We’ve been bombing Iraq since 1991 more or less. So it takes a somewhat credulous mind to accept the proposition “23 years of bombing hasn’t got us what we want, but 26 or 27 years, that’s the ticket”
Let’s set aside the fact we killed an unknown number of people with the sanctions under Saddam’s tenure, let’s set aside the fact we’ve littered Iraq with depleted Uranium which will impact on the country for generations to come, and let’s skirt past the well documented chaos that took hold following Saddam’s removal. More bombing is apparently the answer to ISIS who are profoundly evil. ISIS beheads people, have sex slaves and have a literalist take on the Koran, and we have to kill people like that apparently. Unless they are the Saudi government obviously.
And let’s not think too long either about where ISIS got their cash, guns and aid from, now or in the recent past. You may recall that this time last year, we wanted to go to the aid of the plucky “Free Syrian Army”(which included ISIS) and the Qataris who seem to think ISIS are just tickety-boo are happy to hurl wads of cash at them, allegedly. (Whose side are we on now in Syria anyway?)
So let’s get to Westminster’s latest wheeze to… well I’m not sure what exactly. Support the Iraqi government I guess, which we will achieve in some way by supporting rebel Kurdish groups who would just as quickly turn their guns on Iraqi government forces as ISIS. (Assuming said government forces actually engaged rather than doing a mass Usain Bolt impersonation).
As our resident aviation consultant Nick M will no doubt confirm, there are basically two types of air attack. Strategic and tactical. Strategic air power seeks to pulverise enemy industry or large infrastructure for example. Consider allied air forces in the later stages of WW2 when the US attacked industrial capacity in German cities and the UK attacked cities by night. This was achieved by direct attacks on ball bearing factories or submarine pens etc. Tactical bombing by contrast is what today we call close air support. Think back to the early stages of WW2 where the German air force attacked in close co-ordination with the Panzers. It was hard to resist Stukas above and Panzers in front. This was the basic ‘blitzkrieg’ philosophy outlined by German commanders in the 1930’s and it still informs military tactics today.
Or perhaps I should say it still informs those with an understanding of military tactics, which seems to exclude much of the MOD and the rest of Whitehall. What we are doing is a type of strategic bombing against an enemy with hardly any strategic targets. The RAF released a video of one of their raids. Consider they would obviously release the best they had. It showed the destruction of…. an ISIS armoured column? their command and control centre? a mass of their troops? No. The RAF at no doubt very great expense, were crowing that they had destroyed a truck (sic). One with an antiquated Russian 20mm cannon on the back no less.
This is demented. It will have almost no impact on ISIS forces, it winds up the grievance mongers back home (making another 7/7 more not less likely) costs loads of money we don’t have, and shows us as effectively powerless. Can we afford another defeat in the region? (When we left Iraq the first time, the militias had beaten us, make no mistake).
To be effective, we would need to support localised Kurdish or Iranian (no chance whatsoever) attacks with localised strikes in immediate combat situations. This would require UK troops to call in and direct the air strikes right on the ground. Though it was not declared at the time, this was clearly happening in Libya when Gadhafi’s aged tank army was destroyed. This we are told, won’t happen* Or we could use the Apache helicopters in very close air support to turn the Kurds into a formidable localised ground attack proposition. But this is very risky for the helicopters and so, won’t happen.
So we have the absolute worst of all worlds. Ineffective and inconsequential raids which cost a fortune and further antagonise home grown loons making the UK less safe. Can anyone think of a more stupid policy?
(* The undeclared presence of a large UK ground force in a nearby country would at least potentially put a lie to this, if such a force were to exist)