Written by Colonel Thomas Snodgrass
How to Defeat Shari'a-driven Islam's Army for Jihad
By Colonel Thomas Snodgrass (USAF, ret.)
"It is they that obey Allah and His Messenger, and fear Allah and do right, that will triumph." Koran, Sura 24:52.
It is time at least to begin the real effort to destroy the CAPABILITY of the Jihad warriors, which in turn will eventually erode their MOTIVATION to war, die and bury their dead. While it is patently true that many are prepared to inflict murder and mayhem until the bitter end, the last struggle for Christian Europe and the effort to drive the Muslim conquerors from the Continent demonstrate that even the Shari'a faithful eventually bow to reality. The question: is the West prepared to face this reality?
The framework for war
Today a debate rages. Part of the debate - certainly the most immediate component of the debate - is what to do with Iraq. To cut-and-run seems unthinkable when one considers the consequences. To stay and pursue existing strategies seems almost as unthinkable given the corrosive effects domestically and the lack of American will for another long drawn out war with no real end in sight. The other part of this debate concerns itself with the larger or more strategic aspects: Are we at war? Who exactly is the enemy? Can we win this war as a war?
But, precisely because people engage in "debates" predicated upon loosely or poorly grounded "opinions," I have over the past year attempted to provide some clear theoretically grounded judgments on these questions. This essay is an attempt to summarize those judgments.
Carl von Clausewitz, the master warfare theorist, wrote extensively about the components of war. Clausewitz's writings can be reduced to a short equation capturing the essence of warfare, WAR = CAPABILITY + MOTIVATION (see a more detailed explanation in What Are the Military Options in Iraq? and Is Clausewitz Still Relevant?). In this simple, yet strategically penetrating equation, CAPABILITY encompasses the fighting forces and the logistical resupply, which keeps the fighting forces in the field and combat ready. MOTIVATION embodies the underlying reason why a belligerent is committing his forces to combat and the belligerent's will to continue the fight. Unless the components of CAPABILITY and MOTIVATION are both present and viable, a belligerent will eventually be forced to discontinue the hostilities. Put simply, without capability and motivation, there is no war. The formula applies equally to both sides in bi-lateral warfare.
In layman's terms, warfare may be divided into strategy, operational art, and tactics. Each of these three levels of warfare may be further divided into two types of combat: offensive and defensive. Simply stated, strategy is the over-arching plan for fighting a war and achieving victory or staving off defeat. Tactics are the offensive or defensive maneuverings of units on the battlefield to implement a part of the strategy. Operational art is the connector between strategy and tactics -- that is, operational art involves how units are pre-positioned and then moved onto the battlefield to initiate the tactics of engaging enemy forces. Thus, there are three levels of warfare - strategic, operational, and tactical - that must function synergically for success. (For a more thorough discussion of this analysis of warfare strategy, operations, and tactics, see Strategy, Tactics and Winning Wars.)
I have demonstrated, as have many other war analysts, that there is no such thing as a war against terror. The Global War on Terror does not exist. "Terror" is a tactic (see, e.g., What are the military options in Iraq? and Iraq and the War: A Military Reader's Digest). The war we are fighting is against men, cells, networks, regimes and peoples who embrace a hegemonic political ideology driven by traditional and authoritative Islamic law, or what is termed Shari'a. In our war against the Sharia-faithful, the strategic level encompasses all theaters of conflict and the interactions between them - Middle East, Africa, Europe, Pacific, Homeland, etc. Within the Middle East Theater, Iraq and Afghanistan constitute operational levels of war, while Baghdad, Fallujah, Kabul, and Kandahar are examples of areas of operation (AO) at the tactical level.
During the Cold War, our strategy was "Containment," which involved defensively preventing the territorial expansion of the Soviet Empire. The shorthand for containment or strategic defensive warfare that sought blockage instead of victory was "limited war." Within the Containment-strategic-defensive framework (or, limited war strategy), there were occasions when we entered into offensive warfare on the operational/ tactical levels in Korea and Vietnam. Our strategic defensive posture, however, was reflected in the conflict end we sought, which was simply to push the communist invaders back into the northern regions of those countries, while leaving the aggressor regimes in power to renew hostilities on their timetable.
As should be evident even from this brief explanation, the strategic posture -- be it offensive or defensive -- is the determining factor in whether a belligerent is employing its resources offensively to end the war as rapidly as possible or is attempting to defensively prolong the war to stave off enemy victory. It almost goes without saying that, if a belligerent is on the strategic defensive not attacking his enemy's center of gravity to end the war, but is nevertheless on the operational/tactical offensive actively seeking combat within a limited AO, a high number of friendly casualties are going to result. But friendly casualties in a drawn out limited war environment brings us back to the fundamental formula of war and the MOTIVATION factor. If a belligerent's domestic support base, especially in representative polities, will not tolerate significant, continuing casualties inherent in strategic defensive limited war, that belligerent cannot afford to undertake a drawn out limited war. Vietnam, and now Iraq, leaves no doubt about the veracity of that statement.
