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A War on Terror or the Start of WWIII?

“War on terror’ is a misnomer. It would be like calling America’s involvement in World War II a ‘war on kamikazism.’ Terrorism, like kamikazism, is a tactic.”
Dinesh D’Souza

I don’t like war. It is an ugly, brutal business in which too many innocent people are slaughtered and that has unpredictable and uncertain outcomes. I consider war to be the ultimate failure of civilized people to resolve their differences. Nevertheless, I understand and accept that sometimes there is no other option but to go to war to defend against tyranny and those who are threat to the lives of others and the security of peaceful nations.

I also believe that there is no reason to fight war other than to win it. I believe that if if you are forced to war, then you need to commit whatever resources are available to you in order to achieve victory – not for glory but for self-preservation and the preservation of others.

Canada has gone to war for the third time in a decade and in the same region of the world. Now we have joined a coalition of reportedly 59 other nations to combat ISIL; an armed force of fewer than 40,000 fighters that are storming their way across Syria and Iraq with sociopathic efficiency.

Decades of conflict in the Middle East – thousands upon thousands dead and the world’s leaders seemed to have learned little to nothing from that waste of human life.

They refuse even to call this current war a war; preferring to label it a mission to degrade and contain ISIL.

The Second World War was fought between 61 nations comprised of two opposing sides; the three Axis countries (Germany, Italy and Japan supported by five countries mostly in the Balkans) and the Allies made up of 53 countries led by the United States and Britain. More countries have joined the coalition to fight ISIL than fought the Nazis in WWII and despite the fact that ISIL isn’t officially a country, by any standard this is not only a war but is becoming a world war.

It appears, however, that the only group who are aware or at least willing to acknowledge, that this is a war are ISIL, the Kurds and Iraqi ground forces. Everyone else is treating it like an aggressive policing action to contain and degrade a terrorist organization. Some with the arrogant adolescence of kids playing a video game.

“Dear ISIL, thinking of you. Some of my colleagues are in your area. Hopefully, they’ll have a chance to drop by.” – Lt.-Gen. Yvan Blondin, incoming Commander Royal Canadian Air Force.

It is unbelievable that a general would send out such a childish tweet on Twitter especially while attending a funeral for one of his men, killed by a home-grown terrorist. It is indicative of the lack of serious commitment of too many involved in the fight against ISIL.

The coalition lacks defined objectives, a coordinated strategy or anything even approximating unified tactical battle plans. Last week it was reported that British bombers often return to their base without having dropped any bombs because they couldn’t find targets.

This past weekend, Coalition air strikes destroyed five bulldozers and a couple of dump trucks or as the Canadian defense command is now calling them – heavy engineering equipment. If the Department of Defense is to be believed, the equipment was part of a ‘nefarious’ scheme to divert the Euphrates River in order to flood towns and to force coalition ground troops to use specific roads that ISIL had mined.

I find it somewhat odd that the Americans didn’t mention any of this in their press briefing two days earlier. The Americans have always been quite accomplished at inflating the importance of their missions. I find it even odder that despite the non-stop reporting of virtually every move ISIL makes, this is the first mention anywhere of an attempt to divert the Euphrates or any river.

But as we all know, our governments never lie to us so let us take them at their word — but even if we do, so what? Is construction machinery really the greatest threat that ISIL presents? According to Canada’s Prime Minister when he put the case to Parliament for joining the coalition – it is not.

“ISIL has established a self-proclaimed “caliphate,” …from which it intends to launch a terrorist jihad, not merely against the region, but on a global basis. Indeed, it has specifically targeted Canada and Canadians, urging supporters to attack “disbelieving … Canadians …in any manner,”…vowing that we should not feel secure, even in our homes.” – Stephen Harper: October 3, 2014

Canada’s Prime Minister and indeed, virtually every leader of the 60-nation coalition, consider ISIL to be a threat to us all and yet; the response to that threat has been weak to the point of being more about politics than our collective national security. Our leaders are attempting to fight a war without risk.

“It is fatal to enter any war without the will to win it.” – Douglas MacArthur

ISIL will not be defeated or even contained by blowing up random vehicles and construction equipment. Using highly sophisticated aircraft to attack a dump truck is like swatting at flies with a shotgun while ignoring the source where the flies are breeding.

