concerning his stated intention to wage war against the Islamic State (ISIS)
Like all new presidents, Donald Trump, comes to office with a range of priority objectives he wishes to implement.
And, since having the money is the key to which policies can actually be implemented, therefore money and spending decisions are the best indicators of a president's real priorities, not campaign speeches and promises.
President Trump's first major challenge is to meet the requirements of getting the money to carryout his programs through a calendar fixed federal budget cycle, which will give actual shape and structure to his priorities, and only to those that can be paid for.
Naturally, there is provision to meet emergencies, which as a rule, every new president has had to face in their first year of office.
Getting the money through Congress is never straightforward, and always has to be fought for.
As a result, Trump may well see the necessity of Speaker Ryan's removal before the process begins in earnest, or he may find himself trading establishment legislative priorities, like privatizing Social Security, for other aspects of his stated legislative agenda.
Not only will President Trump be constrained by the Budget Control Act (BCA), but if he wants to set any of his stated national security objectives, like beefing up our armed forces, and carrying the fight to ISIS, he has little time to waste.
If Trump wants a flow of money in his first four years, he must focus immediately on the national security portions of the FY2018 budget, and as soon as possible. These budget submissions have to be prepared replete with the kinds of policy statements, justifications, and priorities that will see them through the inevitable challenges they will face.
Above all, President-elect Trump needs to use the FY2018 budget to demonstrate strength and leadership, and by the late Spring of 2017 he must have the FY2019 budget well in hand.
Welcome to the realities of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, President-elect Donald J Trump.
It should be appreciated that President-elect Trump will receive numerous submissions like this one.
Submissions from citizens, like this one, who have served this country during some of its most intractable crises. And, who are aware fully that it is often prudent, if not absolutely necessary when one possess information that is vital to country, to do all that they can to get that message through to the one who will ultimately decide.
Knowing full well, most of the transition communications that even the president’s advisors prepare go unread, while virtually all go unimplemented. That is to say, getting the message through before a crisis grips the nation is a daunting task, but only that.
While, the letter makes its way to someone on the transition team that can appreciate its content, the public is well to remember that for the next four years, to a large extent the well-being of the United States will depend to varying degrees on the ability of the president's closets advisers to discern good intelligence from the mountain of material that is generated on every subject imaginable.
In the interim, I should like to repeat a piece of advice that General Colin Powell gave to President-elect Barak Obama. And, that was that he (Obama) was taking on too much, and he (Obama) needed to concentrate on a smaller and much more manageable set of priorities to be achieved, in the first instance.
Mr President-elect, those priorities are: the economy and jobs, education, healthcare, infrastructure, trade and national security.
Once your legislative and executive action agenda is in place, there will be ample time to concentrate on a broader array of issues, such as immigration matters not associated with national security, police community relations, business and individual tax reform, business regulation, the revitalization of American cities, environmental protection, investment in innovation, and the like, Mr President-elect. _ _ _
The battle for Mosul and Raqqa, the eastern and western capital cities of ISIS-held territory in Iraq and Syria, respectively, will play out over the next several months. The otherwise steady advance of Coalition-supported Iraqi forces will, however, be slowed significantly by the continued use of civilians as human shields and chemical weapons by ISIS.
And, progress on the battle for Mosul is also conditioned by the fact that the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) have committed only two battalions to Mosul. Although there are Kurdish, Turkish and Shiite and Christian militias actively engaged in freeing villages surrounding Mosul from ISIS control, only the Iraqi Security Forces will enter Mosul and engage ISIS directly within the city.
The main thrust of the burden of the battle for Mosul is therefore being borne by Iraqi Security Forces (ISF). The Iraqi Security Forces ability to carry the fight into Mosul proper continues to be adversely effected by the reduced size of US forces, and the inability of the small US force committed to assist the Iraqi Forces to make up for the ISF's glaring under capacity in logistics, which results from the fact that the Iraqi Security Forces are very much still in the process of capacity building. Therefore, unless there is a change in battlefield realities, the battle for Mosul will be much slower than if it were conducted by Coalition Forces.
