Mark Steyn on the fall of Ramadi:
Americans interested in an honest assessment of what’s happening are better off skipping the Pentagon briefing and listening to the locals hightailing it outta there:
“Ramadi has fallen,” Muhammad Haimour, a spokesman for the provincial governor of Anbar, told AP Sunday. “The city was completely taken. … The military is fleeing.”
Indeed. The Pentagon has an unrivaled comic genius when it comes to naming its operations. General Weidley is Chief of Staff, Joint Task Force for “Operation Inherent Resolve”. If one had to name the single quality most obviously lacking in local ground forces, in the “60-nation coalition” and in US strategists, that would be it. Iraqi troops fled their US-supplied government buildings and then, at the edge of town, abandoned their US-supplied Humvees to melt into the local population, hopefully with nothing US-supplied about their person to give them away. The Humvees and the buildings are now in the hands of Isis. That’s the great thing about taking on a “60-nation coalition”. When you roll over them in nothing flat, the stuff they leave behind is world-beating state-of-the-art.
Almost exactly twelve years ago, I spent two days in Ramadi – one coming, one going. I wandered around the streets, browsed the shops, ate in the cafes, all in the same suit-and-tie get-up you can see me in on stage and telly. And I got the odd surly look but no beheading. Because, in the spring of 2003, the west was still believed to be serious. Now they know we’re not.
It isn’t that ISIS isn’t beatable — it is. The problem is we can’t be bothered to take the fight to them seriously, and when we do we get it wrong. For more on that, here’s PJM’s own Richard Fernandez who says that despite its name, ISIS isn’t a state as we in the Westphalian world understand it:
Non-states have different needs vulnerabilities from Westphalian states. One analyst who understands this is former Army intelligence analyst Jessica Lewis McFate who writes: “ISIS is a state-breaker”. It doesn’t thrive on hierarchy or order and UN meetings. It thrives on chaos. She explains that the basic unit of jihadi control is conquered territory, which is not the same as a state territory. Conquered territory is the current area open to plunder and may shift as need arises. Such opportunities only present themselves in a collapse.
Control of cities … are not, however, the metric by which to measure the defeat of ISIS’s fighting force.
ISIS’s ability to remain as a violent group, albeit rebranded, has already been demonstrated, given the near-defeat of its predecessor AQI in 2008 and its resurgence over … a vast dominion across Iraq and Syria.
In this most dangerous form, ISIS is a counter-state, a state-breaker that can claim new rule and new boundaries after seizing cities across multiple states by force, an unacceptable modern precedent.
ISIS, despite its name, does not live to become a Westphalian state. On the contrary, it lives by breaking down Westphalian states. It gets its energy from the throes of a dying country; from ransoms, looting, extortion, smuggling, people trafficking, rape and pillage. Thus Obama’s decision to dismantle American hegemony in the Middle East, whatever its merits, had the unfortunate side effect of increasing entropy. That, plus the wayward consequences of the Arab Spring supercharged the rise of ISIS-like organizations.
Years ago, I wrote that the primary means (apart from killing and whatnot) to winning an idealogical struggle is to “prove the enemy ideology to be ineffective.”
Our actions and inactions in the Middle East are proving the enemy ideology to be quite effective indeed, as the residents of Ramadi are learning.
The first effective means of defeating a “state-breaker” is to establish and nurture states with institutions able to withstand attacks from groups like ISIS. Let us stipulate that President Bush made a world-class blunder invading Iraq in 2003, no matter how noble his intentions might have been — but “we broke it, we bought it,” as Colin Powell liked to say. President Obama however abandoned Iraq when we should have continued nurturing its still-fragile institutions.
The results of Obama’s callous pique are the refugees columns fleeing Ramadi.