics. You are destroying a position, and for that it does require a permanent occupation.
    I don’t think a position can actually be destroyed, only changed. That change is very hard.
    The problem is, without occupation, the position historically reverts back to the ones who are very similar to the ones that left, or like the Iraqi government left in place by the “occupiers” unable to maintain position.
    I would say, in this context, that for the US to, “inflict on them a punitive raid on a scale that will shock the world, would leave the US in a position not unlike the one held by the people we inflicted the pain on.
    This is because it takes structure and culture to hold a position, and both would be left in place and relatively unchanged, after such a raid.
    The only difference would be that the position would be owned by someone else, and mostly by the people who carried out the raid.
    As it stands in the US, if the issue of torture is any indication, almost half of US voters would welcome that position, the other half wouldn’t be happy about that position.

  13. corcoran Says:

    Hello General,
    Marines are Marines!
    Crazy world does not deserve treated like civilized critters
    Pop em and send em on their way
    What they deserve god damn it
    Good health to you
    miss people of your caliber n crotch
    vic c

  14. Madhu Says:

    “I said, ‘I want to bring the ships in next to the beach. I want to land stuff across the beach. I have an airstrip nearby where I can fly stuff in and out. I want an intermediate support base where I can put some fuel. And by the way, here is H-hour, D day, and my objective.’ The Pakistanis knew it all three weeks in advance and never revealed one word.”

    From the Esquire article, “The Monks of War,” by Thomas P. Barnett.
    Given the titles of different books about the very initial weeks after 9-11 (103 days (student/worked with Bruce Reidel? name escapes me), 88 days (Grenier), etc), the three weeks Gen. Mattis describes is weighing on the minds of more than one person as he reflects on the period.
    Hoover has a series of deeply naive posts by GW Bush officials on Pakistan, it’s almost as if you can trace the errors via the scattered articles out of Hoover. Naive, and quite dangerous for our men, policy positions by well-meaning but essentially clueless analysts.
    The Taliban in Afghanistan after 9-11 was find for raiding (and even there logisticians say the the troops the General asked for simply could not have gotten to Tora Bora, despite the belief that has entered popular culture about the topic. Seems a reasonable point).
    The situation in Iraq today is simply not the correct situation for raiding American troops. It is 2015 and Iraq is what Iraq is, a complicated five-sided (even that is simplifying) fight where ISIS hopes to battle agains American troops in a kind of final showdown and so grow the movement even more, just as Al Q has been thinned but remains and we now have ISIS, something else will spring up because that is the nature of what we are dealing with.
    I won’t even comment on the ugly fantasy of dropping nuclear bombs.
    I always assumed this blog dealt with reality but it’s been quite a ride for me as I’ve striven to better educate myself.
    T. Greer was one of the people that pushed me; I saw his blog and realized I can do much better, I am much more capable.
    D. Schuler and T. Greer make quite salient points.
    Hope all are well.

  15. Madhu Says:

    No, really, I’m not trying to be an intellectual snob but when did reality stop being of interest?
    I sometimes feel like giving up. This is how those that cautioned against the initial Iraq invasion must have felt. The minor-ist of points, but this is karma for me in a way. Ignorance is not bliss, but horrifying.

  16. Madhu Says:

    Lynn’s point about American generals and their alliance fetish for alliance sake is worth noting too, although, it’s strange, within the context of NATO their own desires for prominence and attachment to the Anglo-American axis over others in the alliance, to the detriment of American interests, is a very strange psychological phenomenon. I had once posted a paper about that phenom here, I’ll have to do dig it up again.

  17. Madhu Says:

    Actually, to go off on a tangent, the stuff you can dig up on that “103” day period from public pronouncements is, well, I am intrigued and this is only the beginning. There is no way that younger military folk, especially retired, whose main experience was in Afghanistan, will not return to this topic intellectually. They will return with an intellectual vengeance, I am betting, but we shall see. We shall see.

  18. Madhu Says:

    Oh drat, that last comment I mixed up a bunch of stuff and got it wrong but you know what I mean. I am seeing articles and books from various ages, that is what I mean.

