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Bernie Ziebart

The Engineering Perspective

The blog is a view of life, science, politics and education from an engineering perspective. As engineers, we are taught to view the world objectively. We can hope, believe and calculate a particular outcome, but natural laws are inflexible and pay no heed to who we are or what we believe. We must approach the objective dispassionately, while compensating for our own distorted perceptions. Balance is also a key element; balancing between the ideal and the pragmatic, balancing cost and functionality, balancing analysis with action, etc.

Scheduling routine critical self-analysis is the foundation to objectivity. If we do not fully understand and compensate for our own failures, tendencies, habits and skewed thought processes, we will not see the world as it is. Without a regular critical self-analysis we will see the world as we are and then fall prey to self-delusion.

Failure is a great teacher. When failure is coupled with perseverance, it produces the fruit of patience and humility. An engineer, fresh out of engineering school is typically set up for failure early and often. The failure breaks the new engineer of any ideas of self-importance, arrogance and book smarts. Only then can the new engineer be formed and molded into a productive element in the industry.


The rise of ISIS


In 2009, the Obama administration had worked with rebel factions to overthrow the governments of multiple Middle East/North African countries; most notably Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and Syria.   The guise for this operation was reportedly to overthrow dictators and pave the way for Democracy.    Mubarak in Egypt, al Assad in Syria and Qaddafi in Libya were all strongmen with a firm grip on their countries. Corruption, graft and extortion were common and personal liberties were not common in these countries. 

The US had partnered with the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Ahmed Abu Khattala, Sufyan Bin Qumu and Khalifa Hifter in Libya and various ‘freedom fighting organizations’ in Syria.  

The Libyan overthrow was intriguing.   Ahmed Abu Khattala was on the CIA payroll.  Sufyan Bin Qumu was a double agent, who had spent a couple of years in Guantanamo and Khalifa Hifter had defected from the Gaddafi regime and created his own militia with money from the CIA.   The US had provided training, equipment, money, coordination and intelligence to accomplish the mission objective.  The objective was achieved, but the administration made no plans to create a transition to a stable government.  Libya is still a chaotic mess.

The Syrian affair did not go as planned. Despite pouring billions of dollars into the Syrian revolution, the freedom fighters found the objective difficult to accomplish. Syria was receiving aid from Russia and Iran to combat the US efforts.   Training camps were set up by the US in Turkey, Jordan and Northern Iraq. Weapons were funneled through Libya to the training camps and the US, Germany and England had provided intel to the freedom fighters.  

After years of futility in Syria, the various rebel factions united under one banner and leader. Late last year, the creation of a new group would emerge among the al-Qaida affiliates active in Syria; Jabhat al-Nusra, being the largest.

The leader or emir (prince) of Isis is a 43-year-old Sunni, known by his nom de guerre as Abu-Bakr al-Baghdadi, or Abu Dua. His real name is Awwad Ibrahim Ali al-Badri al-Samarrai. He was held prisoner by US forces from 2005 to 2009. US military sources have quoted him as saying when he was released from Camp Bucca in Iraq: "I'll see you guys in New York." According to some accounts he was radicalized by his experience of captivity. But others describe him as having been a firebrand preacher under Saddam Hussein's rule. He studied at the University of Baghdad, and was listed as a terrorist by the UN in 2011.

It is a measure of Baghdadi's success and charisma that ISIS has become the group of choice for thousands of foreign would-be fighters who have flocked to his banner.

ISIS has established a reputation for extreme brutality, carrying out crucifixions, beheadings and amputations.  As a result, ISIS faces little resistance in the conquest of Iraq.

A pivotal decision was made by Baghdadi to change the focus of his campaign from Syria to Iraq.   With the departure of US forces, Iraq was in complete disarray making it a much easier target than Syria. The Iraqi military was in shambles and the leadership was ineffective. Iraq also held the promise of wealth. When capturing Mosul and its oil fields, ISIS was able to raid the banks and oil companies to emerge with $850 million in cash and gold...and acquire a major weapons depot left by fleeing Iraqi soldiers.  

ISIS is well financed, brutal, well equipped, led by a charismatic leader and gaining control of more ground daily. It has nearly devoured Iraq and is setting its sight on Jordan, Somalia and Nigeria.   It is determined to set up a Caliphate in the Middle East and Northern Africa…and the world quakes.

"This is not like a hurricane or an earthquake; this didn't have to happen," John McCain, R-Nev, referring to the meteoric climb of fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) extremist group. "This is a failure of the United States policy. And by the way, there still is none that I can discern - either a policy or strategy - to handle this situation."

“ISIS now presents itself as an ideologically superior alternative to al-Qaida within the jihadi community," says Charles Lister, of the Brookings Doha Center. "As such, it has increasingly become a transnational movement with immediate objectives far beyond Iraq and Syria."

The crisis in Iraq must not be dismissed as "nothing to do with us" as the same Islamic jihadists are also planning to attack the UK, David Cameron has warned. "I'd disagree with those people who think this is nothing to do with us and if they want to have some sort of extreme Islamist regime in the middle of Iraq that won't affect us – it will," he said.

David Cameron and the UK had supplied hundreds of Toyota pick-up trucks to the Syrian rebels just four years ago. Now, these trucks were seen on video during the attack on Mosul. 

The Western nations have created a monster that they are now afraid of. 

There are very few instances in which the US has produced good results when meddling in foreign affairs, but this is the poster child for disastrous foreign policy blunders.

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