Tuesday, September 9, 2014
Defeating The Islamic State
A man ahead of his time in many ways, General Sherman realized that the path to victory was not only in defeating the Confederate Army in the field but in destroying the Confederacy's material ability and psychological will to wage war.
His strategy involved moving his armies through the South heartland by using his superior numbers and firepower to consistently outflank and force back Confederate troops under General Joe Johnston and later General John Bell Hood...and destroying anything the enemy could possibly use. His army killed comparatively few civilians, but lived off the land and left a swathe of destruction in its path.
He refused to allow his army to be tied down occupying bases. After conquering Atlanta, the South primary railroad and communications hub, he simply had the population evacuate to the Confederate lines, destroyed the railroads, ammunition and stores Hood's army had left behind along with anything else his own troops couldn't use (including a large part of the city itself) and continued to move east to Savannah on the Atlantic coast and then north through the Carolinas, using the same tactics. According to Johnston's own memoirs, Sherman's troops moved at the rate of something like a dozen miles a day, leaving virtually nothing that could be used by the Confederate armies behind them. This also forced the local populations to concentrate on survival and subsistence rather than providing either men, food or materials in support 'for the Cause.' It is a fact that there was very little if any guerrilla warfare behind Sherman's lines in the conquered territory.
Sherman eventually forced Johnston's army to make a stand in North Carolina at the Battle of Bentonville, where he decisively defeated Johnston's troops, and eventually took the surrender of Johnston and all the remaining confederate forces in Georgia, Florida, and the Carolinas on April 26, 1865, the largest surrender of Confederate troops during the war.
The lesson of General Sherman is an important one. Whether we want to admit it to ourselves or not, The Islamic State has a lot more popular support in the Muslim world ( including Muslims in the West) than we realize. That mistake has to be brought home to them, and the sooner it is, the shorter the war will be, ultimately saving many lives.
With modern adaptations, (for instance, using air power supporting armor to force Islamic State's forces back) General Sherman's strategy would both destroy The Islamic State's capacity to wage war, bankrupt it by eliminating the finance and support it gets from its base and discrediting its ideology among the people it most needs to be discredited with - Muslims. It would end their psychological support for jihad.
In contrast to WWI, Germany in WWII suffered total and unmistakable defeat. Germans were able to see first hand the destruction and death that following National Socialism and Hitler had brought upon them. The lesson was brought home and thus the German people had the ability to rebuild and start with something like a clean slate.
There is one final thing we are going to need in order to win this war, and it's unfortunately something deeply lacking - leadership.