The pretend war: why bombing Isil won't solve the problem

The deployment of our military might in Syria will exacerbate regional disorder – and it will solve nothing

28 November 2015

9:00 AM

28 November 2015

9:00 AM

Not so long ago, David Cameron declared that he was not some ‘naive neocon who thinks you can drop democracy out of an aeroplane at 40,000 feet’. Just a few weeks after making that speech, Cameron authorised UK forces to join in the bombing of Libya — where the outcome reaffirmed this essential lesson.

Soon Cameron will ask parliament to share his ‘firm conviction’ that bombing Raqqa, the Syrian headquarters of the Islamic State, has become ‘imperative’. At first glance, the case for doing so appears compelling. The atrocities in Paris certainly warrant a response. With François Hollande having declared his intention to ‘lead a war which will be pitiless’, other western nations can hardly sit on their hands; as with 9/11 and 7/7, the moment calls for solidarity. And since the RAF is already targeting Isis in Iraq, why not extend the operation to the other side of the elided border? What could be easier?

But it’s harder to establish what expanding the existing bombing campaign further will actually accomplish. Is Britain engaged in what deserves to be called a war, a term that implies politically purposeful military action? Or is the Cameron government — and the Hollande government as well — merely venting its anger, and thereby concealing the absence of clear-eyed political purpose?

Britain and France each once claimed a place among the world’s great military powers. Whether either nation today retains the will (or the capacity) to undertake a ‘pitiless’ war — presumably suggesting a decisive outcome at the far end — is doubtful. The greater risk is that, by confusing war with punishment, they exacerbate the regional disorder to which previous western military interventions have contributed.

Even without Britain doing its bit, plenty of others are willing to drop bombs on Isis on either side of the Iraq-Syria frontier. With token assistance from Bahrain, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, US forces have thus far flown some 57,000 sorties while completing 8,300 air strikes. United States Central Command keeps a running scorecard: 129 Isis tanks destroyed, 670 staging areas and 5,000 fighting positions plastered, and (in a newish development) 260 oil infrastructure facilities struck, with the numbers updated from one day to the next. The campaign that the Americans call Operation Inherent Resolve has been under way now for 17 months. It seems unlikely to end anytime soon.

In Westminster or the Elysée, the Pentagon’s carefully tabulated statistics are unlikely to garner much official attention, and for good reason. All these numbers make a rather depressing point: with plenty of sorties flown, munitions expended and targets hit, the results achieved, even when supplemented with commando raids, training missions and the generous distribution of arms to local forces, amount in sum to little more than military piddling. In the United States, the evident ineffectiveness of the air campaign has triggered calls for outright invasion. Pundits of a bellicose stripe, most of whom got the Iraq war of 2003 wrong, insist that a mere 10,000 or 20,000 ground troops — 50,000 tops! — will make short work of the Islamic State as a fighting force. Victory guaranteed. No sweat.

And who knows? Notwithstanding their record of dubious military prognostications, the proponents of invade-and-occupy just might be right — in the short term. The West can evict Isis from Raqqa if it really wants to. But as we have seen in other recent conflicts, the real problems are likely to present themselves the day after victory. What then? Once in, how will we get out? Competition rather than collaboration describes relations between many of the countries opposing Isis. As Barack Obama pointed out this week, there are now two coalitions converging over Syria: a US-led one, and a Russia-led one that includes Iran. Looking for complications? With Turkey this week having shot down a Russian fighter jet — the first time a Nato member has downed a Kremlin military aircraft for half a century — the subsequent war of words between Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Vladimir Putin gives the world a glimpse into how all this could spin out of control.

The threat posed by terrorism is merely symptomatic of larger underlying problems. Crush Isis, whether by bombing or employing boots on the ground, and those problems will still persist. A new Isis, under a different name but probably flying the same banner, will appear in its place, much as Isis itself emerged from the ashes of al-Qaeda in Iraq.

Does the West possess the wherewithal to sustain another long war? Only if the allies wage that war exclusively from the air. The British army is now the smallest it has been since the 19th century, Cameron’s government having reduced it by 20 per cent since coming to power. The French army today numbers just over 100,000. London and Paris inevitably look to the United States as the pre-eminent member of the western alliance to take up the slack (the US still spends almost twice as much on defence as all other Nato members put together). But apart from Obama’s evident reluctance to close out his presidency by embarking upon a new war, advocates of a major ground offensive against Isis should note that the United States army is also shrinking. It’s also considerably worn out by the trials of the past dozen or more years. Those who cheer from the bleachers may be eager for action. Those likely to be sent to fight, not to mention citizens who actually care about the wellbeing of their soldiers, may feel less keen.

The fact is that Britain, France, the United States and the other allies face a perplexing strategic conundrum. Collectively, they find themselves locked in a protracted conflict with Islamic radicalism — of which Isis is but one manifestation. Prospects for negotiating an end to that conflict anytime soon appear to be nil. Alas, so too do prospects of winning it.

In this conflict, the West as a whole appears to enjoy the advantage of clear-cut military superiority. By almost any measure, we are stronger than our adversaries. Our arsenals are bigger, our weapons more sophisticated, our generals better educated in the art of war, our fighters better trained at waging it.


Yet time and again the actual deployment of our ostensibly superior military might has produced results other than those intended or anticipated. Even where armed intervention has achieved a semblance of tactical success — the ousting of some unsavoury dictator, for example — it has yielded neither reconciliation nor willing submission nor even sullen compliance. Instead, intervention typically serves to aggravate, inciting further resistance. Rather than putting out the fires of radicalism, we end up feeding them.

Although the comparison may strike some as historically imprecise, the present moment bears at least passing resemblance to the last occasion when British and French leaders got all worked up about taking on obstreperous Arabs. Back in 1956, the specific circumstances differed, of course. Then, the problem attracting the ire of British and French policymakers was the Arab nationalism of Gamal Abdel Nasser, who in seizing the Suez canal had committed a seemingly unpardonable offence. And the issue was preserving imperial privilege, not curbing terrorism. But then, as today, in both London and Paris, an emotional thirst for revenge overrode sober calculation.

The vicious Isis attacks in Paris represent another unpardonable offence. Through war, Cameron and Hollande seek to avenge the innocents who were killed and wounded. But as the humiliating outcome of the Suez war reminds us, there are some problems to which war is an unsuitable response.

Across much of the greater Middle East today, we confront one such problem. For western governments to reflexively visit further violence on that region represents not a policy but an abdication of policy. It’s past time to think differently.

Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.

Andrew J. Bacevich is a retired US colonel, and author of America’s War for the Greater Middle East: A Military History, due out in April.

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Show comments
  • Kasperlos

    Colonel Bacevich is one of the few clear headed military thinkers out there. Sadly, his insights don’t influence our leaders as we have seen these past years. The continued squandering of money, materiel and personnel on a never-ending Middle East civic project erodes us to a sate of exhaustion. I dare ask how many people can recall Western military exploits in Afghanistan and/or Iraq in the years 2005, 2007, 2010. It all becomes lost, foggy, distant, unimportant and best left to the military historians to deal with. This is a protracted war of insanity. Insanity on the part of radical Islamic terror groups and on our part for falling into the sand trap. The failures are writ large and evident to see with the mass illegal migration from the Middle East into the very heart of Europe. Would we have been worse off without the Iraq and Afghanistan interventions? That is something we should address as it is a relevant question to the current matter at hand, i.e. Syria.

  • Fasdunkle

    as we pulled out of Afghanistan the Saudis announced plans to build a $100 million mosque in Kabul. As we bomb Iraq the Saudis are funding mosques in the UK and sending us more of their “preachers”

    IS are a symptom, not the cause.

  • GripperStebson

    Until we stop implementing the foreign policy of Saudi Arabia by proxy we’re just digging the well of misery deeper for ourselves. Their entire strategy is the promote and spread Wahhabism – a noxious medieval creed – poisonous to western values. If ever a regime deserved changing it is the House of Saud.

