In what should come as little surprise, the US military has only given training to sixty fighters since May; the goal is to train nearly 6000 a year, meaning we’ve accomplished about one percent of that goal in two months. The problem, of course, comes from the fact that our plan to train a moderate rebel army in a Muslim country sucks:
The training program has been challenged from the start, with many candidates being declared ineligible and some even dropping out. Obama’s requirement that they target militants from Islamic State has sidelined huge segments of the Syrian opposition focused instead on battling Syrian government forces.
Yeah, they don’t want to kill their fellow Islamists, just government forces. Because in Syria, that’s what moderate means: anti-Assad and Islamist. The US government is absolutely insane to think some kind of non-Islamist, non-nationalist secularized militia scrapped together from recruits who didn’t join any of the other factions will be able to defeat Assad and/or the Islamic State.
While both Republicans and Democrats want to avoid a boots on the ground scenario, some Democrats are taking a more unrealistic stance on how to fight the Islamic State:
The top Democrat on the committee, Senator Jack Reed, said… “Absent a moderate opposition that is willing to and capable of taking territory from ISIL and holding it, any change in the status quo is unlikely.”
Obama was briefed by his senior military commanders at the Pentagon on Monday. He later said at a news conference, “We will do more to train and equip the moderate opposition in Syria,” but he did not offer details.
There’s that buzzword again, moderate opposition. You can’t arm a resistance that doesn’t exist, as we are in the process of discovering. Sen. Reed at least has a grasp on the idea that manpower is required to defeat the Islamic state, not just drones and airstrikes. On the other hand, the adherence to the idea of a moderate victory in Syria is delusional, even more than recruiting moderates to fight. Speaking of which, the main reason why the US has failed to do so is because the military knows better; it has to vet recruits:
Some 7,000 volunteers are awaiting approval to begin the training, Carter said. The defense secretary explained that U.S. law sets a high bar for the vetting, which includes counterintelligence screenings to ensure trainees won’t “pose a green-on-blue-threat to trainers.” Potential fighters must also pass a background check for atrocities and display a willingness to abide by the laws of armed conflict.
So, even if we get our moderates, they’ll probably be honeycombed with jihadists or jihadist-sympathizers. Or way too savage to meet official Western standards of warfare. It’s almost like an ideological clash between realism and liberalism is playing out in our foreign policy; we need to make sure the rebels—er, moderate opposition—are on our side first, but not too effective of a fighting force. I mean it’s not as if the Islamic State’s or Assad’s brutality and flagrant disregard for paper-only human rights are working for them, right? What we really need are Syrian boy scouts who are good with a rifle! It’s still the early days of the WW1 and war is a merry affair for manly men of virtue. The Middle East is a very different place than the Rhine.
I think part of the problem comes from the United States’ generally poor understanding of third world geopolitics and its own liberalized perspective on Islam, that it is a cookie-cutter religion like a Christian denomination and has nothing to do with Islamic extremism (aka piety) or terrorism. This is wrong, as most Muslims hold views which are antithetical to liberal Western democracy. It is especially wrong for Muslims who live in Muslim-majority countries, especially if those countries are Arab, like most of Iraq and Syria. So that whole thing about raising an army of moderates from that population. not exactly sounding too likely here.
Here’s an idea: blockade Syria and Iraq and starve them into submission. Bomb the oil fields held by terrorists and cut off their income. Work out a deal with Iran and Russia to wipe out the Islamic State and let Assad keep his scraps of Syria. Damascus, Baghdad, the Islamic State, the Kurds, and other Islamist rebels can’t fight forever. Anything but this stupid and futile charade of arming moderates would be far more effective. Or, instead of inserting ourselves into this shitshow, we could just go after the winner after the fact and topple them if we absolutely have to get involved; which we don’t. We’re half a world away and wouldn’t have to deal with Islamic terrorism if we didn’t import Muslims. It might also not be such a bad idea to stop spreading chaos in the third world if that means we are going to have refugees forced upon us. That’s the real threat here.