Friday, February 5, 2016

A State of Permanent War

I recently read a pretty disturbing article by Micah Zenko, here, asking a pretty simple question: "How many bombs did the U.S. drop in 2015?"

Let’s review U.S. counterterrorism bombing for 2015. Last year, the United States dropped an estimated total of 23,144 bombs in six countries. Of these, 22,110 were dropped in Iraq and Syria. This estimate is based on the fact that the United States has conducted 77 percent of all airstrikes in Iraq and Syria, while there were 28,714 U.S.-led coalition munitions dropped in 2015. This overall estimate is probably slightly low, because it also assumes one bomb dropped in each drone strike in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia, which is not always the case.  

So, let's accept these data at face value (Zenko's article does cite source data from which he built this estimate).  What is our policy towards ISIS?

“We kill them wherever we find them,” and just this week, Col. Steve Warren, Operation Inherent Resolve spokesman, claimed, “If you’re part of ISIL, we will kill you. That’s our rule.”

Since our avowed foreign policy seems to be one of destroying ISIS, how are we doing?

Pentagon officials claim that at least 25,000 Islamic State fighters have been killed (an anonymous official said 23,000 in November, while on Wednesday, Warren added “about 2,500” more were killed in December.) Remarkably, they also claim that alongside the 25,000 fighters killed, only 6 civilians have “likely” been killed in the seventeen-month air campaign. At the same time, officials admit that the size of the group has remained wholly unchanged. In 2014, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) estimated the size of the Islamic State to be between 20,000 and 31,000 fighters, while on Wednesday, Warren again repeated the 30,000 estimate. To summarize the anti-Islamic State bombing calculus: 30,000 – 25,000 = 30,000.

So we've killed 25,000 bad guys, but there still seems to be at least as many of them now as when we started:  "At the same time, officials admit that the size of the group has remained wholly unchanged."

Sounds like a recipe for a state of permanent war.  They are replacing themselves faster than we can kill them.

Also sounds like it's time for a different approach.  Zenko's article touches upon the notion of preventing radicalization of young people to becomes terrorists, rather than wait till they actually have crossed the line and then focus on the kill.

You should go read the article, here.  This is not an unexpected result.  Suppose your family was decimated by a drone stoke.  If you're a survivor, wouldn't you bear hatred in your heart forever for the U.S?  We are creating terrorists faster than we can kill them.  It's a failed approach.

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