    • rationality

      You honestly believe that everything going on right now is down the House of Saud?

      It is due to this complete ignorance that we will lose everything as their allies turn the screws laughing at our stupidity.

      • Mr B J Mann


        It’s not down to the House of Saud, but their allies turn the screws laughing at our stupidity?!

        You forgot to explain who it’s down to!!!

        • rationality

          I shouldnt have to but as its so obvious.

          What allies does Saudi have (and I dont mean it poisonous Middle Eastern little brothers)?

          • Mr B J Mann

            If you mean the US: why don’t you want its ally Saudi Arabia to stop funding terrorism?

          • rationality

            I dont mean the US. Its not just about funding terrorism. Its about the political ideas that are used against us such as open borders and political correctness. If we deal with that then we can close the borders and stop the Saudi funded Islamic insurgency.

            My question is why in the Guardian, the BBC, Washington Post, Huffington Post etc do they go on about Islamophobia, why we need to help these refugees, our European values, such extreme propaganda etc in so many articles?

            Islam is a tool and not the symptom

          • PaD

            Someone in London seems to like them..they OWN half of it.

          • rationality

            And the Chinese and plenty of other countries oligarch’s.

            Its more how they were allowed to exploit such usury from OUR land.

      • GripperStebson

        Did I say “everything”? No I did not.

        But it’s impossible to deny we implement policies that only seem to benefit the Wahhabists.

        • rationality

          But that is what you are referring to so I can only comment on that.

          You do not seem to be aware of how other religions benefit. It isnt obvious but the big banks and big media are not owned by Saudi or other ME countries. Why do the banks and the media gleefully assist the Islamic invasion.

          • GripperStebson

            Good grief. Do you think you’re the only one who’s noticed there’s money to be made out of all this misery?

          • rationality

            This isnt just about money. Since 2008 thats a done deal. Its about control, complete control of the whole world. What country’s people are prominent in that aim?

            This is what its all about.

          • GripperStebson

            Ah, the Jews. Got ya!

          • rationality

            How dare you! I would never say anything so hateful as that.

            I know its completely unlikely that they could ever be involved but if they were do you see how it all fits? We dont have the moral courage to say it for what it is, in no small part due to being brainwashed as children on certain events. This makes us feel ashamed and this certainly helps with the invasion due to guilt.

            Though only a hateful Natzi could ever think like that.

          • GripperStebson

            Oh I’d have the courage to say it if it were remotely likely. It just isn’t. It is pretty unlikely Israel wants to replace Assad, who at least has a semblance of sanity, with a whole nest of Islamic lunatics armed to the teeth and yelling “Allahu Akbar” on their northern border.

          • rationality

            How naive!

            Well you would have thought that Israel and Saudi were at each others throats but they’re not. Though they do both hate Iran. Funny how ISIS hasnt threatened at all until Russia started bombing the terrorist scum. Israel and Saudi are in an unholy alliance which is evidenced by the US governments actions.

            So why does the Guardian, the BBC, the US government, the EU, big banks and Soros funded NGOs want to get as many Islamics into Europe as possible?

            I am speaking hypothetically of course.

          • TheSpinCycle

            Rationality: “I know its completely unlikely that they [the Jews] could ever be involved but if they were do you see how it all fits? We dont have the moral courage to say it for what it is, in no small part due to being brainwashed as children on certain events. … ”
            Hi Rationality – so what do you think needs to be done about the Jews – assuming you HAVE the MORAL COURAGE to say it for what it is?

          • Sue Smith

            The Gipper says you don’t know what you’re talking about. And he tells me everything!!

          • rtj1211

            Well the banks are expert money launderers so they’ll accept money from anyone with it, especially Middle Eastern people. After all, BCCI was a Pakistani bank based in Mayfair laundering money for fun for two decades, with the full connivance of MI6 and CIA. Banks have only one religion: mammon.

    • JohnJ

      “If ever a regime deserved changing it is the House of Saud” actually that is the stated aim of Islamic State, as it was the aim of Al Qaeda. Perhaps you need to go into this a bit deeper.

      • Newgrubstreet

        Perhaps in a year’s time, we’ll be earnestly discussing the practicalities of supporting ‘moderate’ elements of IS against the Saudis?

        • JohnJ

          If the history of the Caliphs is anything to go by then: If IS become a state, there will be a migration there at first. Then there will be an enormous power struggle and assassinations. Whoever comes out of that will just want power and try to legitimate the new state around the world. They will drop all the Takfiri stuff and execute them all. It will be like the time of Muawiya. Islamic history is fascinating because it takes suicidal extremists to establish and vicious conservatives to rule. Similar to communism and for the same reasons.

      • GripperStebson

        For organisations with an avowed aim of toppling the government of Saudi Arabia ISIS and Al Qaeda haven’t committed a single act of terrorism against them. I’ll let their actions do the talking thanks.

        • JohnJ

          Read Path of Blood if you get a chance. The Saudi Government wiped out Al Qaeda in KSA. Al Qaeda tried to blow up Prince Nayef with a new type of bomb they invented. It is well known and anyone who was there during that time saw/heard the the explosions and gunfire. Currently they are about ( or have just done) to execute 50. They throw in a few Shia with them. But primarily they are Takfiris. It is not black and white, there are elements of the Saudi tribe that support IS as a way to get rid of the current regime. To blame the Saudis for all this is just as superficial as blaming the Crusaders.

          • GripperStebson

            I’m not blaming the Saudis ENTIRELY so stop putting words in my mouth but it is irrefutable the Saudi regime wants to topple Assad. Ever think the Saudis might just hate Assad a bit more than ISIS?

          • JohnJ

            You wrote “For organisations with an avowed aim of toppling the government of Saudi Arabia ISIS and Al Qaeda haven’t committed a single act of terrorism against them” and I showed that you are wrong .
            Now be a man and admit it.
            I can deal with the Assad issue – but let’s just go one step at a time.
            Read Osama bin Landen’ s speeches – it is all published – and Dabiq then comment. They hate the Saudi regime with vengeance.

          • GripperStebson

            Search “Saudi Arabia support for ISIS”. Feel free to browse the thousands of articles that are pretty clear on the connection. Then feel free to then Google “friendly flag”. As if no security service is history isn’t full of fighting factions, politics and dirty tricks. Then reflect on 2 years ago Cameron wanted to bomb Assad and now hold your breath for his motion this week and note the complete reversal. You go on like Middle Eastern politics is cast in stone and not an ever changing situation. You even seem to believe that states like Saudi Arabia move as one on complex issues like support for ISIS. As is there’s not many Saudis that don’t support ISIS.

          • GripperStebson

            Google “Saudi support for ISIS”. There are literally thousands of respectable commentators who contradict your opinion. Feel free to man-up after the first page. The idea that OBL continues to define Al Qaeda “policy” is frankly ludicrous.

  • MrBishi

    I suppose we should allow Cameron the opportunity to explain to us why his proposal to bomb Raqqa is not just so much willy waving.

  • Cyril Sneer

    And still Davey boy mindlessly stays faithful to US foreign policy and the MSM minions follow suit by continuing to hide the reality of the wests role in the Syrian disaster and also that of our so called Sunni ‘allies’..

    No politician or no military thinker of any worth can pledge to destroy ISIS without identifying the source of funding and support. No politician or military thinker of any worth can pledge to destroy ISIS and ignore Nusra, Al Sham and all the other moderate head choppers.

    In the mainstream western media Putins comment re. Turkeys support for ISIS is pretty much hidden in the MSM… in Parliament will the Dave and friends be talking about Turkey, their porous border and ISIS oil…. no and yet they’re pushing and pushing for military action in Syria to ‘defeat ISIS’.

    When something is so key to defeating ISIS and so obvious and yet they’re simply not talking about it in Parliament or the MSM in general then it doesn’t bode well does it?

