As the US airpower is pounding ISIS or ISIL back into an insurgent organization, there are continued calls to train the “moderate” opposition in Syria and the Iraqi security forces. The fact that there are calls do so from both military and civilian foreign policy decision-makers is troubling. Add to that, the never ending training mission in Afghanistan and someone has to ask the question. Are the people we are training idiots? By the time we are done with this most of the US military personnel would have served their time and retired. The fact that we keep throwing good money after the bad is indicative of a crisis in the strategic thinking and analysis. The question no one seems to ask is how is that that ISIL and Taliban both achieved their military strength, without a massive billion dollar training program
With regards to Syria and ISIL. Three years ago both “moderate” opposition and ISIL were in their infancy. I put moderate in quotations because it is a truly useless term. How does one define a moderate Islamist? Do they only want to convert the non believers on the odd days of the week? Do they plan for Sharia law to be only applied in certain cases? What does that really mean? Do they also carry moderate ID card, so we can identify them? I kidding of course. Moderate Syrian opposition is a dream that only exists in theory. There is no platform to my knowledge from any Syrian insurgency group that call for a multi-religious modern democratic state.
Getting back to the beginning. The fact is that the Syrian opposition with the exception of ISIL is composed of losers. ISIL was able to grow into a force it is today because they have an idea they believe in and are willing to fight and die for. As repugnant as their ideas are, they do drive the success of their army. While the rest of the opposition is divided with each group trying to gain advantage over others. Why should we train them? ISIL did not need training. The question never asked is why given the same beginnings did ISIL prevail and the so called moderates did not? ISIL did not appear from a movie screen, armed and organized ready to fight. They had to build up from scratch, just like the rest of Syrian opposition. The only answer I can see is that the rest of the opposition is composed of incompetents, unable to win regardless how much training we put in.
The example of the Iraqi army should have been a wake up call. Despite billions in training and equipment they chose to become a force more interested in corruption than fighting. The more we train the worse they seem to be. The same will happen in Syria. As ISIL so aptly demonstrated by capturing Syrian army ammunition and equipment, what Syrian opposition needs is not US money and equipment, but guts and willingness to fight. My advice to the “moderate” opposition is to capture what they need from Syrian army or ISIL. If they can’t, then they don’t deserve to win. The only thing our support will buy is temporary salvation for the incompetents in charge. Once that support ends just like the South Vietnamese government and South Lebanon Army (depraved of Israeli support), the opposition will collapse.
The money we are currently wasting and are preparing to waste training these people could be put to better use upgrading the equipment of the US armed forces. The 500 million the President asked for Syria could be better spent upgrading the USAF F-16 fleet to a generation 4+ fighter capability. Which would be a lot more useful strategically to the United States in case China or Russia is an issue at some time in future.