|I still want to know where they got these trucks. :-)|
The situation in western Iraq is indeed dismaying. Let’s ransack the strategic canon for a few ideas that may help statesmen and commanders comprehend what has happened and what it all portends. First, scholar Timothy Lomperis reminds us that, at bottom, internal struggles such as the one raging in Iraq and Syria are contests for political legitimacy. Whichever contender best provides ordinary people the basics of life, makes a critical mass of the populace a stakeholder in its rule, and ultimately makes them believers in its right to rule is apt to prevail.
Which, second, makes the Iraqi forces’ collapse all the more disquieting. There is no way a U.S.-equipped and -trained military serving a legitimate regime — a legitimate cause — should throw down arms and capitulate to a vastly outnumbered enemy, no matter how motivated or well led. Iraqi soldiers, it seems never learned an elementary maxim from Chinese strategist Sun Tzu: when on death ground, fight. Or, if you prefer your wisdom from Dr. Johnson: the prospect of being hanged focuses the mind wonderfully. If that basic logic escapes the Maliki regime — if it has failed so catastrophically to win legitimacy and assert sovereign authority — its days may be numbered.
Third, ISIS, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, has proved itself a far more serious foe than al-Qaeda, the Taliban, or other adversaries of the post-9/11 years. It’s more Maoist in its operational and strategic outlook. Al-Qaeda seems to think it can bypass Mao Zedong’s classic Phase III battlefield struggle: it can win solely through terrorist action, and without a conventional victory. Doubtful. ISIS clearly understands it has to defeat its opponents to win — just as Mao knew he had to vanquish the Nationalists to bring China under communist rule.