Monday, September 22, 2014

Flames of War And ISIS's Game

Now A Major Kinetic Action
Dan Carlin of the excellent Common Sense podcast talks most recently about America's return to combat operations in Iraq. He makes the case that America is being lured back into the region by ISIS in order to advance its narrative--that it is the holy opposition to the the United States and the West in general. He denounces the return saying (quite reasonably) "Don't do what your enemy wants you to do"--and notes that 'we wouldn't do what they wanted--unless we kind of wanted to do it anyway.'

Sun Tzu would definitely agree.

In fact, almost every senior military planner would agree--so what's going on? Do we want to return with troops to Iraq? Are we just that much of a sucker? Is Obama simply obeying the polls? The Omnivore doesn't think so--in fact, The Omnivore thinks something else is at work here: specifically that the United States is not playing ISIS's game--at least not they way they want him to (The Omnivore should refer to them as 'Daesh'--their local name ... which they hate--but ISIS is so much cooler ... and isn't their current name right now anyway!).

Explain That, Omnivore!
It's pretty simple: ISIS doesn't want to fight against American air power--they have no real assets in that department. Even less so, do they want to fight against Kurdish or Iraqi troops aided by US air power--those loses send exactly the wrong message. As such, their goal is to work on two fronts. The first is to frustrate Americans. This is done with the theatrical beheadings.

Beheadings, emotionally speaking, require an immediate response and the air-support game takes time. If we want justice / vengeance right now, that'll require boots-on-the-ground. So they make a lot of noise and they hope they can pressure the US President into over-committing.

The second prong of the attack is to produce A+ grade English-Language propaganda. The top goal here is to possibly recruit  / inspire Americans to take action within the United States. That would get an immediate response if they could manage something flashy enough--but even if that fails, they know that the US can't allow them to exist for long while pumping out this kind of targeted material: the chances for a damaging homeland event are simply too high to bear the political risk.

In other words, if beheading journalists isn't enough to force the Obama administration to "shut them down now," the threat of an Islamic State October Surprise might be.

So that's their second game--and, in fact, that's what Carlin needs to think more about: if ISIS is allowed to exist and continues to make things like their latest documentary-terror-recruitment video, Flames of War, eventually they are going to strike gold. What is Flames of War? It's the newest, slickest recruitment tool launched by ISIS.

Flames of War

The above is a 55 minute "documentary video" shot as a Hollywood movie. It tells the story of the Islamic State--their rising victory--and their brutal war. It shows (allegedly--but probably) captured Syrian soldiers digging their own graves--and then their execution with shots to the backs of their heads.

It has high production values, nearly flawless American-English voice-over, and shows footage of Obama and Bush (the "Mission Accomplished" speech) washed out to make them look ominously faded. Its message is that they are impotent and irrelevant.

This is yet another piece of marketing aimed directly at disaffected American / Western youth. It knows its business: beheadings sell to the local crowd and grab western eyeballs and headlines--but their message is just medieval brutality. There is nothing in the disaffected western youth's experience that speaks to justice-by-knife. Alternatively, a Hollywood war movie? That's interesting. The explosion-porn combined with heavy-weapons fire that looks like Blackhawk down? That has a reach and impact call-backs to Guantanamo simply don't (orange jump-suits--which, to the Netflix generation will, instead, recall Orange Is The New Black).

Let's also not forget that ISIS has a lot of spare cash. While they may not have as much as, say, Apple, or some large nations, they certainly have enough money to operationalize a  terror-event. If they can make contact with potential recruits, they can buy a lot of explosives. Also Al-Awlaki was enough of a target to be drone-struck and he was mostly just an effective English Language recruiter. ISIS is Al-Awlaki on steroids--with output like Flames of War? A lot of steroids.

On the other hand, conventional weapons won't stop videos. So long as Obama continues to move carefully and with at least the appearance of international support, The Omnivore doesn't think he's playing their game. Air power is his game.

The one thing Flames of War doesn't show ... is any air-craft.

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