ISIL flagNow, if this were a courtroom drama, somebody would say, “Counsel asserts facts which are not in evidence.” Because the Iraqis, yes, their leadership (especially at political level) sucks. But so does ISIL’s. They’re winning not because their Joes Jamals are better, or because their leaders are better, but because they (1) know what they’re fighting for and (2) have support.

The Iraqis, conversely, are not fighting to win, but not to lose; and they have only half-hearted, grudging support from both of their external supporters, the USA and Iran. Both nations are willing to give the Iraqis a little boost, just enough so that they don’t lose; but neither really wants the Iraqis to win. That’s why ISIL is winning: in wars where only one side commits to victory, the outcome is foreordained.

Yet the clueless, who find their geographic centroid south of Philly and north of Richmond, are writing stuff like this, reporting on the statements of others with recklessly low levels of Vitamin Clue:

Furious American policymakers blasted the Iraqis for effectively abandoning the city. The Iraqi army “was not driven out of Ramadi,” Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey told reporters at a NATO summit in Brussels last week. “They drove out of Ramadi.”  Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, meanwhile, used an interview Sunday to publicly accuse the Iraqis of lacking the “will to fight,” The White House quickly tried to walk the comments back, but there is little doubt Carter was speaking for many inside the Pentagon.

“Walk the comments back.” That reminds us that there are two types of suits in national-security policy positions currently: academics with fashionable ideas about how America needs to decline, and former speechwriters and spin artists who think you can lie your way out of anything.

It takes some balls for a couple of palace eunuchs like Dempsey and Carter to talk about “lacking will to fight.” We have heard that the US “airstrikes” in support of the Ramadi defense were, seven, count ’em, 7, sorties. “Here’s your bombs, little brown guys. Make ’em count.”

We don’t know where Martin Dempsey and Ash Carter got the balls to say that stuff, but they ought to spit ’em out — any balls in the possession of either one of those geldings have to belong to someone else.

These two wizards of withdrawal have been the architects of ABED: abandonment, bugout, escape, and defeat.

And they’re preparing to do the same in Afghanistan. Top. Men.

So naturally Foreign Policy, which thinks Tom Ricks is smarter than anyone who ever put on a uniform (in part, because he never put on a uniform), thinks the US has been betrayed by the Iraqis here.

The Defense chief’s comments hinted at the biggest question hanging over both the Ramadi fight and the broader push against the Islamic State: can Baghdad win the war if its generals seem to be continually out-thought and out-maneuvered by their counterparts from the militant group?

via Why Are the Islamic State’s Commanders so Much Better than the Iraqi Army? | Foreign Policy.

I don’t know if that post was Ricks — perhaps not, it’s not bursting its banks with self-regard, the very Presidential-selfie of defense reporting — but it’s the sort of miscued nonsense he’s written his whole career, and naturally he’s now orbited by young, ambitious versions of his unaware-but-never-uncertain self.

Exercise for the reader: imagine Armchair Admiral General Ricks with his never-leaves-Acelaland attitude, transported in time to World War II.

“Why can’t the Poles stand up to the Germans? Is it Hitler’s leadership?”

“Which Admirals Should Hang for Pearl Harbor?”

“Ploesti Raid: Record Casualties, Production Uninterrupted. Time to Negotiate?”

“Allies Still Bogged Down in Italy. Mussolini Rescued. Are Our Generals Goldbricking?”

It’s a fun game: Beltway Defense Journalist. Anybody can play! Unless you know something about the military and defense.

But the shucking of responsibility in the Pentagon will have serious consequences. It took us fifteen years of recovery (and a couple of wars that would have been unnecessary) to overcome the damage to our reputation illustrated by that last chopper out of Saigon.

Everybody in Iraq who trusted us has been receiving the Delta House president’s answer: “You F’d up. You trusted us.”

This entry was posted in Media vs. Military, Unconventional Warfare on by Hognose.

About Hognose

Former Special Forces 11B2S, later 18B, weapons man. (Also served in intelligence and operations jobs in SF).

7 thoughts on “Foreign Policy: Why Are ISIL Leaders Better than Iraqis?

Tom Stone

You could have said the same thing about Vietnam.

The USA and the South Vietnamese did not fight to win, Individual soldiers and units did, but the prospect of another land war with China ( What the “Police Action”in Korea ended up being) was not palatable.

Dyspeptic Gunsmith

In my reading of Islamic history, I’ve found that Osama bin Laden was a highly thoughtful man when he said “When people see a strong horse and a weak horse, by nature they will like the strong horse.”