    • Newgrubstreet

      Yeah, it’s like fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan while awkwardly overlooking the fact that they always had a secure retreat in Pakistan across the border, aided and abetted by the Pakistani security services.

      If we seriously want to confront IS, we also have to confront the states arming, financing and supporting them.

  • sfin

    It certainly won’t solve the problem…but that’s not how our politicians work.

    Bombing ISIS in Syria will serve to take the dumbed down electorate’s eye of the much bigger ball – that of importing its culture, en masse, into Europe in order to feed the giant Ponzi scheme that is socialist, state welfare.

    The second objective of this policy is the destruction of individual state cultures and their citizens’ adherence to it, in the drive to create one nation – The United States of Europe, or the EUSSR, depending on your preferred political flavour.

    As a retired officer of staff rank, Colonel, you will know that war is either total, or it is nothing.

    Airstrikes are a red herring.

    • GripperStebson

      It fits David Cameron’s MO perfectly: be seen to be doing something without actually doing anything.

      A few bombs from a handful of Tornadoes is nothing more than politician window-dressing.

      Dave is just worried he won’t get to stand next to Barry at the next NATO meeting.

      Meanwhile we all become a bit less safe as some lunatic jihadist-wannabe in Bradford or Luton sharpens a hunting knife and dreams of blood and virgins.

      • Newgrubstreet

        “It fits David Cameron’s MO perfectly: be seen to be doing something without actually doing anything.”

        Sadly true! There actually is a fairly reasonable case to bomb Syria on the grounds that, yes, British involvement is unlikely to make much difference but at least being seen to take action reaffirms the trust of key allies such as the US and France.

        Unfortunately, David Cameron can’t really stand up and make the case in this way to the electorate, hence all the impassioned speeches about the necessity of confronting IS and and awkward fudging around the questions of what’s actually expected to be achieved from all this.

    • Shazza

      The irony of course, is that when the invited alien culture becomes the majority, the ‘giant Ponzi scheme’ will collapse thus guaranteeing the destruction of the ‘socialist, state welfare’. I fail to understand why our ‘leaders’ find it so difficult to understand that if you deliberately invite large numbers of 3rd world islamic people to take up residence in a 1st world country, in very little time you will have transformed the 1st world country into a 3rd world islamic state.

      The problem with our politicians is that they are looking for a quick fix instead of analysing what the root cause of this global mayhem is and embarking on a long term strategy to preserve Western civilisation.

      • goodsoldier

        The EUSSR will first confiscate our savings and property at gunpoint before they let go of socialist, mega-state welfare. It will be confiscated for humanitarian purposes, the BBC will announce to zombie cheers. Depardieu escaped to Russia before handing his wealth over to the State. We will have nowhere to go, and we are not armed, something so many are so proud of. The latter comes from years of State indoctrination and those that despise Obama in the U.S. understand this. Meanwhile Islamic State grows in Europe, their weapons stockpiled in basements while nobody dares to investigate, as in St.Denis, Paris. Cameron wants you to light a candle while he goes to war.

        • sfin


      • sfin

        I think the problem you identify, Shazza, can be summed up in two words…”Career span”. In this “Dave” has been perfectly honest. When asked why he wanted to be Prime Minister, he didn’t wax lyrical about his ‘vision’ or the direction he wanted to take the country…he simply said: “Because I think I would be good at it.”

        Similarly, what national ‘leader’ sets a term on his/ her premiership? Blair did it because everyone knew his promise to Brown, but Cameron’s intention can only be self serving.

        My only disagreement with your final paragraph is that I no longer believe that Western civilisation’s leaders (all of them – including Obama) have any interest in preserving it. The Elite have never been further from the electorate, in my view.

        The second amendment of the US constitution (the right to bear arms) safeguards the people of the USA against their elite growing too far from the people. We have been forcibly disarmed against this eventuality.

        • Shazza

          I think you have made me have a Damascian moment, thank you. In my naivety I believed that our ‘leaders’ did want to preserve our civilisation but that they were utterly deluded in their mistaken belief that the members of the RoP would assimilate and morph into good citizens of the EUSSR. I was the one who was seriously deluded. They really don’t care, do they? – …and yes, we have effectively been defanged whether it is being unable to defend ourselves or rendered helpless in the face of imposed inverted value systems/apathy.

          • sfin

            Arm yourself – good lady – it’s going to be hard, but it is coming….As long as we have men and women like you, there is always hope…

            …And I will fight to the last breath!

        • trobrianders

          The British military defend the political leadership as long as we the people grant them credibility. We don’t ourselves need to be armed.

          • sfin

            Dream on!

      • Lawrence James.

        Is your real name ‘Blimp’ ?

        • Shazza

          Ad hominem attack in lieu of constructive argument, how depressing.

        • Sue Smith

          Just call him “Colonel”, if you don’t mind.

        • 22pp22

          Silly comment.

  • MickC

    Crispin Blunt has just done a handbrake turn, and now supports the UK bombing Syria. Good to see a man of principle in action…

    • trobrianders

      An actor playing his part you mean

  • Emilio Lizardo

    The problem with the last war (in Iraq) was a failure to understand who we were invading, and to have no plan for the aftermath. Bush thought he was liberating France when in face it was more similar to occupying Germany. Not enough troops were allocated, mistakes were rampant, and most funds went to contractors instead of results. John Glubb is shaking his head.

    Perhaps it’s time for a more radical solution. Redraw the lines so that each ethnic/culture has it’s own area. That way the tribal instinct we all have will be stronger than the move vague political/religious callings.

    Iraq and Syria should be broken up.

    The resulting areas will have to be protected from Iran and Turkey, but they will be internally united.

    • Clive

      …Redraw the lines so that each ethnic/culture has it’s own area…

      There are Christians on both sides of the civil war; there are Kurds on both sides; there are Sunnis and Shi’a on both sides

      It needs simplification which will probably involve many years of civil war, as it did in Lebanon

      • Emilio Lizardo

        The point is to make areas where local identity is more important than anything else.

    • carl jacobs

      What’s being broken up is the Post-WWI division of the Ottoman Empire. The West doesn’t have the power (or the will) to impose another solution. The Muslim world is fighting a protracted civil war to redefine those lines. The Western powers are trying to influence the outcome at the margin by application of low-risk tactics. But ultimately the solution will be imposed by those on the ground with guns and a willingness to use them.

  • Tamerlane

    If you wish to put an end to ISIS and all its manifestations you must obliterate Saudi Arabia. Anything else is treating the symptom not the cause.

    • PaD

      Lets try bankrupting them 1st…thatll obliterate their influence in the west

      • Chingford Man

        I suggest boycotting Harrods (although I would never shop there anyway).

    • rationality

      You’re neglecting the other countries that benefit from ISIS being around. Just saying Saudi is the problem is lazy and lets the other countries off the hook.

      • Tamerlane

        Which are?

        • justejudexultionis

          Qatar is a known sponsor of terror organisations.

          • Sue Smith

            But they’ve had a magnificent Grand Prix!! Stand by for an equally magnificent Soccer World Cup!!

    • rtj1211

      Qatar-Turkey pipeline is what the Syrian war is all about….

      • Tamerlane

        I really don’t think it has anything whatsoever to do with the pipeline but all the world is entitled to an opinion.

  • WFB56

    A good argument for non-intervention but the line “It’s past time to think differently” leaves the readers hanging. What is Colonel Bacevich suggesting as an alternative? If there was a policy recommendation in here somewhere, I must have missed it.

    • June Baker

      That was my take as well. Now that ISIS has decided to target the west, doing nothing is not an option. Every ‘success’ on their part just brings in more recruits.

  • Jacobi

    There is a desperate need to think differently. We are at war now. Not with the Soviet Union or Russia, but with Islam, in particular that Sunni branch of Islam of which ISIL is but one of many branches.

