May 29, 2015
“What apparently happened was that the Iraqi forces just showed no will to fight. … We can give them training, we can give them equipment; we obviously can’t give them the will to fight.”
Thus did Defense Secretary Ash Carter identify the root cause of the rout of the Iraqi army in Ramadi.
Disgusted U.S. military officers say the 1,000 ISIS fighters who overran Ramadi were outnumbered by the defenders 10 to 1.
Why did the Iraqi army run? And what motivated the fighters of ISIS to attack a city whose defenders so vastly outnumbered them?
According to battle reports, the assault began when dozens of captured U.S. armored vehicles and trucks, laden with explosives, were driven by ISIS volunteers to blast huge holes in the defenders’ lines.
Why do all the martyrs seem to be on their side? And why is it our side that, all too often, shows “no will to fight”?
Iraqis are not cowards. From 1980 to 1988, their fathers died in the scores of thousands defending their country against Iran. But if Iraqis would die for dictator Saddam Hussein, why does today’s Iraqi army seem reluctant to fight for the democratic Haider al-abaci?
And the story of Iraq is the story of Syria.
Four years into that civil-sectarian war, the al-Qaida Nusra Front has carved out a sector in Idlib, as have the Islamic State terrorists in Raqqa. Bashar Assad’s army, though bleeding, is still fighting.
And the Free Syrian Army we backed? Defunct. Some fought, but others defected to the jihadis, fled or sold their weapons.
In Yemen, the Houthi rebels came down from the north to seize Sanaa, drive the president into exile, occupy Aden, and capture huge stockpiles of American weapons. The U.S.-backed army crumbled.
Again, why do these rebels seem willing to fight for what we see as antiquated beliefs, but all too often our friends do not fight?
Perhaps the answer is found in Thomas Babington Macaulay: “And how can man die better than facing fearful odds, for the ashes of his fathers, and the temples of his gods?”
Tribe and faith. Those are the causes for which Middle Eastern men will fight. Sunni and Shiite fundamentalists will die for the faith. Persians and Arabs will fight to defend their lands, as will Kurds and Turks.
But who among the tribes of the Middle East will fight and die for the secular American values of democracy, diversity, pluralism, sexual freedom and marriage equality?
“Expel the Crusaders from our lands!”—there is a cause to die for.
Go back to 1983. A jihadist of the Amal militia drove a bomb-laden truck into the Marine barracks in Beirut. In 2000, two suicide bombers steered a tiny boat up alongside the USS Cole in Aden harbor, stood, saluted and blasted a hole in the hull, almost sinking the warship.
Nineteen young men volunteered to ride those planes into the Pentagon and the Twin Towers on 9/11. The “underwear bomber” and “shoe bomber” were prepared to go down with those planes.