The length of a battle, however, is not without consequences.
The decision to open a second (western) front against the contiguous territory held by ISIS stretching from Mosul to Raqqa may induce ISIS to elect to shift assets from Mosul, which it will lose ultimately, to Raqqa or elsewhere. Such an undertaking would only make strategic and tactical sense, however, if ISIS believed they would stand a better chance of retaining Raqqa or a desert location by exploiting very real tensions between Kurdish and Turkish forces within the anti-ISIS alliance, within Syria.
ISIS may also choose to regroup in the desert in the area of Deir ez Zour, as well as attempt to maintain a presence in western Iraq near al-Qa’im, and simply abandon Mosul where there is at present little chance for ISIS to exploit tensions between the Coalition forces currently engaged in the battle.
The US must somehow maintain both the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) on the western front and the Iraqi Security Forces in the east of ISIS-held territory, to prevent ISIS from reforming after its inevitable loss of Mosul and Raqqa.
In short, if the US is to assist local forces to defeat ISIS, it will be necessary to ensure there is the wherewithal to dislodge ISIS by carrying out operations beyond Mosul and Raqqa.
Detailed positioning of US, Iraqi, Kurdish, Turkish, Shiite & Christian militia forces encircling Mosul, as of the first week of November 2016.
ISIS captured Fallujah and Ramadi in December 2013, and seized control of Mosul and Tikrit in June of 2014.
The battle for Mosul (2016) by Iraqi Security Forces, Kurdish Peshmerga forces with Christian militia in one of its main groupings, the Hashed al-Shaabi Shiite Militia and Turkish forces, with US military strategic, tactical and logistical assistance, rages on against a conventional and urban guerilla war-wise well-nestled Islamic State militia.
The utterly unique nature and composition of the forces combined in the battle for Mosul, the battle against the Islamic State, has not gone unnoticed by the critical observer. Nor has the complex arrangements that brought the Coalition into being. The Coalition reflects a much greater tapestry of diversity than is usually attributed to Iraqi society, but one that exists and exerts significant influences on the prospects for the future of Iraq, nonetheless.
This development is seen by some as a long overdue concerted effort to incorporate the country’s sizable Sunni and Kurdish communities into a national alliance.
Realities on the battlefield, such as, the forced involvement of civilians as human shields by ISIS, the fact that Mosul is now for all practical purposes surrounded by liberating armies to the north, east and south of the city, have reached a stage where all sides should stop and think about the way forward.
While, there is little doubt that a campaign to wrestle control of the entire territory controlled by ISIS from Mosul to Raqqa will be successful ultimately, that success, however, must be assessed in light of civilian casualties of barbaric proportions, the high risk of attacks by ISIS on the homelands of the Coalition partners (100 killed by suicide bomber in South Baghdad, US soldier killed by IED in Northern Syria, arson-triggered forest fires in Israel (conflagration)), and the propaganda and recruiting bump ISIS can exploit while the sheer level of death and destruction accompanying the battles to recapture Mosul and Raqqa draw worldwide attention.
The ability of ISIS to enter and leave the city to and from the west, along a route that passes through Tal Afar is significant, and whether or not that route can, or even should be secured by Coalition forces is one of the most important decisions to be made, at this juncture, in the battle for Mosul.
Although, the Shiite militia has Tal Afar under siege, however that escape route provides ISIS with a way to save face (not be humiliatingly defeated in Mosul). But that has to be weighed against the reduced numbers of civilians deaths and further destruction of the city's infrastructure in Mosul. And, allowing ISIS a route out of Mosul to the west pushes ISIS into westernmost Iraq. It should be remembered that ISIS still controls most of the Mosulaqqa (Mosul to Raqqa) population corridor.
It is anticipated that Coalition forces have beefed up security at the Mosul Dam.
It should also be acknowledged that there is no binding agreement between the members of the multifaceted coalition that has assembled to take Mosul from ISIS, as to how the war should best be conducted. In addition to the lack of an immediate detailed plan for conducting the liberation of Mosul, neither is there sufficient forward planning as to what the long-term goals are beyond rather vague statements concerning the defeat of the Islamic State and ending their control of the long suffering city of Mosul.