    Becevich talks of the superiority of Western weapons but as we now know Resolve and Determination are the greatest weapons and our Islamic enemies have this in plenty. They have the element of surprise, can strike anywhere and will exploit the still widespread fear, and lack of
    understanding of their intention throughout the West.

    In particular they are happy to accept casualties. We are not. That has got to change. In war you must inflict and accept casualties just as we did in the last major war against a great evil in 39/45.

    So boots on the ground are necessary. By all means let them be special forces acting in close co-operation with our air forces, but they have to be there.

    And we must fully co-operate with our remaining allies in Syria. That means with the Kurdish, Alawite, and Christian militias, who should be properly armed, trained and supported.

    That is to start with, but this particular conflict has a long way to go. They know it. We have not as yet grasped this.

    • Clive

      The fact that the Kurdish and Christian militias are for the most part (but not entirely) at war with the Alawites does not give you cause for pause ?

      The problem is that we do not want either side to win in the Syrian Civil War – neither Sunni nor Shi’a.

      We are allied to many of the Sunni groups and if Russia helps Hezbollah and Iran to win it will impose its own theocracy on Syria, it already shows signs of it.

      …Using a variety of pathways, both civilian and military, Tehran is currently in the process of establishing itself in Syria. Military means are being employed to strengthen the holdings of the Shiite militia Hezbollah in areas near the border with Lebanon. To serve this goal, the Syrian National Defense Forces were established, troops that exist alongside the regular Syrian army and which includes tens of thousands of fighters who were trained in Iran. Still, the National Defense Forces have begun to disintegrate into local mafia militias and have actually accelerated the loss of state control over those regions.

      It is, however, primarily in the civilian sector where significant changes are afoot. Just as in Damascus, Latakia and Jabla, increasing numbers of hosseiniehs — Shiite religious teaching centers — are opening. The centers are aimed at converting Sunnis, and even the Alawites, the denomination to which the Assads belong, to “correct” Shiite Islam by way of sermons and stipends. In addition, the government decreed one year ago that state-run religion schools were to teach Shiite material.

      All of this is taking place to the consternation of the Alawites, who have begun to voice their displeasure. “They are throwing us back a thousand years. We don’t even wear headscarves and we aren’t Shiites,” Alawites complained on the Jableh News Facebook page. There were also grumblings when a Shiite mosque opened in Latakia and an imam there announced: “We don’t need you. We need your children and grandchildren.”

      In addition, Iranian emissaries, either directly or via middlemen, have been buying land and buildings in Damascus, including almost the entire former Jewish quarter, and trying to settle Shiites from other countries there….

      • Jacobi

        There are conflicting accounts of who is allied with whom. It is nevertheless a fact that Christian militias are fighting with Assad. Contrary accounts seem to have come from Ed West, but he has not followed them up.
        My point, made elsewhere, is that the Iranian/Persian Shia branch of Islam is not as deadly or intransigent as the Saudi-Arabian, Sunni lot, commonly known as ISIL. They are the ones we have to deal with.
        We will not destroy Islam in its various forms. If we win this current war, and the outcome is not clear, the most we can hope for is to suppress then for 300 years or so, (Seige of Vienna 1683?) until, they have another go at us.

        • Mow_the_Grass

          The Iranian/Shia branch – is just more cunning.
          Two sides of a murderous barbaric cult.

    • goodsoldier

      You forgot to mention that we must deport tens of thousands of illegal and legal Muslims from Europe, already HERE and coming daily. There is no point in intense warfare when the Jihadis are here in Europe already. First handle this before you speak about being brave and willing to accept loss of one’s life abroad. You are only distracting us from the real danger deliberately. Perhaps you personally don’t mean to. But most of our leaders do. Making Europe safe again takes real bravery and nerve.

      • Jacobi

        Didn’t forget but agree. Have already suggested that all Muslims in the UK and Europe be required to sign a renouncement of violence or else lose UK nationality and be deported via internment camps.
        As for being brave, well sadly I am getting on a bit. If only I was x number of years younger I would certainly be prepared to fight them.

        I did willingly do National Service however, so that will give you a clue of just how much younger I would have to be.

        So Godspede, Good Soldier!

      • Michael H Kenyon

        Our leaders are now having an “everything must go” firesale, and would rather have consumer wage slaves who don’t ask too many questions. Hence the demise of ideas, the demise of argument and debate, and the importation of peasants who don’t want anything from us but our money.The decadence of the establishment (quite why they are called “the elite” beats me, given their mediocrity) models it for the rest of us.

  • Davedeparis

    Taking the time to define a desirable and do-able end state rather than just indulge in gesture bombing is always a good idea. Sweat saves blood but brains saves sweat and blood.

  • Joe Long

    Of course are problem is here, not there.

    RAF air strikes will obviously be very marginal in any event, what we really need is a clampdown on immigration, internment of suspected jihadis, deportations of undesirable aliens – no more of this human rights family life rubbish, and consideration given to repatriation.

    We are stumbling to inevitable catastrophe as things stand.

  • flydlbee

    We are at war – it has been declared against us by ISIS, and claimed to be on behalf of every Moslem.

    1. First priority: we need to secure our base of operations. That means:
    a. Stop immigration from Moslem countries, including refugees, dependants and close relations. Not “restrict” – STOP.
    b. Intern any person reasonably suspected of having taking service with ISIS. If they can claim to be foreign nationals, intern them for the duration of hostilities, and then deport them. Use a tribunal, no Human Rights Act, (supended of the duration). Geneva Convention at best.
    c. If they claim to be UK citizens, then try them for treason and sentence them to life as common criminals, but let them apply for citizenship of their parent’s countries and renounce their UK citizenship, then proceed as above.
    d. Ditto for those who preach or organise sedition within the UK.

    2. Blockade action against all weapon supplies and weapon suppliers, including, if necessary, Turkey. Turkey’s membership of NATO to be reviewed. No part of their equipment was Arab-invented or produced.

    3. Use the current situation of common interest to establish a rapport with the Russians. We managed it in WWII, so we know it can be done.

    4. Assemble a task force. Tempt ISIS into attacking them, then counter with a chevaussee – a sudden raid straight through their territory without occupation, destroying everything in its path.. Let them regroup, then hit them again.

    5. Don’t bother setting up a democratic government or anything like that, let them sort themselves out. Get our people out.

    • rtj1211

      Look mate, the arms suppliers are primarily the UK, the US and nations within the EU. It’s been that way for 50 years and MI6 and CIA are intimately involved in it all…..

      • flydlbee

        Well, stop it then.

        • Sue Smith

          …or you’ll go blind.

  • Chingford Man

    Who else to lead a pretend war but pretend leaders?

    • trobrianders

      Um, actual leaders will do

  • ttaerum

    Bacevich does a very nice job of outlining the never ending problems of the middle east. We understand his pain and wonder what his views are of Hillary’s statement that “at this point in time, what difference does it make?”. And like the recent forced disclosure of Emanuel’s cover up of the Chicago shooting, so much of what is sold as news is fantasy. As such it is refreshing to see Bacevich’s attempt to “break out of the mold”.

    You have to be amazed that Obama just came to realize that oil is the financial heart of his JV-ISIL and is now bombing the occasional oil truck and pipeline. Up to now it seems our CIC has been playing around the edges with each success heralded by large headlines from the WH. While rejoicing at the $20 million death of J-Kahn, he apparently failed to see the other 30 black outfits waiting to take his position. This is a pinprick whose only consequence is to motivate JV-ISIL far more than Gitmo.

    So yes Bacevich, this is a pretend war, and as the WH has indicated, all this is merely a “set back”. No doubt it’s time to ponder anew the consequences of Hillary’s statement that, “at this point in time, what difference does it make?”

  • Mr. Bernard Wijeyasingha

    The act of bombing places where IS maybe located will not win the war. It will not since a good deal of the casualties are ordinary men women and children.