  19. Madhu Says:

    How many different salient factors can we list?
    1. Saudi/Iran rivalry for lack of a better word.
    2. Sunni/Shia sectarian tensions.
    3. Kurdish/Turkey tensions.
    4. Syria/Turkey logistics, er, border issues.
    5. Backdrop of Russian support to Assad.
    6. etc. etc. etc.
    And remember, when reading any of my comments, I have the social skills of Sheldon from Big Bang Theory 🙂 (I don’t mind really, it seems to work for me in most cases).

  20. Madhu Says:

    “We should use brutal weapons against them. Thermobaric explosives. Very large bombs. Cluster munitions. Phosphorus and napalm. This should all be televised. We should not encourage surrender, we should attempt to put them in positions where they die rather than have an opportunity to give up.”
    What ugly fantasy is this? First, in addition to being morally disgusting (how many civilians would die? And this isn’t barbaric?), this is not in any way, shape, or fashion reality. This is completely fantasia. It will (thankfully) never happen and it is hugely counterproductive, er, to put it mildly.
    Do you know the refugee flows that are expected from even one major attack on one city? In the millions. And given the sectarian nature of the situation, some are afraid of Shia reprisals (which have already occurred). It’s just a sad mess and I can’t believe I helped to contribute to any of it because I was so stupid and so badly educated and believed stupid things on so called 200 era war blogs, written by people with the thinnest set of knowledge to match my own ignorance.
    Pathetic, Madhu. Pathetic.

  21. corcoaran Says:

    Do in?!
    General Lee knew-
    bringin in your defenses, tighin it up,
    set your LPs out and check the lines betwext grenades
    fuc the journalists and sweethearts let us get down to business

    me remember geisers like you n Chesty Puller

    retired but give a shit n crotch

  22. Lexington Green Says:

    Madhu, I will offer a brief response.
    The idea of waging battles of annihilation and not seeking to take prisoners I got from Gen. Mattis.
    Take a look at this discussion with him:
    Lynn and Mark have both written, correctly, that the laws of war not applying to ISIS personnel.
    I will not hunt for links. You may do so if you wish.
    As partisans, francs-tireurs, people fighting a war of terror on behalf on no recognized government they are lawfully entitled to nothing upon capture except a firing squad.
    If the USA is unwilling to shoot prisoners, we can turn captured ISIS personnel over to the Iraqi government, who will almost certainly do so.
    Lynn also noted that ISIS is a relatively small threat, but very good at waging a campaign on YouTube. This is correct.
    The purpose of using very noisy and visually stunning weapons is to show on YouTube that the USA has extracted vengeance for the murdered Americans.
    The USA should not make a large commitment of land forces to the region. That is what ISIS wants. Further, we cannot afford politically or financially to get sucked into anything resembling nation building in that area, a task which is literally impossible.
    President Obama has shown a preference for a “capital intensive” rather than a “labor intensive” war against Islamic terrorism, i.e. drone strikes.
    My proposal is to do the same thing on a larger and more visually striking scale, to harm ISIS and thereby help local forces finish them off, and to create a counter-narrative on the Internet that ISIS is not invincible and that murdering Americans comes with a price.
    As to some of the things I did not talk about, like attacks on cities, I will only say that whatever American commander is charged with the kinetics-heavy assault on ISIS will be smart enough to avoid doing our cause more harm than good when he does so. ISIS personnel can be caught in the open, or driven into the open, and destroyed there. Assuming stupidity on the part of the Americans is not always the best bet.
    All that said, I expect the current administration to do little or nothing about ISIS for the next two years. They are focused on placating Iran and getting a treaty signed that will allow Mr. Obama a “legacy” accomplishment.

