The US Military has been blowing up Iraq since I was 5 years old. In spite of all the politicians promises that this blowing up of Iraqi stuff would lead to a new tomorrow, where peace and prosperity flood into the region, this brave new world has failed to arrive.
The previous 24 years of blowing up Iraq haven't achieved their stated aims, so we listen again to blather from elected officials that certainly, this time, the bombs will bring peace. Perhaps the previous explosions weren't powerful enough, or were too powerful. Certainly, they tell us, finding the right target, or blowing up the right mud brick building will change the hearts of ISIS, and turn the region around. The issue isn't one of approach, it is one of gathering intelligence, they say.
Terrorists, the popular press will tell you, are finite in number and if only they could all be apprehended, peace would ensue. Terrorists, by these same accounts, are "radicalized", as if anti-Westernism were an infectious disease over which its victim has no control. Never does it enter popular discussion that these people could be externally motivated by the events going on around them, or that otherwise peaceful individuals could be driven to violence by a combination of beliefs and events.
Worse still, is the logical fallacy that organizations like Al Qaeda and ISIS are hierarchical structures similar to ordinary governments or militaries, and that if the heads of the organization can be clipped, that the rest of the organization would wander off into retail jobs and farming. The reality, made apparent by the hydra-like behavior of these organizations, is that the members are self-motivated, and that Al Qaeda is more like a jihad fan club than a jihad corporation. For example, if the head of the Star Wars fan club were killed, it is unlikely that everyone in the club would cease to enjoy Star Wars. Likewise, if the head of ISIS is killed, or if the main players of a particular cell of Al Qaeda are killed, it is unlikely the rest of the group would pack up their stuff and go home.
Furthermore, decentralized organizations are the only organizations that can survive under the vigilance of US anti-terrorist operations. People don't seem to ask what it takes to set up a chapter of Al Qaeda. An ambitious fellow doesn't have to apply for a franchise and pay a fee to Al Qaeda LLC; all you need is a bunch of guys who decide to call themselves Al Qaeda.
To fight these loosely organized guys as if they were the Wehrmacht is an inappropriate tactic. If one part of the organization, even the most visible members, recant their positions and surrender, the rest of the organization will renounce them and carry on. Surrender is an impermanent, ephemeral goal, as no one man controls the motivations and opinions of the entire organization.
Further still, no one ever asks why these guys are fighting, or who these guys even are. In 2003, US bombs began to fall in Baghdad, during what was called "Shock and Awe" at the time. This decimated the paid Iraqi army, and began the unpaid insurgent resistance to the US Army that goes on to this day. 2003 was 11 years ago, and tens of thousands of Iraqis were orphaned during this period. What do you suppose the views of a 19 year old Iraqi fellow, orphaned in 2003, might be in regards to the US? What of a 30 year old, who has known hardly anything but American bombs, soldiers, no-fly-zones and tanks? Is it any surprise that there is no shortage of willing, murderous young men joining the Islamic State?
Foreign attack creates a sense of conservatism and nationalism. The 1979-1989 attacks on Afghanistan by the Soviet Union ended all traces of progressive thought in Afghanistan, as the psychotically traditional Taliban took over the country. Previously, Afghanistan had been looking to modernize the country. Afterwards, those thought to be too modern could be flogged or killed. The US occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq has apparently done little to endear the Western world to the people of Iraq and Afghanistan, as is made abundantly clear by a burgeoning Taliban presence in Afghanistan, and the appearance of the especially brutish and backward Islamic State taking over Iraq.
And so, more bombs fall, and the insistence by the would-be Caliphs that the West it out to get the Iraqi people sound more plausible to Iraqi ears. By fighting, by blowing up trucks and artillery, the US creates more enemies that will either destroy or be destroyed. Each ISIS fighter killed leaves dozens of surviving relatives, who will be more motivated to take up the sword. The war can absolutely be fought, as it has for nearly 25 years. But fighting will only lead to more fighting. Bombing will lead to more bombing. History has shown that new targets appear as old targets are destroyed.