“What the U.S. can learn from the fight against the Islamic State.” The Washington Post’s Wrong Conclusions.

The Washington Post editorial board on March 25, 2019, at 7:30 p.m. posted an opinion titled, “What the U.S. can learn from the fight against the Islamic State.”

Unfortunately the lesson it tells us we should learn is all wrong. To cut to the core it is that the United States should not get into any wars unless we have other people on the ground willing to fight and die in it. We should not get into any wars where American ground forces will be casualties. If that is the lesson we should learn, why do we have an Army and a Marine Corps. Aren’t they supposed to do any fighting on our behalf any more?

We are told that ISIS was “a self-declared caliphate that once controlled a territory the size of Britain and ruled over as many as 12 million people.”  That the fight against ISIS was conducted differently from “troop-heavy wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.”  It would be fought by the U.S.  partnering “with local forces that would take the lead on the ground, . . . American troops in Iraq and Syria, mostly Special Operations forces and trainers, numbered in the single-digit thousands.”

That is a clumsy comparison. Prior to our wars in Iraq or Afghanistan the idea that we could partner with local forces on the ground who would take the lead in doing the fighting was a non starter. In Iraq there were none; in Afghanistan the special forces did partner with foes of the Taliban but the heavy presence of U.S. troops allowed them to succeed as well as they did.

The war against ISIS was not against an organized state but an insurgency that threatened organized states or ethnic groups such as the Kurds. In that circumstance we could get local help. With the ground forces we used our air power to assist them. ISIS had no air force or for any practical purposes air defenses. Keep in mind that no U.S. armed force member has been killed by a foreign enemy air power since the Korean War. We have not been contested in the air in all our recent wars. When we are, much of what we think we have learned can be thrown out the window.

The article notes that our Kurdish allies on the ground had 11,000 of its fighters killed; the Iraqi’s fighting with us lost at least as many. U.S. losses, in contrast, were remarkably light: Sixteen soldiers and one civilian were killed in action over the past 4½ years, and 58 other “non-hostile” fatalities were associated with the mission.”

The Post concludes we learned two lessons. The first lesson is: “the United States is capable of leading effective foreign counterterrorism campaigns, provided it partners with local forces and focuses on supplying unique U.S. assets, such as intelligence and precision airstrikes.”  How is that a learned lesson. It is obvious. If you can get other people to fight and die for you then you will suffer fewer losses yourself. The real lesson that it taught is something we have always known which is that those who do the fighting on the ground are going to suffer greatly. If we take from it that the United States should avoid ground combat totally then we are learning the wrong lesson. There are times when it will be necessary.

The other lesson the Post tells us we should learn is “the costs of playing such a role are far less, in the long run, than withdrawing and allowing terrorist groups to rebuild.” It decided this because the ISIS war cost $28,5 billion compared to the $1.5 trillion for the ground wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But as noted above unless the $1.5 trillion  was spent initially there would be no getting on to the latter amount. I fail to see how the ISIS win taught us something that is obviously to all but the dumbest person: a full-scale invasion of a country would be more costly than fighting an insurgency.

Unfortunately there is no lesson to learn from having taken from ISIS all the land under its control. We already knew what the Washington Post said we supposedly learned. What I do hope is that we don’t think we learned something new and believe we can apply that to Iran.

19 thoughts on ““What the U.S. can learn from the fight against the Islamic State.” The Washington Post’s Wrong Conclusions.

  1. I have a lot of the same feelings, GOK. I can see the planet as the battleground. We are the Romans and they are the hordes from The North. If it takes another century or two to accomplish, they don’t care. Their supreme being has given them a paradise beyond this earth and for some reason they feel that the more damage to all other non-believers they can do before they get there, the better their god will treat them. The Muslims I know that do not feel that way, and I know many, are enraged by what they see as a huge disrespect for the Koran. I would like to know what percentage are on each side.

    Did God really kill the first-born in all Egyptian families to convince Pharaoh to let Aaron and Moses split to their Promised Land? Maybe he’s got a few moves left.

  2. I think the guy in the video needed to get past his demons. He was a radical, drunken, monster of a person. I figure at least he has wrapped his wish for peace around his devils. Some would prefer to wrap their demons with hate.

  3. Politician- Someone that will kiss your ass every four years to get your vote and pretend he doesn’t know you until the next campaign starts.

