ISIS, Mao, Ho Chi Minh, and the futility of Obama's strategy

Major General Bob Scales retired as Commandant of the Army War College, where he was responsible for training the future military leadership in the art of war, so he can be expected to know what he is talking about when evaluating military strategies. His commentary in the Wall on the Street Journal on the commonalities between the strategies of ISIS and those of Mao Tse-tung and Ho Chi Minh (and the Western responses to same) ought to be required reading for President Obama and Valerie Jarrett. In essence, Obama cannot win with the strategy he is employing:

ISIS is the latest example of a behavior in wars against Western powers that has proven remarkably consistent regardless of region, intensity or level of conflict. From Mao in Korea to Ho Chi Minh in Vietnam to Saddam Hussein and now Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in Iraq, all act in fundamentally the same predictable manner.

The strategic ambitions of all our enemies have been the same. They have sought to exclude the West from interfering in their regional ambitions and have aimed to confront Western militaries below the nuclear threshold. (snip)

ISIS and other terrorists know that Western militaries fight short wars well and long wars poorly. Thus they employ a patient method of fighting that engages only when the odds are in their favor. When it goes badly, they look to any well-meaning international body to interfere long enough to regenerate their forces and return to the fight.

Seventy years of experience has taught them the folly of fighting using Western ways. Instead, they have adapted a way of war that avoids the killing effects of Western technology and firepower. They "spot" us control of the air, sea and space. They disperse, hide, dig in and go to ground. They seek shelter among the innocents and amplify any Western transgression with cameras thrust into the dead faces of women and children.

They fight with secondhand technology that's good enough. The Chinese and North Vietnamese did most of their killing with mortars and automatic rifles. Hezbollah and Hamas, in various clashes with Israel, have knocked out Israeli tanks with simple handheld anti-tank missiles. Command and control is by cell phone and courier. Americans died by the hundreds in Iraq and Afghanistan from the crude technology of shells and explosives buried along roads and trails.

A worrisome survey of contemporary history reveals that the enemy's strategies and tactics are both consistent and effective—and getting better. It will take more than a few bloody beheadings before we see American "boots on the ground" again. Secretary of State John Kerry said Wednesday that no U.S. combat troops would be deployed to Iraq "unless, obviously, something very, very dramatic changes." ISIS has already begun to disperse and dig in to obviate the effects of airstrikes. They will continue to brutalize the region and eventually threaten the American homeland. And, as always, ultimately we will confront them.

Lindsey Graham concurs:

"At the end of the day, ISIL has to be encouraged by what was just said" in Fox host John Roberts's interview with White House chief of staff Denis McDonough, Graham said, using an alternative acronym for the Islamic State. "When the White House tells the world, 'We say what we mean and we do what we say'" — referencing McDonough's defense of the administration plan — "no one believes that anymore." Calling the fight against the Islamic State a "turning point in the war on terror" because the United States is now fighting a "terrorist army," Graham said that "it's going to take an army to beat an army. This idea we'll never have any boots on the ground to defeat them in Syria is fantasy."

"It's delusional in the way they approach this," Graham added.

In the end, if we are to prevail over ISIS, there will have to be the application of overwhelming force. That is unlikely to occur under President Obama. So the world is going to get a lot more dangerous until the next president is inaugurated.

Hat tip: Mike Nadler

Major General Bob Scales retired as Commandant of the Army War College, where he was responsible for training the future military leadership in the art of war, so he can be expected to know what he is talking about when evaluating military strategies. His commentary in the Wall on the Street Journal on the commonalities between the strategies of ISIS and those of Mao Tse-tung and Ho Chi Minh (and the Western responses to same) ought to be required reading for President Obama and Valerie Jarrett. In essence, Obama cannot win with the strategy he is employing:

ISIS is the latest example of a behavior in wars against Western powers that has proven remarkably consistent regardless of region, intensity or level of conflict. From Mao in Korea to Ho Chi Minh in Vietnam to Saddam Hussein and now Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in Iraq, all act in fundamentally the same predictable manner.

The strategic ambitions of all our enemies have been the same. They have sought to exclude the West from interfering in their regional ambitions and have aimed to confront Western militaries below the nuclear threshold. (snip)

ISIS and other terrorists know that Western militaries fight short wars well and long wars poorly. Thus they employ a patient method of fighting that engages only when the odds are in their favor. When it goes badly, they look to any well-meaning international body to interfere long enough to regenerate their forces and return to the fight.

Seventy years of experience has taught them the folly of fighting using Western ways. Instead, they have adapted a way of war that avoids the killing effects of Western technology and firepower. They "spot" us control of the air, sea and space. They disperse, hide, dig in and go to ground. They seek shelter among the innocents and amplify any Western transgression with cameras thrust into the dead faces of women and children.

They fight with secondhand technology that's good enough. The Chinese and North Vietnamese did most of their killing with mortars and automatic rifles. Hezbollah and Hamas, in various clashes with Israel, have knocked out Israeli tanks with simple handheld anti-tank missiles. Command and control is by cell phone and courier. Americans died by the hundreds in Iraq and Afghanistan from the crude technology of shells and explosives buried along roads and trails.

A worrisome survey of contemporary history reveals that the enemy's strategies and tactics are both consistent and effective—and getting better. It will take more than a few bloody beheadings before we see American "boots on the ground" again. Secretary of State John Kerry said Wednesday that no U.S. combat troops would be deployed to Iraq "unless, obviously, something very, very dramatic changes." ISIS has already begun to disperse and dig in to obviate the effects of airstrikes. They will continue to brutalize the region and eventually threaten the American homeland. And, as always, ultimately we will confront them.

Lindsey Graham concurs:

"At the end of the day, ISIL has to be encouraged by what was just said" in Fox host John Roberts's interview with White House chief of staff Denis McDonough, Graham said, using an alternative acronym for the Islamic State. "When the White House tells the world, 'We say what we mean and we do what we say'" — referencing McDonough's defense of the administration plan — "no one believes that anymore." Calling the fight against the Islamic State a "turning point in the war on terror" because the United States is now fighting a "terrorist army," Graham said that "it's going to take an army to beat an army. This idea we'll never have any boots on the ground to defeat them in Syria is fantasy."

"It's delusional in the way they approach this," Graham added.

In the end, if we are to prevail over ISIS, there will have to be the application of overwhelming force. That is unlikely to occur under President Obama. So the world is going to get a lot more dangerous until the next president is inaugurated.

Hat tip: Mike Nadler