Suddenly, OK maybe slowly, it’s beginning to look like not so fun a game anymore. This is what it’s like to play in the big leagues:
Irbil (CNN) — Iraqi security and coalition forces have killed 97 ISIS militants in eastern and southern Mosul on Sunday, Iraq’s Joint Military Command said, as the group continues to defend its Iraqi bastion with suicide attacks and artillery.The militants were killed in three separate incidents, the Iraqi military said in a statement.
Yeah, guys. It’s the NFL. The story from CNN relates how the 97 unknowns came face to face with eternity. 21 JV fighters were benched when Iraqi soldiers set off two explosive charges in separate vehicles. Another 51 lost out in an attack on Iraqi troops. Coalition airstrikes counted for a further 25.
But wait. What does all this remind me of? There is an image I’m looking for. Ah! Here it is.
Yes, this is the one. It’s a scene from Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket. That’s Lieutenant Lockhart (John Terry), a Marine Corps public affairs officer, lining up assignments for Marine journalists at the height of the Vietnam War. He’s explaining to Sergeant James T. “Joker” Davis (Matthew Modine) the importance of having an enemy body count when reporting action against the NVA. He picks apart a story by Joker concerning a firefight that interrupted a meal some grunts were having in the out lands.
Lockhart: Joker, where’s the wienie?
Lockhart: The kill, Joker, the kill. I mean, all that fire power, the grunts must have hit something.
Joker: Didn’t see ’em.
Lockhart: Joker, I’ve told you we run two basic stories here—grunts who give half their pay to buy gooks toothbrushes and deodorant—winning of hearts and minds. Okay? And combat action that results in a kill—winning the war. Now you must have seen blood trails, drag marks?
Joker: It was raining…, sir.
Lockhart: That’s why God passed the law of probability. Now rewrite it and give it a happy ending. Say, uh, one kill. Make it a sapper, or an officer… which.
Joker: Whichever you say.
Lockhart: Grunts like reading about dead officers.
Joker: Okay, an officer. How about a general?
By the time the Vietnam combat got intense I already had my DD-214 get out of jail card, and I was watching the action on TV. A big weekly item was the casualty report. Starting in 1967 these started to get ominous. The number rose with the level of action. For weeks every report was over 800 dead. Those were American troops. It peaked at over 1000. This was beginning to look like Operation Overlord.
Then there was the enemy body count, and there was a lot of talk about the numbers being fudged. It’s not as though these numbers needed to be weighted:
According to the Vietnamese government, there were 1,100,000 North Vietnamese Army and Viet Cong military personnel deaths during the Vietnam War (including the missing). Rummel reviewed the many casualty data sets, and this number is in keeping with his mid-level estimate of 1,011,000 North Vietnamese combatant deaths. The official US Department of Defense figure was 950,765 communist forces killed in Vietnam from 1965 to 1974. Defense Department officials believed that these body count figures need to be deflated by 30 percent. In addition, Guenter Lewy assumes that one-third of the reported “enemy” killed may have been civilians, concluding that the actual number of deaths of communist military forces was probably closer to 444,000.
Even considering a North Vietnamese population ranging from 15 million to 23 million between 1960 and 1974, these kinds of losses were not sufficient to blunt the enemy’s will. It was the United States that withdrew from the combat zone without completing its objective of maintaining a South Vietnam independent of the North.
Sometimes made, regarding Daesh, is a comparison with the Vietnam conflict. It dies not work. President Obama drew some heat when he referred to Daesh as the JV (junior varsity) team. At the time I disagreed with the President’s detractors, and I still do. I will reiterate something I pointed out previously. Daesh is deficient in critical areas needed to play in the big leagues. By these measures they don’t stack up to the North Vietnamese of 50 years ago:
- No firm control over defined geography
- No significant industrial base
- Completely dependent on external clients for financial support
- Fluid or weak bureaucracy
- Ill-defined legal structure
- Weak technological and intellectual resources
This aside, Daesh has gained control of significant geography in Syria and Iraq. The action in Mosul cited above is in response to Daesh taking the city over two years ago. In Syria Daesh remains entrenched amid a conflict among disparate parties.
The prognosis is that Daesh will be defeated militarily in Iraq. The Syrian conclusion is not as easy to project, but none of the possible outcomes includes a region controlled by Daesh.
Will Daesh prevail militarily anywhere in the world? No.
Will Daesh continue to be a threat in the foreseeable future. 100% for sure.
We can continue to expect fatal attacks with varying degrees of success by Daesh in the civilized world. While Daesh can be eliminated as an organized movement, as an ideology it has gained the base needed to perpetuate itself at a subterranean level for decades. As a deadly ideology Daesh is shoulders above what the Weather Underground, the Red Brigades, and Shining Path ever amounted to. A better comparison would be the Irish Republican Army, responsible for terrorists attacks, particularly in Ireland and Great Britain for decades.
A key element of Daesh, missing from the above mentioned, is a willingness to die. Modern police methods do not work against the employee who shows up for work one day with a weapon and no backup plan. This is the kind of person who keeps insurance underwriters awake nights.