Herbert London: No Strategy?
Since 9/11/01 the United States has been engaged in a struggle against radical Islam. The enemies have a variety of names from ISIS to al Qaeda, from Boko Harem to the Muslim Brotherhood, from Hamas to Hezbollah, but they are all active in the name of Islam and all have an imperial goal of creating a caliphate. Tactics may vary; yet they consistently maintain an extreme level of violence as a source of intimidation.
Accepting these conditions as a given on the world stage for a decade and a half and accepting as well the fact that President Obama has had to confront this issue for the more than six years he has been in office, it is startling, alas mind boggling, that the president admitted “we don’t have a strategy yet” for dealing with the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. There are many comments the president has made that I consider questionable and some quite objectionable, but none have left me as confounded as this statement.
“Limited” airstrikes to protect the Yazidis and Christian groups is not a strategy; nor is rhetorical support for the Kurdish peshmerger soldiers. A coalition of “partners” as the president is proposing, is also problematic since the allies we once counted on are suspicious of the president’s motives and competence.
Clearly ISIS is among the worst of a very horrible composite of Islamists as the slaughter of James Foley amply revealed. However, we have the world’s most skilled and seasoned military force ready and willing to take on these fanatics. All the diplomatic verbiage cannot substitute for a Marine given his orders to “take out” the enemy. The first and essential element of a strategy is clarity of purpose and a willingness to act. President Obama’s statement that he will work “to cobble together…a coalition” displays diplomatic correctness but not leadership. The words “cobble together” reveal much more than the president intended.
Can one imagine President Jefferson saying we will “cobble together a coalition” to retrieve Americans kidnapped by the barbary pirates? Or FDR saying after the attack on Pearl Harbor, there is an action plan to be developed?
The savagery of ISIS is a combination of the Barbary pirates and the Pearl Harbor invasion and then some. There is only one way to respond: fierce, determined action that ignores the new standard rules of engagement. The president must overcome his reflexive desire to keep his proverbial gun in his holster and unleash the full force of our military might.
In this instance the rationalization that U.S. intervention invariably yields chaos is without substance. Morality, common decency warrant a response, a response that an even war weary America is likely to embrace.
This war has emerged as a civilizational struggle. Americans are put in the cross hairs of history. Either fight today or we fight tomorrow. Our way of life is being threatened. The enemy does not care about life; he cares about goals. The question is whether we as a people can rise to the occasion.
It is also a question of whether this president can rouse himself from misguided beliefs about Islam to meet the international challenge. Will the office ultimately shape the man? Thus far, the opposite position prevails. Now, however, bodies callously killed and beheaded must leave a chill on the soul of every sentient human being. Those who have seen the action of the enemy know full well what our strategy must be. It doesn’t require that much planning.
Mr. President, get your thoughts in gear. Every day of procrastination is another victory for the barbarians. A desire to avoid bloodshed is admirable; but what one avoids now will haunt you tomorrow. It is not whether we support the Christians, Kurds and Yazidis, it is question of whether we can defend our civilization.
Herbert London is President of the London Center for Policy Research, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and author of the book The Transformational Decade (University Press of America). You can read all of Herb London’s commentaries atwww.londoncenter.org
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