Tags: | Iraq in Crisis | ISIS/Islamic State | ISIS | Ramadi | Sunni | Shia

ISIS Steamrolls With Fall of Ramadi

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Wednesday, 27 May 2015 10:43 AM Current | Bio | Archive

“The enemy has many problems," Gen. William C. Westmoreland said on November 21, 1967. "He is losing control of the scattered population under his influence . . . He sees the strength of his forces steadily declining.”

Two months later the Viet Cong launched the Tet Offensive. Months of heavy fighting followed. Though communist forces were ultimately defeated, the credibility of claims that we were winning the war in Vietnam was destroyed forever.

Iraq is not Vietnam. Lessons learned in the jungles of Southeast Asia do not necessarily apply in the Middle East. Nevertheless, there are parallels.

On May 15, Marine Brigadier General Weidley in Baghdad reported that ISIS was on the “defensive” and no longer capable of significant offensive operations. Hardly had Weidley finished speaking than ISIS overran the Iraqi city of Ramadi. Iraqi forces defending Ramadi, in a repeat of what was seen in Mosul, deserted their posts and ran.

The fall of Ramadi exposes fully the failure of our efforts to combat ISIS. As in Vietnam, where rosy forecasts did not comport with the enemy’s capacity to orchestrate a nationwide offensive, claims of a turning tide in the fight against ISIS do not fit with the enemy’s ability to seize major cities.

The truth is we are not winning. We are losing, and, fundamentally, we are losing for exactly the same reason we were defeated in Vietnam.

We are fighting a political conflict without a political strategy. We are ignoring the factors that are fueling this conflict, and we are substituting sortie counts for a coherent plan. We have the best military in the world. It does not matter. Without a strategy, we are destined to lose.

In Vietnam we treated the conflict as a simple manifestation of a larger worldwide confrontation with communism. South Vietnam was under attack. We would defend her. We would arm and train her military. We would defeat the aggressors and preserve democracy.

It wasn’t that simple. It turned out we weren’t just fighting northern aggressors but a big chunk of the population of South Vietnam as well. The so-called democracy we were saving was a sham.

We trained and armed the South Vietnamese for years. Their performance was never better than mediocre for one simple reason. They never had anything to fight for.

We are repeating the same mistake in Iraq. We spent $22 billion and nine years training an Iraqi Army that ran away when the first shots were fired outside Mosul. Now we are repeating the effort and ignoring the clear signs that the results will continue to be exactly the same.

To defeat ISIS we must address the underlying factors that have fueled its rise. In the interest of brevity, I will summarize those factors as follows. Sunni Arabs in Iraq feel disenfranchised and physically threatened by a Shia government in Baghdad, which appears increasingly to be a puppet of Iran.

The average Sunni Arab in Anbar may or may not identify with ISIS. Given the choice between siding with ISIS or placing himself under the control of the Shia, however, he will likely decide to stand aside as ISIS sweeps in. Most certainly he will not place himself and his family at risk by taking up arms and fighting against ISIS for Baghdad.

If we want that to happen, we have to give the Sunni Arabs of Anbar something worth fighting for. We have to promise them protection from the Shia and control over their own affairs. If we do that we won’t need boots on the ground. If we don’t all the boots in the world won’t matter.

Time is running out. The fall of Ramadi was a major loss. What is about to happen will make that look minor.

Massing east of Ramadi are Shia militias. They are preparing to launch an assault on Ramadi. When this happens it will be the functional equivalent of pouring jet fuel on a fire.

The Sunni Arabs of Anbar will react to a Shia invasion of their heartland by rising as one to oppose it. If you want to take a very bad situation and make it infinitely worse, this is the way to do it. Even those Sunnis who up until now have opposed ISIS will be galvanized by the injection of Iranian proxy forces into Anbar.

Our vast resources prolonged the inevitable in Vietnam for many years. In the end, though, all the men, planes, and weapons in the world were no substitute for a coherent strategy. Our advisers and air strikes in Iraq are buying us time. In the end, though, the result will be the same. Without a strategy we cannot win.

Ramadi has gone up in flames. All of Iraq will follow suit if we do not act fast.

This column appeared first in Epic Times.

Charles S. Faddis, president of Orion Strategic Services, LLC, is a former CIA operations officer with 20 years of experience in the conduct of intelligence operations in the Middle East, South Asia, and Europe. He is the senior intelligence editor for AND Magazine and a contributor to a wide variety of counterterrorism and homeland security journals. His nonfiction works include "Operation Hotel California," a history of the actions of his team inside Iraq from 2002 to 2003, "Willful Neglect," an examination of homeland security, and "Beyond Repair," an argument for intelligence reform. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.



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CharlesFaddis
Iraq is not Vietnam. Lessons learned in the jungles of Southeast Asia do not necessarily apply in the Middle East. Nevertheless, there are parallels.
ISIS, Ramadi, Sunni, Shia
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2015-43-27
Wednesday, 27 May 2015 10:43 AM
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