By Sal Bommarito
Inspired by an overabundance of emotion, warfare has taken many forms throughout history . The conflict in the Middle East is unique in many ways to previous hostile engagements throughout the world. Seemingly, they are more violent and reminiscent of the Crusades when religious fanatics, encouraged by Catholic popes, killed, tortured and starved those who would not convert to Catholicism.
In recent history, fierce confrontations mostly favored the side that had the most firepower. This did not guarantee success, although it did in 1945 when U.S. nuclear strikes ended the war with Japan instantly. But, in Vietnam, guerilla fighters were able to evade U.S. airpower and ground forces, thereby outlasting America’s desire to continue the hostilities in that country. Wily tunnel-digging resistance managed to overcome American military strength and defeat the U.S.
Almost all wars of the past ended at a time certain. Resentment persisted far into the future, but peace treaties were signed and soldiers went home to lead normal lives, even though they frequently relived the horrors of war in their dreams.
The battle with ISIS could very well be one episode of a greater conflict that will never end. It may be a microcosm of a much larger imbroglio between religions, political systems and socioeconomic groups. The contrast between well-equipped American soldiers and Islamic terrorists is stark. Yet, the aspirations of this enemy named ISIS are grandiose and endorsed by God Himself (in their view). The most radical Islamists want to convert and/or kill every person in the world who worships God in a different way.
The drama will not end if ISIS outlasts the allies in Iraq and Syria, as did the Viet Cong in Vietnam. ISIS has and will continue to murder Islamists who do not practice the same religious traditions as they do. ISIS consists of fighters who espouse the most radical version of Islam, and they are enthusiastic about eradicating fellow Arabs who do not follow suit.
So what does this portend for the future of the Middle East? Like Vietnam, ISIS will play cat and mouse with U.S. forces in the medium to long term. The solution to endless resistance could be employment of ground forces, but no nation, including the U.S. is prepared to take on this responsibility. Unlike Japan, civilians in Iraq and Syria protect the enemy, as ISIS seeks cover in populated areas. Righteous combatants do not willingly accept collateral damage, so the allies will not unleash firepower that will result in massive innocent casualties.
If ISIS continues to fill its coffers with the proceeds from black market oil sales and recruits more fighters, the war will limp along, and the U.S. will eventually give up, just as it did in Vietnam. Unfortunately, that will not end the carnage and suffering. And, by the way, it will threaten the global availability of oil.