Wednesday, February 18, 2015


The news is filled with interesting stories about our failure to win in Iraq and the subsequent destruction of much of Iraq and now Syria. I am not convinced they really understand the problem with building an actual national army out of your basic middle east muslims. They all have some characteristics in common that limit their abilities to unite and execute national military strategies.

First, they are muslim. This creates an almost hysterical unwillingness to act in the face of allah's manifest will. Two ships on a collision course will each decide, if crewed by muslims to simply let allah sort it out. If they hit each other and sink, inshallah. If they avoid each other, inshallah. Most of the rest of us would alter course in accordance with the well and long established international rules of the road.

The first part is a killer for national armies because they require the full trust in the competence, honesty and integrity of their superiors. No arab army has mastered that art since the caliphate and they used Jannissaries for the real fighting. Janissaries were european slaves forced to convert to islam and then used throughout the arab world as the loyal guardians of the realm.

If a junior cannot trust that his leaders will rescue him if they push him into what appears to be an untenable military position, he will simply refuse to go. If he is senior enough, he will order someone more junior to go and spring the trap or launch a spoiling attack. That's never going to happen in islamic national armies because they are also ruled by a third characteristic.

The rule is made crystal clear in the middle east from birth. Family, then tribe, maybe clan, strangers never. A subordinate may accept an order to move into certain danger if issued by a senior in his family, maybe if he was in the same tribe and almost certainly not if it came from any other source. American advisors in the middle east found this intensely frustrating.

One laughs when one reads that our response to ISIS is to send 'trainers' to 'train' the islamics. Didn't we do that for 14 years in Iraq and Afghanistan? Are they really slow learners?

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