I’m sure you’ve heard about the bombing in Manchester so I won’t spend time filling you in on the details. I will, however, spend some time discussing a fact that a lot of people seem to be missing.
As usual, many people are treating this incident as an act of terrorism perpetrated by an Islamic extremist. But that’s not an accurate assessment. It was an engagement in a war. While neither the United States or the countries of Europe have formally declared a war on the various factions they’re engaged with in the Middle East, when one has invaded, bombed, and occupied a territory the formalities are irrelevant.
The United States and the countries of Europe are militarily superior to the forces they’re engaging. In a toe to toe conflict the Middle Eastern factions would lose quickly, which is why they’re not waging war in the manner that has been considered acceptable, at least by the United States and Europe, since the Westphalian Supremacy. Instead they’re utilizing asymmetrical or fourth generation warfare tactics.
When you can’t go toe to toe with your opponent you alter your tactics. Asymmetrical tactics rely on attacking the enemy economically. For the price of a single pipe bomb the bomber in Manchester will likely cost the United States and Europe millions if not billions of dollars in responding. We’re already seeing those costs with the police response in Manchester. They’re expending a lot of resources at the moment trying to find a potential second attacker. Likewise, the intelligence branches of the United States and countries of Europe are expending resources trying to identify the organization responsible (although the Islamic State has claimed responsibility, it claims responsibility for everything so their claim cannot be taken at face value). Once the organization responsible is identified a lot of resources will be expended retaliating against them.
It doesn’t take a mathematician or an economists to predict the longterm result of one side spending millions or billions of dollars responding to another side’s $50 attacks. Hell, we’ve seen the results plenty of times. Maoist forces facing off against republican forces in China, Vietcong forces facing off against United States forces in Vietnam, Soviet forces facing off against Afghanistan forces, etc. Asymmetric strategies are very effective against traditional military forces.
This war will continue until one side is either entirely wiped out, one side is completely bankrupted, one side completely disengages, or one side decides to be the adult and initiate peace talks. The forces in the Middle East cannot be entirely wiped out without taking action that would be too politically costly and the history of the United States and Europe reneging on deals makes peace talks unlikely. That leaves two potential outcomes. One, the United States and Europe are bankrupted or they leave the Middle East (as the occupying forces they’re the only ones who can disengage and leave). At the moment it seems that bankruptcy of the United States and Europe is the likely outcome.