Remember Yugoslavia? After World War II it became a communist state under the leadership of a strong and sometimes brutal dictator, Josip Broz Tito.

Tito was a political genius. He was friendly with the Soviet Union, but insisted that Yugoslavia remain distinct from the Soviet bloc. He dealt with many ethnic groups that had no love for each other. After his death in 1980, the ultimate breakup of Yugoslavia was inevitable.


In the 1990s the breakup became complete, but not without bloody conflict. First the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina was savaged by Serbia and Croatia, then later the Albanian ethnic group in Kosovo was attacked by Serbia.

Kosovo, however, retained its independence. The United States provided air support and this spelled the doom of the Serbian invasion. Only one American lost his life, and that was in a training accident.

Today we must deal with a somewhat similar situation in Iraq. A Sunni group, Isis, formerly part of Al Qeda, has invaded Iraq from Syria. The multi-ethnic Iraqi army, equipped and trained at considerable expense by the U.S., simply collapsed and fled, abandoning its American-supplied equipment to the advancing Isis forces. But as in Kosovo American air power stopped the Isis advance and in the Kurdish territory towns have been retaken by Kurdish forces.

There are two different wars being fought in Iraq. One is the war on the battlefield and the other is a propaganda war. It is in our national interest to defeat Isis in both wars and do it quickly. We need to destroy Isis units in the field wherever they appear. We can do this with air power. Our current defense of Baghdad and the Kurdish territory needs to be expanded to a all-out offensive attack from the air.

But currently Isis propaganda is winning and attracting new followers, some from the U.S. So it is important for propaganda purposes that Isis be made to look impotent. We need to take care that not one American dies or, worse, is taken prisoner. Their so-called capital in Mosul needs to be under 24 hour surveillance via drones, and all vehicular traffic coming to and going from that city needs to be destroyed.

If military vehicles are spotted on the streets of Mosul they need to be attacked. But we must be careful not to kill civilians. A few burned out tanks or armored personnel carriers on the streets of Mosul will give the lie to Isis invincibility. We should also shower Mosul and other Isis controlled towns with leaflets every night showing aerial photographs of destroyed Isis positions and equipment in the field. Isis has no significant high altitude air defenses, so if we are careful we can do what we did in Kosovo and in Iraq itself during Operation Desert Fox, both under President Bill Clinton, attack from the air and take no casualties. To the greatest extent possible drone aircraft or cruise missiles should be the attack vehicles.

Finally we need to recognize that Iraq will never again be viable as a single nation. As I said in September 2005, it is obvious that the three Iraqi factions involved can never agree on a constitution. It is Yugoslavia all over again. That country can only be held together by a brutal dictator. Therefore, we should abandon the fairy tale of an Iraq that is both unified and democratic. The country should be divided into three countries.

The Obama administration needs to recognize two realities and shift policies and objectives accordingly. First, Isis must be humiliated and driven back into Syria and, second, Iraq is irrevocably broken as a single state. It is time to start drawing the national boundaries.

John Culleton writes from Eldersburg. His column appears every second Tuesday. Email him at