Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Objectives without a plan

If you were only to read the NY Times, you might think "The End Times" have arrived.

First Roger Cohen's op-ed piece, "The Great Unraveling", paints an even gloomier view of events than most.  He threads the beheadings of the two American journalists (James Foley and Steven Sotloff) and British aid worker, the US air strikes in ISIS (objectives with no plan according to Cohen), the breakout up of the United Kingdom over Scotland's independence, the "fear" of Putin losing more to the West (hence the annexation of Crimea).  The modern world has started to devolve in Cohen's opinion and no one is really in a position to do much about it.

Next is a piece on the Obama administration sending 3,000 troops to fight Ebola in Liberia.  Along with news that the spread of the disease has the CDC so worried they have ordered 5,000 body and 160,000 hazmat suits, it seems only a matter of time before we see people bleeding out on the streets of New York and Atlanta.

The NY Times follows those two gems with another alarm, this time a story that tends contradict itself stating the "threat" of ISIS coming through our "porous" border with Mexico.  The NY Times piece is actually based on report from Judicial Watch (which both the FBI and DHS refute) that there has been "chatter" indicating ISIS cells in Mexico plans to drive vehicles loaded with explosives across the border and ram then into targets throughout the Southwest (I guess they have seen the new Mad Max trailer).

Wow, seems like time to start heading towards your bug-out site!

Cohen's piece did the best job of looking at things from a global perspective.  The Obama strategy for dealing with ISIS is only looking at it from the perspective of eradicating a terrorist group.  Going after targets in Syria is almost assuredly going to result in conflict with Syria.  What Cohen seems to miss is the potential for Russia to become involved in what happens between Syria and the US.  The beheadings are horrifying but that's just the point, terrorism as performance art.  Its working too as Obama is now on the defense from his own citizens.

Instead of worrying about getting Jihad Johnny, go rescue the other hostages first.  That shuts down the theater for Jihad Johnny, then let the spooks find him and put several 9mm or 5.56mm rounds into his face.  Make sure his face getting smashed by bullets makes it out on to social media unlike when they killed bin Laden.  The announcement that US has stuck ISIS targets near Baghdad just doesn't have the same impact as seeing the hostages rescued and the knife-wielding terrorist getting his.

But as Cohen points out, that would a plan behind the objectives.  Somehow hunting for a terrorist who likes to behead civilians is supposed to make the other problems go away.  What if going after ISIS in Syria turns Asad and ISIS into partners?  Minimally it will extend US efforts, at worst make ISIS striking the US a far more realistic possibility (perhaps even armed with chemical weapons).

Washington is bragging because Jordan has joined the fight.  Truth of the matter is King Abdullah had no choice as his regime was next for the Shiites.  It remains to be seen if this announcement is a true compensation for the withdrawal of Iran's support.

To Cohen's point about the "unraveling" of the UK, Scotland independence is not the end of the United Kingdom.  However, Scottish independence does raise some questions about the future of the military in the UK.  Scottish regiments have traditionally been a major part of the British military.  Their loss means an automatic reduction in the size of the British military.  This comes at an especially bad time with NATO now trying to stand-up its Rapid Reaction force.  Even if Scotland remains, the cost to help maintain the Rapid Reaction force will come close to 2% of the GDP.

The other problem for the British military is if Scotland becomes independent, there goes their nuclear bases.  Where will the British Navy park their boomer subs?  All of this coming at a time when NATO nuclear forces may need to provide a greater level of deterrence to Russia than ever before.

Now we come to the other problem the NY Times points out.  The ebola outbreak is now beyond the control of West African medical personnel so now the West must once again save the "Dark Continent".  The problem is that US forces really aren't set up to deal with something like this.  Don't be fooled, the real reason for troops on the ground is to make sure that West African resources don't fall into the hands of Russia or China.  There is money to be mad in a widespread outbreak and contractors such as Kellog, Brown and Root (KGB) and its former parent corporation Haliburton are sure to be there in force.  Food, medicine and supplies will be the reason given for their presence but watch how these companies will remain in place once the outbreak burns out.  Nothing breaks down red-tape like an outbreak of a deadly virus.

ISIS attacking out of Mexico does not make a lot of sense.  There are Border Patrol agents, DEA agents, Customs agents, plus Texas National Guard, Texas Rangers and Arizona Rangers already patrolling the "porous border".  Not to mention some unknown number of trigger-happy American citizens (referred to a militia in the media) also patrolling the border.  Any attack launched from that border has a low probability of success and a very high probability of ISIS operatives being shot repeatedly by grinning American citizens.  ISIS is about theater in which the are the stars, they would not want to risk becoming the victims.

That is not to say ISIS will not use all of the commotion on the Mexican border to their advantage.  While we look to the Southwest, we forget that there is 4,000 miles of almost uncontested border to the north.  The likelihood of success is far greater if the try to sneak in from the North.  Chicago and New York City are much easier to reach from the Canadian side.  Canada is not a densely populated land mass making it far easier to hide and wait for orders.

Either way, that assumes ISIS needs to get in.  From the composition of ISIS, they seem adept at recruiting from a cross-section of different nations.  Why risk failure in trying to sneak in when they could just recruit from people already here?

Car bombs are certainly effective and difficult to detect.  But what if ISIS, or another group for that matter, decided to take a page from the US?  Drones are readily available and could deliver a decent payload into say something like a power station.  Drones can fly below radars and our fighter interceptors would be particular challenged to take out a drone as it flew over a populated city or suburb.

All of this gloom and doom will give DHS and FBI additional reasons to watch everyone even more closely than they do now.  Whether or not they have gotten any better at figuring out the terrorist from the ordinary criminal or disgruntled citizen remains to be seen.

So no Mr. Cohen, its not an unraveling as much as a quickening of events.

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