    Bombing from thousands of feet up in the air on a land the size of Great Britain (93 thousand square miles), many towns and a sizable population means sooner than later those people who are blasted into smithereens, by bombs
    will come to hate the Jets as much, if not more, than IS

    Other reasons why the war against IS will not work include:

    -Around a year ago IS stated that anyone, anywhere can pledge allegiance to IS, carry out the deed, and give credit to IS. I term that “instant IS”. Then IS is everywhere and within the hearts of those who want to like them.

    -IS has changed the intensity of terrorism. Just like the great wars changed the way war is done, the same can be held for global terrorism. Now it does not matter what name a terrorist group calls itself since their methods would be similar if not more diabolical than IS.

    • Gilbert White

      Managed it in Sri Lanka, though with a horrific mortality of the civilian population especially the women and children.

      • Mr. Bernard Wijeyasingha

        What part of Sri Lanka? for when I left for Sri Lanka in 2009 the war was still going on. When I landed in Colombo the war had just ended. When I went through Colombo it was very peaceful. I expected a war ravaged city. It was not. Only the guards stationed every 2 miles or so, checking drivers for ID showed the remnants of Asia’s longest war that just ended a few days ago.

        So were you in the Jaffna region? East coast region? for that is where the Tamil Tigers strongholds were and that is where massive numbers of people were killed.

  • justejudexultionis

    Why not bomb London? I mean, that is where the real enemy within resides.

    • Mow_the_Grass

      London/most of Paris/and all of Brussels.
      The new Caliphate

      • Guilttripjunkie

        Bradford and Luton could be added.

    • Dominic Stockford

      There is one London Borough without any mosques, please don’t bomb it.

  • Mow_the_Grass

    If only Israel made peace with those Islamic terrorists ie Hamas/PLO/PA/Fatagh – none of this would have happened.

    • WTF

      Hamas doesn’t want peace, they want the destruction of Israel.

      • Mow_the_Grass


    • O rly

      if israel had made peace with the Palestinians and had incorporated them in to a single

      confederated they could be interveing in syria overtly with out being seen as purley self interested.

      if israel was at peace with the palestinians we could finally make iran our ally instead of the most despicable regimes on earth in the saudi arabia.

      hamas has killed every isis member in gaza.

      The mayors of Ramallah, Birzeit, Bethlehem, Zababdeh, Jifna, Ein ‘Arik, Aboud, Taybeh, Beit Jala and Beit Sahour are Christians. The Governor of Tubas, Marwan Tubassi, is a Christian. The former Palestinian representative to the United States, Afif Saffieh, is a Christian, as is the ambassador of the Palestinian Authority
      in France, Hind Khoury. The Palestinian women’s soccer team has a
      majority of Muslim girls, but the captain, Honey Thaljieh, is a
      Christian from Bethlehem. Many of the Palestinian officials such as
      ministers, advisers, ambassadors, consulates, heads of missions, PLC,
      PNA, PLO, Fateh leaders and others are Christians.

      those damn christian islamic radicals!

      • Mow_the_Grass

        Are you having a nice day dream.
        Palestinians have been offered a state of their own on a number of occasions – they have turned it down every time,
        Palestinians dont want a state of their own – they want a state to replace Israel.
        Israel will never accept a one state solution – why should it.
        Your brothers and sisters have a homeland – its called Jordan (or any other of the 22 arab states in the ME)
        Spoilt for choice.

  • Zapedowski

    One of the problems with politics is that we criticize what happens, but are incapable (by definition) of giving credit for what didn’t happen. This holds as true in foreign policy as anywhere else.

    Imagine if Saddam Hussein’s genocidal, Stalinist regime were still around during the Arab Spring, instead of the mess that followed his being toppled. Imagine if the Gaddafi regime had been allowed to roll into Benghazi and massacre that city’s civilian population, instead of the mess that followed Gaddafi’s ouster.

    The same commentators who decry the chaos that has followed in the wake of both regimes’ ouster would never have batted an eyelash — because that would have just been foreign governments killing foreigners.

    It wouldn’t even matter if the number of victims were in the millions, instead of the hundreds of thousands.

    Yet, when Rwanda happens, we sanctimoniously join hands and swear “never again.”

    • rtj1211

      Imagine if the West hadn’t been supplying arms to all sides in the Middle East for 50 years?

      Well, I suppose the Russians and the Chinese would have done it instead. And the South Africans, the Indians and who knows who else?

      But it really doesn’t matter who has or has not been in power, as long as the arms suppliers supply the arms.

      • Lawrence James.

        ‘What if’ solves nothing: rather it is an iindulgence resorted to those by those sulking about the rejection of their nostrums,.Those bores should shut up and allow those with a superior and deeper knowledge look for solutions to highly complex problems.

      • Dogsnob

        Just whereabouts in the US or other Western nation is that Kalashnikov factory?

        • Gilbert White

          Kalashnikov invented this gun for killing poor quality idealogical material quickly? Amuses me to see Arabs using this gun and hi tec US clothing?

      • Gilbert White

        Rwanda did it with cheap mass produced Chinese iron age implements, mostly paid for by our donations. Just imagine if they had managed to get old of precsion Ikeas knives?

      • UKSteve

        “Imagine if the West hadn’t been supplying arms to all sides in the Middle East for 50 years?”

        Israel, S. Africa, or China would happily have filled the gap.

  • trobrianders

    Cameron only does Enid Blyton foreign policy.

    • Garry

      This is true but I am guessing Enid Blyton had some idea about the end before she started one of her adventures.

      • trobrianders

        The triumph of virtue?

      • Sue Smith

        And don’t forget her gritty characters: Noddy, Mr. Plod, Big Ears and Mr. Wobbly Man (Corbyn). Sounds like the British parliament.

        I don’t know why they don’t simply read the comments section on The Spectator; so many sage people with a vast wealth of tactical experience!!!

  • Derek Custance

    Has the Government claimed that bombing Syria by itself will solve the situation? I thought they recognised that only a concerted effort across a broad spectrum involving many other like minded countries would be required? I don’t think anyone is convinced that bombing is all that is needed to bring peace and stability to the region. You would have to be mighty naive if you did.

  • Guilttripjunkie

    Cameron is also planning to support 70,000 ‘moderate’ Muslim troops as ground support. I have a feeling this won’t end well. It never does.

    • Dominic Stockford

      We joined with ‘moderates’ in Afghanistan to clear Russia out of there, and that ended up with Al Quaeda.

    • Newgrubstreet

      Well, I think it’s very decent of these 70,000 troops to take a break from fighting Assad in order to fight IS instead! I assume Cameron’s already discussed this with them and got an agreement, right?

    • griffinalabama

      President Putin had it right. “There are no ‘moderate’ terrorists. Do they use moderation when they chop off heads?”

  • JohnJ

    “.Once, I remember, we came upon a man-of-war anchored off the coast. There wasn’t even a shed there, and she was shelling the bush…There was a touch of insanity in the proceeding, a sense of lugubrious drollery in the sight; and it was not dissipated by somebody on board assuring me earnestly there was a camp of natives—he called them enemies!—hidden out of sight somewhere.”
    And on it goes…….

    Is this part of the great British military tradition that wiped out the Mahdi so successfully – Kitchener and co spoke fluent Arabia and knew their enemy.
    It seems this time that complete prideful ignorance of the problem ( Islamism) is driving this insanity.
    BTW – tomorrow is 3rd Friday of Safar . The 1st was the Paris massacre, 2nd was Mali – and no doubt a few planned attacks were stopped in Brussels and France) and tomorrow…….

  • trobrianders

    Let the Sunnis sort it out. It’s their problem

  • boonteetan

    British involvement in Syria reminds one of the fiasco of British-French intervention of Suez Canal in 1956 when US decided to step aside. The outcome, less-than-graceful exit and resignation of British premier. Cameron is surely aware, perhaps he thinks this time the scenario is different as Islamic radicalism is in play and US gets involved.

