OK, you know I’m kidding, there is no Battle for Raqqa.
As the Obama administration declares war on American gun owners, it prefers not to interfere in the daily lives of the people who live in the ISIS capital of Raqqa, Syria.
One might expect the administration to face down the terrorists where they live, to make their lives into living hell, even to do as Peter Quinn suggested, turning Raqqa into a parking lot. Instead, it is offering up large dollops of empathy.
Debra Heine has the story on Pajamas Media. No one else seems to have noticed. If they noticed, no one seems to care. It comes from testimony offered by an assistant secretary of defense to the House Armed Services Committee.
The question was simple: if we know that ISIS uses the internet to recruit jihadis and to set up operations, why have we not shut it down in Raqqa. Whatever happened to making war against their command and control centers?
Rep. Martha McSally, a retired fighter pilot, posed the question to the assistant secretary of defense for homeland defense and global security, Thomas Atkin: “We have known cells in Raqqa that are directing training, that are directing operations very specifically targeting against Americans,” McSally said. “Why is the Internet not shut down in Raqqa?”
Atkin noted that he would give a more detailed answer during the closed-door hearing in the afternoon, but answered in general terms. “Certainly going after specific nodes to hamper and stop the use of the Internet by ISIS is important, but we also have to respect the rights of citizens to have access to the Internet,” he said. “So it’s a careful balance, even in Raqqa.”
What is this business about “rights of citizens?” People who live under the caliphate are not citizens. They are being enslaved. Unless they are the ones doing the enslaving. Why are we showing a special level of respect to the people of Raqqa, at the expense of American lives?
And where does it say that everyone everywhere has a God-given right to the internet?
Chairman Mac Thornberry called out Atkins on his absurd response:
Later on in the hearing, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry expressed his concern regarding Atkin's answer about protecting the rights of citizens in Raqqa. “I understand the concept of proportionality,” he said, “but are you arguing that the citizens of Raqqa have some sort of inherent right to access the Internet that you all have to try to weigh?”
“Taking out the Internet” isn’t a straightforward operation, Atkin replied. The Islamic State and other guerrilla/terrorist forces often rely on civilian infrastructure, so shutting down their Internet service provider also cuts off legitimate civilian users in a wide area. “How that effect occurs has greater impact than just against the adversary and we have to weigh that into all our operations,” he said, “whether that’s a kinetic or a cyber operation.”
After some additional back and forth — ending with an awkward silence from the administration witnesses — Thornberry reserved further questions for the classified hearing. “Okay, well, we’ll talk more about it,” he said, “but, again, I am not yet reassured.”
The administration’s position is that cyber operations must follow the same laws of war as physical combat, and that cyber attacks require the same kind of review as kinetic strikes. That includes such considerations as collateral damage — e.g. in shutting down the terrorists’ Internet access, do you take it out for innocent civilians as well? — and proportionality — is the damage to civilians excessive for the military gain?
“Our operations in cyberspace are subject to the same rules as every operation, so we’re constrained by the laws of armed conflict and other limitations,” said Lt. Gen. Kevin McLaughlin, deputy commander of CYBERCOM. “We feel like we have the authorities and flexibility we need.”
Here again is a lesson in how not to fight a war. If you want to know why ISIS has been allowed to metastasize under the Obama administration, look at our rules of engagement. If we are that solicitous toward our enemies, that empathetic toward their concerns, we are showing them that they are strong and we are weak. Victory in war does not go to the squeamish.