On the eve of the 100th Anniversary of the beginning of World War I, there is a word describing German Army doctrine employed in their advance into neutral Belgium that resonates to this day: “Schrecklichkeit”.
The word means “terror” or “frightfulness” a doctrine employed by the advancing German Army to subdue any opposition:
German army doctrine in force at the time called for such reprisals to be performed immediately and severely in any case of civilian resistance.
Press reporting coming out of Iraq read like the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has, much like the Khmer Rouge taken the concept of Schrecklichkeit to an entirely new level of fanatical viciousness against all their enemies.
There will be a lot of posturing from both left and right on what created this advancing army of death loving fanatics. Both camps will have some with very strong positions that the U.S. has done enough so the concept of never fight harder for something that those directly affected are willing to fight comes into play. For those Americans who think we have a global moral obligation, or as the Obama Administration called it when triggering Odyssey Dawn, “the responsibility to protect” (R2P) there are various military options for Iraq.
Currently, it appears airpower maybe employed to some significant effect in stopping the ISIS in advancing any further into Iraq. American airpower is a long way from our total war WWII strategic bombing raids, which created huge firestorms that killed many civilians.
However, sadly the issue of innocents being killed from the air is still with us today.
The ISIS are current truly world-class bad guys, as fanatical as the Khmer Rouge and their Killing Fields. They are using the brutality of the horror of psychological terror as a weapon to their advantage in their 21st Century way of war. This is just like Khmers and WWI and WWII German Army.
US airpower cannot only level the fight but can tip the balance but there is a significant PR factor always in play.
The US has developed a real sensitivity for killing innocents and avoiding collateral damage, it is a very sincere doctrine that probably cost some US and allied troops their lives by withholding an air attack because of lack of intelligence with complete assurance innocents will not be killed. The book and movie “Lone Survivor” makes our current way of modern war very clear. The SEALs at the cost of their own life spared Afghan goat herders.
These bad guys know as bombs fall and precision cruise missiles are launched many in the world press will pounce on “what does difference does it make” by having one’s head cut off vice an innocent Iraqi being vaporized in a bomb explosion, which especially in the fog of war will happen.
So accuracy is everything. A powerful headline announces an air campaign can begin literally overnight:
U.S. Aircraft Could Strike Iraq Tomorrow
That’s why a number of retired high-ranking U.S. Air Force officers, including Lt. Gen. David Deptula, who served as the Air Force’s first deputy chief of staff for intelligence, say any strikes, if ordered, could begin almost immediately.
If you can provide me with the appropriate intelligence we can start doing (air strikes) within 24 hours,” he told The Daily Beast. “There are a variety of means do this, whether you are talking about long-range, high-payload aircraft or smaller aircraft. With the requisite intelligence information you can start again in 24 hours.
Separating the evil from the innocent in Iraq will be a real challenge.
Hence, the critical importance that Lt. General Deptula places on “appropriate intelligence” which is the key dimension to using airpower to effectively stop a murderous rampage.
President Obama has dictated no troops on the ground as a principle; consequently the current reported state-of-play is that England is considering putting in their famed SAS on the ground.
In London, William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, said Britain was considering its options. While also ruling out direct intervention by troops, he said Britain was “looking urgently at other ways to help”. He proposed “counter-terrorism expertise”, which would mean advisers from British Special Forces such as the SAS and intelligence agencies.
Eyes on marking targets by trained Special Forces will always help mitigate collateral damage.
With respect to US “boots on the ground” President Obama better be very careful with his wishful posturing because there is one combat problem that might be developing that needs airpower supplemented by troops on the ground.
If US and allied nationals are cut off by known killers regardless of current statements coming out of the White House, the world may soon see the horror of beheading of our innocents.
This would never be forgotten nor forgiven.
So the faster air strikes occur is a very good thing on moral and geopolitical grounds. But “no boots on the ground” may fade quickly if American and allied citizens are being in danger of being overrun.
There are about 5,000 American contractors remaining in the increasingly dangerous country, including a team that was bailed out Thursday from a base in Balad, an hour north of the threatened capital, Baghdad.
A call to “land the landing force” of a Marine ARG-MEU specifically, the 22nd MEU on the USS Bataan, is a US combat force that can save lives. Combine a Marine battalion, an MV-22 enabled force with combat air cover from the USS George Bush and it will be truly a lifesaving force.
If the ISIS wants to take on a USN/USMC Air Ground team then those who advance will cease to exist.
Also see the following: