Friday, March 25, 2016

And meanwhile, in the current war. . .

I haven't been posting in a long while on the war on ISIL, but it's hard to ignore this week, as ISIL struck Brussels.

Once again, people seem surprised.  I don't know why they'd be surprised.  Brussels is a major European capital and in some ways is the Capital of Europe.  To the deluded eye of ISIL, Brussels is a seat of power of the Crusader Empire they imagine to be hounding them, and which they wish to conquer, rather than a sad secular reminder of what Europe once was (which they'd still wish to conquer).

There will be more of this.  This certainly isn't the last ISIL attack on an European city, and for that matter an attack of some sort on a US one is only a matter of time. Just after the news of the attack on Brussels came news that ISIL had sent out about 400 operatives into the West to conduct such affairs.  Now, that's a high number, but only a fraction of them will ever do anything. Still, that number is enough so that some, I'd guess about 10%, will try something.

Brussels may have been particularly prone to this, it should be noted, as pre attack commentators noted that it has not been successful, as much of Europe has not been, in integrating its Islamic residents. This is a huge difference between the US and Canada as compared to Europe.  Europe does let in immigrants (although, the recent refugee crisis aside, not anywhere near the rate the US does), but European societies generally do not "melt".  Indeed, for Americans and Canadians one of the really shocking aspects of European culture is that they do not.  It's probably an example of Holscher's Third Law of History, but while the cultures change (less than imagined) over time, they stick.  So immigrant cultures in Europe tend to end up immigrant islands, where as that tends to last only a generation in North America.

That doesn't mean that some Islamic immigrants do not secularize.  They do, but that also ends up putting the same societies in danger.  I haven't seen anything about it in this instance, but it is notable that in the Paris attacks the attackers decried the "apostates", i.e., those of Islamic culture who have not stayed traditionally strict in their observance of their faith (although in many parts of the globe even Islamic societies aren't particularly strict in their observance).  So, an attack on Brussels was pretty predictable.

Even as this comes, however, ISIL's fortunes are declining in the Middle East and much more rapidly than I would have guessed.  In Syria, the Syrian government is clearly going to win and is retaking lost ground fairly rapidly.  ISIL's days in Syria are numbered, and for that matter the entire rebellion there is on the decline.  This is largely due to Russian assistance, which perhaps shows the degree to which Russia correctly read the entire situation.  ISIL will likely be without territory in Syria fairly soon.

Also in Iraq, however, has the tide been seen to turn, albeit slowly.  The current Iraqi government, amazingly, seems to have gotten its military act together, but with a huge amount of American military assistance.  The news broke this week that the number of US troops in Iraq is in fact much larger than previously estimated.  So, giving credit where credit is due, the Obama Administration seems to have quietly read the situation correctly and this is leading to the slow victory in Iraq.

What a defeat in Iraq will mean for ISIL isn't completely clear.  Will it go underground?  Or will it simply disappear? Al Queda remains around, but it's a mere shadow of its former self.  Perhaps we have more reason to be optimistic than we could have previously hoped.

On that, a person has to wonder if the Kurds are optimistic.  The Kurds have been an ironic beneficiary of the war on ISIL as they always had their act together and managed to hold on to their ground in both Syria and Iraq.  In Syria, they've now declared their region to be a federal region, which doesn't mean that the Syrian government is going to view it that way, or that the Turks will like that either.