ISIS Presses Its War on Two Fronts: on the ground and online (The Moderate Voice)


ISIS is aggressively pressing its war on two fronts – and many believe they continue to be well-situated and are steadily advancing. The fronts: on the ground and online. The Christian Science Monitor notes:

For Islamic State fighters, the battle for dominance continues both on the ground and online: The extremists’ capture of the ancient Syrian site of Palmyra this week came with a Twitter-circulated photo of the group’s black flag flying over the city’s hilltop castle.

The militants’ decision to publicize their victory via social media is typical of the group’s strategy as it strives to use the Internet to push its propaganda forward – and it comes as the Obama administration faces increasing scrutiny of its policies for combating the extremist group on both fronts.

“A war of words continues, as both sides try to convince the world the momentum is in their favor,” national security reporter Paul D. Shinkman wrote for US News & World Report. “For the Islamic State group, it seems like yet another win.”

Indeed, the militants captured Palmyra – an ancient site that was “one of the most important cultural centres of the ancient world,” according to UNESCO – just days after they retook the Iraqi city of Ramadi, “undermining US assertions that the group is largely on the defensive after months of airstrikes by an international coalition,” The Washington Post reported.

The administration responded by casting the image of the fight as a long and arduous battle, even as it worked to keep its tone optimistic.

CBS’s soon-to-be-retired (the true heir to Walter Cronkite, who should have replaced Cronkite when The Most Trusted Man in News retired) noted on Face the Nation:

Well, you know, years after we came through the Vietnam experience, I remember thinking, you know, we kept asking during that period, are we winning?

And when you have to ask the question, generally, you’re not winning, because victory, it is always obvious.

Some U.S. intelligence officers are reportedly arguing that the drive to slow down ISIS is being constrained because the United States is trying to avoid hurting civilians:

American intelligence analysts believe the U.S. could be making better progress against ISIS if they weren’t trying to prevent civilian deaths.

The New York Times reports that the U.S. has avoided targeting seven key buildings in Raqqa, Syria, that serve as ISIS headquarters. And last week, U.S. forces didn’t stop ISIS from overtaking Ramadi, Iraq. American officials have admitted they avoid the large ISIS targets because the attacks could kill civilians.

The Times notes that many Iraqi commanders, and some American officers, think the U.S. is using too much judiciousness with its air power.

All of this led some online writers and some newspaper editorial boards to note that this was a particularly sad Memorial Day weekend.

In San Diego, the L.A. parent company Tribune Publishing late last week formally took over the San Diego Union Tribune from its highly conservative owner, publisher Doug Manchester. On Sunday it wasted no time showing that it didn’t intend to take a purely ideological line or be lockstep conservative and wrote an editorial that will probably offend GOPers and Democrats. The theme? How this was a “down” Memorial Day. Here’s a chunk of it:

Nevertheless, this Memorial Day feels particularly melancholy. This century, America has fought long wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that took an immense toll without yielding the results we hoped. The Pentagon reports 3,482 military personnel have been killed in action in Iraq and 1,832 in Afghanistan.

These men and women did not die in vain; we don’t believe that can be said of any American dying in service of his or her country. But as with the American military members killed in the Vietnam War, the U.S. government’s failure to realize its objectives gives particular poignancy to their deaths.

And with the Iraq War, the U.S. government’s fundamental failings on so many levels can’t help but inspire fury over the human toll resulting from these mistakes. Our intelligences agencies were wrong; there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, the Bush administration’s primary rationale for our invasion.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s subsequent decision to disband the Iraqi army was a staggering mistake that quickly fueled unrest and deadly feuding among rival religious and ethnic groups. The administration installed unqualified people to oversee Iraq’s rebuilding and government agencies, picking people with the right politics and connections instead of crucial management experience.

It was a long shot that American occupiers would win the hearts and minds of Iraqis, given Iraq’s profound internal divisions. It was an impossibility after these basic mistakes.

Now there is a new clamor for U.S. “boots on the ground” in Iraq as the menacing, rapidly spreading Islamic State takes over ever more territory. There is reason to wonder whether President Barack Obama’s withdrawal of combat troops was premature, or whether his administration did enough to ensure Iraq had capable leaders after the pullout. And those who are being critical go far beyond Republican interventionists. “America’s chosen policies in the Middle East are failing – and the Obama administration faces uglier and uglier alternatives as it looks ahead,” declared an editorial in The American Interest, a centrist online magazine with a heavyweight list of contributors. Janine Davidson, senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, wonders how the administration could think its policy of fighting Islamic State almost entirely with airstrikes might work.

Meanwhile, ISIS presses on – on the ground and online. And young people continue flock to join it.

PHOTO: See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons