Just a nerd out East, missing the North Country.
Strategy against ISIS

First, the ‘limited airstrikes’ as outlined, while seemingly easy and clean, would be of little use without competent soldiers to take and control territory afterward. The Iraqi Army is obviously incapable of such a feat, the Kurdish Peshmerga while admirably competent do not have the men or local support to do so, and so the only other options would be Iranian-backed Shia militias (creating atrocities along the way) or U.S. soldiers. Indeed, Secretary Hagel has explicitly stated that ‘boots on the ground’ may be necessary. To be clear: an approval of ‘strikes’ in Iraq inevitably means sending thousands of American soldiers into harms way, possibly for years once again.

ISIS is horrible, no doubt. But much worse than Saddam Hussein, Bashar al-Assad, Boko Haram, Kim Jong Un, or any of hundreds of brutal regimes and forces around the world today? The brutal executions provoke anger, but that is their intent and we cannot allow ourselves to be so manipulated. The U.S. can scarcely afford, in neither financial nor moral terms, to be the world’s policeman. Attempting to do so, without rock solid national interests and benefits at stake only serves to weaken our country. If ISIS is a true threat to our core security, then we should act like it, and wage total war. If not, we need to not be half-hearted.

Finally, the strategic disaster that would absolutely follow a third invasion of Iraq is to be avoided at all costs. ISIS wants to be fighting the U.S., this must be clear to you from their taunting execution videos. Our presence there would only benefit them by justifying their fight against ‘the far enemy’. As we must have learned in the last 13 years of fighting al-Qaeda, they gladly trade a military loss for a propaganda victory. This invasion would provide that trade on a grand scale, for ISIS will surely lose ground and fighters, but will succeed either in holding ground against the local forces or by pulling American troops back into the quagmire of battling an Iraqi insurgency. To quote one expert:Look, I’m all for “legitimate governance” in Syria (and everywhere else). But I also tried this with 150K troops and $1T in Iraq once.”

But something must be done! I realize this is the phrase of the hour regarding ISIS. Here is one strategy I think has more promise: contain them, and let them fail at governing. Their entire ethos is predicated on implementing “Sharia law” in their “Caliphate”. Many are simply murderous psychopaths and losers, and at creating good governance (even their twisted view of it) they will fail. So continue aiding the Peshmerga and Iraqi Army (and let Iran and Assad take care of themselves), empower Iraqi Sunnis, and aid those within ISIS controlled-areas to report on how awful it truly is. This is the propaganda loss they fear more than a military one, and must be the end we seek.

You cannot qualify war in harsher terms than I will. War is cruelty, and you cannot refine it; and those who brought war into our Country deserve all the curses and maledictions a people can pour out. I know I had no hand in making this war, and I know I will make more sacrifices to-day than any of you to Secure Peace. …The United States does and must assert its authority, wherever it once had power; for, if it relaxes one bit to pressure, it is gone… .

General William Tecumseh Sherman in his letter to the civic leaders of Atlanta before he burned it to the ground in 1864
Fortification is something of a lost art, but it was up until recent history, a critical military capability.

— Megacities are already built like empires, with prosperous cores, pockets of discontent, semi-feudal fringes, and garrisons dispersed throughout.

Reading this Zen Pundit piece, I’m tempted to contrast the deterioriting conditions in King’s Landing with Bane’s Gotham and civil war Aleppo. (Of course, there might be other forces drawing me to those parallels.)

(via kelseydatherton)

Let us pray for divine wisdom as our leaders consider the necessary actions for national security – wisdom of the grace of God that as we act, we not become the evil we deplore.

Rev. Nathan Baxter, September 13, 2001
» The Fourth War: My Lunch with a Jihadi
The folks at Abu Ghraib not only failed to provide any intel of value, they turned the entire Sunni population against us. Meanwhile, we were getting actionable intel by giving detainees Skittles and a cup of coffee.

Kyle Teamey, the S2X (senior human intelligence officer) for 1st Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, in Ramadi