In that quote, bin Laden summarized 1,000+ years of fighting and side-switching in the middle east and in Islamic battles in particular. Say whatever you want about bin Laden, the guy understood his audience in the Muslim world.

There’s no question that ISIS is “the strong horse” here. They have a cause for which they are fighting. They can point to passage after passage in the Islamic holy texts and find alignment of their actions with those of Muhammad – and he was without sin, so there you go. We keep funding the ISIS forces by giving weapons to people who promptly drop or leave them in the face of ISIS coming to town.

The Iraqi government troops, aren’t strict in their observance of Islam, their leaders are probably at least as corrupt as ours are, and they don’t get war booty in the form of women and girls to do with as they wish. In the Muslim mind, this last bit is quite a payoff – don’t underestimate the power of free women to do with as they wish.

The government troops? They get paid – sometimes – in money that buys them very little.

When ISIS comes to town, they impose order by absolute force, and sharia law could look pretty attractive to those who have had to deal with the chaos of the last 10 years. Look at how many people here in the US are now willing to pitch the Constitution overboard for “law and order.” Freedom is a messy business and works only in the hands of intelligent and moral people. Third world people simply don’t want the burdens that come with freedoms. They want full bellies and children that grow to adulthood.

So, no, the Iraqi army won’t stand up to ISIS. Anyone who has read Islamic history can see what’s coming. A caliphate, run by ISIS and franchise groups. All the ‘intellectuals’ of the Beltway and academic circles continue to make the mistake of viewing ISIS through the perspective of the secular democratic lefty policy wonk; these are the people who think that “government is things we do together” and “Islam is a religion of peace,” among other silly tropes.


Looking at a map yesterday of the conflict in Syria it has the rebels right up against the Golan. Now I expect those rebels have been termed good rebels but damn I have a hard time believing that the Israeli state wants that on their border long term.


There’s no question that ISIS is “the strong horse” here. They have a cause for which they are fighting. They can point to passage after passage in the Islamic holy texts and find alignment of their actions with those of Muhammad – and he was without sin, so there you go. W

Not only that. ISIL seems to have a lot of former Baath party cadres in leadership positions, and it had a very good plan of action when it came into being.


The most interesting thing I’ve heard coming out of that area is the Palestinian Authority talking about surrendering to the idea of a One State solution. Of course easier said than done but it does complicate the machinations of the crackpots who dominate foreign policy but who don’t publicly acknowledge that fact.


There is an interesting blog about recent developments in Iraq

Very informative, and quite depressing, concerning former great plans for democracy and well being of locals. It seems that in short term this country will divide into sunni “caliphate”, Iranian shia protectorate and Kurdish state, as their central government is relying more and more on sectarian and ethnic originated militias, which wont do much for preserving national unity. That would not be so bad in long term if this arrangement would hold, save the inevitable genocide and displacement in the process. that is, if the sunnis could restrain themselves and establish just another “islamic republic”. But the whole idea of caliphate just denies any hope for normal diplomatic relations with other muslim or non muslim states, as it nullifies legitimacy for any other form of government. If IS perseveres it means a catastrophe for all those cushy gulf kingdoms, as well as for local shia population. One can hope that they will wear themselves up as Nazis once did by being too rabid to coexist with their neighbors and ultimately to weak to subdue them. Big enough war could bring some reason to those people, at least for some time. On the other hand, should they prove to be able to imitate Soviets… There could be another fifty sad years for the whole region. Judging by their propaganda videos they really seem to cater well for their target group, with all those heroic halfwit youths, black banners and catchy chanting. History just seem to repeat itself over and over again. One funny thing, Arabs seem to be very fond of AKMS and other atrocious variants of folding stocks on AKs – the wire sidefolder abominations of Tantals, MPi and AIMS. I guess that is fortunate for their targets, as those guys just seem to blast wildly without even bothering to shoulder their rifles. Same goes for their use of PKs – they even shoot them with one hand, classic Rambo style.


I am loathe to point out factual errata on the host’s part, but the phrase in question was not uttered by the Delta house president, but in fact by Eric Stratton, pledge Rush Chairman.

And offered, much like in the case of the recent SWAsia experience, after another similarly ill-advised road trip.

Unlike the Iraqis, at least Flounder could argue there was alcohol involved in the decision process.

Hognose Post author

And here I thought Eric Stratton = Otter = the guy who said that. The correction is noted.


Thank you to Aesop for helping WM’s to keep the facts straight! And I really enjoyed reading the multipe posts about “Happy RN week” !!