Corruption and terrorism

A review by the New York Times one of Sarah Chayes book ( … .html?_r=0) gave a very important quote: “Western officials,” she writes, “habitually flipped the sequence: First let’s establish security, then we can worry about governance.”-- Is it any surprise? It is the hardest thing to do, setting up a good government, and yet it is the thing that gets put off.
Recent piece by Graeme Wood in The Atlantic made the case that it was not the military or theological strength of ISIS that brought it control of several key areas of Iraq, but the weakness of the government to become a voice for everyone.
One of the contributors to that article in The Atlantic, Bernard Haykel, later added, in a separate interview in which he was defending himself against some criticism: “Let’s say you were an Iraqi, and you’ve had your entire family wiped out by the Shia government of Baghdad. Or you’ve seen your sister raped, or your brother tortured. Then you feel like you have nothing to lose, and the only way to respond to this is to resort to violence. And ISIS provides a ready-made ideology and package and movement to express that sense of rage.” ( … rd-haykel/).
What this means, in my opinion, is that rather than requiring the disavowal by the Muslim world of the ISIS ideology it would be of greater effect to achieve a disavowal by all Muslims of inter-faith violence and retribution, a cycle of revenge between Shia and Sunni that leaves no possibility of peace, but the fuel for extremism. Government is the solution, but it presupposes an acknowledgement of the rights of everyone under the State to be protected and equal under the Law, free from retaliation and oppression based on their beliefs. That condition is wanting, and has been wanting for hundreds of years.
An article by the Council Foreign Relationships stated that "Islam’s schism, simmering for fourteen centuries, doesn’t explain all the political, economic, and geostrategic factors involved in these conflicts, but it has become one prism by which to understand the underlying tensions. Two countries that compete for the leadership of Islam, Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shia Iran, have used the sectarian divide to further their ambitions. How their rivalry is settled will likely shape the political balance between Sunnis and Shias and the future of the region, especially in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, and Bahrain. ( … /p33176#!/). But even theological homogeneity is not an absolute guarantee, as the Iraq invasion of Kuwait showed. However the conflict in Syria and the rise of ISIS is certainly exacerbated by the ancient theological divide. As Haykel noted "“The Sunni Muslim community, under normal circumstances … [historically] had mechanisms for silencing or eliminating extremists who would emerge from among them,” Haykel said. “[But] Sunni Muslims feel really beleaguered today … It’s very hard for Sunnis to say, today, ‘Let’s go and fight ISIS militarily,’ when you also have, let’s say, the Assad regime killing hundreds of thousands of Sunni Muslims, or Iran and its forces in Iraq and Syria and Lebanon also attacking Sunnis at the same time. In a world where a lot of people are attacking Sunnis, it’s hard for Sunnis to say ‘ISIS is the only bad group.’”

Can a good government in either Afghanistan or Iraq emerge that rules with considerable magnanimity serve as proof that representative government is a viable alternative to the ISIS, and other Islamist (rather than Muslim) groups that use terrorism as a valid political tool? That is the question, but going back to the beginning, to the quote by Chayes, it is probably of greater importance to establish good government than to send in economic assistance.

There are several parts to this and I shall respond to just two.
First, the problem of good government. I maintain that the U.S slow demise
has come due to the failure of government caused by the right wing.
You can trace the government inability to do its job back to Raygun and
his attacks on government. You don’t want a doctor who thinks medicine
is the problem in our health issue’s, so why have a president or politician
who thinks that government is the issue in our lives. Government is the problem, not
the solution, said by Raygun and then why be president? This attack on government has
lasted over 30 years now. Now the second issue is the idea of religion and government.
The single biggest problem to world peace and the single biggest threat to humanity is
religion. Religion divides us, separates us, causes an us versus them mentality.
The threat world wide is religion and this division it causes between people, countries and humanity.
The only way to peace is the removal of religion from all aspects of our lives. I believe the greatest
threat to our continued survival is religion. Terrorism today is about religion, east vs west. The same
battle that has existed for over a thousand years between Christianity and Islam.


Hello Peter,
I think the first issue raised by you is merely a misunderstanding. I said at the end, to sort of summarize, “Can a good government in either Afghanistan or Iraq emerge that rules with considerable magnanimity serve as proof that representative government is a viable alternative to the ISIS, and other Islamist (rather than Muslim) groups that use terrorism as a valid political tool? That is the question, but going back to the beginning, to the quote by Chayes, it is probably of greater importance to establish good government than to send in economic assistance.” I meant good government abroad, in places like Iraq. Bad government opens up the path for the support of extremism.
On the second issue you raise, I think that your opinion is your opinion, but as a possible eventuality, I think that that has as much probability as finding ice in the core of the earth. The only thing as unlikely is that such thing is even needed. How quickly we forget about the tolerant Muslim societies in the Iberian peninsula.

