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Words from Winterbilt

Our strategy in the Middle East is?

Shannon Bohrer

(8/2015) We have been in the Middle East for some time, fighting enemies, creating alliances, keeping the peace, slowing the proliferation of nuclear weapons and building democracies. Maybe we should question how this is working? In this country there is support for more intervention and opposition against any intervention. And, in the Middle East there is also support and opposition, sometimes from the same governments. In Iraq, after all we did for them they wanted us to leave, so we did. Now with ISIS on the move, they want us to return. Do we return or do we stay away? Are there other options?

Currently, the discussion over to stay out or return is all about the Islamic State (ISIS). ISIS is bad, they are intolerant of others, they are mean and they kill a lot of people. I think that is a fair summary which is sufficient to say they are a serious problem. However, it may be helpful to examine ISIS a little deeper, who are they? Where did ISIS come from, how was this organization formed, how are they supported and who supplies their weapons? If one has an enemy, to defeat the enemy you must know and understand your enemy. And of course you must also know and understand yourself. As was said three centuries ago by General Sun Tzu "If you know the enemy and you know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle." Do we know the enemy? And maybe just as important, do we know ourselves?

Our involvement in the Middle East (the cliff notes version) goes back for some time, but primarily we were involved for oil (economics), Israel (democracy), and for the cold war (to defeat communism). Oil and Israel are self-evident; we needed a lot of oil and still do. During the cold war it was important for us to contain communism. To do that we supported some dictators that had some unintended consequences. Lately our involvement has grown to include defeating terrorist and nation building. The question is – have our involvements been successful? Maybe the answer is dependent upon who you ask?

Near the end of the cold war we supported the Afghan freedom fighters (the Mujahideen) against the invading Russians. President Regan’s speech on 21 March 1983; "The tragedy of Afghanistan continues as the valiant and courageous Afghan freedom fighters (the mujahedeen) persevere in standing up against the brutal power of the Soviet invasion and occupation. The Afghan people are struggling to reclaim their freedom, which was taken from them when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in December of 1979" During an eight year period we supplied billions of dollars of military aid to the mujahedeen in Afghanistan, in support of jihad against the Soviet Union. Of course we all know that the Mujahedeen evolved during and after the war, to become the Taliban.

"If you know the enemy and you know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle" - Sun Tzu

A short time later, another group formed that called themselves al Qaeda. Think of al Qaeda as a first cousin of the Taliban. And we all known that Osama bin Laden was the leader of al Qaeda. In a strange sort of way, while we were supporting the Taliban fighting the Russians, we were also supporting Osama bin Laden. Osama bi Laden moved to Afghanistan to help fight the Russians. How many U.S. weapons did we sent to Afghanistan, were later used against our troops fighting the Taliban?

We all know we fought the Taliban in numerous countries and we killed Osama bi Laden. I think the idea was that if you cut the head off the serpent, it dies. Well, it did not die, instead another cousin was born. Actually a number of cousins developed, but our largest concern is currently ISIS. If we defeat ISIS, will there be another enemy and will we have to fight them.

A very important question that we already know part of the answer is, where do our opponents get their weapons? The part of the answer that we know is that many of them come from us. Close to 40 percent of the 475,000 weapons given to the Afghanistan Army, can’t be found! The U. S. sent over $500 million in weapons to Yemen, to fight the Taliban, but the government collapsed and the weapons are, we don’t know. And, we also have missing weapons in Somalia and Libya. And, you know we have sent weapons to the free Syrian army. Almost 30 percent of the weapons give to the Iraqi’s, between 2004 and 2007 are missing. And currently we have no idea how many weapons that we supplied to the Iraq forces since 2007, that have been mislaid, dropped or just left behind while in retreat while fighting ISIS. It is well known and widely reported that ISIS is in control of tanks, armored vehicles and numerous other American weapons.

If we do send troops to fight ISIS, as many have suggested, will ISIS will be using our weapons to fight the U.S. Troops. If we do send troops and they win, what cousin will we be fighting next? Oh, and how many weapons will we be leaving behind this time?

I have a suggestion that some may find unrealistic, but then it seems that our current strategy has not worked that well. We should send troops to fight ISIS, but the weapons we take should be modified. Every weapon, small and large should include a locating device that would enable us to locate the weapon and disable it, if we do not bring it home. Think of the device like a GPS, that the government can use to determine its location. Additionally, larger weapons like tanks, armored vehicles, cannons and Humvees, would include a destructive device that would allow us to destroy the weapon. Of course the destructive device would also destroy anyone using the weapon/vehicle – and hopefully destroy anyone in close proximity to the weapon/vehicle.

We go to war, we defeat the enemy and we come home, period. The next enemy, the next cousin or the next rendition of ISIS, picks up our left behind and lost weapons and starts another conflict. When the next enemy is in the heat of battle we disable/destroy all of the weapons. They lose and we do not have to go back. I know it sounds crazy, but what are the other options?

"The Significant Problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them" Albert Einstein

Read other articles by Shannon Bohrer