Iraq and Syria: Measuring the meaningless

In a necessary war, metrics like body counts, cities taken, factories dem0lished, and tanks/ships/planes destroyed are nice to have but not needed. A necessary war — one in which America’s survival is at stake — requires the relentless annihilation of all of the enemy’s human and material assets, and success is clear only in his unconditional surrender or disappearance from earth’s face. In an unnecessary war, these kinds of metrics are the only ones that can be used to temporarily hide the certainty of U.S. defeat from American citizens. Not surprisingly, Americans hear very little about the unnecessary war their national government is waging in Syria and Iraq save data about fallen cities, the number of Islamic State (IS) fighters killed, and IS vehicles, weapons factories, warehouses, and caches destroyed.

The reason for the irrelevancies that the citizenry is being told about the Syrian-Iraq war lies in the simple reality that the conflict has become uncontrollable and will inevitably become what Hobbes described as a war of all against all. Once again, Americans are seeing both their government’s usual defeat in unnecessary wars, and the always accelerating human and monetary costs of interventionism.

So where do the wars in Iraq and Syria stand? Well, in the 37 months since President Obama restarted America’s participation in the Iraq war those two countries have become a morass of insanity and death in which two longstanding nation-states are now probably beyond restoration. Although these wars have all but disappeared from the U.S. and Western media, the Muslim world’s media and some Arabic papers in Europe have continued to follow the downward spiral occurring in both countries. Many Western media outlets regard Third World media as not up to their standards (?) but the picture that emerges from their coverage is a bit different than the themes found in the sparse Western coverage. Consider:

  • The Arab press claims that Syria — and especially Asaad’s power-holding Alawite sect — has been just about bled white by the war, which suggests that Syria, led by Asaad or anyone else who is not an Islamist, will not be able to govern the country without substantial foreign economic, political, and, especially, military power. In other words, the presence of Russian, Iranian, and Lebanese Hizballah forces will garrison the country, thereby ensuring the Islamists will continue fighting there and drawing volunteers from around the world.
  • The claims of the casualties inflicted on the Islamic State and other Islamist groups in Syria and Iraq are absurd. Because the Western press has done little to cover the war on the ground, the main sources available for casualties are the state-owned media in Syria, Russia, Iran, and Iraq. Those entities’ claims, if totaled, would show that each Islamist fighter in Syria and Iraq has been killed at least three times over. The other source for Islamist casualties is the U.S. military, and that seems to involve the use of a wonderous formula that calculates how many of the enemy should have been killed by the ordnance that was dropped on them. Needless to say, there may be some room for error in such calculations. The formula may amount to a measure of military progress against IS and other Islamist organizations that is just as valid in as the “body count,” that spectacularly accurate indicator of the U.S. military’s approaching victory in Vietnam.
  • IS’s loss of the territory on which it established a Caliphate in the heart of Arab world is a grievous, but not a final defeat. Bin Laden’s guidance that you win one day and lose the next, as God wills, is shared by all Islamist forces. For nearly two years, the U.S. and its allies have breathlessly chalked up the fall of Syrian and Iraqi cities — Aleppo, Palmyra, Fallujah, Mosul, Raqqa, etc. — counting them as sure signs of victory, as if Eisenhower was again progressing from Normandy to the Rhine in 1944. The Islamic State’s forces, however, have fought on and on and on. IS fighters held each of the cities for periods ranging from about 15o to 250 days against the regular ground forces of Iraq, Syria, Iran, and Russia, as well as Lebanese Hizballah and large Shia militias from Iraq and Iran. In addition, the anti-IS ground forces were supported by continuous attacks from the U.S., Russian, many Arab, Iranian, and NATO air forces, and the U.S. and Russian navies. In other words, the paltry accomplishments produced by the overwhelming military power and advantages of IS’s enemies — a dozen wrecked cities for which Western taxpayers will be forced to foot the bill to rebuild — has proven either the incompetence of the anti-IS generals running the war, or the mettle, steadfastness, and faith of the Islamists. Bet on the latter.
  • In Iraq and Syria, IS leaders have traded land and lives, for time to execute a planned realignment. As IS’s urban garrisons held off defeat for as long as possible, the group’s leaders redeployed forces and ordnance to the rugged mountains and trackless deserts of Iraq and Syria to prepare to do what IS does best, fight a renewed guerilla war. Because a guerrilla war requires far fewer men than does the building of a Caliphate, IS leaders sent some of their surplus fighters to reinforce the IS presence in Afghanistan, Iran, Yemen, the Sinai Peninsula, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Europe, Palestine, Malaysia, and the Philippines. Those reinforcements — valuable more for their combat experience than their numbers — have allowed IS to expand its presence throughout Afghanistan; to make the Sinai Peninsula a death trap for Egypt’s military and police forces; to return to the outskirts of Surt in Libya, and to build strength in western and southern Libya, as well as Mali, Chad, and Niger; and to help the Philippine Islamists hold the city of Marawi for more than 1oo days against the full weight of the Philippine military.