    • trobrianders

      Back then Arab nationalism was the bogeyman. But their successors made fine strongmen.

  • English man

    Good article.

    After all, what’s the point in bombing Syria when the threat is already in the fort? We have been bombing the Middle East for thirty years on and off, hasn’t made us any safer.

  • Dominic Stockford

    Painful as it may be to watch on from the sidelines, sometimes it is more important to ensure your own security at home than it is to intervene in disputes between others. Until the best that can be done to ensure that our own homes are safe we need to exercise the greatest of caution before intervening in the civil war in Syria.

    • WTF

      Spot on, close borders to prevent further ingress of Jihadists and set
      about removing / neutralising those at home by any means necessary. Once
      we’ve purged the enemy within then perhaps we can look outwards to try
      and bring peace elsewhere but our western leaders have it a## backwards
      at the moment.

  • davidofkent

    Russia is moving its high-level Ground-to-Air missiles into Syria so we can expect their trigger-happy operators to shoot down an occasional US, French or British aircraft complete with pictures of their crews murdered by muslim terrorists.

    • Cyril Sneer

      Blame Turkey, the Russkies were left with no choice after their jet was shot down. Russia wanted co-operation, Turkey for obvious reasons doesn’t want to co-operate. Judging by the SAA advances on the ground it would seem that the conflict in Syria is beginning to unravel for Turkey.

      I presume NATO etc will now cease flights in Syrian airspace (attacks on ISIS, Turkey bombing the kurds) as they were never invited by the Syrian government to conduct such attacks. Russia has that permission from the Syrian government.

  • Mahound

    We should ally with al-Assad. The Syrian Army has been the most efficient force fighting ISIS and Obama’s “moderate” rebels.

    • jeremy Morfey

      I am not convinced that Assad is fighting Daesh with much gusto. They both seem to be attacking the various nationalist rebels such as the Kurds and the Free Syrian Army. Assad’s scorched earth attacks on heritage and infrastructure seem to match those of Daesh, and sending the civilians to give up on their homeland and try their chances in Europe.

      • griffinalabama

        Russias bombardment of ISIS has driven them back over 300 miles in 60 days. It is working. The West just doesn’t want to admit it and is stuck on their regime change policy which has failed and caused the EU refugee crisis. The real head of the hydra is Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar but the US and EU refuse to look at ISIS’s financiers.

  • WTF

    The war between cultures is at home now, forget about Syria as unless our western leaders grasp that nettle, the war is lost.

  • Tom M

    There is a sensible agrument to engage in at the moment that runs: what difference will a few more bombs make?
    The obvious answer would be: little.
    However, if you take a longer view of this situation and see bombing more as in intermediate stage all we will need is one or two more events like Paris and we will all have to be talking about an entirely different response.
    Take a look at Brussels after the Paris shootings. Everything on lock down for days. The terrorists must certainly be considering that as part of their success story. No Government is going to do that too often.
    Politicians will, of necessity, be talking about boots-on-the-ground as they say. They will have no option. So the more countries that engage now with bombing the Daech the more will be their say in any debate about a coalition army.
    If it comes to that then it might be as well to remember that the US, at the end, had 500,000 men in Vietnam together with the South Vietnamese army, the US Navy, Air Force and SAC and they still didn’t win.

  • Davey

    “It’s in your nature to destroy yourselves!” The Terminator!
    Wise words from the big cyborg! Completely true though. Bombing isn’t the answer. War begets war. When totally different cultures, totally different ideologies, totally different religious beliefs clash, mistrust, hatred and killing is the result. We don’t belong there, they don’t belong here. The sooner we all realise that, the better.

  • WarriorPrincess111111

    The whole issue smells bad! Right from the time that the US lost the rights to the Iraq oil in the 1990’s, shortly after their Northern oil wells began to dry, the cost of imported oil began to rise, the dollar hit rock bottom just about the same time that the twin towers came down and that the Gulf States were blamed for the ‘atrocity’, in came the phrase ‘war on terror’ and the birth of Al Qaeda, in came Obama, and Isis were introduced and about the same time the price of oil was reduced.
    The number of so called ‘terrorist’ attacks in Europe have become more frequent than they are in the States and coincide with various political issues that demanded less attention than would have been given them otherwise.
    The US has been fighting in the Gulf now for more than fifteen years – apart from gaining oil, it has done nothing except to create instability in all the countries that it has ransacked and left the people far worse off than they were before the US intervened.
    Why is Europe involved? Well, if you forget that wars give rise to arms deals that are highly profitable, and shares in the oil wells – there is no reason for Europe to be involved at all! In fact – we should be doing the opposite – we should be holding the US responsible for the situation that has arisen, and the US should be charged with war crimes.

    • griffinalabama

      The US is responsible for the EU refugee crisis as are the vassal EU leaders that allowed the bombings and destabilization of Libya, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Gaza, Lebanon and Afghanistan.

  • Gregory Mason

    I had to write my dissertation on the Suez Canal Crisis. It was not a knee jerk reaction taken in the space of a week but one that had been considered for over a year at the very least.

  • Harry Pond

    Surely we should be getting shot of the thousands of Islamic maniacs in our own country before going after these dusty bandits over in Syria.

    • Rhs Per

      Why don’t you take care of your own christian honkey maniacs first?

      • Harry Pond

        Because they don’t generally go around murdering people etc

        • Mo

          No Harry, they just concoct spurious reasons to invade and bomb the cr@p out of countries like Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, (and going back further in time, Vietnam), support an apartheid state (you know who I mean) in the continual stealing of land and blockading of an entire people, and then have the nerve to foment coups in the Ukraine and blame Russia. Terrorism by any other name eh?

  • evodevo

    The first thing Americans need to understand is that Turkey is in this to acquire territory. They are backing local insurgents and turning a blind eye to ISIL (in fact allowing them to sell oil with impunity and cross Turkish borders when they want) with an eye to annexing northern Syria during the chaos when/if Assad falls. They also are hindering the kurds (the only successful anti-ISIL forces in northern Syria) in any way they can. This is a typical Byzantine situation, a war of all against all. We do NOT want ANY US ground troops there – just another ME quagmire in which to lose lives and money.

  • dockbillin

    Why is there no reference to the fact – which is totally undeniable – that the West has been directly coddling jihadis and jihadism at least since Jimmy Carter signed the order to start arming Afghan terrorists in July 1979? Where is the reference to the invasion of Libya, to oust a secular anti-jihadi ruler, and to the open arming and training of cannibal headhunters in Syria since 2011?

  • Bodkinn

    Although under normal circumstances I am totally opposed to our interfering in the internal affairs of other countries I think we should become involved in the air campaign over Syria. Not that our contribution will make a great deal of difference to the final outcome but because if we do not support our allies in word and deed they may be a lot less inclined to assist us with the information and other help we need locally. At the present time the French are going to a great deal of trouble and expense keeping the Calais squatters from invading us. Why should they continue to supply this level of friendly cooperation if we are not prepared to go to their aid when they need it?

    • Slugabed

      Sorry,are you joking?
      If the French had our interests at heart re Calais they would stop people aggregating there,they would clamp down on illegal and thretening behaviour by migrants with respect to travellers and railway and port property,in short,they would police their territory properly.
      In fact,all they want is for these people to “diasappear” through the tunnel to the UK and cease to be their problem,but they are aware that they cannot be seen to be doing this.

  • v. jabotinsky

    Excellent advice from Bacevich–which why it will be ignored.


    It may not solve the whole problem but it can do some things useful.

    The French and US e.g. have now targetted the road tankers feeding illicit ISIL oil to the conniving Turks pretty much closing down this lucrative traffic This will no doubt severely dent ISIL’s income.and won’t kill anyone bar a few smugglers. Even dear Jeremy might think this a worthy aim..

