I try, when I make decisions about important matters, to first figure out what, if anything, is unacceptable, and then work backwards from there. It makes the decision process easier.
Say I’m thinking about what job to take. If I am told that at one of the jobs, the boss in a nasty, overbearing sort of jerk, though he knows his stuff and gets results, the attractions of the job nevertheless go out the window. Because, I don’t like taking orders from people particularly, though I will. But I cannot possibly show up to work every day and submit to a pernicious jackass. And so the decision gets easy.
In pondering ISIS, and the grave possibility that U.S. troops would have to be returned to battle in Iraq to fight, I’m left with the one unacceptable notion around which any other ideas I have about Iraq must fall into place: ISIS and its caliphate state are unacceptable.
ISIS is going to attack the United States: There is absolutely no question about this. Whether from its base in Iraq and Syria, or via Jihadists it trains and sends back home to the West, ISIS is going to hit us hard. I will not tolerate another 9/11 in this country or any leaders who will risk it. Destroying ISIS, and the sooner the better, is an act of self defense that cannot and must not be avoided. A mistake civilized nations often make is not to take seriously what their enemies say. ISIS says it will attack us. And it will.
ISIS will never stop unless it is stopped: Again, listen to what ISIS says. It wants to establish the biggest caliphate it can arrange. It will subvert our allies throughout the Middle East and, as it gains money and resources, force them to bend to its will. ISIS is ground zero for a contagion that will sweep through the Middle East and beyond if unchecked. And indeed, it won’t stop at the Middle East, seeking to influence Muslim communities in Europe and here. It is a long term, existential peril for the West, unless it is destroyed in the short term.
ISIS will commit genocide: Are we really just going to sit tight while ISIS slaughters Christians, Muslims of different beliefs, and anyone else in their path? Are we going to allow the Middle East to become a giant refugee camp?
Unfortunately, our European allies have self-castrated, and we are the only power with the will and the means to defeat ISIS. I don’t want this responsibility for us or for our troops. But we have it. Again, returning to my original idea of things that are unacceptable, we have no choice.
It feels good to say Europe should take the lead for once. It feels good to think of this as a problem over there, and, Let the barbarians sort things out for themselves.
But the barbarians will come here. And so we must fight them there.
Now, unlike our president, I will be clear with you what our objectives must be and how we should achieve them:
MISSON: The annihilation of ISIS as a fighting force and as a terrorist unit with a base from which to attack us. They can’t be stamped out everywhere, because they will put down their arms and hide within the population. But they must put down their arms, dropping them because they surrender or because they are dead and can’t easily hold them up.
If this means Assad rules Syria, so be it. If it means we are helping Iran defeat a potential enemy, so be it. But ISIS must be destroyed.
THE MEANS: We must do WHATEVER IT TAKES to achieve our mission.
1. Immediate, massive aid, both financial and military, to the Kurdish Pesh Merga, the Iraqi army, and anti-extremist Sunni tribes we know well and who have worked with us before. The Iraqis must take the lead in the fighting, and they can win with our support.
2. A massive, sustained long distance bombing campaign paired with close-air support for Iraq fighters
3. The introduction of 10,000-20,000 U.S. ground troops – yes, ground troops – with an emphasis special forces, into Iraq. Their mission :
Provide ground-level intelligence vital for targeting ISIS forces with bombs.
Provide advice, training, and support for Iraqi fighters.
Engage in occasional fighting that is beyond the scope of Iraqi troops.
This strategy should work. If it doesn’t, the United States must be prepared to send troops back into Iraq on a massive scale to finish the job and reverse the disaster that unfolded in the wake of President Obama’s failure to leave even a small number of troops in the country.
Once ISIS is finished off, a contingent of 5,000-10,000 U.S. troops must remain in the country to ensure stability and allow us to exercise influence over Iraq’s leaders and factions.
I understand no one wants to hear this. But I don’t see what other choice we have.
Our troops fought and died in Iraq for our freedom. Unfortunately, the current president’s policies have ensured that their sacrifice is on the verge of being a waste.
This operation I propose will require more sacrifice. More deaths of young Americans. It is tragic. But it’s the reality we must face to preserve our safety, our national interests, and even, our way of life.