« Aaron Rodgers is a good man | Main | A French poll you may have missed »

November 16, 2015


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

See: Egypt's Yemen Intervention.

or in other words...


To me, the general issue with such intervetion like, say, all that foo-foo with Pancho Villa back in the day, is that you need a settlement at the end, whether you fight it out or you don't. You need a spoils for the new boss so he can spread favors around. Sometimes fighting will do the trick, because control over the money making asset (or geopolitical ones) like ports means you win and can dictate terms. Sometimes, you can simply hand the local leaders money and plum jobs like in the settlement of Yugoslavia Dissolution.

An intervention into a devastated and politically fractured country generally will do nothing--hence Ethiopia and Kenya in Somalia over the years. Even with a sort of settled down Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia have to live with repeated terrorism from al-Shabaab. Only that stops is helicopter money, enough of it, for Somalians, and the means to make use of that money.

One obvious strategy is "short sharp high profile ground combat; then hand captured areas over to the Iraqi government; then get out before the mass murders get underway".

Doug M.

An earlier version of this post discussed that option, Doug, but I took it out because it would not solve the problem of the Syrian side of the border. It isn't politically feasible for a French expeditionary force to hand off responsibility for nominal Syrian territory to the Iraqi government, assuming even that the Iraqis would want it.

OTOH, if they handed it over to various others who are NOT Assad? Like, say, the FSA and/or Kurds?

Two things come to mind. (Doug could say more, probably better.)

First, the war won't be over when it's over, not with three brigades. Raqqa, for example, holds about 200,000 people. That's a lot of places for insurgents to hide. In this scenario, the French may be able to reduce the cities to chaos and kill a lot of ISIS fighters, but it won't have gained anything resembling real control.

Would the FSA or the YPG really be up to the task? Yes, the Kurds took Sinjar, but I'm having trouble seeing them up to the task of pacifying all these cities. As for the FSA, well, how unifed is it?

Second, even when the cities are mostly pacified, you'll be talking about an extremely unstable area. The Kurds won't want the continually drip of bloodshed any more than the French. And the FSA, well, how is it going to spare the manpower if the war with Assad is continuing? And that, of course, begs the question of whether the FSA has enough internal control to even contemplate taking control of such vasty areas.

The Iraqi military could do both in conjunction with the French, but (a) they can't really cross the Syrian border and (b) what Doug said.

Fred Kaplan published a plan in Slate that looks good at first glance but sort of dissolves upon re-reading. I'll let someone else fisk it.


Presumably ISIS leaders' case for engaging in terrorist attacks is to bring the might of the West down on humble Arabs, leading to more radicalization and more support in their area of control. Do they have any other reasons?

Kaplan's case for getting the Saudis involved in the fight AGAINST ISIS is silly as ISIS is supported by the Saudis.

Can you explain why you argue that Saudi is supporting ISIS?

A clarification please, in your post you mentioned that one option would be to turn the area over to the "Syrian National Army". Are you referring to the Syrian Army (i.e. officially the Syrian Arab Army) or the Free Syrian Army?

And as for options on control, well they could hand it over to the Iraqis...who in turn would likely hand the area over to what they recognize as the legitimate authorities in Syria - the Syrian government and its Army. Iraq hasn't recognized the Syrian National Council as a legitimate anything and likely will not do so.

But if the French talk to the Iraqis and the Iraqis (separately and probably in parallel) talk to the Syrians then the French might be able to say they have formed a coalition with Iraq to displace Daesh from Iraq and Syria and that the Iraqis have agreed to assume temporary control of the areas taken by France. After that the Iraqis could then announce that in cooperation with the Syrian government they had reached a deal to temporarily occupy all formerly Daesh controlled areas in Syria and then proceed to hand them over to the Syrian government.

In a way it would somewhat resemble the Suez adventure of 1956 in that the French and British were not officially allied to the Israelis but were so allied de facto and in secret. Here the French would not officially ally themselves with the Syrian government, but the outcome could be such that they get to see the area handed over to what is likely the only force in the immediate area capable of and willing to control the area long term and attempt to keep a lid on ISIS. Because realistically, the Free Syrian Army is not going to be able to as you noted and none of the neighbours are going to want to (not Iraq, Jordan, Saudi Arabia etc...and inviting in Turkey would be absolute craziness). The French can then let Syria's civil war between the government and FSA burn itself out.

That database is interesting. If you look at total incidents worldwide it looks as if there's an extraordinary exponential increase in terrorism underway. But it's heavily concentrated in the Middle East, Afghanistan and Pakistan, four or five countries in Africa, and the Philippines. Outside of those areas there's no such thing.

But in all those areas it looks as if the rate has accelerated vastly even since 2010 or so, to rates that haven't been seen anywhere in a half-century.

Is some of this an artifact of reporting biases? Stuff that would have just been "a civil war is going on there" instead getting recorded as individual terrorist acts?

The comments to this entry are closed.