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Tuesday, March 28, 2023
HomeOpinionMr. President, Your Plan Won’t Defeat ISIS ‘Wherever They Exist,’ Or Anywhere

Mr. President, Your Plan Won’t Defeat ISIS ‘Wherever They Exist,’ Or Anywhere

isis terrorist group iraq war

isis terrorist group iraq war

Before I was a political analyst or foreign policy scholar, I was just a soldier. I say just because, as a soldier, you do not question or criticize the decisions of either your commander-in-chief or superiors. You are given a mission and you carry it out, or die trying. Much to my wife’s jubilee and my chagrin, those days are over. However, at least now I am in the position to criticize and, because no one else is, I will speak up on behalf of those who do not speak for themselves.

In a 15-minute long speech, President Obama outlined a strategy “to degrade and ultimately destroy the terrorist group known as ISIL,” As an analyst and a soldier, I will say unequivocally that Obama’s plan will not defeat the Islamic State “wherever they exist,” or even in Iraq and Syria for that matter. We will lose this war both in the long and short-term for a number of reasons.

Politicians and the media have duped Americans into believing a number of myths, all designed to give all of us one excuse after another to take the easy road. Ultimately, that road will lead to our defeat. No myth is repeated more than the fictitious and cowardly claim made by poll-driven politicians that U.S. airpower is sufficient to confront Islamic terrorism.

To say that “we will not get dragged into another ground war in Iraq,” is an implicit signal that Obama lacks resolve. Excluding boots on the ground is a politically-motivated strategy that ignores empirical fact, not a military strategy with an end-goal of victory. As our generals well-know, you cannot defeat an army with air power alone. At no time in the history of modern military warfare has air power decided the outcome of war. It is the supremacy of land power that destroys, incentivizes surrender, controls territory, and pulls the enemy weed out by its root.

Yet, we are repeatedly given false examples not only from politicians, but from political pundits like Bill O’Reilly, who know nothing about warfare. For weeks, Mr. O’Reilly, the most powerful name in news, has shamefully misled 8 million viewers each night by claiming the NATO bombing campaign in the 1990s won the Kosovo War. This is a false claim that has been widely disproven in academic security studies.

On June 10, 1999, which was 2,300 missiles, 990 targets, 14,000 bombs and 70 days later, Slobodan Milošević finally capitulated for two reasons. But neither of them were related to the NATO bombing campaign. John Mearsheimer, a former military strategist and foremost authority on offensive realism, demonstrated the primacy of land power while addressing this claim, which no serious security scholar has challenged:

NATO was beginning preparations for a massive ground invasion of Yugoslavia, and in late May the U.S. administration of President Bill Clinton sent a clear message to Milošević via the Russians that NATO would soon send ground troops into Kosovo if he did not surrender. Furthermore, Russia, which was Yugoslavia’s key ally and was bitterly opposed to the war, essentially sided with NATO in early June and put significant pressure on Milošević to the end the conflict immediately. NATO also softened its demands a bit to make a settlement more attractive to the Yugoslav leader.

Mr. O’Reilly and other know-nothings should really read The Tragedy of Great Power Politics before opening their big mouths, which I might add, are in no danger of being removed from their bodies after being shot down and captured, unlike the aviators they are so willing to put at risk. But the larger point is that President Obama has already taken that threat off the table, further limiting the already limited ability of air power to successfully coerce an enemy force.

ISIS Control in Iraq and Syria 6/16/2014

This map highlights the countries of Iraq and Syria in yellow. Areas under ISIS control are marked in red, along with ISIS controlled cities.

Take a look at the map above that shows the territory and various cities currently under ISIS control. In order for a military campaign to successfully retake territory, particularly urban terrain, men with rifles must clear hostiles building-by-building. Who will take back these cities? The so-called “moderate” Free Syrian Army? This is the group that President Obama on August 8 — just a few weeks ago — disregarded as “an opposition made up of former doctors, farmers, pharmacists, and so forth.” Not to mention the fact that they don’t trust the president, thus, the United States.

And that’s just the situation in Syria.

In Iraq, absent U.S. ground forces fighting by their side, the Iraqi Security Forces completely collapsed when they came under attack from ISIS. They took off their uniforms, left their recruits to be shot in mass executions, and will now take years to retrain. The only effective, truly pro-West fighting force — the Kurdish Peshmergas — are simply too few in numbers to accomplish the mission alone.

Despite the level of danger ISIS poses, the greatest threat we face is still from within. Polarization and the politicization of war have paralyzed the U.S. to the point we are no longer combat effective. I was not initially on board with the Iraq War, either. I believed the mission in Afghanistan was vital and failing, and that we needed to concentrate on one major task at a time. But once we began to prosecute that war the paramount concern should’ve been to win, which Generals David Petraeus and Ray Odierno did after President Bush correctly and courageously ordered the surge.

It is deeply, deeply disturbing that so many on the American Left — to include President Obama — are incapable of admitting what is now an indisputable, self-evident fact — that they were wrong. It was the Left’s weak resolve that turned public opinion against the war, which ultimately helped to get the president elected. It was Obama’s early abandonment that squandered the spoils of a democratic Iraq we suffered so much to stabilize. No one can seriously argue that Bush wasn’t right when he warned critics against pulling out of Iraq too early, not anymore.

I am no neocon, but at least they admitted they were wrong on their initial strategy and changed course in Iraq, even if it took three years. Iraq has been falling apart since Obama took the reigns. What’s the Left’s excuse? Patriotism must transcend party, both on the Right and Left.

So, what happens when the first F-18 or stealth bomber is shot down by ISIS and, without ground troops to recover them, the aviator becomes the unfortunate star in a video where his or her head is removed with a small knife? Unfortunately, that’s a risk they have to unnecessarily take because politicians are driven by public opinion, not by a guiding principle of doing what is right even when it is hard.

President Obama is the first U.S. president in the history of polling driven into a war by public opinion, rather than rallying public opinion to support a war. When ISIS publishes that first video and public opinion changes, will he not — driven by polls — order another “Obama bug-out?”

I am growing very tired of America’s leaders calling for wars they are not prepared to truly prosecute. You cannot win a politicized war that you are too cowardly to prosecute. You cannot destroy an army with air power, and you cannot defeat an enemy you cannot name. It is never the blood of the children of the privileged that is spilled, or the bones on their bodies that are broken.

Washington has sadly become a haven for cowards in both parties. I fear no soldier will soon want to follow these people. That would be truly tragic since they remain the majority of the few still willing to do what is necessary to protect the nation and our interests.

Written by
Data Journalism Editor

Rich, the People's Pundit, is the Data Journalism Editor at PPD and Director of the PPD Election Projection Model. He is also the Director of Big Data Poll, and author of "Our Virtuous Republic: The Forgotten Clause in the American Social Contract."

Latest comment

  • Dude. The problem is simply that the US is not ever going to solve anyone’s problems. Not by occupation, not by bombing. We haven’t helped any situation since at least WWII.

    But what do I know? I was just an 11B20 in the Republic of Viet Nam sucking mud and dodging mortars and AK47 shells. I have no mind nor am I entitled to an opinion.

    Edwin Starr was right and he, too , was 11B20 in VN.

    “War, what is it good for? Absolutely nothing!”

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=01-2pNCZiNk

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