River Wissey Lovell Fuller

The Middle East

December 2014

Here we go again, assisting the Americans attacking factions in the Middle East.  This time, at least, it seems fully justified to me.  The behaviour of ISIS is barbaric and cannot be tolerated in the world today. The truth, however, is that if our behaviour, and particularly that of the Americans, had been better, there would never have been an ISIS.   The record of the West’s actions to date has been one of interference that has failed to achieve their aims and has, in almost every case, resulted in an unstable and chaotic state in which Islamic extremism was  able to flourish, leading to the Islamic State (ISIS). There was very little justification for the attack on Saddam Hussein, there was little or no evidence that he had anything to do with the Islamic terrorists, or that he had weapons of mass destruction.  It was true that he was a tyrannical dictator, but it might be argued that with the problems of religious, cultural and ethnic divisions in his country, that was the only way in which civil obedience could be maintained.  To his credit, at least, he had created a state which was more western in its outlook, women were not forcibly required to cover their faces, they were free to go to school, go to work, drive cars etc.  He had a disciplined and capable army that had constrained Iran’s ambitions. After the war that cost billions of pounds /dollars and hundreds of thousands of lives we came away and left an unstable situation with a man in charge who was sympathetic to one ethnic group, thereby ensuring that there was one half of the people who were disadvantage and  rebellious.  Saddam’s army and police force were dismantled and sent home, resulting in the loss of a well trained and experienced body of men to maintain order. The Afghanistan campaign seemed to have more justification in that the Taliban were a fanatical body imposing their will by force and were linked to Islamic terrorists, sadly there were many men in Afghanistan  who were sympathetic to the Taliban and there were many others linked to tribal war lords more interested in furthering their own ends.  The overall result has been a loss of many lives, British, American and  Afghans along with an incredible financial cost and a weakened but undefeated Taliban.  How the situation pans out has yet to be determined, but the possibility that the Taliban will regain control is very real. In Libya Colonel Gadaffi was in control, once again he was a rather tyrannical dictator but there was increasing disquiet in the country  with some rebellious groups, whether or not this rebellion was being  encouraged by external agencies is open to question.  There is no doubt that Gadaffi had some sympathy with Islamic terrorists but there is no evidence that he was in any way connected with the 9/11 catastrophe and there is some doubt that he was responsible for the bomb on the 747 that  crashed at Lockerbie.  Whatever the justification, Britain and America led the way in assisting the rebels (that may have been a minority) by  providing air strikes and that led to the overthrow of Gadaffi.  Since then the country has been completely unstable with internal tribal conflicts. In Syria the West decided that it would help to bring about the downfall  of Assad, another tyrannical dictator, and another leader that had maintained order in his country and had defied the Islamists that would have imposed stricter Islamic laws.  Russia had kept out of the Middle Eastern escapades of the West but, wisely it might be argued, in Syria they came down clearly on the side of Assad.  This has left the West in an awkward position, their efforts in Syria has resulted in an extended  civil war where the opponents to Assad that they were supporting have metamorphosed into a body of Islamic extremists that have benefitted   from the aid given by the West and are allies of ISIS.  Now, if the West attack the ISIS forces that are in Syria they will be helping Assad, something that, at the time of writing, Britain has been reluctant to  do, but not so the Americans, although they must find it difficult to act now in a way which aligns themselves with Assad and indirectly with Russia.  Turkey’s behaviour seems to have been very reprehensible. Reflecting on the air attacks on ISIS, it is apparent that, at the time of writing, the effect has been limited, it does not seem to have stopped ISIS advancing, although it may have slowed them. It may be that the procurement policy for the RAF (and for the USAF) has  resulted in equipment that is not the most appropriate for fighting this  type of war, the very expensive aircraft and very expensive smart bombs and missiles can only be used in limited numbers.  In WWII in Normandy, and in Germany, ground attack aircraft used in close conjunction with  ground forces were extremely effective, strafing and attacking troop  formations.

Rocket- firing planes, in particular Typhoons, were the scourge of the German army.  These simple, primitive and cheap rockets were not very accurate, but a skilled pilot could direct them against relatively small targets with devastating effect.  Trucks, pill boxes, gun emplacements. Locomotives, even tanks when hit in the right place, could all be destroyed.  With 8 60lb rockets a Typhoon had the same fire power as that from a round from 20 25pounder guns, and that could all be concentrated in a very small area if wished.  So effective were they that it was reported that German tank crews had been seen to abandon their tanks at the first sight of a Typhoon.   In the Normandy campaign the Germans made a breakthrough at the Falaise Gap that was extremely serious, they were eventually repelled but Supreme Allied Commander Gen.  Eisenhower said afterwards ‘The chief credit for smashing the enemy’s  spearhead must go to the rocket-firing Typhoons.’ One can’t help but wonder if a squadron or two of relatively cheap aircraft equipped with simple rockets, m/c guns or cannon could have  stopped the advance of ISIS forces in such open country. Ron Watts

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