Confronted by ISIS, an amateur assemblage of semi-trained youngsters riding pickup trucks, the Iraqi Army collectively dropped its tanks, planes and artillery and ran away. That may be a bit hyperbolic, but it conveys the situation. What remains, is why? Little notable difference exists between the people on each side. Both are Arabs, Moslems and (mostly) Iraqis.
Explanation is simple: commitment. The Iraqi military has been a study in corruption and related incompetence; the ISIS is a study in religious fervor. Never shall the twain meet on common ground.
Corrupt government officials favored senior officers who did them favors; this provided the officers an opening to steal military funding. Junior officers were promoted for their usefulness in the theft rather than for military skills. The troops’ pay was often stolen too.
ISIS is religious fervor with a willingness to die a martyr. Against this, the Iraqi army was reluctant rabbits told to stop charging lions. The Iraqi soldiers threw away their weapons and ran. Sensible, as to stand was to be dead protecting incompetent thieves. So ISIS quickly gained a fearsome reputation plus an endless supply of captured weapons, often courtesy of U.S. taxpayers.
Now the U.S. and Iran are hopefully rebuilding things in Iraq. Watching the ongoing attempt to retake Tikrit will inform as to how successful the program is at this point.
The bottom line is corruption, endemic in Middle Eastern society. In ISIS too, though much less so. It is also a historical problem in Asia, Africa, Latin America, Russia and we suppose, Antarctica if one is a penguin.
There is one remarkable exception on the planet: Those places that experienced the Reformation. You may recall that the German speakers were the heart of the movement; the Latins remained Catholic; the English joined their fellow Saxons. America inherited English sensibilities. A search of a world corruption map today will show English and German speaking places as least corrupt. Also, generally most successful militarily.
But that is changing. American society has increasingly abandoned its Christian roots in favor of moral relativism, which is to say morality is whatever we want it to be. One inevitable reflection of that is increasing Corruption in the U.S. Army. US Navy corruption is growing too; one can’t expect a military more ethical than its underlying society.
In that society, our President and Congressfolk are blatant liars these days (did you keep your doctor?) and we no longer believe what teachers in public schools teach our kids. The Constitution is blurring out of use, recalling John Adams remark that it was appropriate only “… for a religious and moral people.” When government takes the wealth of its producers, it use it corruptly, driven by political needs. Mismanaged wealth is unproductive. It collects in the hands of the powerful at the expense of those who have produced it.
Courtesy of our grandparents, we remain less corrupt than most other places on earth but we are reverting to the historical average. Unsurprisingly, so is our wealth distribution. Corruption has always marched in lockstep with poverty.