Good Topic

A good reflection on how you can be wrong about the most important things. I like the comments section especially, because it shows people reflecting on the question in their own lives.

I think I was wrong about isolationism in the 1990s. I was really against intervening in Somalia, and then in Bosnia, Serbia, etc. I thought that was none of our affair, and that we should let these people kill each other if they wanted to do so. I agreed with Otto von Bismark's opinion that the "whole of the Balkans is not worth the bones of a single Pomeranian grenadier." If you'd have suggested to me that, just a few years later, I would support an American invasion of Afghanistan I'd have laughed out loud.


Eric Blair said...

Yeah, well I've come to the conclusion that Afghanistan should not have been invaded, it should have been bombed until just rubble was bouncing.

Grim said...

I think the SF campaign in the north was great. I think the fight up until Tora Bora went pretty well. We should never have sent in regulars in Division-sized units, though. We should never have tried to take ownership and "re"build the place.

raven said...

"don't fight the way your enemy fights best".
Speaking of military concerns- how on earth does daesh (sp?)logistics work? Do they have an actual western style supply line, or is it a "raid the village" type operation?
And what about financing? John Robb was mentioning many different sources of income, oil, drugs, slaves, antiquities,ransom, etc- but how do they receive and pay funds out? There must be a financial network and some pretty good administrators involved.

Grim said...

I think logistics was one of Daesh's key competitive advantages in the Syrian civil war. Remember that the core of this group were involved in the Iraq war: many of them came together in American detention. Thus they had long experience operating with the smugglers who cross the desert from eastern Syria to Anbar province. They knew how those lines of communication work, and they had established connections. Once the Awakening died down, as the Iraqi government turned on the Sunni tribes after our departure, they were able to light those fires back up, and just run the pattern in the other direction, pulling caches of weapons and explosives back out of Iraq and into Syria.

Their financing was likewise older. It seems to run through Kuwait in large part, as Kuwait has very loose rules on money transfers. Saudi Arabia officially considers them a terrorist group, and won't allow private transfers currently to Syria from Saudi territory. However, you can transfer money to Kuwait, and from there it can go to Syria.

The biggest thing they have going for them internal to their territory is oil production and smuggling. They now control most of Syria's oil infrastructure, and some of Iraq's. That has to flow on the same black market networks by which they've been trading for arms and supplies for a decade, so it's not as efficient as just using pipelines to ship it to market, but it's clearly making them some money.

Grim said...

Meanwhile -- ahem -- this is what our 'trusted commanders' are getting from us by way of logistical support.

raven said...

How does one ship oil on the black market? It is a bulk cargo, it is not that easy to hide an oil tanker.
And what about food, medical supplies, ammo, etc, for an army? What is of interest is whether the networks established to operate an insurgency of limited size can be scaled up to support an army on the move- similar in some ways to growing a business from a small company to a multinational.
I assume we have talented folks investigating this..unless they have all been assigned to golf course evaluation.
Do you recommend any web sites for someone to learn more?

Grim said...

NPR did a piece on the oil smuggling thing. I hear also from a military contact that there may be Turkish collusion, which isn't surprising if true: the Turks have been backing radical Sunni factions in the Syrian war all along. They armed the Free Syrian Army, and have been allowing both them and Daesh to use their highway on their side of the border as a supply line. They haven't had a perfect relationship -- they've exchanged fire and the Turks have bombed their targets from the air at times -- but they have mostly managed to cooperate.

The Turks' interest in all this is a Sunni buffer state to cut Iran's influence on their southern border, which otherwise now runs straight from Tehran to Baghdad to Damascus. Daesh is a bad neighbor, but Turkey thinks it can handle them better than having a massive Iranian empire on their southern border. They're even starting to warm up to the idea of a Kurdish state breaking out of Iraq, which they've opposed forever because of the fear that their own Kurds would want to break off and join them.