Parenthetically, it should be noted that a military force could logically assume the strategic defensive posture when it has time on its side or when the defensive posture does not lead to kinetic warfare but a guarded standoff. The retreat of the Russian Tsar's army before the Grand Army of Napoleon in 1812 to stall until the Russia winter decimated the invading French forces is an example of the former and the Cold War between the Soviet Union and the US (and its NATO allies) is an example of the latter.
In summary, an enemy's CAPABILITY can be engaged strategically, operationally, and tactically, each in turn approached either offensively or defensively. Counterinsurgency, as employed in Vietnam and Iraq, is the classic example of being on the strategic defensive (i.e., fighting a kinetic limited war), while conducting operational/tactical offensive operations. To have fought Vietnam offensively at the strategic level, or to fight our enemies in Iraq as such, Clausewitz instructs us that the enemy's CAPABILITY must be effectively eliminated. This can be accomplished by targeting the enemy's "center of gravity".
In Vietnam, the enemy's center of gravity was North Vietnam, and in Iraq it is in Iran, Syria, and Saudi Arabia. U.S. counterinsurgent operations in Vietnam were no more effective in their day than the surge will prove to be in Iraq. The lesson of Vietnam, and now Iraq, is that the strategic defensive or limited war, even when waged on the operational and tactical offensive, will only end if and when the enemy's motivation is impaired because its strategic CAPABILITY is unimpaired. Thus, the enemy can increase, decrease, or temporarily cease combat operations at will. In short, the enemy retains the initiative at the insurgent in counterinsurgent warfare.
After 9/11, the U.S. went to war in the same wrongheaded way we have gone to war in every instance since World War II. In spite of the president's ringing rhetoric about permitting our enemy no sanctuary, even to the point of engaging the enemy preemptively, the U.S. again donned the national security straitjacket of strategic defensive limited war (Limited War Doctrine: A Fatal Flaw). The operative assumption underlying limited war postulates that even the most ardent ideological fanatics will accept stalemate or defeat before employing every means of warfare available to them and will not continue the war notwithstanding the continued capability to wage war. History has not borne out this sanguine assumption.
Another strategic defensive limited war fallacy is that both means and ends should be concomitantly limited. The idea that the U.S. wouldn't employ its ultimate means (i.e., nuclear weapons) has come to also limit the U.S. ends sought in the conflict. In other words, our refusal to use the ultimate weapon must mean we are not committed to ultimate victory in the form of the decisive defeat of our enemy. Instead, we seek "regime change" and "democracy-building" rather than unconditional surrender of all combatants. Indeed, counterinsurgency is the effort to maintain and build a civil society in and around limited kinetic battles with an enemy we don't seek to destroy. Rather than setting our strategic goal as the destruction of the enemy's CAPABILITY to wage war, we seek to contain, co-opt, integrate, re-integrate, and engage politically all in an effort to reduce the enemy's MOTIVATION to continue the war.
The Containment Policy was relativistic in terms of the situation and hence was instrumental in injecting the notion of limiting our conflict ends to the status quo ante-bellum (War by the Rules of Rational Choice Theory). But this approach places the initiative of war in enemy hands. For instance, we left the communist aggressor governments intact in North Korea and North Vietnam as the price for withdrawing U.S. troops from combat after the limited war strategy had twice failed, and in both cases these failures have come back to haunt us, as North Korea continues to plague us more than fifty years later and North Vietnam quickly turned our "fig leaf" retreat into victory, which then directly contributed to al-Qaeda's decision to initiate Jihad against us. The end sought in the Iraqi conflict is even less clear and decisive than in Korea and Vietnam because much of it is driven by an Iraqi political process that is in turn driven by military and political direction from its Shia and Sunni neighbors fighting a proxy war on Iraqi soil.
The critical point regarding the stateless Jihadi groups is that they are dependent on sponsoring states as a result of temporary but necessary alliances, if they are to be capable of doing any more than just surviving. For example, without a doubt, effective interdiction of the Jihadists' CAPABILITY - that is, the logistical support flowing out of Iran, Syria, and Saudi Arabia - would mean a substantial decrease in the intensity of combat in Iraq. Even the Baker-Hamilton Report acknowledged this central fact when it naively recommended that the insurgents' CAPABILITY (i.e., logistical) support could be curtailed through negotiation with Iran and Syria! All of the parties in the Iraq conflict know that the CAPABILITY of both stateless Jihadi groups and state-sponsored Jihadi groups is sustained by the logistical centers of gravity located in surrounding states. But the U.S. strategic end of fighting a limited, defensive war confines operations within the border of Iraq. (See, e.g., This is No Way to Win a War!)