  4. Wa-llahi! First, and, foremost, don’t run torture mills whose graduates thirst for revenge. The leadership of the Daish were fulsomely tormented during interrogations in Iraq. Give up the torture paradigm for counter-insurgency that the US has adhered to since the Phoenix Program debuted in VN. Sometimes, we are our own worse enemy.

  5. oh, good heavens – how on earth could I forget “The Ugly American,” which taught us that all we had to do was to crouch among the natives and tell them how good we are?

    Wonder if the WaPoops ever read “The Ugly American”? Seems like they, and everything else the rest of the media idiots publish every day, is designed to make sure that everyone know that America is ugly. One wonders why the WaPoops and all the other media idiots have not already left for Canada or Venezuela or Iran or Syria or Somalia or points abroad where things are not sooooooo ugly.

  6. Just now the WaPoops are “learning a lesson”?

    As I recall, Vietnam was supposed to be all about Vietnamese “regulars” with US advisors. It turned out to be “limited warfare,” with the military having its hands tied behind its back, due to goddamn politicians.

    We learned the Weinberg doctrine after that:

    1) you better define your interest
    2) you better define your goal
    3) let the military do its job, without politicians interfering

    Then there was the thesis of the movie, “Charlie”s War” – we were also supposed to win the peace, and build schools and all sorts of other stuff in foreign countries.

    And, of course, there was Obonker’s “red line” – which kept moving.

    What “enabled” ISIS?

    For anyone who is interested, this is a pretty good source, in addition to what Henry Barth posted:


    1. Wa-llahi! Streetwise Professor needs some schooling on the US counter-insurgency program in Iraq. His take on things is incorrect, and, his understanding of the Sunni-Shia conflict is very limited. Don’t get me wrong, his observations are meaty stuff for the low-brow appetite. Enjoy.

  7. No comment on this. I am wondering about what I read in the Globe, Post and NY Times regarding 25 people who were NOT cleared and later got Trump to override their clearance? How is that legal and does Congress have oversight or not? Or is that another branch of the government? Trump does so many things in a free wheeling manner! All of this while Biden is being roasted for behavior which does not seem to rise to the level of Trump?The lesson seems to be get elected President , do what you want.

    1. Biden rubbed noses with a woman. Eskimos rub noses. This is about global warming. Pretty obvious.

    1. Henry: How different is Islam? Please, give me your thoughts. I look forward to the enlightened discourse.

        1. Some Muslim vocabulary:

          Taqiyya – Lying to protect Islam, achieve goals, or deceive “the enemy”

          Muruna – Using flexibility as deception to blend in with the enemy and his surroundings

          Tawriya – a doctrine that allows lying in virtually all circumstances—including to fellow Muslims and by swearing to Allah—provided the liar is creative enough to articulate his deceit in a way that is true to him.

          Kitman – Lying by deception

            1. Honest Abe, thank you for that video.

              I’m glad I watched it. Nevertheless, I believe Muslims as a group are playing a VERY, VERY long game to the detriment of ALL non-believers the world over. I fear that they won’t need a territory like Palestine to call their own. Why? Because in time, they will have their own territory or territories. The first set of candidates consists of several nations in Europe. The ultimate candidate, the grand prize, lies north of Mexico and south of Canada. Given all the inroads Muslims have made into the West (specifically in certain cities such as Copenhagen and Dearborn, Mich.), I don’t see things playing out any other way. The West has been infiltrated to the point that we will find it too difficult to reverse direction successfully. We have been too weak. I will pray to God that I am completely wrong about all this.

              Islam: The Politically Incorrect Truth

          1. Wa-llahi! Those are all Shia terms with the exception of Kimet/Kitman, which is telling half the truth, but, not lying. Taqiyya is a Nizari term, meaning; a Nizari Shia person in danger could take on the religious practices of those around him/her without contravening his/her original faith (see crypto-Jews). It came into vogue during the tenth century, also, known, as, the Shia century, (Hodgson) when, the Shia made their strongest play to overthrow the Sunni, and, become the dominant sect in the Muslim world. The Nizari, known in the West as the “Assassins” sought to subvert and overthrow the Sunni Muslim governments of their era, primarily, the Seljuk Sultanates. They were much like the Bolsheviks. Taqiyya is one of their disguising concepts, the other terms, as, well. Today, the Nizaris are a very small sect of Shi’ism. Perhaps, only a few percent of the overall Shia population, which, itself, only comprises ten percent of Muslims. That being the case, your argument that these are generally accepted ideas for all Muslims, falls flat.

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