Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Quotable: Michael Flynn on “winning” against the Islamic State – and on information war

Tuesday, March 8th 2016
“Defeating IS will entail . . . engaging IS directly — both through decisive force of arms and overwhelming information operations attacking their values system . . .”  So argued retired Army Lieutenant General Michael T. Flynn in the lead article in the March-April, 2016, issue of Military ReviewHow about Winning Our Nation’s Wars Instead of Just Participating in Them?” asked the former Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency.

General Flynn’s article opened with a discussion of “winning” – its definition, implications, and necessary means.  His analysis of “a habituated state of ennui in the government” will interest all involved in national security.  It closed with a discussion of information war.  Here are a few key quotes:

  • Do we know how to win wars anymore? And, do we still have what it takes? Sadly, I have come to the conclusion that the answers for both are that we probably don’t.

  • . . . we now participate in war simply because we can, often as a result of what might be viewed critically as merely high-level political whims dressed up in high-sounding rhetoric.

  • . . . to win this war, we must defeat IS not only by direct action against its claimed land space and physical assets, but also by attacking the value system and moral code it uses to recruit through an information war.

  • In doing so, we must refute the excuses the radical Islamists use to justify their actions, and we must make clear to all people the unacceptability to us of the justifications IS uses to wage war against us.

  • At the same time, we must promote an unambiguous alternative value system that stands in stark contrast to the primitive and barbaric dogma the grotesque and radical IS espouses.

  • It should be made clear in disciplined information war that IS doctrines are anathema to modern peoples of any race, nationality, ethnic, or religious group, since they are counter to what civilized peoples everywhere have been trying to establish for generations in terms of universal agreement on basic human rights, values, and morals.

  • Such a conflict between competing values systems will be challenging because, too often, IS effectively appeals to the deep resentment many Islamic populations have for the West in general and in particular the United States, justifying their war against the West on philosophical grounds derived from radical Islamic scholars who use seventh-century moral codes to justify their actions.

  • In this respect, IS enjoys a great advantage due to its intimate understanding of the mentality of the young Muslims it is attempting to lure by enticing them to join a cause that appears to offer worldly pleasures, rewards, and adventure in addition to spiritual salvation through Jihad.

  • We must also recognize that IS members do not see their activities as immoral or repulsive. Quite the contrary, they feel morally justified in their actions based on the belief system that underpins their actions.

  • As a result, we must be careful not to underestimate our enemies’ intellectual capabilities in pursuing the goals they seek. They are clearly not the junior varsity or second-string team some have characterized them as being, either intellectually or in their ability to shrewdly wage psychological as well as physical war with the limited resources they have.

  • Though IS adherents subscribe to a return to a seventh-century set of values that condones slavery; brutalization of captives; exotic punishments for reputed crimes; domination, exploitation, and rape of women and children; and forced subjection of nonbelievers of their brand of the Islamic faith, they are not stupid. Quite the opposite, they are true believers who have shown both fanatical zeal and commitment, as well as great skill and acumen in manipulating world opinion and outmaneuvering their enemies.

  • To highlight a sobering comparison, few Westerners are persuaded enough in the defense of their own ideology and culture to willingly volunteer as suicide bombers for their cause. In contrast, many IS followers appear to be more than willing to do so.

  • As evidence of serious intent to cleanse the world of non-Islamic power and influence, IS is systematically destroying . . . . the cultural history of peaceful, non-Islamic peoples living in those states.

  • Consequently, the ideological foundations of many nations striving to achieve stability through tolerance of ethnic and religious diversity are being undermined as IS schemes against them to compel their subjugation to the IS caliphate. . . . Let’s face it: they want to win and believe they are.

  • Defeating IS will entail not only engaging IS directly—both through decisive force of arms and overwhelming information operations attacking their values system—but also taking dramatic steps to cut off the support they receive from a host of players, including unfortunately, many of whom are among those we nominally consider allies but who are covertly supplying and supporting IS for their own national or personal purposes.

  • Taking such steps will require not only diplomatic dexterity and sophisticated cultural acumen, but also great courage and toughness in the face of an entrenched bureaucratic mindset that prefers at present to rely on wishful thinking as a strategy.

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