Thursday, October 9, 2014

Probably news to Obama's "national security" team.

Michael Totten is one of the great unsung international journalists of the world, well-traveled, well-educated, and experienced with out the arrogance, condescension, or anti-American bias of, say, Christiane Amanpour. His columns speak simple and rather obvious truths that nevertheless seem to regularly escape the foreign policy establishment, especially those in or connected to the Obama administration. Totten has posted a few new Captain Obvious columns for the benefit of our foreign policy betters.

The first is that the members of ISIS are, generally speaking, psychopaths:
Roughly one percent of human beings are psychopaths . Most aren’t violent, and nearly all are high-functioning. Supposedly they are overrepresented in Congress, on Wall Street, in corporate boardrooms, and in large urban areas.
They’re even more overrepresented in terrorist organizations like the Islamic State (IS) and Al Qaeda. Every violent psychopath with Muslim parents for thousands of miles in every direction is drawn to these organizations like maggots to meat. It gives them permission to behave monstrously with impunity.
I wasn’t a bit surprised to learn recently that two British jihadists purchased Islam for Dummies and The Koran for Dummies before heading to Syria. They weren’t drawn there by religion. They were drawn by the license to kill.
So it naturally follows that, Totten reports, they are using human shields:
The Pentagon says Islamic State fighters in Syria are using human shields to protect themselves from American airstrikes. I can’t verify that claim, but it’s a little like saying the Islamists breathe oxygen. Of course they’re using human shields. It’s what terrorist armies in the Middle East do when facing a civilized enemy.
It wouldn’t accomplish squat against a war criminal like Bashar al-Assad. His regime would happily take out a thousand Sunni civilians to kill a single Islamist fighter. He’d see the thousand civilians as bonus points. But the West doesn’t fight like that and the Islamic State knows it.
Civilians always die in war zones. It’s unavoidable. The United States, however, takes great care to keep that number as low as possible. When the US Army and Marines took Fallujah back from Al Qaeda in Iraq (the Islamic State under its previous name) in 2004, for instance, they first spent weeks evacuating the city of as many civilians as they could before going in.
The US cares more about the welfare of Sunni Muslims in Syria and Iraq than the Islamic State does—which is not likely to help the medieval head-choppers and crucifixion enthusiasts much in the hearts-and-minds department.
The only issue I have with Totten here is that he does not explain the full calculus or what exactly the US is supposed to do about it. Here is how it works:
1. Islamist group uses civilians as human shields to protect military assets during their advance.
2. US bombs Islamist group.
3. US bombing of Islamist group kills said civilian human shields.
4. Islamist group screams "civilian casualties."
5. American, European, and Middle Eastern media report that the US is causing civilian casualties without reporting that said civilians were being used as human shields.
6. US looks bad and Islamists look good.
7. Islamist advance continues.
Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

This dilemma is due in large part to the dishonesty of the American, European, and Middle Eastern media, especially their anti-American bias. So what exactly is the US supposed to do about it?

As brutal as it sounds, the solution is to bomb the Islamists anyway. Yes, there will be civilian casualties in the short term, but if enemies of civilization see that they will get no benefit from using human shields, they will eventually stop taking them. In the long run civilian lives will be saved.

However, I don't expect the current American, European, and Middle Eastern media -- or the current foreign policy establishment -- to understand this rather simple calculus.

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