U.S. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter has made a statement that nearly all the world’s media have sensationally reported: “We won’t hold back from supporting capable partners in opportunistic attacks against ISIL, or conducting such missions directly whether by strikes from the air or direct action on the ground.”
The statement is truly curious and supposedly speaks to the fact that the White House and the Pentagon have decided to make adjustments in the U.S. fight with the Islamic State — a radical organization banned in Russia — and the terrorist thugs that support it.
But without a bottle, you won’t understand Ashton: Publicly announcing a “ground operation,” he immediately makes a political maneuver and completes a verbal somersault. The Department of Defense isn’t going to completely change U.S. tactics in the fight against the militants, he says; it’s planning to continue to primarily use aviation and employ ground forces only when necessary.
So just what kind of “ground operation” is it if airplanes are still going to be playing first violin and infantry will be thrown into combat only “when necessary?” And if it isn’t necessary? What kind of casuistry is that?!
Something Obviously Reeks of Pentagon Populism
The U.S. Department of Defense says that a raid carried out a few days ago, in which the Americans, together with Kurdish and Iraqi soldiers, were able to free dozens of hostages and obtain important intelligence that “opens new possibilities for the fight against the terrorists” will serve as a model. Is it possible to do without this verbal haze? And indeed, there are a whole lot more ruses here than models of success. The raid was a local one and for propaganda purposes, so as to show the world some kind of land-based coalition of Americans with Iraqis and Kurds — whom U.S. intelligence “bought” for show. And the “hostages” turned out to be a dozen or so ordinary Iraqis who had continued to live in the areas occupied by the armed thugs. The no-shots-fired theatrical performance was a success. It turns out police raids on Iraqi homes and yards, from which the Islamic State group fighters have already fled, qualify as “model” ground operations.
When it really comes down to serious clashes with the Islamic State group and its accomplices, then the Americans will understand that fighting on the ground isn’t hitting thugs from an airplane or an American pilot dropping bombs on a target and flying off to his base — especially when no one’s shooting at him from below, and there’s no enemy in the air, besides. But then, you see, soldiers and officers have to be sent in to fight by land, under the terrorists’ bullets and missiles. And that means they’d be unlikely to get away without soldiers being wounded and dying — something that won’t be met with enthusiastic applause in the U.S. Congress. Indeed, Obama doesn’t really want to set in motion the ritual tear at the graves under striped flags in Arlington National Cemetery.
If a U.S. ground operation that includes clashes with the Islamic State group forces actually happens, we’ll nevertheless have to thank the Americans for agreeing to such a risky job. Russia, Syria and Iraq all need “shop hands” in the fight against the Islamic State group.
If an American ground operation against the terrorists develops in Iraq, there will be no questions asked — Baghdad has given the Americans permission to do so. With Syria, however, there is a serious legal hitch: Assad hasn’t asked Washington to have American military roam around with its weapons over Syria’s expanses — nor in Syrian airspace. Unlike Russia, the U.S. hasn’t given a damn about this most important international law. And no slogans about a “noble aim” justify such perfidy.
And yet, here is another curious statement by Ashton Carter on the very same topic: “We won't hold back from supporting capable partners in opportunistic attacks against ISIL or conducting such missions directly, whether by strikes from the air or direct action on the ground.”*
But Who Are the ‘Partners?’
It turns out that all the fighters, except Russia’s and those of Syria’s legitimate government, are with the Islamic State group. This childish petulance on the part of the U.S., jealous that Russia actually snatched away from them the strategic initiative in the fight with the Islamic State group and didn’t allow them to throw a hangman’s noose around Assad’s neck, is increasingly turning into a foolish and dangerous adherence to principle. It might turn into a heavy loss of life for the U.S. Maybe then, the plain and simple truth that it’s far easier and far more reasonable to smash the Islamic State group with a military “kolkhoz”** will get through to the Americans. The worst thing about the narrow-minded ambitions of U.S. politicians and the U.S. military is that their country will have to pay the highest price — human lives — for their mistakes.
*Editor’s note: The author is referring to the same quote as at the beginning of the article
**Translator’s note: Here the author is using the Russian word for a type of Soviet collective farm to refer to the anti-Islamic State group coalition proposed by Russian President Putin.