Killing Islamists Cost-Effectively

isis troopsIn HG Wells’The Shape of Things to Come, published in 1933, the Air Police of the World State establish an air base in Basra, the city in southern Iraq, in 1979 and set about eliminating the Moslem religion by aerial bombardment. About 40 years behind schedule, something like that has been instituted. A number of countries now have aircraft based in the region and are bombarding the world’s most hardcore Islamists, the immolators of Islamic State.

Until Russia joined the effort in 2015, that effort was ineffectual by design. The United States has been spending US$11 million per day in wearing out their fighter aircraft and depleting war stocks of precision guided munitions. Australia has been doing the same, with expenditure appropriately at one-tenth the US level. Islamic State is aware that they are doing their bit to help bankrupt the United States, with one of their videos noting that Maverick missiles cost US$250,000 each while Islamic State uses bullets costing US$0.50 each.

The US rules of engagement are hampered by a desire to not kill civilians. As Dave Deptula, a former US Air Force deputy chief of staff for Intelligence, Surveillance & Reconnaissance and who served as the principal attack planner for the Operation Desert Storm air campaign, notes,

“There is little morality inherent in a campaign approach that limits the use of airpower to avoid the possibility of collateral damage when it ensures the certainty of continued Islamic State crimes against humanity. Today’s coalition leaders should factor into their casualty-avoidance calculus how many of the Islamic State’s intentional murders of innocents would be avoided by rapidly collapsing the structural elements of the Islamic State that the coalition now allows to operate out of excessive concern of inadvertent civilian deaths.”

The US and its coalition partners, at great expense to themselves, have set out merely to make life in Islamic State more miserable. Islamic State aims to kill as many Westerners as they can, and thus the attack in Paris and so on. The West can’t abandon the air campaign because Islamic State will simply up the rate at which they undertake terrorist attacks. But continuing the current Children’s Crusade-like level of violence is ineffectual and will bankrupt us. A report that Russia was setting up an airbase in at Qamishli in northeast Syria suggests a solution. The Russians subsequently denied the report, but we, Australia, could do something similar to great effect.

There is a former Syrian Air Force base at Tabqa (35°45’N, 38°34’E), 45 km southwest of the Islamic State capital of Raqqah and three kilometres south of the main east-west highway. The airfield could be seized and used as a base of operations, supplied by air, that would split Islamic State in two. There would have to be an improvement in the rules of engagement to make this work. Specifically, every vehicle within 30 km of the base would be destroyed. Islamic State would have to attack this base, so close to their capital, and they could only approach it on foot. And they would not be able to bring artillery within range. It is flat, open desert in all directions around the base so approaching Islamists could be detected a great distance away.

Islamic State would wear itself out in attacking this base. This will help Kurds approaching from the northeast and the Assad regime approaching from the west. The question of who will take over the Sunni areas currently run by Islamic State remains unanswered. But whatever that answer might be, it will come more quickly and cheaply than if we continue doing what we are doing now.

As Islamic State itself has pointed out, the US and its coalition partners are not using the one big advantage they have in this conflict: Islamic State is not equipped to shoot down aircraft flying above 5,000 feet. The weapons we are using are inappropriately sized and priced for the targets they are used against.  If aircraft are safe from being shot down, the weapons they launch don’t need rocket motors. Neither do they need wings that fold out; fixed wings for gliding are good enough. An aircraft at 20,000 feet could hit targets six kilometres either side of the flight path using GPS guidance. Targets that need a bit more precision could be hit with laser-guided weapons such as Raytheon’s Pike missile. The solution to destroying a $10,000 Toyota Hilux is something that costs under $1,000.

Australia has been fighting wars in the Middle East for over 100 years now, on and off. No matter what replaces Islamic State in the Levant, we do not want to hang around to do any nation-building, despite the pitiful looks of the street urchins. The whole region is headed for a big population collapse due to starvation, at some stage, and we do not want to own any part of that problem.

As the Germans are finding out, the people themselves are execrable. So harden your hearts; we have to develop ways to kill Islamists more cheaply. Winston Churchill noted in The River War that,“were it not that Christianity is sheltered in the strong arms of science, the science against which it had vainly struggled, the civilization of modern Europe might fall, as fell the civilization of ancient Rome.”

We have the science.  All we have to do is apply it.

David Archibald is the author of Australia’s Defence (Connor Court


  • bemartin39@bigpond.com

    Sounds like an excellent idea David, but it could only be implemented with the approval of the “big boys”, primarily the US, as well as the other “coalition” members and finally the UN. No chance of such approval to be forthcoming, if for no other reason than “the cheek of the pipsqueak Aussies!” Barack Hussein Obama, for one, is ever mindful of ensuring that only the most minimal of harm should come to his fellow Muslims. Allahu akbar!