The problem for the American-led air campaign is that it is increasingly difficult to actually find targets to bomb but then, it seems to have escaped the notice of our leaders that winning a war is impossible if you not only refuse to fight it as a war but even to even acknowledge that it is a war.

In Libya, NATO was conducting upwards of 50 air strikes a day. The Coalition of the Unwilling is lucky if daily it is able to conduct ten against ISIL. I had seen no reported strikes since the weekend until today which is an indication of the sparcity of targets.

There are so many political caveats and self-imposed restrictions placed on conducting this conflict that it is amazing to me that anyone is stupid enough to believe our efforts will make a difference or that we aren’t going to be facing an even bigger threat and conflict at a later date.

The United States will conduct air strikes in both Iraq and Syria but will not commit ground troops. Canada will conduct air strikes in Iraq only, even though the strength of ISIL and its headquarters are in Syria where Canada refuses to conduct missions. The Iraqis refuse to allow ground troops from foreign nations to fight ISIL in Iraq and Turkey reluctantly provides minimal support to Kurdish ground forces fighting ISIL in Syria.

Many EU countries are only participating to the point of either sending humanitarian aid or ammunition. Iran is a wild card opposed to ISIL but shunned by the coalition. China is an ally of Iran’s. Latin American and most African countries are basically absent. India refuses to participate and Pakistan is a safe harbor for Islamic jihadists.

For its part, the United Nations is impotent to the point of being irrelevant.

Meanwhile, ISIL continues to grow and expand acquiring more advanced weaponry and territory as it takes full advantage of the coalition’s schizophrenic approach to fighting a war without actually fighting.

While the coalition was bombing bulldozers, ISIL captured its third oil field in week. ISIL’s has now acquired surface to air missiles provided to Syrian rebels by the United States which through sheer lack of competence appears to have partially armed both sides in this conflict. It has also acquired additional ground to air missiles originally supplied to Libyan rebels from China.

It’s only a matter of time before one or more coalition aircraft are shot down. What do our leaders offer then beyond more empty rhetoric?

Beyond being poorly organized and politically unwilling to risk their armies doing what every military leader involved has told them is necessary, the coalition also faces other major obstacles including:

  • Arab Muslim nations in the region do not trust the United States and thanks to the west’s blind following the blind foreign policy in the region, are increasingly mistrustful of other coalition nations. This is one of the primary reasons that the Iraqi government refuses to allow coalition troops on the ground to fight ISIL.
  • Nations like Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey which are included in the coalition have been active supporters of Islamic jihadists. Turkey’s reluctance to provide support for the Kurdish forces in Kobane underscores the deep-rooted divisions that will continue to plague possible coalition unity.
  • The civil War in Syria places the coalition in the bizarre position of attempting to strike ISIL in that country without strengthening the Assad regime; a position that is looking increasingly impossible for the coalition as groups like Hezbollah officially align with the Assad regime to fight ISIL.
  • Conflicting interests among the coalition have led to issues between Turkey and the Kurds, members of the EU and now, the very real possibility that the United States is expanding the war against other groups not affiliated with ISIL.

Probably most important is that ISIL and Al Sham, like Al Qaeda, Hamas, Hezbollah and the Taliban before them, are the products of growing Islamic Jihadism throughout the region. Coalition air strikes – even if they could defeat ISIL — offer nothing to deal with that threat. ISIL is the most powerful jihadist threat we have faced to date but it is only the latest manifestation of Islamic extremism.

This coalition will do nothing to deter the growth of that extremism or the threat it presents. In fact, it has the real potential of drawing-in other more dangerous nations like Pakistan, a nuclear power, which most certainly would draw India into the conflict. Iran is allied with China and Russia backs Bashir al-Assad in Syria. The potential for any or all of these nations becoming embroiled in the conflict is very real.

The longer the coalition tries to avoid all out war and demonstrates weakness, the more real is that possibility.

Equally as disturbing is the lack of coordination between forces on the ground and other members of the coalition. It is basically left to each member to decide its own level of participation and actions although they do ‘share’ intelligence and mission information.  There is, however, no centralized command structure with an overall battle plan developed and being implemented.

Kurdish and Iraqi ground- force commanders plead for specific forms of support but it tends to fall on politically deaf ears.

