I just finished reading Nick Turse’s terrifying reveal of the American war on VietNam– Kill Anything That Moves. I am filled with horror and sorrow and rage…and even moreso when I realized that the US is pursuing exactly the same doomed-to-fail tactics in the War on “Terror”…which really is a regional War on Islam and muslims. Just as the US sought to suppress communist ideology in VietNam, it now seeks to suppress Islamic ideology in MENA and subsaharan Africa.
But I will make this short. US dropped the equivalent of 640 Hiroshima nuclear bombs and killed an estimate of 1.4 million civilians and still lost the war. Because the US could never reach the theoretical “crossover point”, the point where US had killed enough Viet Cong that they gave up. Physical attrition and brute-force warfighting is never going to work against an enemy that just melts away and chooses a different front. Nick Turse describes the objectives of “technowar”.
In VietNam, the statistically minded war managers focused, above all, on the notion of achieving a “crossover point”: the moment when American soldiers would be killing more enemies than their Vietnamese opponents could replace. After that, the Pentagon expected, the communist forces would naturally give up the fight.
Regional population demographics and generational warfare promise a virtually endless supply of sunni youth in MENA and Subsaharan Africa. Demographic shift has obliterated the crossover point for any war on IS– by 2050 there will be ONE BILLION youth in Africa, and more than half will be Sunni muslim. So IS has a bottomless pool of youth recruits to draw on. US is simply not going to be able to kill enough young sunni muslim humans to make a dent in the population growth curve.
In fact, the Defense Department admits that right here. Via the esteemable Micah Zenko:
Here’s a summary of the anti-ISIS bombing campaign: 30,000 fighters – 20,000 killed = 30,000 fighters
The primary focus—meaning the commitment of personnel, resources, and senior leaders’ attention—of U.S. counterterrorism policies is the capture or killing (though, overwhelmingly killing) of existing terrorists. Far less money and programmatic attention is dedicated to preventing the emergence of new terrorists. As an anecdotal example of this, I often ask U.S. government officials and mid-level staffers, “what are you doing to prevent a neutral person from becoming a terrorist?” They always claim this this is not their responsibility, and point toward other agencies, usually the Department of State (DOS) or Department of Homeland Security (DHS), where this is purportedly their obligation internationally or domestically, respectively. DOS and DHS officials then refer generally to “countering violent extremism” policies, while acknowledging that U.S. government efforts on this front have been wholly ineffective.
Better get working on that counternarrative, Dr. Atran.