  • ian.macdougall

    Barack Obama is quoted as having said (and he might of course have been lying through a set of Islamic teeth, or even Mohammedan dentures):

    I’m a Christian by choice. My family didn’t—frankly, they weren’t folks who went to church every week. And my mother was one of the most spiritual people I knew, but she didn’t raise me in the church.
    So I came to my Christian faith later in life, and it was because the precepts of Jesus Christ spoke to me in terms of the kind of life that I would want to lead—being my brothers’ and sisters’ keeper, treating others as they would treat me.
    And I think also understanding that Jesus Christ dying for my sins spoke to the humility we all have to have as human beings, that we’re sinful and we’re flawed and we make mistakes, and that we achieve salvation through the grace of God. But what we can do, as flawed as we are, is still see God in other people and do our best to help them find their own grace.
    That’s what I strive to do. That’s what I pray to do every day. I think my public service is part of that effort to express my Christian faith.
    — Barack Obama, September 27, 2010[

    But then again, we all believe what we incline to believe, and what we believe the other members of our chosen tribe expect us to believe.
    Believing, in the final analysis, is the gateway to belonging.
    But one belief at present gaining traction on the decks of the SS Republican Party is that America’s main problem is that it lacks Strong Leadership.
    I expect that in due course someone like the loudly trumpeting Captain Trump, that foghorn in the political fog, will get himself into a position from whence he can steer that pathetic notion vertically. That is, right to the bottom of America’s political sea: perhaps unfortunately and at the same time taking a good part of the American political fleet down with him.
    David: Interesting article.

  • en passant

    Congratulations on publically saying the unsayable. I hope you are not hanging out for a commentators job at the ABC or an invitation to any fashionable ‘A-List’ dinner parties?
    Readers! Never fear, our political ‘leaders’ will pull the blankets over their heads and see and hear nothing. Hard decisions about killing barbarians? Not a chance, even when the close schools in Melbourne by the simple expedient of a phone call saying their is a bomb. As education and life are slowed and disrupted our legal protectors will treat it all as just a prank by the disenfranchised and self-marginalised.
    The signs are already there. The next crisis in the Horn of Africa is beginning to befall the world with as (SBS assured me just two nights ago) 2M people at risk of starving to death immediately with another 10M under-nourished likely to begin the move to Europe. The world political and social scene has become a living-dead real-life zombie movie. In 2008, Kevin Myers an Irish journalist pointed out that Band-Aid and feeding the Ethiopian hungry had resulted in an explosion of many, many more of the hungry, all of them protein-deficient morons, now armed to the teeth. He was so right the police investigated him, his article has been removed and an Irish MP called for his imprisonment. Europe is now paying the price for Merkel’s welcoming everyone into the lifeboat.
    Having staved off one humanitarian disaster so that we could create an even bigger one, the day of reckoning is now almost here. There will be blood, the only question is whether or not it will be the blood of the civilised or the barbarians. Tough choice, isn’t it?

  • pgang

    Looks like Churchill paid far too much attention to Gibbons.

  • ian.macdougall


    …Blow up every Mosque even unto Mecca and kill as many of these animals as possible. We should just go home and say: Don’t bother us again…

    Bloody brilliant!
    I have thought long and hard on this, but I cannot for the life of me think of anything better calculated to unite the entire Islamic world, presently divided between Sunnis, Shias and Sufis, against the West. Young and old, from Koranic scholars down to kids from the Kindergarten of the Holy Hadiths: all would be chanting slogans through the streets of cities from Jakarta to Timbucktoo calling for the blood of the Infidels.
    Those who crewed the planes in the raids, or were suspected as such, would probably need bodyguarding till the end of their days, and at least at battalion strength.
    But apart from that, not a bad idea.

  • acarroll

    You’re arguing that we shouldn’t be bothered with collateral damage and should use maximum force, but there’s a much cheaper and less murderous solution to Islamic radicalism: deport all Muslims from Western countries.

    No Muslims in the West, no Muslim terrorists in the West.

    Simple isn’t it? No bombs required.

    What’s more, the collateral damage is minimal.

  • acarroll


    Great article.

    I understood that Australia wanted to deal with ISIS and not get involved in removing the Assad regime. I guess the reality of the situation (or perhaps deliberate misleading of the taxpayer) has thwarted that effort.

    That reality being ISIS is supported by so-called partners in the region, most notably Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and — unbelievably — Israel in the form of medical care for ISIS wounded!

    The fact that the USA never attacked their economic infrastructure in 2 years is damning.

    ISIS are a Sunni weapon in the holy war between Shia and Sunni Islam and the future of oil access to Europe.

    The deceit — mostly from our so-called friends and allies — has now gone so far that it will be very difficult for them to back out without causing revolutions back home, as allowing Russia to continue will effectively nullify 2 decades worth of work and trillions of dollars spent socially engineering the middle east.

    Possible world war, with the trigger point being Syria or Ukraine? Maybe Europe, if it continues its race to the 3rd world bottom?

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