Saturday, December 20, 2014

Paul McHale — Key to defeating ISIS is ideas, not arms

There is a military term of art that has deep significance in our fight against ISIS. It captures the idea that there is an identifiable source of enemy power that, if successfully attacked, will lead to our enemy's strategic defeat. That enemy strength (and potential vulnerability) is called their "center of gravity."
This is called "winning the hearts and minds of the people." It's why the US was ignominiously defeated in Vietnam by North Vietnamese Viet Cong General Vo Nguyen Giap, who first defeated the French at Dien Bien Phu in 1954, driving France from Indochina and resulting in communist North and "free" South Vietnam. I was an officer in the US Naval Reserve on active duty 1964-1967 at which time I read the work of French journalist Bernard Fall describing what had happened. After reading Fall, I realized that the US would fall into the same trap and it did, although it took a decade more to unfold with untold destruction on both sides.

However, "winning the hearts and minds of the people" is not just a strategy. The people actually have to be convinced that they matter, and, of course, they didn't. They were just pawns in the great game that really didn't have that much to do with the Vietnamese people at all.
In my judgment, ISIS can be contained and then destroyed, but that goal will not be achieved by brute military power. ISIS' center of gravity exists far beyond the battlefield. It exists in the hearts, minds and aspirations of the young men and women who are drawn to the cause of violent Islamic extremism. Killing ISIS fighters at the front end of the combatant pipeline has value - but closing the pipeline of ISIS recruiting is the real center of gravity.
Right. ISIS is even a greater threat than Al Qaeda since it has declared the Caliphate as a rallying point for the reestablishment of a Sunni state in MENA under Islamic law. This has the potential for going viral among radicalized Sunni youth in the Islamic countries, as well as other countries. This is an extremely powerful idea and countering with another idea that more powerful is much easier said that done.
Throughout U.S. history, our men and women in uniform have fought and died for a noble cause: the unwavering defense of individual freedom. They understood - often when our politicians did not - that there was something at stake that transcended self-interest. Yes, to be effective, military forces need to be well-trained and equipped. And they need to be well-led. But most important, they need to believe that they are fighting for something worthy of their blood and sacrifice.…
This is the mindset I had when I entered the US military. I was disabused of it while in the military and came to realize that I was being betrayed by this line of propaganda to motivate the troops. The idea that the US was fighting for individual liberty in a far away place like Vietnam, which had little to do with the national interest was simply not believable on reflection, and on inspection it became obvious that this was not about freedom, ours or theirs, but about empire and those who control it.

Key to defeating ISIS is ideas, not arms
Paul McHale, The Philadelphia Inquirer, December 15, 2014
Paul McHale is a former member of Congress (1993-99), assistant secretary of defense (2003-09) and a retired Marine colonel with 33 years of active and reserve service.
Unfortunately, he is also clueless. He is taking about convincing Islamic youth to adopt American values, when these value are clearly against everything in which they believe. It's like trying to convince Christian fundamentalists to accept liberal values like abortion on demand and same sex marriage because indivdual freedom.

Read more here:


Matt Franko said...

"like trying to convince Christian fundamentalists to accept liberal values like abortion on demand and same sex marriage because indivdual freedom."

Tom I dont know if that line of reasoning was ever pursued with those people. .. if it were to be tried, they might just take it if you put it to them that way... ;)

Tom Hickey said...

Everyone is for "freedom" but everyone including über Libertarian Murray Rothbard also draws a line between liberty and license. The question is where to draw the line. That's a matter of values and both individuals and the groups with which they are affiliated have strong views about this. Religious affiliation plays a big role in shaping values as norms and criteria. So the dividing line between liberty and license tends to be a lot tighter than the average, just as libertarians tend to draw the line looser than average. Very often the average (center) is institutionalized in custom and law, but if some more extreme group has greater power then the line is drawn either tighter or looser than average. In the context of the world, the line that Americans in general draw is much looser than average, and this can be source of conflict, especially when Americans self-righteously seek to impose this on others in the name of liberalism, you know, "freedom." A lot of the world's people look at this as the freedom to be a bad person and create a bad society, that is, license.

Matt Franko said...
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Tom Hickey said...

A mercenary force will further radicalize Sunni youth, especially one raised and run by Erik Prince. Offhand I can't think of anything more inflammatory in the region other than burning copies of the Qur'an.

Ryan Harris said...
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Peter Pan said...

ISIS can be 'defeated', but only after the Assad regime has been toppled.

Freedom for the people of the Middle East? LOL