The newest Hitler

During the First World War, the British engaged in lying but successful propaganda against the Germans.  People believed that the Kaiser was a monster in human form, and that German soldiers liked to toss Belgian babies up in the air and catch them on their bayonets.

A quarter-century later, Hitler came along.   He was more of a monster than the British claimed the Kaiser was, but people who remembered the previous war’s propaganda were slow to believe it.   It’s an example of how, when you falsely cry “wolf” like the boy in the fable, people won’t believe you when the real wolf comes

Lately the U.S. government has been telling us Americans so ofter that we need to mobilize against new Hitlers—the Ayatollah Khomeini, Saddam Hussein, Osama bin Laden, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Kim Jong Un, Bashar al Assad, Muammar Qaddafi, Vladimir Putin—that we are Hitler’d out.

In fact, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (aka ISIS or ISIL) is the closest yet to being the equivalent of the Nazis.  Like the Nazis, ISIS is carrying on a war of extermination.  Like the Nazis, the ambitions of ISIS are unlimited.

The difference is that the Nazis controlled Germany, one of the world’s great industrial and military powers.  The Islamic State merely controls many square miles of desert.

Brian Downing, writing in Asia Times pointed out that, on paper, the forces in the region should be a match for ISIS.  The ISIS forces are estimated at 15,000 men, perhaps 20,000 at the most.  The Kurhish peshmerga militia has 200,000 men and women under arms.  The Iraqi army has 90,000 men.  The strength of the Sunni militias in the region are unknown, but probably equal in number to ISIS.  Their forces, helped by a U.S. bombing campaign, should be enough to destroy ISIS, Downing wrote.

Maybe.  I hope so.  The problems are political, not military.  The Kurds are mainly interested in defending their mountain homeland.  The Iraqi army is of uneven quality, and not all its troops are as highly motivated as the ISIS militia.  The other Sunni militias might not want to fight other Sunnis on the same side as the Shiite-dominated government of Iraq.

ISIS controls large areas of Syria as well as Iraq.  I don’t think the U.S. government can root ISIS out of Syria will continuing its proxy war against the Syrian government.

President Obama is trying to keep too many balls in the air at the same time.   The United States is fighting against Al Qaeda, the Taliban and now ISIS, but is unwilling to cooperate with Iran, which is the enemy of all three, nor to confront Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Qatar, from which they get their support.

This would be equivalent to Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt in 1942 waging war against Nazi Germany while working for regime change in Stalin’s Russia while being careful not to confront Mussolini’s Italy—not exact analogies, I admit, but close enough to illustrate my point.

He is rightly reluctant to commit American ground troops to the fight against ISIS.   We the American people are tired of fighting in quagmire wars in the Middle East, and the people of the Middle East are sick of the presence of American troops.  The more the U.S. government intervenes, the more recruits will join ISIS.

But this means war by means of special operations teams, flying killer robots and support of foreign armies whose leaders have different goals than ours.   I sympathize with the President’s dilemma.  I don’t see any way this can end well.   I would be pleased to be proved wrong.

I think American foreign policy is like the F-35 fighter.   Rather than being designed to do one important thing, it is designed to do too many things and can’t perform any of them well.


Politics and the long war in Iraq by Brian Downing for Asia Times.

Too many moving parts on Sic Semper Tyrannis (via Naked Capitalism)





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3 Responses to “The newest Hitler”

  1. thetinfoilhatsociety Says:

    Someone wise once said “whatsoever shall ye sow, so also shall ye reap”

    We now get to reap the harvest of supplying guns and war equipment to enemies of Assad, the Saudi regime, and our determined attempts to divide the Muslim world with conflict and violence.


  2. whungerford Says:

    The problems are political, not military, and the military aspects of the President’s plan have much to do with domestic politics.


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