  • wootendw

    The West had no desire to fight ISIS until the Paris shootings. Turkey has been intentionally helping ISIS as well as buying their oil. Any air campaign the West does will only to serve to prevent the Syrians and their Hezbollah allies from retaking eastern Syria by ground – which is what the West mainly wants to do besides pulling the wool over voters’ eyes in each respective country.

  • griffinalabama

    How does a person like this write this entire piece of drivel and leave Russia out of the equation? After all Russia has exposed that the real goal of the west has always been regime change in Syria and that western powers are using ISIS as arise and pretext for destabilizing Syria. Russia’s bombing of ISIS and quick destruction of them has shown that the US and NATO were not actually bombing them, but instead dropping their ‘moderate’ jihadist interchangeable friends supplies. There is plenty of video on You Tube affirming this. Russia will have ISIS cleaned up in a couple of months then the NATO warmongers will be left holding their respective dicks in their hands. That is what they fear the most. That is why they are rushing to cobble some BS together to sell to “We the People”. They don’t want to be exposed as the warmongering idiots that caused the European refugee crisis, which is what they really are.

  • ardenjm

    “It’s past time to think differently.”
    Yep. It sure is.

    Post-Christian West, believing in nothing, puzzled by the resolve of those who do believe: ardently, unshakeably, violently.

    Post-Christian West, believing in nothing, aborting and contracepting its future, imports as many workers as children aborted over the last 40 years. The imports are believers and the post-Christian West promises them trinkets, fun and pleasure. Believers prefer beliefs and discomfort: proud and poor rather than gelded and cosy.

    Post-Christian West, believing in nothing except tolerance and diversity, wails with incredulity when challenged:
    What’s your tolerance and diversity FOR?
    For commerce, culture and comfort, of course.
    And what are they FOR, ask the believers.
    For our children (that we’re not having), for a standard of living that is self-evidently better; for human rights, equality and dignity!
    And what are THEY for? What are YOU for? Ask the believers.

    Post-Christian West – time for a very simple, very difficult, choice:
    Either return to Christ – or disappear.

    • smoke me a kipper

      Pre Christian West did just fine

      • ardenjm

        Between the Muslims who hate the Cross – as an insult to their notion of the transcendent divinity whose prophets can’t possibly suffer the ignominy of death – and the Athiestic Left who hate the Cross because it represents everything their Utopian Dystopia is meant to perfect away (above all the notion of personal responsibility and sin and our need for grace and forgiveneness) there are also those who hate the Cross because, whilst feigning blasé post-Modern ironic detachment and indifference, are nevertheless given a bad conscience by the Cross and would rather see the demise of the West if if means the demise of the last vestiges of Christianity with it – a Christianity, they’ve decided, is a force for evil.

        I’m reckoning you fit in to this latter category.
        I could be wrong – you block all access to your other comments – so it’s impossible to gauge where you stand. But that’s my guess.
        Mohammed, Marx and Nietzsche… anti-Christs.
        And their disciples.
        Like you.

        • rosemerry

          You obviously know very little, as Muslims accept much of Christian belief, and “hatred of the Cross” is your own little belief. Atheists do not all follow your warped ideas. Live and let live, and talk of “evil” and demise of the West is just playing with words.

          • ardenjm

            rosemerry – on the contrary – about the destruction of the Cross being at the heart of Islamic eschatology I’m afraid I know far more than you:

            Here is a link which gives you the Hadith on what Islam teaches about the Cross. They deny it so profoundly that they even claim that when Issa (their name for Jesus) returns he will ‘destroy the Cross’.

            Read if for yourself:


            And now you know why Muslim fundamentalists tear down crosses wherever they find them.

            As for ‘demise of the West’ being a ‘play with words’. Don’t be naive. Demography in a democracy is destiny.

        • smoke me a kipper

          You’re quick to judge. All I know is that the Abrahamic religions must be amongst the worst inventions ever. Just look at all the wars that have been fought in their name. The violence, hatred and intolerance they have brought.

          • ardenjm

            “You’re quick to judge.”
            Not quick to judge at all.

            I predicted this:
            “Christianity, they’ve decided, is a force for evil.
            I’m reckoning you fit in to this latter category.”

            And you go on to write this:
            “All I know is that the Abrahamic religions must be amongst the worst inventions ever.”

            I’d say my judgement is spot on.

          • smoke me a kipper

            I think I said religion was. Religion is controlled by the powerful to control the lives of the powerless. The religion of Chritianity has nothing to do with the teachings of Christ. You should what is written and not what you imagine

          • ardenjm

            You spoke about the Abrahamic religions and you know exactly what you meant by that. As did I. I had your number when I wrote my first reply to your snide little, “Pre Christian West did just fine.”
            Every subsequent remark of yours has confirmed that I was right.

            The ideas you hold to are part of the problem.
            I hope, for their sake, that you have no children (I’d be surprised if you do – ideas like yours don’t go well with having children, or, if you do have them, more often than not you bail out on raising them) because they will come to realise the merde those ideas have produced for them to have to deal with. A post-Christian West that has become enervated, narcissistic, self-indulgent and woefully ill-prepared to meet any of the challenges it will face over the next 50 years.
            That self-righteous “Abrahamic Religions” spiel of people like you has both attacked the Church for the last 50 years (because the Church said, ‘don’t abort your children – they are your future’ and so you despised the Church for highlighting the guilty conscience that gave you) but also – the irony! – imported the cheap workers who are Muslim to replace the aborted children with.
            Waking up and smelling the coffee yet?
            Of course not! You don’t mean ‘Abrahamic Religions’ when you have a go at them: you mean the Cross of Jesus Christ. THAT’S what you really can’t abide. It’s the Crucified One who troubles your conscience.

            And here’s the thing: He is Risen. In Him is life to the full. Without Him is the way to sorrow and grief and death.

          • smoke me a kipper

            Funny how you know what I mean. You’re mind is closed. You presume to know other people. You know nothing.

          • smoke me a kipper

            You are also a very nasty person. Comments such a Shame”I hope you have no children”. You claim to be a Christian, yet on here you post in Christian views. Show some humility

    • rosemerry

      This belief, like any other, cannot be forced upon people, and the values you espouse are not all beneficial to the believers or humanity.

      • ardenjm

        “This belief, like any other, cannot be forced upon people”
        You’re right, it can’t be forced on them, I agree.
        So you’ve got to make a free choice.

        Here is the choice:
        Either you return to Christ or you disappear (or your children, or your children’s children – but, basically, if you’re a secular liberal – that endgame is inevitable.)
        The future for secular liberalism is bleak. They’ve sown the seeds of their own extinction. We’re just seeing the first pangs.
        In the light of that we now get to make a choice:
        EITHER we return to Christ (and there are a lot of good things we can bring with us in doing so – but there are some things some of us will probably want to cling on to – like aborting our future, for example – that are so opposed to Christ that we will have to reject them) OR you continue rejecting Christ and continue down the road you’re presently on. At the end of which is, well, just that: the end.
        We can feel the truth of that in our bones already…

        So, now it’s the time of choice:
        “Wake up and strengthen what remains and is on the point of death.”

  • rosemerry

    “The vicious Isis attacks in Paris represent another unpardonable offence.
    Through war, Cameron and Hollande seek to avenge the innocents who were
    killed and wounded.”

    Why is this presented as if “out of the blue”, with no reference to the recent history ofterrible damage already done in the region by these two nations?

  • sidor

    And since the RAF is already targeting Isis in Iraq, why not extend the operation to the other side of the elided border? What could be easier?
    To the other side of which border? With Turkey? With KSA? These two are the main suppliers and sponsors of ISIS.

  • The West is damned if it does and damned, if it doesn’t. The biggest problem is also the elephant in the room. Religion is the basis for all the evil and death. You cannot argue with it, the scripture of the Quran (as well as all religious books) call for the genocide of members whom do not adhere to that belief system. Read for yourselves, it’s there in black and white.

