THE weakness of strategic analysis within the NATO bloc is the fetish about neatness in categorization. Each subject gets boiled down into a series of bullet points susceptible to power point presentations, and till this is done, conclusions get avoided.
Needless to say, conclusions finally reached after such a straitjacketing of facts (and perceived facts) are usually valueless in the field. Of course, as each “scholarly study” within NATO crossreferences and quotes another, a body of “independent but mutually corroborating” literature develops, which gets used not only within the bloc but subsequently becomes the bible for scholars in countries where academic communities follow the fashions set by the key countries within NATO.
That the conclusions reached after such apparently laborious research are swiftly shown to be false is met by the riposte that “conditions have changed”, naturally as a consequence of the fecklessness of any participant other than the NATO memberstates themselves. Because there are so many objectives being promoted by the different wings, interests and countries of NATO, very often contradictory to and even toxic to each other, a line of action in a subsidiary theatre has the effect of diluting the prospects of success in core objectives. Of course, such Philosophers are as jealous as women.
Each wants a monopoly of praise. effects are never touched upon in the selfcongratulatory tomes which pile out of the alliance in a continuous stream of selfpraise. The problem is that communities across the globe are having to endure the pain caused by the mistakes made by the different states which have coalesced into NATO. Among the most consequential is the manner in which the organisation is dealing with ISIS, an issue which this columnist flagged as of lifethreatening significance to the GCC almost as soon as reports of the emergence of the group.
Its appeal is not merely to the theologically inclined but to the sadistic, in a way similar to the fascination exercised by the National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP) over Germans in the 1930s. Joining the NSDAP gave the mediocre and the rootless among Germans the opportunity to fulfill their fantasies of revenge, in the case of the NSDAP (otherwise known as the Nazi party) by atrocities against a peaceful and wholly inoffensive community that excelled by sheer merit, those of the Jewish faith.
These days, by joining ISIS, a youth can gain access to slave women who he can use at will, and to human beings who can be treated with the cruelty sometimes shown by young children to small animals. Unless ISIS be eliminated within the next six to seven months, it will be too late to avoid a further metastasis that accelerates its spread within the GCC as well as within the NATO bloc.
Unfortunately, not merely are the military measures of NATO against ISIS halfhearted, they are often counteracted by other steps that have the effect of strengthening the group. An example is UN envoy Steffan de Mistura’s forcing of the Assad regime to declaring a halt to bombing operations in and around Aleppo. Clearly, de Mistura is responding to Ankara, in a context where Turkey has become to ISIS what Islamabad is to the Taliban. Certainly such bombings result in the deaths of innocent civilians, but given the reluctance of NATO to strike hard at ISIS targets, they are an essential means of finally driving that group out of Syria’s business hub. The bombing pause caused as result of the diplomacy of Stefan de Mistura will give a second wind to ISIS and further prolong the agony of those in its clutches.
In effect, what NATO is carrying out is the old Comintern policy of “Unity and Struggle”, where some steps get taken against the group, while others assist ISIS. As yet, there has been no movement towards identifying and punishing the Iraqi army commanders who were bribed by ISIS and who therefore arranged for the surrender of their men during 2013. Unless at least a few such treasonous elements in the Iraqi military get prosecuted, the culture of permissiveness towards ISIS will continue. To this day, vast amounts of money are flowing to the group from locations across the GCC. Such donors seem to be oblivious to the fact that from 2019 onwards, a metastized ISIS will erupt within their countries and plunge them into chaos by 2023 of a virulence which will make them failed states, with attendant geopolitical consequences.
It is unfortunate that India and China are simply sitting on their hands doing nothing about ISIS, despite that organisation becoming a major threat to both. What is needed is for China to pursue a twin track policy of assisting the Damascus government militarily in Syria and the elected government in Baghdad to roll back ISIS and for India to join hands with Egypt and the UAE in Syria and Libya against ISIS targets, and with the Government of Iraq in that country. Standing by is no longer an option for these global powers. As for Russia, Moscow needs to do more than merely giving (minimal) assistance to the Assad regime. Moscow needs to get involved in the air war against ISIS together with China and India. Given their policy of the right hand assisting ISIS while the left hand gives it a slap, NATO may be expected to frown at such assistance.
However, such misgivings need to be disregarded, for the measures used by NATO are only prolonging a war which ought to be brought to a speedy conclusion within the year. “Unity and Struggle” is a defeatist philosophy in the face of an enemy of the chemistry of ISIS, just as the lack of response to Hitler in the Rhineland and later in Czechoslovakia ensured that the 193945 war became inevitable. ISIS can still be eliminated without significant human cost, but that window is closing.
The organisation is on the cusp of metastizing into a deadlier variety with a pulling power over hundreds of thousands of maladjusted youth in the NATO bloc rather than merely a few thousand. NATO needs to throw off its “Unity” steps and focus only on struggle. The war can still be won within a year, but if not, will take two decades to overcome, at a cost in human lives of millions.