Isis’ Achilles’ heel | Inquirer Opinion

Isis’ Achilles’ heel

/ 01:50 AM December 12, 2014

The blunder of ISIS is the same as that of the United States in Iraq and Afghanistan. No one, no matter how vastly superior, can occupy a place with a hostile population forever.

The United States boasts that it conquered Iraq in just 12 days. True, but it was an illusion of victory because in the end, US troops had to be pulled out after killing so many, mutilating society, and causing a complex power vacuum that triggered unrest,


civil wars, and the entry of Isis when the smoke cleared. Indeed, the Isis monster is a US creation.

It is the same in Afghanistan. The United States withdrew its troops, thinking that the Afghan people could now take care of themselves, then changed its mind when the Taliban renewed offensives. Now it wants to send in more troops and “reoccupy”—but for how long, as US deficit spending mounts?


Invasion is easy but hostile occupation is hard. That is the weakness of conventional warfare. Warriors from the Pentagon and Isis have a common weakness. They are militarily sophisticated but sociopolitically naive. They cannot see beyond the gun. In Iraq and Afghanistan, the Pentagon talked of “winning hearts and minds,” but it hardly did. You cannot have a gun behind the bread you are offering. People, in fear, will pretend you are an ally, but the United States never won hearts. China is now making inroads in Iraq, offering economic partnership. America cannot do that with its image of viciousness.

Isis is not even trying to win hearts and minds. It occupies areas and beheads anyone who does not share its belief. There are reports that the Sunni-based Isis has killed more Sunnis than Shiites in occupied areas. It does not believe in fostering an image of a messiah out to save people. It is basically and medievally totalitarian and authoritarian.

Such regimes may induce artificial unity, as those under Tito of Yugoslavia, Franco of Spain, the Shah of Iran, or Hussein of Iraq, but in the end, they fall due to their viciousness. But when they fall, blood flows.

Now, Isis is committing the same blunder as the United States. Its approach in waging war is occupation of key strategic places, but it cannot hold on to these places forever, as US bombings and Iraqi and Kurdish counterattacks mount. The more it is inducing a hostile people in occupied lands, the faster it will leave. Isis is actually as naive as the US generals.

The rallying point of Isis is religious, ideological and global. There are many in India and Indonesia, and a handful in the Philippines, who believe in its cause. But Isis attracts the minority extremists, the warriors, and alienates itself from the majority Muslims who want peace. So the global clout of Isis is an illusion and overstated. The

sudden increase in the number of its troops to 30,000 is not something to fear. It is still a small ragtag army in modern conventional warfare.

The seeming invincibility of Isis, eroded by US bombings and the counterattacks, lies in the helplessness of America to send troops. Air superiority can help, but it cannot win wars; it can delay, but not completely stop, Isis initiatives.


It was reported that the French used chlorine against Isis. This is gray-area chemical warfare, which will aggravate the Western position of condemning chemical warfare but using it. This will only help Isis recruit more fighters. For every Isis fighter “chemicalized,” 10 will rise, more resilient, more vicious. It will also encourage Isis to use chemicals.

What if Isis takes over Iraq? It will be a short reign, with the majority Shiite, backed by the West, waging a protracted bloody guerrilla war never before seen in Iraq. It will sap Iraq dry, which is what Israel wants. That is why it is quietly supporting Isis. For Israel, Isis is the key to destroying its Arab and Persian enemies.

The idea of a modern “caliphate” is medieval and may not easily apply to modern times. Caliphates are borderless, Islamic-based, authoritarian, empire-oriented regimes. Empires are obsolete in our modern world. A caliphate or empire overrunning the entire Middle East is a ridiculous notion, an illusory dream of Islamic extremists. Although the Sunnis are the majority globally, they are not in the Middle East, and there lies the Achilles’ heel.

My humble prediction is that Isis will fizzle out, not in a few months, but in a few years. But before it does, blood will flow into every nook and crevice of the Middle East. The key is troops against troops, not planes or chemicals against troops. Isis may even induce World War III if the ingredients are there for a polarized confrontation, with what the Persians historically call the “bridge of victory” (a reference to Iran becoming the “bridge of annihilation”). As long as Iran, the bridge between East and West, is untouched by the West, there will be stability in the Middle East.

But America and the West drool over Iran’s gas and oil. The Bible’s Book of Revelation prophesies that a seven-headed monster will consume the world in the end times. Is this possibly the Group of Seven (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States)?

Bernie V. Lopez ([email protected]) has been writing political commentary in the last 20 years. He is also a radio-TV broadcaster, a documentary producer-director, and a former Ateneo professor.

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