10 December 2014

Combating ISIS: Have the tables turned?

Recently, reports have come out about Britain's SAS (Special Air Service) running around in small teams basically assassinating Islamic State (IS) militants. While they are doing that, our military is strictly adhering to a combat advisory role. A SAS representative has been quoted as saying, "They can run and hide if they see planes in the sky but they can’t see or hear us. Using so many snipers takes the fear factor to another level too; the terrorists don’t know what’s happening." Clearly they are diminishing the manpower and effectiveness of the IS, and also lowering morale via fear. Are the airstrikes from the U.S. accomplishing the same?

 As our aerial bombardment campaign continues, one can imagine the extreme manpower costs of gathering intelligence, planning air missions, and then the cost of carrying out each individual operation. Sure we have drones, but they still require a pilot, and we also have pilots physically in their aircrafts executing these missions. Having teams on the ground would not only reduce the total manpower commitment, but when individuals gather the intelligence themselves, it tends to be more accurate. 

The “telephone” game comes to mind. Basically, it is a game that shows how badly communication can be altered and distorted if it is transmitted indirectly. It comes to mind because, with all of the aerial bombardments and missile strikes, the collateral damage of such events is inevitable. Mistargeting of facilities, vehicles, and social events that result in a loss of life or property reflect poorly on the United States and all we can do is apologize. If we have our operators on the ground who can see the enemy with their own eyes and have a previously approved set of engagement criteria, would that not eliminate mass collateral damage events? 

For too long, the United States has tied the hands of its military personnel and stopped them from taking responsibility and making immediate choices in moments of need. Our officers and enlisted leaders are some of the best in the world. We are at war with an enemy who follows no rules. Our rules of conventional war, while inherently good, are not always applicable in the quick-thinking and quick-acting environments of the asymmetrical warfare realm. I feel it is time to push responsibility back down to the people on the ground where it belongs.

For any of you who have seen the movie "Tombstone" with Kurt Russell as Wyatt Earp and Val Kilmer as Doc Holiday, this type of tactic should ring to you as clear as day. Most Islamic State personnel proudly display their black banners and “uniforms” which are black balaclava-like facial coverings and typically monotone-colored clothing in OD Green or black. The cowboys from "Tombstone" had their red sashes. Seems easy enough to follow: kill those with a red sash, or in this case, those with a black hood and ISIS banner, within reason of course.

Comment below or start the conversation here and connect within the military community.

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