Those tolerant Islamic societies in Spain liked to Jihad and enslave christian and Jewish women. There is a reason why south america turned out so screwed up. The mode of warfare that became acceptible to the peninsula was transfered to another realm, ideological assumptions of right and wrong intact, with tragic consequence. This isn’t due to Gothic or a general medieval inheritance, but interstate rivalries that went on for centuries at a low tempo. Much like it did in Iraq and Syria.

I think your over reaching here on what constitutes as good government, as you don’t offer up concrete examples. More pluralistic? Can say, Syria have a secular government as well as Shiite and Sunni religious courts that are voluntary, overlapping in jurisdiction but only applicable via a code of priority? Yes. So can Iraq. Even Afghanistan and Pakistan, a kind of Ottoman Millet System. Can they centralize their socialistic ambitions for relief and public works planning fairly? In a peak oil economy, yes… Which we lack, but Saudi Arabia is very fast running out of oil, so it will peak here within 15 years, enough time for a new generation. This benefits Iraq and Syria. Afghanistan has mineral exports to China and potentially India as its cash cow.

This is unlikely to happen, as in Nigeria with its booming oil reserve, if they can’t establish federally answerable local home guard militias cabable of holding the natural resources that are being extracted and processed, and dissociating paramilitary activities with Jihadi duties. A Pakistani in the Swat Valley specializing in security, in such a idealized state, might find the call to fuck some pagan Bon religion adherents up valley as palliable for some sin, or as a substitute for a lack of faith, or some perverse Imam’s Friday address to remember the Golden Rule, “Fuck Over Thy Infidel or Pagan Neighbor”, cause I don’t like them shopping in the same markets I do or mingling with my kids (which is essentially why many do this).

So… how would paramilitary reform be accomplished? Notice approximately 50 years ago, the US, Soviet Union, and Russia grappled with paramilitaries across the planet, and given Marxism’s emphasis on the economy, and proletariat’s, most armed militias were centered around mining and industry, or collective farm work. It was much worst then. Yet, in many regions, it ended, despite the Hugh weapons caches and ideological pamphlets aimed at eradicating competing factions, sometimes far more bitterly than anything the Sunni and Shia say to one another.

What would a competent government, in order to exploit its resources, to get money rolling in to help these people, do if it can’t stop local biases and inherited hatreds from outmaneuvering the federal government from moving in and securing every aspect of the extraction and refinement process, as well as delivering finished goods such as public works (sewage treatment, desalinization, electrical lines). We’ve inherited from the 20th century a real politick outlook that the guerilla is going to systematically undermine and upsurp these economic goals, systematically creating friction even if its own returns or minor, and much less than if they were pacifists, all for the sake of a feeling of control and self enrichment of a few warlords or a clique. A federal government couldn’t be expected to recruit and properly train, field and resupply, much less coordinate a military capable of holding all said economic sites. It would be reliant on local militias, and these militias are universal in outlook, not pluralistic. Only thing that overcomes their universal outlook is their greed and corruption, and general disdane for central authority other than their own.

The Sunni in Syria, from the Secular Kurd to the moderate Jihadi, have of coalition of twenty plus groups called in English “Euphrates Volcano”, you’ll find they are actually more open to compromise with Assad to fight back at ISIS than you think, though many certainly actively fight against Assad too. Many often times engage in diplomatic discussions to end the war with the Syrian government.

Other dimensions are lacking in your analysis, you discuss ISIS, a transnational Caliphate, but not the earlier idea of a middle eastern wide Arab State which Syria and Egypt created, and Iraq considered. This could fill that ideological need of their universal Islamic society as merely a Arab society. It was on the tables for a long time.

One reason it doesn’t seem viable is Iran has its fingers in many of those countries, is overwhelming Yemen to Saudi Arabia’s South, and has forced Saudi Arabia into entrenchment. It entrenched its northern border after Shia Maliki removed a brigade along the border, and has rushed to rebuild its southern defenses it stopped building due to treaty negotiations. It helped build a just off the straight of hormez to deny Iran legal claims to board and stop vessels in international waters, and to ensure commerance continues in the gulf.

This entrenchment is proclaimed in Teans-Arab ideological terms, and a arab treaty alliance modrlledvoff NATO has been approved for the umpteenth time, but Pakistan already backed out. Saudi Arabia has limited war making capacity, but now is actively developing it. It knows it is fast running out of oil, and can’t waste too much on endless buying up of hardware. Its military is rather poorly lead, despite top quality generals and pilots, it lacks good operational capacity and tactical competency. Its no match for Iran, can’t do much in Iraq or Syria save bomb or flood with money, and when it foes, its usually local jihsdi groups lead by the same characters as before who know the score already and talk the talk to get the funds, and ignores everyone after.

The getting the paramilitaries under control is paramount. US policy generally won’t back a Shia or Sunni militia (or christian for that matter, they are starting to pop up) unless it is well proven, tolerant, and based in a region in which it behaves as a political enclave, its own state. Peshmerga is the best example. We gave two embassies in their Iraqi territory alone. They are predominately Sunni, but secular, some athesist and Marxist, others Christians and Yazidi. They’ve shown a lot of evidence they can train and use dispersed paramilitary support, and project humanity missions for all religious groups in their area.

Why can’t Assad pull this off, why can’t the Sunni tribes accept the Shia militia claims in wanting to do this with getting their martyr armies to ally and cooperate with the Sunni Sons of the Tribes?

Furthermore, Iran has a minority Sunni population, Saudi Arabi a Shia population. They have a tense yet working relationship in allowing Shia to engadge in the Hadj (though reports of people being sent back due to answering a Saudi Border guards about which of the prophet’s successors to follow as “wrongly” causes a lot of anger and unnecessary friction, though its without sanction on the Saudi side to even adk that).

I’m interested in seeing your solution. I doubt any of the authors you’ve mentioned can begin to answer any of this.

Hello Rain

It is not that I am overreaching. I left the problem open because in fact no one has seen a solution in the ME since the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire. I like the examples you bring. But in Iraq there seems to a lot of “unfinished business” and magnanimity seems to be in short supply. ISIS is now facing an Iraqi mostly Shia army as well as some Sunni militias. As long as that division persist, that reflects a fundamental mistrusts, ISIS will continue to claim terrain. Many support to a partition of Iraq, but as the conflict reveals, the partition would actually have to include bordering states, who will not give up sovereignty just because the West asks nicely. So what then? Well, hopefully ISIS will force Sunnis and Shias who share the common goal of suppressing ISIS to learn to trust each other an then, perhaps, a coalition government, with heavy checks and balances that allow the defeated minority to feel protected, will emerge. At least in America that is the one take away an observer can draw: It looks ugly, and sometimes it does not work, but the structures afford the country the luxury of having very diverse opinions. Different countries, I know, but I am talking about structures that protect political minorities which are created by the local government.

I think that it is not the religion driving, or requiring such violence, but the political, secular goals of these political/religious leaders like Baghdadi. Securing the oil reserves all for your social group doesn’t require concern with God, merely self-interest.

The post was not meant to be exhaustive. One page cannot encapsulate the solution to the ME problems. I was just commenting that as part of the solution it is essential to clean up corruption. That is easy to state, much harder to do. FIFA shows that this problem is not local.

Right. Those years under the protection of the US Air Force gave the Kurds the liberty to work as a quasi-independent state within a state to this day.

For me a “solution” would be a coalition government. It requires the Shia majority to act as if it didn’t have this majority. This gesture is a first step that might never occur. Can the U.S. tie its economic aid to compliance with such plan? Who knows. The Sunnis have to be engaged if representative government is going to work. Can it work? Maybe. Imagine an ideal
State of Affairs in which government concentrates in simple projects in which everyone can agree on, such as providing basic utilities that could allow Iraq to become an investment destination down the road. Maybe if officials were after this goal, rather than establishing protections against the other group, Iraqi govt might have a chance.

Double Post

A real coalition government is as unlikely as a voluntary partition.

Easy way around this is to use juxtaspositioning ratios of paramilitaries, like how the Romans did, sending troops recruited from one end of the empire to the other. Obviously, I don’t mean send Iranian militias into Sunni territory, though at initial face value, one could construe that.

Take one battalion at a time, and send off to Arab League or NATO country to be funded by and trained and equiped to ideal Iraqi Army Specifications, up to and including compatible humvees or mech units. Make sure these units are 60-40% Sunni/Shia mix, with a 60/40% for its officers, not half and half. Each team and squad should have similar mix, prior to retraining. Six months training, learning in the first two months weapons cleaning and troop movement procedures, ln the next two entrenchment and Urban Operations, with emphasis on using military grade barb wire, sandbagging rooms for infantry, and digging DragonTeeth and setting up lanes of fire for a company/battalion within a city. Last two are familiarization with convoy vehicles, going on patrols, setting up cordons, infantry maneuvers, collecting intelligence, coordinating scouts to call for artillery and aircraft fire. Two months per bracket, everyone trained together. One Iraqi Battalion to NATO-Arab League Brigade, sim rounds only in MOUT, live ammunition only on fireing line.

Troops arrive back in Iraq, Spring or Fall (to avoid climatization issues.)

Iran can have a influence too, just not via militias. They can train regular units along side Iraqi Units.

A basically trained infantry battalion can:

Aggressively maneuver in the theater, showing up and retreating as it sees fit, pulling off lightening strikes effecting supply lines, troop reinforcement, and contesting control of the roadways. They can take and hold remote locations, hard for ISIS to approach due to the harshness of terrain and exposure to aircraft surveillance and bombing.