Brig.-Gen. Hussam Alawak, Intelligence Chief for the Free Officers Movement — part of the Free Syrian Army fighting both Assad and ISIL— says the air campaign will be “almost useless” in defeating ISIL and that coalition nations should be working to build and train armies of liberation. He is not the first commander of ground forces to make this statement and indeed, most military leaders of coalition forces have said much the same thing. Alawak has also warned that not only will the current air strike be ineffectual in helping to defeat the Islamic State it may in fact enhance ISIL’s recruitment efforts.

The coalition political leadership isn’t listening. Air strikes offer the opportunity to engage the enemy in some form with minimal political risk which plays well back home to those who want to believe that the coalition campaign is all that is necessary for our long-term security.

Unfortunately, they fail to grasp that the bigger risk is the one being created with this attempt to fight a war from the sidelines.

“I would make this war as severe as possible, and show no symptoms of tiring till the South begs for mercy”. -William Tecumseh Sherman

If history has taught us nothing else, it should have been that there is no avoiding full scale war when an enemy is committed to waging it with or without your consent. The sooner you embrace that reality and get to it, the better your chance of defeating the enemey. Delaying the inevitable or creeping into war tepidly by inches at a time only leads to a greater conflict later and the loss of even more lives.

“There is no avoiding war; it can only be postponed to the advantage of others”.  – Nicolo Machiavelli

In Canada, it has become quite popular to accuse those who do not support Canada’s contribution to the coalition as unpatriotic and even stupid. I disagree. It seems to me that supporting the illusion of doing something simply to make ourselves feel better is foolishness that does not make Canada or the world a safer place. It is the supporting of political cowardice and a failure of leadership which does nothing to ensure our security as a nation or our safety as people.

Stephen Harper said: “….throughout our history, [it] has never been the Canadian way…To do only the most easy and praiseworthy actions, and leave the tough things for others”.

Brave words that are not supported by this government’s decision to avoid the serious battles that are necessary to meet what Mr. Harper called: “our ultimate responsibility…to protect Canadians, and to defend our citizens from those who would do harm to us and to our families.”

Placing our fate in the hands of others on the ground is the ultimate failure to walk that talk. It is the antithesis of what the government and most member nations of the coalition claim to be doing. The Iraqis and the Kurds are not fighting for us nor are other Arab nations in the region. They are fighting for their own survival. Placing our security in their hands to avoid possible political fallout at home or to protect reelection prospects is madness.

Clearly, Canada can not go it alone but our Prime Minister could have provided the leadership to try and motivate a coalition to confront ISIL in force rather than simply jumping on board with the Obama’s weak plan. That would have been the action of a true statesman. Merely making the token commitment Canada has made – is not.

The tragedy for Canada and indeed for all nations in the coalition is that there are no leaders of any higher caliber standing in the wings. In WWII, Britain had Churchill who took over after Neville Chamberlain’s failed leadership in dealing with the rising power of Adolph Hitler. It was Churchill who united a nation and the allies. We have no Churchills among us now. We are on our own; led by self-serving politicians, who having learned nothing from history and who lack the political will and the courage to do what is necessary.

They are backing us slowly into a broader conflict that threatens to not only ignite the entire region but may well expand to other areas of the world and that I increasingly believe will some day be commonly referred to as WWIII.

At that point, the coalition’s leadership may yet prove Einstein to be prophetic.

“I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.”

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© 2014 Maggie’s Bear

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Twitter: @maggsbear – Facebook: Maggie’s Bear  – ivmaki@sympatico.ca

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  • charlie98

    Nothing of lasting consequence will happen as a result of coalition —I use the term loosely — actions against ISIS. Whether the Euphrates is diverted or not — an idea that has been discussed numerous times in the last 4 – 5 months — is, again, nothing more than the opening act.

    The real tragedy, most people won’t even recognize it as the details will be unavailable, will occur when US signs an agreement that allows Iran to, at some point in the near future, develop a nuclear weapon. This will create a nuclear arms race in the Middle East as countries such as Saudi Arabia, not to mention Israel, are forced to confront that reality.

    The US will determine the outcome no matter Canada’s involvement. The world’s super power is busy doing some kind of “transformation”, there are no great leaders capable of reversing the damage already done and so we hurtle towards our stone age past. The experiment that was humanity will be extinguished in a blinding flash created by scientific brilliance and human stupidity.