Tag: Iraq

Did the US and Iraq really defeat ISIS? Not so fast.

David French has a piece bemoaning that the Western media hasn’t reported America defeated ISIS in Iraq. Iraqi’s military, with American support, pushed ISIS out of Mosul and most of the area they occupied in Iraq, and now Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared victory. Iraq’s PM has a clear-self interest to declare victory, but it’s true that ISIS lost ground.

“So why does no one seem to care?” French wrote.

It’s just not that clear of a victory. Iraq remains an unstable, low-quality semi-democracy–the US didn’t accomplish its objectives there–and there’s no reason to believe that Iraq won’t ever be threatened by militants or terrorists again in the near future.

I won’t spend too much time on this, but here are a few relevant sources for why people should not get too excited about what is possibly an incomplete and short-lasting victory:
Iraq’s PM has a clear-self interest to declare victory, but it’s true that ISIS lost ground. – AFP

As Sumantra and I have written for The National Interest,

It is important to remember that the liberation of Mosul is not something to be proud of just yet. Economically, it is a damaged city—in worse condition than Stalingrad or Dresden. Materially, it is a commodity that nobody wishes to touch. Strategically, it is important—but that too is a curse, as it’s almost inevitable that a backlash will transpire, and Sunni civilians will suffer.

Unfortunately, Mosul is only one among many cities on the fault line of what increasingly appears to be an Iranian race to form a land bridge to the Mediterranean against periodic Sunni opposition. People will continue to suffer. Iraq’s central government is not, and will not be, capable of continuing to safeguard the area from falling further into the hands of jihadists. And the flawed counterinsurgency tactics of the West mean that the jihadist threat will merely go dormant until the next opportune moment.

Read our full article: Winning the hearts and minds won’t eliminate ISIS

Three major lessons from recent referendums in Kurdistan and Catalonia

International Relations theorists don’t have the opportunity to conduct lab experiments like scientists. They have to rely on natural experiments, or in other words, deduce and infer from events that shape and transform in front of our eyes, happening in real time.

Recent events on the Catalan crisis and the Kurdistan referendum are important case studies for a few ideas that IR theorists have talked for, for a while.

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How Bush and Obama let ideology mislead their foreign policies

In my latest column for The Federalist I argue that Presidents George Bush and Barack Obama both followed their ideologies and idealism too closely on Iraq. The result is the current mess we have in Iraq and Syria.

To quote some of the important passages:

Yet a war can just as easily lead to mass American deaths. In fact, in the years since 9/11, 30 times more Americans died fighting in Iraq than died from terrorist attacks. Those mistakes have been well-reported over the years, and the Chilicot Report adds some details but not too much groundbreaking information. In short, the United States and United Kingdom didn’t do enough preparation and were overconfident about their ability to spread democracy to a country with no experience of such. It was a classic example of idealism overpowering cold analysis of facts.

Bush thought spreading democracy would mean more freedom, and that freedom and democracy would create open societies and discourage radicalism. We Americans value our political freedoms. Seeing people around the world suffer under tyranny is disheartening indeed, and it would be wonderful if all people could live in freedom.

But events in recent years in places like Egypt, with its election of the Muslim Brotherhood; Libya, which collapsed into chaos; Venezuela, where Hugo Chavez won multiple semi-democratic elections; Thailand, which suffers from coups and populism; and others show that democracy doesn’t always work everywhere.

Bush didn’t spend enough time considering whether there was a reason Iraq didn’t have democracy and hadn’t had democracy before. Wishing for something is one thing, but one’s wishes and ideals shouldn’t invade the life-and-death decisions of the commander in chief.

Obama was so wed to the idea of “peace,” he didn’t think of how to win peace. … Since then Obama has begun campaigns of air strikes in Iraq and Syria and sent more troops. There are now 5,000 service members on the ground in Iraq, and generals want more. Meanwhile, Obama has slowed the ongoing withdrawal from Afghanistan.

The result is neither peace nor an end to American involvement.

Read the whole thing here: It’s Time To End Ideology-Based Foreign Policy

Few blog posts for your holiday weekend reading!

Well, I apologise for not being regular, hectic week. But here’re a few publications by me. It’s that time of the year. When we celebrate the birth of our Lord of Scientific Reasoning, Sir Isaac Newton. 12436640_10203967247220283_1423912340_o

On the ongoing battle of Ramadi. Just remember, this Christmas, there are men and women fighting and dying so that others can live for free.

On what IR theory tells us about what’s happening in South China Sea. (Psstt…it’s called Buckpassing)

On why Turkey and Saudi Arabia are a major threat to Western credibility when it comes to Human Rights.

On the top four takeaways from Putin’s annual Presser. Where he answered some “tough” questions by Russian journalists on about what perfumes he like and how men look up to him on villages. It was surreal to watch, like anything on Russia.

And finally, what according to me, are the top geo-political changes of 2015 and the top challenges of 2016.

