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Bombs Over Baghdad?
To Strike or Not to Strike, That Is the Question

With Iraq coming apart at the seams, there are not a lot of reasons for America to use airpower in Iraq. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t some limited cases where airstrikes could serve a strategic interest.

Published on: June 26, 2014
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  • B-Sabre

    (Helicopters work, but helicopters can be knocked out of the sky with a slingshot-propelled rock, too.)

    Lies, damned lies and base calumny. See this report: http://www.dtic.mil/cgi-bin/GetTRDoc?AD=ADA547531, which covers data presented to the American Helicopter Society. In short, only 20% of losses (out of about 500 total aircraft lost over 10 years in both Afghanistan and Iraq) were due to enemy fire. Our loss rate has been 7 times lower than Vietnam.

    • Corlyss

      “Our loss rate has been 7 times lower than Vietnam.”
      Relevance? The number of troops and other assets in Viet Nam was probably 10x what were committed to Iraq and Afghanistan at any one time during the latter two “wars.”

      • B-Sabre

        I didn’t say losses, I said loss rate, which in the material I cited is measured per every 100,000 hours flown by rotary wing aircraft. We lost 16 helicopters for every 100,000 hours flown in Vietnam, and only 2 (and change) for every 100,000 hours flown in OIF/OEF. By any measure, we lost aircraft at a much, much lower rate than Vietnam, thanks in large part to the fact that modern helicopters are a damn sight more survivable now than then.

        So it doesn’t matter if we deployed one aircraft or a thousand. The helicopter today is much more survivable against a threat that is roughly equal (mostly optically aimed small arms and heavy machine guns or light autocannon) and probably somewhat more dangerous (MANPADS wasn’t around for most of Vietnam).

  • FriendlyGoat

    There is a “problem” wherever ISIS is operating and profiting from oil installations.
    Bomb them? Or live with those people having a big revenue stream?

  • gabrielsyme

    So I find myself in the somewhat odd position of agreeing with an operational judgment of the Obama Administration…

    Even a stopped clock is right twice a day.

    In truth, it is not the operational decisions of the Obama Administration that matter right now (I am of the view that none of the plausible military options will make much difference), but its absurd strategic posture. It is completely absurd to be supporting the “moderate” rebels (who are currently in an awkward truce with ISIS) in Syria who are fighting the one military force in the region that is currently effective in battle against ISIS. Support for the FSA and other groups in Syria has created the space for ISIS to prosper and grow. It is equally absurd to think that the current constitutional structure of Iraq is capable of providing stability going forward.

    Quite frankly, the United States ought to have quietly isolated the Syrian rebels from the very beginning for humanitarian reasons, permitting the rebellion to whither on the vine. Three years in, millions of refugees later, tens of thousands of lives lost, and with an increasingly extreme opposition (even excluding ISIS and the Nusra Front), it is time to cut a deal with Assad. Iraq will remain unmanageable until ISIS is deprived of its base of operations in Syria.

    In Iraq, the Obama Administration simply hasn’t a clue. It seems to think that an Anbar awakening 2.0 can stabilise Iraq. Well, the Sunnis are now pretty united in recognising that the Iraqi constitution essentially guarantees that Sunnis can be excluded from power and the past few years have shown that Shia parties (and not just Maliki) are going to happily use that power to viciously accomplish just that. The fact that Sunni interests were not protected following the first Anbar Awakening when America was engaged and present in the country leaves little doubt that Sunni interests will be ignored in the future, especially given that America has left and Iran is the principal supporter of the Maliki regime. Once bitten, twice shy, and who can blame them?

    The fact is that there is no plan to give Iraqi Sunnis anything to fight for except independence from a hostile Shia regime. Nor is there a plan to give the Kurds any reason to cooperate in stabilising the region and defeating ISIS. Bluntly put, the United States needs to endorse the creation of a Sunni state in what is now Iraqi territory and lead the campaign for international recognition. Thankfully, there is a centre of authority and legitimacy at hand: the deposed Hashemite dynasty, a branch of which still rules in neighbouring Jordan. Such a restoration would provide a nexus of independent power to arbitrate between the different tribes, a locus of legitimacy for a central authority, and a guarantee that Islamic extremists like ISIS (or even like the Saudi Wahhbis) would not govern (a guarantee that republican democracies in the Arab world definitely cannot make). It would also provide the strongest possible foundation for minority rights (ethnic and religious) in a Sunni-led state. Jordan doesn’t have a peerless record in terms of religious freedom (Assad’s is actually better), but it is superior to almost every other Arab country, including post-invasion Iraq.

    With respect to the Kurds, the United States could offer a deal: support for independence (perhaps including the adjoining Kurdish area of Syria and perhaps even holding out support for the eventual incorporation of Turkish Kurdistan into a Kurdish state) in exchange for military action in defeating ISIS. Right now, Kurdish authorities only have the incentive to control their desired portion of Iraq. An independent Kurdistan would likely become the most pro-Western state in the region excepting Israel, and that is well worth annoying Turkey over.

  • Isn’t ISIS using our humvees and APCs and tanks now, the ones they captured when Mosul fell?

    • ljgude

      Yes, that’s what I have read too.

  • Andrew Allison

    The is no question that to strike would be yet another monumental error; besides Maliki is buying aircraft from Russia and Iran, and doesn’t need us (LOL).

  • Corlyss

    Too little too late=typical US policy under Doofus. I’m ag’in’ it.

  • Guest

    “They have little flatbed pickup trucks and an ancillary fleet of stolen cars—black Mercedes and white Renaults mostly, would be my guess—that are, truth to tell, not all that easy to hit from a jet fighter or with a drone. (Helicopters work, but helicopters can be knocked out of the sky with a slingshot-propelled rock, too.)”
    Mr. Garfinkle must be kidding. Not all that easy? Israelis would be interested to know why not. As for knocking helicopters out of the sky with a slingshot – sure, why not? And while we are at it, why not use bows and arrows against tanks?

  • redfox

    What is the US – the Empire of good? With total control, expansionist wars, abductions, secret killings???

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