The Rand Corporation's - justly - renowned deep thinker on counterterrorism, Brian Jenkins, posted an article today that reads like a bucket of cold water thrown in the face of our national security establishment. Read it here: Any Review of Syria and Iraq Strategy Needs Realistic Reappraisal.
Note that the title juxtaposes the words "Syria and Iraq strategy" and "realistic," which signals that the author is not going to deliver the usual happy-talk about 'degrade and defeat' or 'train and assist' or whatever other buzz words are in fashion. Instead, he starts by listing some obvious realities:
He closes with this:
Although these stark conclusions hardly sound controversial, they are antithetical to American policy. The very idea of a military stalemate lasting years — or decades — defies America's sense of progress. Secular, democratic governance and religious tolerance are deeply held American values. The United States operates on the presumption that the sectarian and ethnic divisions can be bridged; that Iraq's national army can be rebuilt into an effective fighting force; that the Bashar Assad regime in Syria can be replaced by a more inclusive government; that the Sunnis can be won over and the jihadists can be isolated, contained and defeated; that peace and national unity can be restored, enabling the refugees to return; and that this can be achieved without the commitment of large numbers of combat forces or even with the commitment of American combat forces.
Unquestionably, these are noble aims, and diplomats are required to be optimists. Nonetheless, national objectives must be based upon realistic assessments of the situation. Here, the distance between presumed aspiration and reality seems great.
So you say we ought to consider reality as we pursue our national objectives in the partitioned and stalemated Iraq and Syria? You are right, Mr, Jenkins, that does not sound at all controversial.
But bear in mind that the Rand Corporation is the government-funded policy think tank of the Pentagon, so even that mild scolding is coming from the inside. Could it indicate a new willingness to stop stumbling along with our Neo-Wilsonian approach to the Middle East?
From Brian Jenkin's mouth to God's ears (you should forgive the Yiddishism).