A lack of agreement between the forces going into battle, does not bode well for the establishment of a lasting post-conflict governance regime. As it stands the fight against ISIS will be followed by a fight between the temporary coalition partners engaged in the battle to wrestle control of Mosul from ISIS.
The involvement of Kurdish and Turkish forces in the battle for Mosul, for example, brings with them a complex array of competing and often contradictory anticipated outcomes and other issues. Not the least of which is when, if ever, Turkey will agree or acquiesce to the establishment of a Kurdish homeland, Kurdistan.
There is no discernible consensus between the liberating forces as to who will control the city and the surrounding areas once the Islamic State has been dislodged from Mosul.
The conduct of the campaign to free Mosul has to contend with not only the forced involvement of the civilian population of Mosul, but an equally challenging decision is to whether the goal is to capture and imprison the vast majority of ISIS fighters, or alternatively to kill the vast majority of them.
The decisions made in these areas require a considerable amount of forward planning and facility preparation. We will take a closer look at the implications of the battle for Mosul in relation to the safety of the civilian population of Mosul as well as the decision to attempt to capture and imprison as opposed to the decision to simply kill the vast majority of ISIS fighters.
If, for example, it was the intention of the Coalition forces to press ahead into Mosul proper, in spite of the fact that ISIS militants continue to use the civilian population as human shields, there are going to be civilian casualties? And, if so, one should have an idea as to what constitutes an acceptable level of collateral damage, civilian causalities, before the battle commences?
ISIS controls a swath of territory extending from Mosul westward to an area just east of Aleppo, Syria as shown in red in the map above.
It is possible, since the battle for Mosul is well underway, to understand what the battle plan was (is) by understanding what facilities have and have the not been structured to assist the progress of the coalition forces.
If, for example, the intention was to first surround, and then leaflet the combatants and give them an opportunity to free the civilians and then disarm and come out without their hands above their heads so to speak, then the coalition forces would have prepared detention centers for the captured ISIS fighters estimated to number nearly 200,000, and reception centers for the displaced civilians of which there maybe nearly one million.
There have been no detention centers established for the number of ISIS combatants that could possibly surrender or otherwise be captured.
And, the establishment of reception centers for fleeing civilians from Mosul is ad hock at best and does not represent the kind of facilities that would exist if the safety of the civilian population was a major concern.
The statements from the incoming US administration are also indicative of the battle plan for Mosul. At various times it has been stated that the administration plans to destroy ISIS and the words wipe out ISIS has also been put forward. If in fact that is the intention of the incoming administration, it would appear that a continuation of the battle as it is now being conducted will accomplish just that, i.e., the destruction of ISIS forces in Mosul.
And if the battle for Aleppo can be used as a guide, there is no plan for either saving the civilian population or allowing ISIS fighters to first free the civilian population and then disarm and surrender.
Conceptually, the available options for those forces encircling Mosul, and the ISIS fighters within the city can be understood by considering the dynamics of a wagon train circling the wagons, as depicted above.
In essence, once the wagon train has circled the wagons in a defensive posture, the battle for those within the circle is all but lost.
And, for the attacking force outside the circled wagons, it is now a waiting game, that is, it is just a matter of time until those within the circle run out of some necessity, such as food, water, ammunition or fighters, and the attacking force can then compel those inside the circle to surrender or simply slaughter them.
Those inside cannot survive unless they find an escape route, or are resupplied from the outside. Both possible outcomes, escape and being saved from the outside, are the perennial subject matters of dramatic books and films, as well as the records of historical events.
And, the records of historical events do point to a third alternative for those inside running out of some necessity, mass suicide.
And, it is not uncommon for those encircled and under siege to be besieged by, or rather infected by a siege mentality and factions form and they slaughter one another.
There is mounting evidence that ISIS, for all practical purposes trapped within Mosul, is in the grips of a siege mentality epidemic.