We must jettison our Cold War national security thinking featuring limited war and instead realistically reassume our World War II strategic offensive posture. This will liberate us from the conceptual straightjacket of our own making and provide us the clarity necessary to prosecute this war to a victorious end. Our continued illogical commitment to limited war has manifested itself in our almost blind acceptance of the asymmetrical warfare of insurgency-counterinsurgency, thus putting our military personnel at unnecessary risk by forgoing our firepower advantage in a vain effort to "win the hearts and minds" of the Arab in the street. But this ignores the nature of that street.
Today, the tribes in the Anbar Province are working with Iraqi and Coalition forces to purge the foreign fighters of al Qaeda. But tomorrow, with the next assault by Shia militants on the Sunni strongholds there, the internecine blood bath will resume with yet more urgency. Insurgencies can be fought indefinitely if the re-supply lines remain open. This means that Coalition forces and their airborne assets are better utilized to prevent cross-border re-supply by striking depots in Iran than engaging in urban warfare at close quarters.
However, when we are forced to engage in urban combat, air and ground standoff weapons are just as capable of removing insurgents from urban strong points as is room-to-room fighting, yet are less costly to the American military in terms of casualties. The U.S. must ruthlessly use our technologically superior ground firepower and airpower to fight an asymmetrical war that plays to our strength -- technology, rather than being lured into close urban combat which capitalizes on the suicide commitment of the Shari'a-driven Jihadists.
Whether in conjunction with the current combat in Iraq or at some later date, the Jihadi-sponsoring states of Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia and possibly Pakistan will have to be confronted militarily and the Jihadi centers of gravity destroyed. Rather than repeating Operation Iraqi Freedom and attempting physical occupation of one or more of these Jihadi-sponsoring states, the U.S. should totally neutralize Jihadi CAPABILITY in the targeted state by a massive air campaign followed by a regime of "air control" that would involve repeated restrikes from the air of Jihadi activities until Jihadi activity is no longer detected. (Is there a viable military strategy for disarming Iran? - Part One and Is there a viable military strategy for disarming Iran? - Part Two)
The main article of Islamic faith we must focus on is Quranic: "It is they that obey Allah and his messenger, and fear Allah and do right, that will triumph." (Sura: 24:52). To be successful the West must destroy the CAPABILITY component of the Islamic war equation in order to degrade their MOTIVATION component. As Sura 24:52 makes clear, Shari'a-driven MOTIVATION rests on the faith that the Shari'a faithful are guaranteed to succeed in their conquest of the entire planet in the name of Islam. Many years ago when Christian Europe geared up to push the marauding Muslims out of Europe, it was understood that if CAPABILITY is repeatedly thwarted and destroyed, it inevitably erodes MOTIVATION. MOTIVATION is most effectively attacked through strategic offensive operations that destroy an enemy's center of gravity CAPABILITY. Indeed, Islam suffered many centuries of retraction and defeat until its collapse at the end of WW I, and the dismantling of the Ottoman Empire.
Today, the center of gravity CAPABILITY for the Shari'a faithful and their world wide efforts to effect submission to Allah lies in Iran, Saudi Arabia, the border regions shared by the Salafist tribes in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and to a lesser extent Syria, as well as the Muslim tribal regimes in Africa, Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon. It is going to take decades of undisputed domination and humiliation of the Shari'a faithful Jihadists by the West through air control to destroy Muslim MOTIVATION to continue Jihad. While displaying its superior dominating airpower, the West must also engage in psychological warfare continually publicizing the discrepancy between Allah's promise of success in Sura 24:52 and the reality that the Jihadists are powerless before Western technology.
U.S. gun camera film showing Jihadists being vaporized by Western weapons and emphasizing Islamic impotence should flood the Internet and the TV airwaves. While this psychological warfare attacking the "theology" of Shari'a-driven Islam will seem out of character for Western civilization, it is the only way that the Shari'a faithful may be defeated in a strategic sense. The West must attack and degrade the MOTIVATION that provides the Jihadists with their "reason" to murder in the name of their theo-political ideology. Instead of a promise of victory, Sura 24:52 must be made ashes in the mouths of Muslims. A seemingly unending air control campaign over enemy territory is the way to continually remind the Muslims of their subordinate status and the impotence of Allah without becoming mired in the quagmire of counterinsurgency.
There is no doubt that such a military strategy will require a radical mind-set shift in the West. Oil dependence will have to be eliminated through massive free market-driven oil exploration and exploitation together with a substantial increase in refinery capacity. Alternative "clean" energy sources should also be given an expanded free market playing field. Rigid control of our borders and immigration policy is a must to stave off the inevitable attempts to attack us from within. But these policies are needed now in any event and yet politicians sense that their constituents don't yet consider the matter urgent. Instead, we invest in diplomatic and environmental politicking where we "engage our enemies in candid discussions" in and out of the confines of the UN and we concern our selves with disappearing polar bears.
As oppressive as it may seem, war is never over until the defeated belligerent knows he is powerless to resist further. The historical evidence of this truth can be seen in the difference between what happened in post-World War I Germany as opposed to post-World War II Germany.