Into the (halal) meat grinder they go.
The way to win such a war is by attrition, that is, by feeding into the meat-grinder a quarter to a third of the enemy’s available manpower. Once a sufficient number of those who wish to fight to the death have had the opportunity to do so, the war stops because there are insufficient recruits to fill the ranks. That is how Generals Grant and Sherman fought the American Civil War, and that is the indicated strategy in the Middle East today.
The grim task of regional security policy is to channel the butchery into areas that do not threaten oil production or transport.
Ultimately, ISIS is a distraction. The problem is Iran. Without Iran, Hamas would have no capacity to strike Israel beyond a few dozen kilometers past the Gaza border. Iran now has GPS-guided missiles which are much harder to shoot down than ordinary ballistic missiles (an unguided missile has a trajectory that is easy to calculate after launch; guided missiles squirrel about seeking their targets).
Sherman’s 300,000 and the Caliphate’s Three Million
by David P. Goldman
August 12, 2014
When General William Tecumseh Sherman burned the city of Atlanta in 1864, he warned, “I fear the world will jump to the wrong conclusion that because I am in Atlanta the work is done. Far from it. We must kill three hundred thousand I have told you of so often, and the further they run the harder for us to get them.” Add a zero to calibrate the problem in the Levant today. War in the Middle East is less a strategic than a demographic phenomenon, the resolution of which will come with the exhaustion of the pool of potential fighters.
The Middle East has plunged into a new Thirty Years War, allows Richard Haass, the president of the Council of Foreign Relations:
It is a region wracked by religious struggle between competing traditions of the faith. But the conflict is also between militants and moderates, fueled by neighboring rulers seeking to defend their interests and increase their influence. Conflicts take place within and between states; civil wars and proxy wars become impossible to distinguish. Governments often forfeit control to smaller groups – militias and the like – operating within and across borders. The loss of life is devastating, and millions are rendered homeless.
Well and good: I predicted in 2006 that the George W. Bush administration’s blunder would provoke another Thirty Years War in the region, and repeated the diagnosis many times since. But I doubt that Mr. Haass (or Walter Russell Mead, who cited the Haass article) has given sufficient thought to the implications.
How does one handle wars of this sort? In 2008, I argued for a “Richelovian” foreign policy, that is, emulation of the evil genius who guided France to victory at the conclusion of the Thirty Years War in 1648. Wars of this sort end when two generations of fighters are killed. They last for decades (as did the Peloponnesian War, the Napoleonic Wars and the two World Wars of the 20th century) because one kills off the fathers in the first half of the war, and the sons in the second.
This new Thirty Years War has its origins in a demographic peak and an economic trough. There are nearly 30 million young men aged 15 to 24 in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Iran, a bulge generation produced by pre-modern fertility rates that prevailed a generation ago. But the region’s economies cannot support them. Syria does not have enough water to support an agricultural population, and the displacement of hundreds of thousands of farmers into tent cities preceded its civil war. The West mistook the death spasms of a civilization for an “Arab Spring,” and its blunders channeled the youth bulge into a regional war.