  23. larrydunbar Says:

    “Then we can turn our focus onto Russia, and China” Really, you don’t believe the focus is on Russia and China? I mean, China has run kinetic wargames with Turkey, put an x (if not ownership) on the oil in the region including both Iran and Iraq, and Russia has continued its role as protector of Christians within the area. The focus, in my weak opinion, has never left. Or are you suggesting we need to get back to building weapons against positions instead of movements? My point being, it looks to me like one of the largest movements in the world is about to take place, and it is about to position itself around water.
    “Valid rationales can be offered for and against such policies and their like but 1) we can’t do everything 2) we shouldn’t do everything 3) what we do should be stocked and flowed properly.”
    When talking about economic considerations I prefer the more common, “gaps and surfaces”, or is that too TPMB for you?

  24. Grurray Says:

    Lynn wrote,
    “Heraclius correctly checked this opportunism by creating a dead zone anchored on the Taurus Mountains. The Saracens launched annually raids into this dead space without gaining any strategic traction. While these raids could be described as punitive, I don’t think they had a punitive effect. Central Anatolia was a wasteland i.e. the Romans themselves had pre-punished it by leaving it a desert and the Roman leadership remained unpunished and unpunishable behind the Bosporus and the Theodosian Walls. It took the Turk to overcome that obstacle to the umma.”
    The Byzantines found a way to counter Muslim incursions – the Mardaites
    It worked for awhile:
    “It is now that the Mardaites come into view. The Romans launched a devastating counter-attack – almost certainly within a year or so of the decisive victories of 674. Special forces were landed on the north Syrian coast, between Tyre and Sidon. They probably numbered no more than a few hundred. They moved inland and established themselves in secure, easily defended terrain, on Mount Lebanon. There they were joined by insurgents from the surrounding country, who included
    runaway slaves and escaped prisoners as well as former Roman provincials. The most important contingent among the last came from the Amanus range to the north, which separates the territory of Antioch from Cilicia to the west. They were known to the Arabs as the Jarajima. Previously they had been co-opted into guarding the frontier and gathering intelligence about the Romans. In return
    they had been exempted from taxation. The insurgency grew steadily in scale, until many thousands were involved. They were able to take control of the full length of the highlands which command the Mediterranean coast and the desert frontage of Syria and Palestine, from the Amanus range to the Golan Heights in the south. From their strongholds, they ranged over the surrounding lowlands, causing extensive damage and, in due course, inducing real apprehension at the highest level in the new Arab regime. Its hold on the former Roman provinces of the Middle East was imperiled.”
    Until Justinian II evacuated them to Asia Minor after the Arabs sued for peace. After some internal housekeeping, the Arabs eventually broke the treaty, and Justinian tried to use a Slavic “Chosen Force” against them. Big mistake as they switched sides and helped the Arabs overran the Eastern Mediterranean.

  25. Lynn C. Rees Says:

    Sources for the 7C are notoriously thin enough that the Maridiates can be sold either as a plucky band of Roman green berets (as proposed by the article you linked) or as Roman deserters to the Saracen cause like the supporters of Saborius. In this second reading, it was Justinian II who demanded the return of all Romans in Saracen hands (be they captive, deserter, or runaway slave) and ‘abd al-Malik who had to turn people over in return for peace. As the Mardaites were impressed into the Roman navy after their repatriation, it’s possible to see the fate of the Mardaites as part of the same manpower hungry policy that drove the Heraclians to corral defeated Balkan Slavs into depopulated Anatolia. The removal of the Mardaites to remoter regions of Romania would have removed people with a history of favoring the Saracens beyond easy communion with the enemy. Choose your poison.

  26. Grurray Says:

    Another strategy a bit later that was repeatedly tried against the Saracens was an alliance with the Ilkhanate
    It made sense because the two could then fight their common enemy on two opposite fronts.
    However, the alliance was never able to really take hold. By that time the Egyptian Mamluks had entered the picture and split any nascent coordination from the southern flank.

  27. Grurray Says:

    I prefer to think of it as different narrative tributaries feeding into the river of our everchanging present reality, which in turn feeds into larger waters or branches off into other distributaries. Picking our poison is the way we make sense of where the river’s taking us and allows us to shape how we’re going to get there.
    If they’re conflicting or contradictory that’s all the better. It gives us some options.

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