    Serious, unashamed debates need to be had, over what religion superstitions and beliefs have in modern society. Part of the reason why Cameron calls Islam “religion of peace” is because he cannot call a spade a spade. His religion also calls for the slavery of non-Christians. It demands the property-minded approach to women, and the spreading of it’s scourge by the sword. READ YOUR RELIGIOUS BOOKS. All this evil is in them, and they demand action by their followers.

    • Carroll Price

      The West if not “damned if it does and damned if it doesn’t”. It’s damned because it ALREADY DID IT, and is just now getting around to paying a stiff price for its foolish and short-sighted addition of injecting itself into the affairs that are none of its damned business and accomplishes nothing other than inciting wars that benefit and enrich no one other than the artificial state of Israel, and a US Military Complex operated primaily by Jews and wanna-be-Jews who want-in on the lucrative racket of creating weapons and loaning fiat currency to both sides of self-generated wars of adventure and profit. As to religion relating to Jewish behavior, (which you conveniently failed to mention) you should read the Torah and Old Testament, (particularly the books of Exodus, Deuteronomy and Esther) where explicit and detailed instructions are given to the Chosen Ones on how to wage unrestricted destruction and commit unmerciful genocide on innocent men, women and children on a massive scale. As to Christianity, the only problem with that quasi-Judaism sham of a religion is that its membership consist almost entirely of wild-eyed lunatics who have come increasingly under the control of blow-hard idiots like Pat Robinson and John Hagee who lack the mental equipment with which to run a pig farm.

    • Dr Lazarus

      So religion is to blame for it all George… Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot… and do tell us where the Gospels call for the slavery of non-Christians, a property-minded approach to women and spreading its scourge by the sword? I find it is wise to have actually read the books before commenting on them!

  • ericsiverson

    Couldn’t Britain and France fight IS right at home in their home countries . Of course it would become very unpopular if they used bombers at home There are supposed to be thousand IS troops coming from Europe , why don’t you fight them there

  • johnb1945

    The problem is Salafism and its Shia counterpart, revolutionary Islam.

    These ideologies have grown because of the perceived humiliation of Islam. They have been growing since the late 70s regardless of Western interference in “Muslim lands” and have a coherent scriptural basis in Islam.

    It would be really excellent if we could drop the political correctness, call these forms of Islam by their names, and take them on in the real battlefield – the hearts and minds of people, especially Muslims.

    The first thing to do is to acknowledge the spiritual and eschatological roots of these ideologies.
    The second thing is to empower the many Muslims who don’t follow these forms of Islam or who are even leaving the religion to present an alternative vision of the religion.

    It won’t happen though, because our PC obsession with liberal determinism decries the possibility that these violent ideologies could be to do with deeply held Religious convictions held by a proportion of our own Muslims, and would rather blame the issues on colonialism, poverty and illiteracy.

    Undoubtedly these issues don’t help, but enough people in the Middle East believe their decline is due to not being Islamic enough for it to be a problem.

    And we should acknowledge that and start arguing against it.

    • KopRise

      This. Wish more people would say it.

    • Richard Boase

      Forget the colonialism for a moment and you have regimes which engage in extreme philosophies *Saudi Arabia* – Wahabism – which keeps the rest of their population in continuous servitude, ignorance and poverty and ensures their hatred of everything western and everything non-sunni. But saying that Saudi Arabia is the problem would bring us closer to the brink of a global war than keeping the waters muddy by flying ineffective bombing sorties against the people they ‘secretly fund’.

      • johnb1945

        Saudi is the wellspring of Salafism.

        They (and other Gulf Arabs) have spent $billions pushing it to Muslims communities across the globe, including our own.

        They need to recognise that the existential threat it poses is directly to them, and stop this.

        I think this may be dawning on them.

    • Darnton

      Excellent post.

    • Dr Lazarus

      Good analysis johnb1945

  • Kallol Paul

    Yea its tragic and it won’t help many or any one….peaceful mediation are way forward…! Its like cutting or damaging measuring tape at one end only…! Tape to measure Human civilization…!

  • Kallol Paul

    Wish its pretend war only and not real world..from Queen street , Wall street or any street…!

  • FreeOregon

    What if blowing up stuff and people is the wrong tool?

  • Asteri

    The real question is if there really are 70,000 moderate rebels willing to fight ISIS, why have they been sitting on their hands doing nothing while the US, France and Russia have been bombing ISIS? Are they just waiting for the UK to get involved out of politeness?

  • Derek Ruskin

    How to defeat IS?

    With the reason of the European Enlightenment that’s how

    The philosophy of those ancient Greek philosophers, Socrates and Plato (Confucius and the Buddha were on the right track too), modified and developed by many free thinking European minds in the 17th /18th centuries, is a message of reason, debate and intelligent questioning of everything. It was mankind’s coming of age, a recognition that each one of us is responsible for ourselves and each other.
    Or rather, it should have been. Vested interests, the monarchy, politicians, and faith pedlars, all of whom have a lot of power to lose, used all the power they had to keep primitive belief systems in mainstream thought.

    My plan, if ever implemented, would however take around 50 years, i.e. two to three generations to work. But, it would work.
    Here it is:-


  • Futokuko

    its funny how no one seems to care about what the Syrian government or
    more importantly what the Syrian people thinks, Yes yes, the west hates
    Assad and wants him out, but that does not justify western actions.
    Sure lets vote to go bomb some “rebels” in Syria,we don’t care for the
    fact that it is essentially and act of war against the nation.

    • Cyril Sneer

      Indeed, many westerners call for regime change like they have been given some sort of special licence to replace foreign governments, it really is quite disturbing.

      It doesn’t seem to matter to the establishment or the media, or most western commentators for hat matter that support for that matter that supporting rebel groups, quite often non-Syrian Islamist rebel groups to commit regime change is both immoral and illegal.

    • Kasperlos

      Never mind Syrians. Since when does the EU or the governments of the EU countries give a darn about what their slaves, oops, voters/citizens/subjects think. The elites are beholden first to their masters (not the people) and then their jobs, which relies on pleasing the former.

  • justejudexultionis

    How about round-the-clock airstrikes on Luton?

    • eternumviti

      “come friendly bombs and fall on…Luton”

      I don’t don’t know. Doesn’t trip of the tongue so well.

  • FreeOregon

    Why are the Americans unable to win wars or bring peace? Zip since WW2. Zip.

    Seems everything they touch falls apart.

    Strutting around like peacocks in Eastern Europe. Ludicrous.

    Time for them to return home and solve their own domestic issues?

  • mehmood mayet

    It is to be hoped that the West dispatch all of their ground troops to Syria and to Afghanistan to confront the Islamists. They only understand the meaning of violence . Cost and casualties must never be taken in to the calculus.

    • Abe Linconln

      Armchair warrior… brain made of rock…

  • Abe Linconln

    7 million dollars a day to destroy 10 dollar tents… brilliant

  • Rob

    So what is your suggestion on how to tackle this problem Mr Bacevich?

  • Bob

    Cameron has been aching to get involved in Syria for years, his strategic motives rather than his tactical justification remain as ever unclear even after all this time. Cameron has long repeated Washington’s line on removing Assad, and it remains his government’s policy position, despite having no relationship nor jurisdiction to Syria nor the outcome. Cameron’s determined march to get involved can only leave the casual observer with some lingering question of his motives; is it just the default British pro anglosphere lurch to obligingly back up to the US policy, and or, is it a last ditch anglosphere attempt to alter the facts on the ground by removing the Daesh mercenary jihadists and inserting another more acceptable occupying force into the vacuum – Turkish, Kurdish, take your pick – before Russian and Syrian forces actually reach and stabilise the vital north eastern provinces that are highly contested and sought after by number of players – superficially Turkey for annexation grandeur, Kurds for a perma-canton and at deeper level Gulf States as Qatar seeks land corridor to Turkey for gas pipelines to create entire industry that would generate revenues for next century. Hmmm.