That’s pretty much it from me to end this year…Merry Christmas from all of us! Have a wonderful time, with your loved ones! God Bless.

 

B&D Editor’s exclusive: Britain shouldn’t rush to war in Syria

As Britain inches towards war again (A Realist Perspective)

One can almost hear the war drums beating again, as Britain prepares for a parliament vote to decide on war in Syria. David Cameron proceeded with his half-hearted case about war in Syria, and why Britain should join with US and France in bombing ISIS in Syria, an argument which was as logically incoherent as a kitchen sieve with water. The Labour party on the other hand in completely in disarray, and with civil war about to break out, and an incompetent and ideologically pacifist leader in Jeremy Corbyn. Such is the situation, that when Corbyn this time is actually raising extremely valuable points, no one is listening to him, as the atmosphere inside Labour is so vicious. Cameron leads a country from one Middle East misadventure to other, with the majority of the country remaining opposed to it, but there is no one to stop him.

Let’s first analyse the case for war. To be frank, there is none.

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Is Obama a Realist in Syria? TL-DR: No.

Nick Cohen is wrong about Syria and “Realism”

Obama is not a Realist, and the way the West dealt with Syria, is not Realism, and it is about time this recurring myth is talked about.

Nick Cohen, one of my favorite writers, also wrote about the Syrian Refugee crisis recently, and opined, that the future generations will blame our Realism in dealing with the refugee crisis. In this instance, however he suffers from a notable disadvantage, of being wrong.

Needless to say, as a researcher of foreign policy and realism, I find this argument of Western Realism a bit oversimplified. Studying the Western response deeply and empirically, one would notice, that the policy of the West to deal with the Syrian crisis was neither Realism, nor Liberal Interventionism. It has been one of shabby half-hearted indifference.

First of all, I don’t want to go into the details of policy frameworks, partly because I have written about it before, and partly because better men have commented on it, and I don’t want to add on to the literature. However, I feel compelled to point out, that an actual realist policy for Syria would be markedly different from the one we are observing presently.

First of all, Realism is amoral and solely based on State interest. However the first fallacy of this line of thought is that the West is not acting to deal with the Syria crisis as a single block. We see a Realist Britain and some specific East European countries, trying to maintain an offshore balancer role, an inward looking and isolationist America busy with Hillary’s email skulduggery and an insufferable Donald Trump and his twitter hordes, and a terribly liberal Germany and Sweden, now facing a shocking reality check about their own demographic unrest.

A Realist policy for Syria therefore would actually be somewhat like this.

  1. Form a no-fly zone in northern Levantine sea coast, to carve out an area, which can house genuine refugees.
  1. Train the fighting age men and boys (almost 70 percent according to a startling UNHCR report), and send them back to fight ISIS. Accept the women, children and war infirm, the genuine refugees, rather than the economic migrants. That’s what India did during the 1971 waragainst Pakistan, which led to the creation of Bangladesh.
  2. During the 1815 Barbary wars, a joint naval British-Dutch taskforce, under Lord Edward Pellew negotiated with the Algerian human traffickers with “shots and nothing but shots”. It bombed and destroyed the human trafficking network. There’s a lesson for the policy makers for Syria while dealing with overcrowded boats carrying refugees to Europe.
  3. European navies with their overwhelming superiority should put up a Mediterranean blockade similar to the Second World War.
  4. Help the Kurds to carve out a state of their own. The old boundaries from the Sykes-Picot agreement are invalid, and it would be prudent to accept that and make policies based on new facts in the ground. Give the Peshmerga weapons to battle it out with the ISIS. The Kurdish forces are the most modern, egalitarian and secular fighting force in the entire Middle East. They are an asset to the West.
  5. Finally, keep an eye on Russia and Iran, but don’t try to stop them. This is the Middle East’s version of the Thirty years war going on. Having Russia and Iran try and balance the Middle East will have its own advantages. There will be an opportunity to study Iranian and Russian forces in actual combat and COIN operations, even if they get bogged down, without direct loss of money and manpower for the West. As Kenneth Waltz wrote before his death, power begs to balance itself. If Russia and Iran balances against the Wahhabi forces, Jihadists and Islamists, at the cost of their money and lives, nothing wrong in that.

However, as we can see, this is not what the West is doing, obviously. In place of an actual Realist grand-strategy, we are caught winging it, with heavy rhetoric about saving human lives, and stopping the war, and having a democratic middle east, while being simultaneously completely ambivalent to the ground realities.

Now, I write these policies as a researcher of Realism, being detached from my emotional considerations. I know I might be coloured heartless for that, but this is a purely academic discussion. I feel horrible seeing the photo of Aylan Kurdi as much as the next man with conscience and sanity. But drafting policy is not an emotional job. It is not activism. It is prudence, pragmatism, logic and reasoning, and a clear assessment of goals and capabilities. Hopefully foreign policy mavens or commentators keep that in mind.

 

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