This kind of unit eliminates a lot of fear about Sunni/Shia majority units, as they would of been trained for cooperation, and not creed. People who can’t operate under these conditions are weeded out and replaced as training progresses (unit will train new recruits as they train under NATO/Arab Union, catching them up).

The quotas for commissioning generals should be 80% planned so Sunnis have a majority (60% Sunni-40% Shia), the last remaining 20% anyone via merit, such as battlefield success, writing excellent theoretical treatises, etc. The 80% need to also be promoted by merit as well, but obviously greater stress is going to be placed on Sunni colonels given a larger ratio of them are selected, so they will need to be encouraged to seek international service time (working as Laison in a foreign military, peacekeeping missions, etc). If they can’t pass mustard, then their bases and divisions simply don’t get a general, but retain a colonel acting as general until they get the hint and start actively seeking foreign experience under the auspices of the Iraqi Military.

Officer Candidacy School… Soldiers seeking Officer Candadicy need to have half their candidates, upon completion, sent internationally, to ANY country, with a standardized Army, and trained along side them. It can be China. South Africa, Brazil, Canada… don’t care. They train, ghost, and learn the methods and administrative practices the lowest ranks of officers experience. Obviously easier for infantry or calvary, harder to convince technologically sensitive branches such as intelligence or communications from joining up with advanced, first world militaries. Such positions need to find similar countries well away from Iraq so they are more open and willing to train.

Iraq needs to come up with a simple plan, in the mean time, to air transport its units at night to very remote, inhospitable locations, with basic shelter, water, and food distribution in mind, and set up refugee camps, and heavily entrench them. No more than 3000 people per camp administered by two leg units.

They also need to start buying up metallic alloys off the international market used for couterfieting coins, to be used as the core of silver and gold ISIS dinari. They can start radically debasing ISIS currency, putting increased stress on their merchants. Its something the Austrian Economic folks don’t like to talk about, but gold and silver economies are rather easy to undermine, and the Chinese are notorious for flooding international markets with fake coinage.

Lastly, a new kind of concrete barrier capable of being placed and adjusted, must have these characteristics:

No higher than a man’s waist, or longer than a man lying down.

Must have a curve, similar to a skateboarding rink, that will wreak havir on the front fender and lower frame of any vehicle trying to drive over it, causing a driver to crash in the front and buckle.

Needs to have 3 inch holes already fitted when concrete is laid over the rebar… this accomplishes two effects: will make it batter able to process the force of explosions, as well as making it easy to stake it in place underneath, or let stakes stick up through it. Barb wire can be snaked around this… if the vehicle plows through, the wire can rip apart any hoses between the chassis and wheels/tracks.

Normal checkpoint fortifications can be set up 1 meter behind this. This will make the Construction Vehicle Blitzkrieg experienced at Ramadi and Haditha Dam easier to stop. Rooms within the city need to be sandbagged, bottom story only. Snipers and RPGs can be launched as before from above, but basic infantry need to focus on lines of fire and giving their force the ability to move internally within the city to reinforce, while denying ISIS.

Al-Nursa needs bribed by Iraq and Qatar, taken completely off the battlefield in Iraq. They can be integrated, war crime suspects barred (they can always head to Syria). This would be more palitable to them if Shiite Militias retreat to Shia strongholds, and a constitutional ban on them being deployed alongside of federal troops or alone outside of Shia zones save for official pilgrimage routes, or command from the Iraqi Military Command (three star or higher), for no longer than 3 months without review by all high ranking Sunni Colonels and above. US Army Rangers only deploy for three months, so it is doable. If the colonels don’t accept, they can select a replacement unit if their invention or choosing to replace them.

Lastly… All Iraqi Police are to have weapons provided to them from the central government. They are to be rotated to a neighboring region 3 months of the year, once a year, and not the same region back to back. Not to be transfered as units, but as individuals. No more than 40% of police force is to be transfered at any one time. Housing will be difficult, so expect bivoucing at the station or checkpoints, and give them basic supplies to build them up.

The Kurds have done a decent job sneaking around ISIS and threatening Mosul’s communications east to Raqqa. I would of hoped the regular Iraqi army would of done this, but their morale was simply too low. It is of the highest priority to shut down ISIS’ ability to ship the Fall Harvest to Raqqa. The Iraqi Army will need refugee camps set up in remote locations to send the Syrians fleeing Raqqa once this is accomplished. In order to succeed at this, you have to start immediately. A minimal of force can pull this off, stationing Infantry with a handful of Engineers can quickly turn that infantry unit into a combat engineering unit, with basic sapper capacity. The UN already approved this food distribution route around the international checkpoint. The Iraqi Army as a result of ever coming under attack therefore has the legal mandate to enter Syrian territory, and blow to hell positions and bridges that threaten its humanitarian mission.