(/sites/default/files/uploads/2015/02/isis.jpg)President Obama’s proposed Authorization for the Use of Military Force against ISIS comes at a time when Iran and ISIS are fomenting disorder and destruction throughout the Middle East. Despite the enmity between these two species of jihadism, both pose serious threats to our interests and security and those of our allies in the region. The president’s stubborn refusal to strengthen his dubious negotiations with Iran by approving Congress’s more punishing sanctions, along with his pledge not to use force against the mullahs, is guaranteed to make Iran a nuclear power that will dominate the region. And nothing in the AUMF will achieve his alleged “core objective” to destroy ISIS. Quite the contrary–– it will squander an opportunity to concentrate and eliminate tens of thousands of jihadists.
Iran’s regional power and reach are increasing every day. The collapse of Yemen to Iranian-supported rebels proves prophetic an Iranian member of parliament last November. “Three Arab capitals (Beirut, Damascus, and Baghdad) have already fallen into Iran’s hands and belong to the Iranian Islamic Revolution,” he bragged, and implied Sana would be number 4. As for ISIS, it is setting up franchises in Libya, Afghanistan, Egypt and Algeria, contrary to Obama’s claim that it is “on the defensive” and “is going to lose.” More troublesome, so far some 20,000 foreigners from 90 different countries have journeyed to northern Iraq to fight for the new caliphate, creating the danger that ISIS-controlled territory will become what Taliban-controlled Afghanistan was in the decade before 9/11––a training camp for jihadists planning to attack the West, this time filled with recruits possessing passports from Western countries.
Obama’s responses to these serious challenges have been criminally naïve and incompetent. He has downgraded terrorist attacks to crimes a “big city mayor handles,” and blames the media for hyping the terrorist threat. He denies that jihadism has anything to do with Islam or anti-Semitism, most recently when he said that the murder of Parisian Jews in a kosher deli was perpetrated by malcontents who decided to “randomly shoot a bunch of folks in a deli.” He preposterously asserts, contrary to years of data from Pew polls, that “99.9% of Muslims” want “order, peace, prosperity.” He indulges Orwellian misdirection like “strategic patience,” a euphemism for inertia, retreat, and appeasement. And he relies on the magical thinking of diplomatic “engagement” to transform Iran’s Islamic Republic––for 35 years a relentless enemy of our country, killer of our citizens, and fomenter of global terrorist violence––into a “strategic partner” whose nuclear capabilities will be limited to peaceful use.
Just as bad, from the beginning of his presidency he has ceded the moral high ground to the jihadists by apologizing for the alleged historical crimes of America against Islam that presumably have driven the denizens of the “religion of peace” to murder, enslave, rape, behead, crucify, and torture those deemed enemies of Allah. His recent fatuous historical analogy between the Crusades and Muslim terror, and his embarrassing ignorance of the Spanish Inquisition, are merely reiterations of groveling statements he made during the infamous 2009 “apology tour,” when in Cairo he told the Muslim Brothers he invited to sit in the front row that the “tension” between Islam and the West resulted from “colonialism that denied rights and opportunities to many Muslims.”
Now we have the AUMF against ISIS, which astonishingly is valid only for 3 years, and subjects the authorization to this limitation: “The authority granted in subsection (a) does not authorize the use of the United States Armed Forces in enduring offensive ground combat operations.” No doubt this proviso is a political sop to the quasi-pacifist, anti-war left, not to mention gratifying neo-isolationist Congressmen on the right. And it is probably pleasing to millions of Americans who are sick of fighting in the Middle East. But these shortsighted preferences and politics are what a farsighted leader must challenge and overcome. Just think of Churchill’s relentless fight in the 1930s against disarmament, pacifism, and appeasement if you need a historical example. And in what alternative universe does telling your enemy what you won’t do help you to win?
In fact, the prohibition against ground troops misses an opportunity to destroy thousands of the most committed jihadists who are now concentrating there, something critical for slowing down the movement’s momentum. We need to remember that a passionately ideological movement like Islamic jihadism depends on a hard core of fanatics. William Sherman understood this psychological truth during the Civil War. For the Union to prevail, he wrote, “We must kill three hundred thousand … and the further they run the harder for us to get them.” Any mass movement based on passionate belief depends on the true believers and bitter-enders, the ones most willing to kill and die. The bulk of the rest, even if they share the beliefs and support the cause, will go along only while the movement is successful, and will give up when the true believers are destroyed and momentum stalls.
Jihadism, of course, is different because it is a tenet of a religion with 1.6 billion adherents and a 1000-year record of military success and dominance that wasn’t checked until the 17th century, a success predicated on doctrines and dogmas still fundamental to Islam. Hence we cannot definitively stop the jihadist threat the way the Southern slavocracy or 20th century fascism was. But we can deal it a serious blow that diminishes its glamour, buys us some years of relative peace, and shows the region that the U.S. is the strongest tribe who will help its friends and punish its enemies. Remember what happened after our military quickly destroyed Saddam Hussein’s army, the largest in the region? Libya’s Ghaddafi abandoned his WMD program, Syria ended its 29-year occupation of Lebanon, and Iran suspended its development of nuclear weapons, at least until we returned to our current posture of retreat and appeasement.
Defeating the ISIS jihadist franchise, then, means committing enough American troops to the caliphate’s territory to kill as many jihadists as possible. Yes, the “international community” will squeal, but so what? When has Vladimir Putin or Xi Jinping ever been deterred by complaints and scolding from foreign media, progressive professors, NGO’s, and U.N. functionaries? When do China and Russia agonize over the anger of the world’s Muslims the way the West constantly does? Putin handled his jihadist problem in Chechnya by killing up to 160,000 people and shelling Grozny. China continues to wage a repressive culture war against 10 million Uighurs and their Islamic faith. But that hasn’t elicited from the Muslim world the condemnations and violence that greet satirical cartoons or preposterous rumors of mistreated Korans. Russia and China pursue their interests without regard for the world’s opinion, and so should we––particularly since our interests, unlike Russia’s or China’s, are consistent with a world governed by law and respectful of human rights.
But won’t we get bogged down in yet another endless war? Not if we don’t make our goal the transformation of Iraq into a liberal democracy, or pursue some other three-cups-of-tea fantasy. But what happens after we depart? If this time we leave behind sufficient forces and bases to patrol the area, we will be able to keep groups like ISIS from metastasizing. Doesn’t that mean an open-ended commitment? But we already have had for decades several deployments of U.S. forces abroad. Right now there are about 12,000 troops in Kuwait, nearly 50,000 in Japan, 28,500 in South Korea, and 38,500 in Germany, with another 60,000 scattered across the globe. We have had troops in Europe and Japan for 70 years, and in South Korea for 62. For 4 decades during the Cold War, 250,000 U.S. troops were stationed just in West Germany, facing not glorified gangs, but a nuclear-armed Soviet enemy and its 1.8 million soldiers. That’s what you have to do to protect your global interests and security when you are the world’s sole guarantor of order.
Committing 100,000 of the world’s best warriors to the fight would seriously degrade ISIS’s forces and its ability to hold territory, let alone expand. It would kill off thousands of future jihadist infiltrators of the West. It would also concentrate the minds of Bashar al-Assad in Syria, and put the mullahs on notice that all options are not just rhetorically, but actually on the table. But if we continue down the feckless, appeasing road Obama is driving us, we will soon have a nuclear arms race in the Middle East, Iraq and Syria turned into Iranian client states, Israel facing a nuclear-armed genocidal enemy, and a jihadist statelet in northern Iraq. And what follows those developments will make the current disorder look tame.
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