Tuesday, 30 September 2014

John Cantlie's third critique of Western foreign policy

"Hello, I am John Cantlie, the British citizen abandoned by my government and a long-term prisoner of the Islamic State.

President Obama's address on the 13th anniversay of the 9/11 finally stopped all the ninnying around as he laid down his four-stage strategy for confronting the Islamic State. There were no big surprises: US aircraft would provide the airpower, while a mix of Iraqi Army, Iraqi National Guard (not yet formed), Peshmurga fighters and Iranians (not mentioned) will do the ground operations. The border between Iraq and Syria will be open and Syrian Rebels will be armed. and all of this with only 475 extra US advisory personnel doing the job, and not a single US soldier with his boots on the ground.

"We will lead a broad coalition to roll back the Islamic State," said Obama. We are hitting ground targets while Iraqi forces go on the offence.  "I will not hesitate to take action against the Islamic State in Syria", he said.

Now, exactly when Gulf War 3 will start and how long it will take isn't covered. The US advisers working with the Iraqi Army have described their performance as "consistently grim", for arming and training an effective National Guard of Sunni fighters in Western Iraq will take months to achieve.  The Free Syrian Army are proven to be an undisciplined, corrupt and largely ineffective fighting force.

As recently as 7 September a senior US intelligence official  said, "Our intelligence assessment has no serious consideration to work with the FSA. Giving the FSA 500 million now is a completely pointless exercise, never mind that the FSA sells the weapons to the arms dealers and gives them to smugglers and much of them ends up with Islamic State.

Air power is good at taking out specific targets but it is not much good at taking and holding ground.  For that you need effective and disciplined troops, and it is hard to see how this hotch-potch army with its history of under-performing is going to be any form of credible infantry.

After the speech, Peter Baker of the New York Times observed that "Obama is plunging the United States into one of the bloodiest, most vicious conflicts now in existence.  He will pass his successor a volatile and incomplete war, much as his predecessor left one for him. Mr Baker goes on to comment that while previous Presidents enjoyed a surge of public support when they took the nation to war, the public is not rallying behind Obama this time round. Now, polls indicate that while the American public support action against the Islamic State, they do not think Obama is the man for the job, which goes a long way in explaining the simplistic language used in his last speech.  Obama was at pains to point out that groups of killers have the capacity to do great harm. That was the case before 9/11 and remains today. If this reality wasn't changed by two arrogant wars before, why would a third change it now?

Obama described the Islamic State as "not Islamic. No religion condones the killing of innocents and a vast number of their victims have been Muslim.  The Islamic State has no vision other than a slaughter of all who stand in its way."

Now, if by innocents he means women and children, the Islamic State did not kill the Christian Yazidi women of Mosul and Sinja. This is an undeniable fact, and they do not regard the Shia as Muslims at all. In fact, according to them the Shia are considered worse than Americans, as they are apostates claiming to be Muslims while worshiping the dead. And the Islamic State does have a vision: they have created an autonomous and functioning Caliphate.  But expanding on the complex social and political issues of the region isn't going to work when it is war you want.  And so the speech was full of hyperbole about how America would save the innocent men, woman and children. "This is American leadership at its best," said Obama. "We stand with people who fight for their own freedom," he said, before the speech descended into prideful chest-beating about how the USA always saves the world, singlehandedly.  It was all disappointingly predictable: America is good, the Islamic State is bad, and they will be defeated using aircraft and a motley collection of fighters on the ground.

For their part, the Islamic State say they welcome meeting Obama's under construction army.

Join me again for the next programme.

I am disgusted by the comments from my Facebook friends who variously said:

"Probably one episode maybe two. Hasnt he said all there is to say by now?"

"He bored me to tears with his droning on. I tuned him out after about the third quote from some U.S. official."

Claire Khaw: Wow. People just don't care about foreign policy no matter how many times or how hard it bites them in the bum!

"No they don't care at all unless it starts to affect their everyday lives."

"If you asked, most people would say that they do support British foreign policy as they give every year to Red Nose Day and Children in Need."

"Lol what can I say? People nowadays have short attention spans! They need to make it interesting as they did some of their other videos. No one wants to just hear this guy talking, just going on and on. It's BORING."

Claire Khaw: I thought you would be different.

"They need to chop a couple of fingers off or an ear in the middle of his broadcast, just to make us 'sit up & listen'.........I didn't get to the end of part three either. Whatever the intention was it's now lost."

Claire it's not a case of being different, there's just no point to it now.

"Maybe it's his voice, Claire. Even *he* sounded (and looked) bored with it all! So how do you expect anyone else to be engaged?"

Claire Khaw: YouTube thought it was interesting enough to have removed links to the video.

Hint to ISIS:

If you have dancing girls behind him, people might watch to the end.
The Mail was the only British newspaper to give a full transcript of the talk, with the best analysis.  

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