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We’re Back In The Iraq Business, Part II

Syria-Iraq, Ukraine, Afghanistan, Libya, Central Africa…..on and on goes the list of turmoils.  Global whack-a-mole for the US, the way we are playing it now.

Here’s the facts as I see them, and then a recipe:

  • All of these turmoils are interconnected in various ways.
  • Confront them in one place and they pop up someplace else.
  • Any US, in fact any outsider, involvement in any single turmoil, on their turf, gets at least one of the parties mad at us.
  • The totality of all of this global turmoil involvement is draining our country’s money, warfighters, and overwhelming our country’s ability to inform, analyze, organize and prioritize our thinking about what to do and what not to do. If I am a bad guy, I am thrilled to see the US expending so much in so many places, and getting so frustrated and outwitted….and going broke in the process.
  • Our allies will not join the US in confronting or escalating most any of these situations. The UN and NATO will not act against the Russians in Ukraine. We are not going to get a meaningful coalition….by that I mean a minimum critical mass of the world’s most powerful economies acting as a team or in unison……… built for North Africa, the Middle East or South Asia. Our allies do not want the confrontations, escalations or the costs, and most still have bad dreams about their experiences in Iraq, Afghanistan, etc. They may have societal, trade and other economic concerns that would be threatened if they confront Russia, Iran, Iraq, Syria, etc.. Escalations breed…..well, more escalations.
  • Regional initiatives by those interested in stability have gone the other way…they have only expanded the sectarian conflicts over greater geographies, more countries, more parties, and more factors.
  • We will never stabilize these countries as they are delineated now. These nations are the artificial creations of uninformed foreigners, and if we were defining these nations today, I think we would all agree they would be configured very differently.
  • “Today about 10 to 15 percent of Muslims worldwide are Shia – they are the majority group in Iran and Iraq only-while most Muslims are Sunni…..Today, that religious division is again a political one as well: it’s a struggle for regional influence between Shia political powers, led by Iran, versus Sunni political powers, led by Saudi Arabia.”

Max Fisher, “40 Maps That Explain The World”, Vox, May 15, 2014.


    • “Such tensions between social classes, far more than those between sects, have sparked many recent Arab revolts; but sectarianism is then used to fan the flames. Islamists exploit class resentment to expand their base; governments stoke sectarian strife to justify their security apparatus.”


“Thethered By History”, The Economist, July 15, 2014, pp.20-22.

  • We will never eradicate these threats. Wiping out ISIL or al Qaeda is a pipedream. We can, however, reduce the number, size, severity of these threats. Several ideas are included below.

What’s to be done?  I think the answer has several parts, including but not limited to:

  • There is a new world reality that the US government and population is not dealing with. The new reality is a more dangerous world, where the US is not disproportionately powerful, a world filled with threats that our military might is ill-equipped to deal with, and a world that in many cases does not care for what they see as our interference and our desire to put our way of life on their way of life.
  • “Today, Americans are struggling to understand their role in the world. After seven decades as a superpower, there is still broad acceptance of the idea that the United States ought to be a world leader or even the “indispensable nation” that protects the prevailing liberal order. At the same time, there is growing fear of the costs of leadership, especially the possibility of war with dangerous adversaries such as Russia, China, or Iran…….The choice confronting Americans is whether to remain the kind of country that will act before its back is against the wall, or whether it will accept whatever kind of security environment emerges in the absence of American leadership. The advantage of being proactive is that the United States can respond to threats before they achieve maximum lethality. The disadvantage is that Americans will never know, even in hindsight, whether a war was truly necessary.”
  • “Americans want the benefits of order while remaining uneasy about the costs. This does not mean that the United States must respond with force every time that order is threatened. It may reconcile itself to Russia’s flagrant violation of Ukrainian sovereignty. It may reconcile itself to Beijing’s intimidation in the South China Sea, Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons, and the rise of a terrorist protostate within Syria and Iraq. What cannot be known is whether and when a crumbling order will bring the threat of violence directly to American shores.

David Adesnik, “Why America Fought”, The Weekly Standard, August 11,2014.

  • We are not able, even today, to think like “they” do. The religions, cultures, tribal ways, etc. are so different.
  • I believe we are well-advised to “engage” the problems and threats there, not here.
  • There will be terrorist attacks here, regardless of what we do.
  • We ought to do some security, policing, intelligence things here in the US to beef up our ability to discover potential terrorist activities earlier rather than later. Don’t know about you, but for me the loss of some privacy and freedom of movement is preferable to the loss of my life from a terrorist attack.
    • This is a law enforcement issue. The old saw that “if it doesn’t look right to the cop on the beat” was never more true and on point.
    • There is a certain percentage of the bad guys who were criminals before they joined the bad guys, are criminals now, and will be criminals forever. Find them, and put them in jail…..permenantly.
  • You do not send more US money, arms, ammunition, or military, into areas of turmoil and conflict. Bad things happen…..we get sucked into the conflict, and the arms, money and ammunition always ends up in the wrong hands.
  • What do you do when you have massive regional humanitarian disasters, including hunger, disease and lack of healthcare services, drought, displaced populations?
  • What do you do when you have family, tribal, religious, cultural, gang conflicts that are never going to be settled?
    • You plop a regional/city/refugee camp services facility right in the middle of it. This may include an international policing/peacekeeping force only, but not military. The mere presence of out-of-region military forces can have an effect on the level of conflict.
      • Some percentage of bad guys are doing that because it’s the only paying job available to them. Pay them to work in the services facility.
      • Paying people to turn in guns and ammo programs can work. I would pay for every tank, anti-aircraft missile, rifle, bomb, bullet and other item turned in and destroyed. I don’t care where you got it, I want it out of commission.
    • You put the UN, the Red Cross, the WHO, all of them in combinations, or someone of their ilk in that location for the long term, in a big way. They provide shelter, food, healthcare, education, jobs, etc. for all.  All the UN members are assessed fees and have professionals conscripted for this effort. It’s much cheaper than the alternatives.
    • The US and other countries like the UK, France, Germany, etc. covertly and clandestinely do the things that you do to keep the bad guys over there, off balance, focused on their own welfare vs. planning to get over here, disrupt their leadership and operations, peel off the weak believers, etc..
    • We’ve got to do a much better job with information operations…….the bad guys do so much better than we do them. There is a percentage of the bad guys, as well as a percentage of their recruits, that can be dissuaded if we are smart, thoughtful and timely with our messaging.

This is my view, and I share it in hopes that it will draw out your views and criticisms.  Please send me a note at, and I’ll share your perspectives with our readers.




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