The evidence for that assessment includes verified reports of ISIS fighters, including foreign fighters, wishing to leave being summarily executed, ISIS members being brought to trial for various infractions such as theft and general insubordination, and the public display of the bodies of the executed. In the latest round of ISIS executions 40 bodies were hung from poles where they would be clearly visible to everyone, even the advancing Iraqi Security Forces.
Civilian causalities in Mosul, as in Aleppo, are reaching barbaric proportions.
Given the realities of the battlefield in the battle for Mosul, what is the best way forward for the Coalition Forces and ISIS?
Yes, an understanding of the choices and options facing ISIS, is as important to a proper resolution of the conflict and the outcome of the war, as it is for the coalition forces to understand their choices and options.
The city of Mosul is being encircled by a coalition composed of Iraqi Security Forces, Kurdish forces, Turkish Military Forces and Sunni, Shiite and Christian Militias, with US Forces and others proving training, intelligence and logistical support.
We, the United States, however must proceed in a way that is compatible with the values and ethics of the American people, and that does not involve attacking cities while there are still sizeable civilian populations in them. Has it been so long since the bombing of Hanoi that we, the American people, can forgotten the lessons of mass slaughter of innocents. And, least we forget that Mỹ Lai was not a glorious example of military strategy or the battlefield tactics of a great people, but a crime against humanity.
Why is Russia backing a military campaign in Aleppo, that puts civilian populations in harms way, if though the tragedy of their campaign in Afghanistan was now the province of collective amnesia?
In a phrase, we cannot and must not allow ISIS or the Iraqi Coalition Forces to dictate our, the USA and Canada, respectively, involvement in attacking civilians, and contravening the laws of war, to which we are signatories and ratifiers.
The idea that since, the Islamic State (ISIS), has unleashed its mad dog, that we should respond by unleashing a more mean and more vicious mad dog, is utter nonsense and will only lead in yet another shameful episode of the misuse of the power, of the most powerful.
It is time to stop the madness in Aleppo and Mosul.
~ The Way Forward ~
the rule of law
The idea that since the Islamic State (ISIS) has unleashed its mad dog, that we should respond by unleashing a more mean and more vicious mad dog, is utter nonsense. And, will only lead to yet another shameful episode of the misuse of power, by the most powerful.
Century upon century humankind has engaged in an often torturous attempt to establish rules to govern the conduct of the parties at war.
The process has been torturous, but not inconsequential. Although the development of the rules, or laws of war, if you will, are not final in the sense of completed accomplishment, that is to say, the effort has not brought about the cornucopia of universal adherence, at the same time it has not been barren.
There are two fundamental considerations that have dominated the discussion to develop rules for the conduct of war. One concerns the protection of the population not engage in the conflict, that is, non-combatants (civilians).
And, the second is the realisation that there are some acts, the use of some tactics and weapons, like conflagration, the consequences of there use is so horrendous that they should never be employed by one side or the other in a conflict, and against populations not engaged in the conflict.
Contraventions of the proscribed acts of attacking civilians and the use of conflagration as a weapon of war are thought to be crimes not just against those directly affected, but crimes which offend humankind as a whole, that is, crimes against our common humanity.
It is rather obvious, with the steady increase in the destructive power of the weapons of modern warfare that humankind has made more progress in relation to proscribing attacks against civilians, than in prohibiting conflagration.
Today, although not universally recognized, those engaged in conflict who attack civilians, or who hide among civilians or use civilians as shields to carry out their military operations, have committed crimes against humanity.
And, it is upon this principle, the proscription against attacking or hiding amongst civilians to carry out military operations that provides the principal course to a resolution in the battle for Mosul, a city that is now encircled nearly by Coalition Forces.
The Ultimate Vanishing Act, a book by Eric LaMont Gregory, has been called the definitive must read book, if one wants to understand how we arrived at our current circumstances where the destruction of civilian life, and a rejection of peaceful coexistence has become the norm across the Middle East, North Africa, Central Asia and increasingly South East Asia. Where isolationist tendencies and racial nationalism increasingly replaces cooperation in the West, and war is seen as a rational way to avoid the troublesome and time consuming course of arriving at a consensus.