The infinite monkey theorem states that a monkey hitting random typewriter keys for an infinite amount of time will eventually be able to create the complete works of Shakespeare. Various scientists such as Nobel laureate Arno Penzias have shown how the theorem is mathematically impossible.
Using that metaphor, if you took every member of United States Congress and House of Representatives and wrote their collected wisdom on Iraq, it’s unlikely they could equal the astuteness of even a single chapter of author Malcolm W. Nance in The Terrorists of Iraq: Inside the Strategy and Tactics of the Iraq Insurgency 2003-2014. It’s Nance’s overwhelming read-world experiential knowledge of the subject, language, culture, tribal affiliations and more which make this the overwhelming definitive book on the subject.
Nance is a career intelligence officer, combat veteran, author, scholar and media commentator on international terrorism, intelligence, insurgency and torture. In 2014 he became the executive director of the counter-ideology think tank the Terror Asymmetrics Project on Strategy, Tactics and Radical Ideologies (TAPSTRI).
While it’s debatable if most members of Congress could elucidate the difference between the Sunnis and Shiites; Nance knows all of the players in depth. He understands and describes who there are, what they are and how their methods work. His unique analysis provides an in-depth understanding of who these groups are and what they are fighting about.
The book details how the many terror groups formed to create the Iraqi insurgency that led to the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Nance places the blame on the Bush administration’s 2003 invasion of Iraq that lead to the destabilization of the country. While the war was based on faulty evidence, the insurgency was created by myriad mistakes, misperceptions and miscalculations by L. Paul Bremer, who lead the occupational authority of Iraq during the war.
A common theme Nance makes throughout the book is that the US ignored history and didn’t learn the lessons of the Iraqi revolt against the British in 1920 or the events of the Vietnam War. Those lessons being that insurgents and foreign terrorist operations were much more effective despite the enormous manpower and firepower that the US troops brought to bear in Iraq.
Nance details how much of the coalition’s strategy was based on wishful thinking. He writes that Washington never had a realistic plan for post-war Iraq. Only Saddam Hussein, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and the ex-Ba’athists has a definitive strategy for what to do in post-war Iraq. Unlike the Americans, they mobilized the right resources and persons for the job, with devastating and horrifying effects.
The book writes of the utterly depravity and evil nature of Saddam Hussein and his sons Uday and Qusay. Following the first Gulf War. Qusay revealed a brutality to match both his father’s and brother’s. The Hussein family was responsible for the death and torture of hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraq’s and others. All of this while the United Nations make threats but took little action to stop the killing. Hussein was repeatedly deceptive and duplicitous against the naïve UN. The UN was without power and did nothing, while simultaneously being clueless to how incompetent they were.
The insurgency was and is made up of countless different groups. Some of these groups number under a hundred members, others in the tens of thousands. Nance details who these groups are, their makeup and leadership structure and what they hope to achieve.
Nance quotes Donald Rumsfeld and General Tommy Franks who described the insurgency as dead-enders; namely small groups dedicated to Hussein, and not large military formations or networks of attackers. Yet the reality was that Hussein started creating the insurgency in the months before the invasion. Rather than being a bunch of dead-enders, the insurgency was a group that was highly organized, heavily armed, with near unlimited funds based on looting hundreds of millions of dollars.
From a reporting perspective, the book details how the US government made the same mistakes in Iraq as it did in Vietnam. Underreporting US casualties, over reporting enemy losses, and obfuscating how terrible the situation on the ground was.
The term IED (improvised explosive device) became part of the vernacular during the Iraq War. The book details how the insurgency used the many different types of IED’s (including human-based IED) at specific times and places for their political and propaganda goals.
Nance writes that the biggest gift the US gave to Osama bin Laden was to invade Iraq. The invasion provided him with an opportunity for inspirational jihad. bin Laden envisioned a holy war with heroic men fights against desperate odds in the heart of historic Islam, just like the first battles of the Prophet Mohammed.
Nance spends a few chapters dealing with ISIS and how it came to be. There are multiple iterations of the group, which developed as the Iraq mess evolved.
The book closes with a disheartening overview of the current state. Nance writes that the Middle East is in far more danger from destabilizing collapse of states due to the effects of the American invasion today than it has ever been.
As ISIS is currently the dominant force in Iraq; Nance states that he fears ISIS will have no intention of going back to being a small insurgent group. It will attempt to consolidate captured terrain. It will offer the Sunni a chance to rule under it at the technocrat level, but that is when the pogroms will start.
In the end, Nance writes, the Islamic caliphate will attempt and fail at creating a popular Iraqi-Syrian nation out of stolen governorates. But unless confronted quickly and forcefully, it may become an isolated jihadistan from which no end of terror will spawn.
For those that want to truly understand the Iraq conflict, Nancy is eminently qualified and this book is uniquely superb. There is no better book than The Terrorists of Iraq: Inside the Strategy and Tactics of the Iraq Insurgency 2003-2014 on the subject.
CRC Press 1498706894 978-1498706896 Ben Rothke