AIR POWER CONCENSUS AGREED – NOW LET’S GET ON WITH IT
By Howard Wheeldon, FRAeS, Wheeldon Strategic Advisory Ltd.
18 Sep 14. With the international condemnation of the so-called Isil and the dominance that the militant group has so quickly achieved in large parts of the Iraq and Syria domain and with a still dangerous conflict simmering in Ukraine the world is far from being described as being at peace with itself. 2014 has been a bad year so far in terms of the rise in geo-political tensions but given the unprecedented level of international consensus and support as to how the US, along with its allied partners that includes the UK, proposes to defeat Isil through the primary use of air power and air strikes it is now time to get on with the job.
Who I wonder could have imagined two years ago that an organisation that we now call Isil or Isis and that very few had even heard of back then would now be in-control of as much as one third of the combined Iraq and Syrian territory? Few I venture to suggest and that so many nations have come together and agreed that the way forward to defeat Isil is the use of air power makes very good sense.
With conflict resolution using a diplomatic process ruled out and little if any useful role for the United Nations to play the western response in support of the new Iraqi government and also in support of so-called Syrian rebels whose own war against the Assad regime has been superseded by a new struggle against Isil, western government response has rightly been a combination of various forms of humanitarian support, the dropping of supplies and weapons, air strikes and intelligence gathering. The common theme in this war, as so many in the past, is that once again it is air power that is the chosen solution to use and that will in the weeks and months ahead play the primary and dominant role in the intended defeat of Isil and eventual conflict resolution.
We live in a world of continual change and if we have proved anything over the past seventy years it is that we are no better at forecasting the potential for conflict, challenge and attempts by factions to dominate than we were back then. We are well informed but sometimes we fail to see or to fully understand the history let alone the building of tensions that are often a direct result of past actions. We may know who they are and what they stand for but too often we are unable to see the enemy of today. Closing our eyes to events in Iraq, Syria and Ukraine is not an option and while we are within the NATO alliance clearly limited in our ability to resolve the situation in Ukraine that does not mean that just because membership of NATO is an option that will never be put on the table that we could allow ourselves to ignore calls from a sovereign independent state threatened by an aggressive neighbour.
If we have learned anything as we look at an increasing number of conflicts and issues facing us today it is the value of first achieving consensus with our allies. The NATO Summit in Wales earlier this month provided a very broad consensus on a wide range of geo-political problems and issues. We should welcome this just as we should the US Obama administrations consensus driven plan to broaden air strikes against Isil positions in Syria and to extend these across large parts of Iraq that are similarly threatened and under the control of Isil. Cynics were of course quick to attack the remark made by the US President a few weeks ago when he said that in terms of Iraq there was no strategy. Better to say that there was no strategy than announce a strategy that is wrong and that would not hold up to any form of scrutiny with your allies. Strategy determined by one nation alone is most usually a wrong strategy. I would I hope that there is sufficient knowledge of recent history for me to have no need to spell out what I mean by saying this.
No two situations are the same of course but in what US has proposed as a way