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Myron Vs Atilla

There is an unfortunate tendency to regard organizations like ISIS, Hamas or Hezbollah as a rag-tag agglomeration of mindless fanatics.  However, as the Marine Corps Association's recollection of the Second Fallujah attests, Jihadi outfits are anything but hopelessly incompetent. After all, they fight only the best: the USMC, the IDF, the Special Forces.  It is inevitable that they should learn.  And the Marines and IDF, etc stay ahead of them. The degree of skill, deception and tactical skill which went into winning Second Fallujah is amazing.

First of all the enemy had learned from First Fallujah.  After being initially devastated by Marine Corps snipers in initial encounters, the enemy adapted  by becoming completely invisible from overwatch. They linked each house in the dense city to the adjacent via a network of tunnels, trenches and holes-in-the-wall. The Marines recollected, "overall, the enemy has adapted their tactics and techniques in order to maximize their strongpoints and hit Marines when they are the most vulnerable. They have learned from 2/1's attack last April. This is common sense, but it must be said in order that Marines realize that the enemy they are fighting is somewhat intelligent. In MOUT it only takes a miniscule amount of intelligence in order to create massive numbers of casualties."

The Israeli Defense Forces had faced the same problem of a learning enemy earlier.  In response they had adopted a strategy termed "walking through walls" in their Nablus campaign.

At Nablus 2002, the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) soldiers used none of the streets, roads, alleys or courtyards that constitute the city, and none of the external doors, internal stairwells and windows that constitute the order of buildings, but rather moved horizontally through walls, and vertically through holes blasted in ceilings and floors. This form of movement, described by the military as ‘infestation’, sought to redefine inside as outside, and domestic interiors as thoroughfares.

The three-dimensional progression through walls, ceilings and floors across the urban mass reinterpreted, short-circuited and recomposed both architectural and urban rules of combat. The IDF’s strategy of ‘walking through-walls’ involved a conception of the city as not just the site, but the very medium of warfare – a flexible, almost liquid medium that is forever contingent and in flux.  Innovation provided new tactics and success in this urban fight.

The recently concluded battle for Gaza is the latest iteration of this deadly evolution. Hamas knows all about swarming, tunnel warfare, and deception. Anyone who thinks that Western victories are won effortlessly -- and can therefore be casually thrown away by politicians for polling points -- should think again. Very few national military organizations can fight the best Jihadi units on anything like equal terms, as the Iraqi or Nigerian armies have discovered to their cost. The soldiers of the Jihad are as capable of learning as anyone and they have had the best teachers.

So why has the West, till now, kept winning? The answer is to be found in what can be called the "productive flank".  The West has won in the past because it gave people ordinary things to do.

Israel and the United States not only have militaries but people working day jobs. They have individuals who do things like develop terahertz scanners, cures for ebola, plasma engines, social networking applications and nano-engineering, to name a few. The Islamic world on the other hand has a lot of aspiring warriors but only a desultory day-job life. One person to observe this was Winston Churchill who wrote:

How dreadful are the curses which Mohammedanism lays on its votaries! Besides the fanatical frenzy, which is as dangerous in a man as hydrophobia in a dog, there is this fearful fatalistic apathy. The effects are apparent in many countries, improvident habits, slovenly systems of agriculture, sluggish methods of commerce and insecurity of property exist wherever the followers of the Prophet rule or live. A degraded sensualism deprives this life of its grace and refinement, the next of its dignity and sanctity. The fact that in Mohammedan law every woman must belong to some man as his absolute property, either as a child, a wife, or a concubine, must delay the final extinction of slavery until the faith of Islam has ceased to be a great power among men.

Individual Moslems may show splendid qualities, but the influence of the religion paralyzes the social development of those who follow it. No stronger retrograde force exists in the world. Far from being moribund, Mohammedanism is a militant and proselytizing faith. It has already spread throughout Central Africa, raising fearless warriors at every step, and were it not that Christianity is sheltered in the strong arms of science, the science against which it (Islam) has vainly struggled, the civilization of modern Europe might fall, as fell the civilization of ancient Rome.

Churchill is full of admiration for the Islamic warrior, but he is brimming with contempt for its productive flank.  The neglected, boring area of workaday life is the secret sword of the West. Ronald Reagan's America beat the Sovs by outflanking them. Even though the Cold War was militarily stalemated in the late 1980s the Soviet productive front was wide open and the West rampaged through it. It was not obvious at first to people who counted only divisions, missiles and ships. But advances in productivity were just as deadly. By 1989 John le Carre's characters could say "the American strategists can sleep in peace. The Soviet knight is dying inside his armor. He is a secondary power like you British. He can start a war but cannot continue one and cannot win one. Believe me." And it was the same story with Islam. It was not that Islamic warriors had lost their fanaticism, just that they had wasted into impotent poverty and backwardness.

What changed things was oil. Oil gave back the Islamic world something it had lacked for centuries: a productive sector. Oil provided the money to buy experts,  expatriate labor, arms. Like the Mongols, Islamic civilization did not have to know how to build siege engines to take formerly impregnable cities if they could simply hire the engineers and level the field.

The leveling process was helped along by the rise of socialist ideas in the West, who also had a disdain for the productive flank. In 2008, Barack Obama seemed to suggest that plumbers who earned more than $100,000 were making too much money and had to be taxed to spread the wealth around.

In an online chat at the Washington Times today the most famous plumber since Art Carney, Toledo’s own Samuel Joseph "Joe the Plumber" Wurzelbacher, expressed some mighty skepticism about Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill.

“When I was face to face with him, my honest first impression was that I expected something more,” wrote Wurzelbacher, in response to a question from “Thomasville, AL.” “I had heard so much about ‘his presence’ in the media that I was surprised to find that he seemed very average. My gut feeling as he answered my questions? I was scared for America.”

“Do you believe Obama will actually stick to his current promise of only raising taxes on incomes above $250k, or will it go lower?” asked “La Jolla, CA.”

“That’s the big question isn’t it,” replied Joe. “What worries me is that he is deciding that $250k is rich right now, but what’s to stop him from changing his mind? As we all know, politicians change their minds at the drop of a poll. Personally, I think it will have to go lower. How else will he pay for all he wants big government to do?”

After all who cared for plumbers or 'shopkeepers'? For socialism, like Islam, has its warrior elite:  the people who count act for causes and not money.  Didn't Chealsea once boast she had tried making money and got bored with it? Working was for dull people; Chealsea wanted a meaningful life, a warrior life; a wonk existence.  Drudgery has been too boring for the aristocracy of any society, beneath the great men of its legendarium.