As noted, there is no gainsaying that IS has suffered a severe military, political, and economic defeat. But what of the victor’s fortunes? Is there light at the end of the tunnel? Hardly.

  • First, the gaggle of nations that have been militarily beating on IS for two years has won multiple ruined cities not a war, and, the fools will argue, responsibility for rebuilding two shattered nations. The anti-Islamist nations will now be drawn into an ever deeper military intervention to try to defeat the coming IS and al-Qaeda insurgencies, while trying to nation-rebuild, keep Shias and Sunnis from each other’s throats, thwart Iranian effort to solidify its presence and increase its control of the Iraqi regime, cope with IS’s expanding international jihad, and contest Russia’s determination to keep Asaad’s regime in power. It will be a lasting source of mirth to recall that while the West was rattling the sabres of war over Iran’s nuclear intentions, it was simultaneously facilitating its imperial and martial expansion.
  • The United States, the Arab and NATO countries, and Russia have provided air- and ground-cover for the expansion of Iran’s power and political influence from Tehran’s western border to Syria’s border with Jordan. This reality — praise God — increases the likelihood of a regional Shia-Sunni war, but it also places substantial Iranian military capabilities closer to Israel than they have ever been before; this at a time when IS forces in the Sinai present a gradually growing threat to the Suez Canal and western Israel and Palestine. As always, the Jewish-American- sponsored, interventionist, and Neocon war against Saddam continues to close the Muslim noose around the neck of their country of first loyalty.
  • The topper on this mess, of course, occurred this week when the Iraqi Kurds voted by a majority of about 90-percent for the creation of an independent Kurdish state; some Kurds outside Iraq also voted in the poll. The result of the vote was never in doubt, and that is why Iran and Turkey issued a torrent of statements demanding that Kurdish leaders delay the vote in words that moved from a barely disguised mailed fist to outright military and economic threats. The U.S. and NATO governments — being historically ignorant of the Kurds’ story and eager to have them do their fighting and dying — have allied themselves with the Kurds to fight the Islamic State, and have armed them to the teeth. While the Kurds have fought well, the Western aid and uneducated sympathy for the Kurds have made them a considerable player in the northern areas of a chaotic battlefield that now stretches from Syria’s borders with none-too-stable Jordan and Lebanon to the Iran-Iraq border. Tehran, Damascus, and Baghdad will not permit an independent Kurdish state to survive, and Turkey and Iraq already have interrupted foreign air travel to Kurdistan, and the Baghdad regime has given the Kurds three days to surrender control of its airfields to Iraqi officials. In the near-to-medium term, the region’s anti-Kurd regimes have only to block attempts by the Kurds’s to export their aspirational nation’s utterly landlocked oil resources to kill it. Surely, this would bring on a new humanitarian disaster, one that starts the travel of yet another wave of angry Muslim refugees toward the welcoming and Europe-killing arms of Mama Merkel and the dying German nation.

Saddam and Mubarak stand as the only political leaders who told the world the obvious truth in late 2002, namely, that s U.S.-led invasion of Iraq would open the gates of hell. Today, Bush, Cheney, Wolfowitz, Bolton, Rumsfeld, Rice, Blair, and the mainstream media’s pundits continue to claim that the problems caused by their personal, for-Israel, Iraq war, while lamentable, are simply unpredictable consequences. These are the statements of men and women who are either liars, historical illiterates, or people whose sanity is maintained only by finding shelter in a plausible-sounding excuse for the ramifications of an unnecessary and unconstitutional war that has wrecked much of the Arab world, globalized the Islamist insurgency, killed and maimed tens of thousands of U.S. Marines and soldiers, bankrupted the U.S. Treasury, and killed and maimed more Syrian and Iraqi men, women, and children than Asaad and Saddam could have killed if both lived to be a thousand years old.

Now that the lethal Kurdish shoe has dropped, the gates of the hell that Bush’s war opened wide will soon heat up even further and emerge as a full-scale Hobbesian war. In the name of God, President Trump, enough is enough. Evict the Neocon generals from your White House and get all Americans out of Iraq and Syria, Then free your campaign’s non-intervention/America First placard from mothballs and speak to the nation on this issue, using a speech written by your own hand. Put that placard nearby as you speak and tell Americans that we are done fighting unnecessary wars, reinforcing defeat in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan, and allowing our foreign policy to be shaped by war-lovers like McCain and Graham, disloyal Jewish-Americans, and the media-supported, anti-American ideologues who champion multiculturalism, diversity, and women’s rights.

You can do this off your own hook, Mr. President, and it is an action for which future generations of your countrymen will call you blessed. That’s not a bad way to be remembered.

Author: Michael F. Scheuer

Michael F. Scheuer worked at the CIA as an intelligence officer for 22 years. He was the first chief of its Osama bin Laden unit, and helped create its rendition program, which he ran for 40 months. He is an American blogger, historian, foreign policy critic, and political analyst.