There is an old saying, "Never ty to teach a pig to sing. It wastes your time and annoys the pig." The same applies to installing multi-ethnic social comity and democracy in nations like Iraq.

That nation was put together after World War I using bits and pieces of the old Ottoman Empire. The major components were Sunni Arabs, Shia Arabs and Kurds. There are some smaller ethnic groups scattered here and there. A strongman government such as that of Saddam Hussein could keep peace at the cost of considerable repression of the groups not in the government. Yet we continue to expect Iraqis of various ethnicities to form into a single united government protected by a single army. Clearly that does not work at all.


There are more "ghost soldiers" (50,000) in the Iraqi Army than there are militants in ISIS in total. Ghost soldiers are relieved of their duty by their superior officers at the cost of paying part of their salary back to those same officers.

The Kurds have their own militia that fights well in Iraq and Northern Syria. Effectively they have their own country in Northern Iraq. The Kurds maintain their ethnic identity despite having been divided up between Iraq, Syria, Turkey and Iran nearly a century ago. We saw the strength of that identity when Kurds from Iraq passed through Turkey to join the defense of a Kurdish city in Syria. Turkey was a bit nervous about this because it has a Kurdish minority making up 25 percent of its population, with said minority being in a state of rebellion much of the time.

That was a good act traceable to ethnic identity. But recently an Iraqi army unit consisting of Shia soldiers expelled ISIS from a small Sunni town in Anwar Provence, and then proceeded to massacre their traditional enemies, the Sunni residents of that town.

Politicians of both left and right hate to admit they are wrong. But we will never have an effective Iraqi National Army. We need to determine a reasonable set of demarcation lines between the three major ethnic components and recognize each as its own country with its own army. The Kurdish government and army already exist in fact if not in law. Now we need to separate the Shia and Sunni components. The only other reasonable action to defeat ISIS is the much discussed American boots on the ground. We may need to do both.

The major problem remaining is how to defeat ISIS in Anwar Province. There simply aren't enough Iraqi Sunni men not already under ISIS control to form a decent Sunni army. The cultures of both Sunni and Shia won't allow for the use of women in the armed forces by following the Kurdish model. So after the Iraqi Army is divided into its Shia and Sunni components we will have to use American units to reinforce the new Sunni Army and take on the principal task of throwing ISIS out of Anwar Province. With sufficiently strong armor and air components it should not be that difficult. This means that President Barack Obama has to reverse his position, but he has nothing to lose but pride. His approval ratings are already in the basement.

The propaganda component of our war against ISIS has been sadly neglected. The ISIS fanatics have a psychological weak point. They believe that if they are killed by a woman opponent they won't get into heaven. So leaflets with photos of women in Army or Naval uniforms beside M-1 tanks or ship borne aircraft, with text telling the ISIS fighters that they don't know who will be the opponent that dispatches them, may make the enemy a bit nervous. They may have to change their doctrine in response. And we may have to increase our use of women in these roles.

John Culleton writes from Eldersburg. His column appears every second Tuesday. Email him at cct@wexfordpress.com.