The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

What Should We Do?

With the ascension of ISIS, barbarians truly are at the gate. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, the Director (and past Directors) of our intelligence agencies, members of Congress, and virtually everyone else (but the most delusional isolationist or anti-war advocate) are convinced that ISIS has the funding, the skill set, and the will to mount a significant attack on the United States or in Europe.

The president rightly condemned ISIS with words that were on target (if a bit passive), but as I always say, pay attention to Barack Obama's actions, not his words. With some prodding, I suspect, Obama finally did the right thing by arming the Kurds and providing them and the Iraqis with air support. Ideally, this should have been done 18 months ago, but better late than never. Now he's "considering" broadening his air war on ISIS, but he appears tentative and indecisive (at best).

In my last post, I discussed what we can expect if we exhibit tentative actions and lack of will. If we know what to expect, that leads to a fundamental question: What Should We Do Now?

Before I answer that, here's what we shouldn't do:
  1. continue with pin-prick air operations that help tactically but accomplish virtually nothing strategically;
  2. try to contain ISIS in place allowing their power to grow, their influence to increase, and their recruits to grow in number; 
  3. try to establish a "coalition of the willing" wasting precious time and energy establishing a coalition that will still demand that we do the heavy lifting, or
  4. limit ourselves to operations inside Iraq, thereby providing ISIS with safe haven in Syria.
  5. get involved in nation building of any kind, our object is to destroy ISIS, not be build a democracy in place.
ISIS must be destroyed or at least degraded to the extent that it is no long an immediate threat. To accomplish that, tentative half measures are not in order. If Europe and the U.S. had the will to destroy the Nazis in the 1930s, 60 million lives may have been saved. If we lack the will to combat these 21st century Nazis, millions of lives may ultimately be lost.

In 1944, the Nazis (the 20th century version) began rocket attacks on allied cities. According to Wikipedia:
[In] September 1944, over 3,000 V-2s were launched by the German Wehrmacht against Allied targets during the war, mostly London and later Antwerp and Liège. According to a BBC documentary in 2011, the attacks resulted in the deaths of an estimated 9,000 civilians and military personnel, while 12,000 forced laborers and concentration camp prisoners were killed producing the weapons.
In retaliation the allies applied "shock and awe" by bombing Dresden, Germany and other cities. Again, from Wikipedia:
In four raids between 13 and 15 February 1945, 722 heavy bombers of the British Royal Air Force (RAF) and 527 of the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) dropped more than 3,900 tons of high-explosive bombs and incendiary devices on the city.[1] The bombing and the resulting firestorm destroyed over 1,600 acres (6.5 km2) of the city centre.[2] Between 22,700 and 25,000 people were killed.[3]
Some continue to argue the morality of the Dresden bombing, but a clear, unequivocal message was delivered. Attack us with barbarity and we will respond in the same currency.

Did the allies lower themselves to the barbarity of the Nazis? Perhaps. But just for a time, just until the Nazis were destroyed. Just until allied countries were safe and their citizens didn't have to fear death from the skies. Is ISIS any different, really, than the 20th century Nazis?

There's a very deep lesson in Dresden, and it can be applied to ISIS, but it must be applied before they come through the gate, not after. Because 70 years after the Dresden raid, ISIS can muster weapons and tactics that will make the V-2 rocket look like a toy.

So ... What Should We Do?

I believe we should apply the lessons of Dresden. To begin, we must use air power in Syria and Iraq to destroy ISIS's command and control, kill as many of their leadership as is possible, and cause others to go into hiding. If doing this results in civilian casualties, so be it. We cannot allow these barbarians to apply Hamas' strategy of using woman and children as human shields.

We should degrade ISIS's weaponry (much of it is US made) wherever it is, with precision munitions and with heavy bombers that drop "shock and awe" ordanance. The intent, remember, is to send a message as well as defeat an enemy—to be crude—"you f*ck with us, you pay a price—a very high price."

ISIS believes we are weak, it believes we have no will, it believes it can defeat us. When hundreds of ISIS soldiers have ruptured ear-drums from 2000 pound bombs, when they stagger dazed and confused from supposed safe-havens under the onslaught of air-power, their confidence may wane. And if it doesn't, at least their numbers will surely be reduced.

We must insert special forces in significant numbers (yes, boots on the ground), with one objective—to terrorize the terrorists. Kill them, their sympathizers, and for the very worst of the ISIS leadership, their families. Destroy their sources of food and water, hunt them with drones from the sky, make them worry about sniper teams and IEDs. Turn the tables. Let them understand that terror works both ways. I'm not suggesting that we occupy territory, but simply diver a harsh currency that ISIS understands—our goal is to terrorize them where they live.

But that's just the beginning. We need to provide an object lesson that emphasizes the allied principle: Threaten to attack us with barbarity and we will respond in the same currency.

If heavy concentrations of ISIS solidiers are identified in a small city in Iraq or Syria, and if the population of that city is sympathetic to ISIS's barbarous creed and ISIS has perpetrated some public form of barbarity (e.g., cutting off the head of an American journalist)... we destroy that city. Yes, this act is terrible. But remember Dresden, and remember that barbarity must be met with the same currency. If it is not, the Barbarians could prevail and that outcome is absolutely, unequivocably unacceptable.

But we're still not done. On the geopolitical front,* we must make quiet overtures to regimes that are (to put it mildly, distasteful) but who want to defeat ISIS and other Islamist groups. We must do more to encourage closer ties with Egypt. Their leader, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi violently opposes the Muslim Brotherhood (that would be the same MB that the Obama administration's team of 2s claimed was "moderate"). We must hold our nose and quietly assist Assad in Syria (yes, he's a murderous dictator) in his fight against ISIS.

Progressives wring their hands and argue that all of these aggressive actions will increase ISIS recruitment. Possibly, but there is no other option. As recruitment of Western Jihadists or infiltration of the same into our countries continues, should we suspend constitutional protections for those western citizens (Jihadis) who mean to destroy us?

Undoubtedly, the last question is difficult. However, ISIS and other Jihadists have declared war against us. An American citizen who openly advocates war against his own country should lose his right to constitutional protections. Terrorism is not a crime. It is an act of war!

Islamist ideology represents a clear and present danger. We spend hundreds of millions of dollars each year in an often futile effort to avoid singling out those citizens and visitors who have the highest probability of doing us harm. We frisk a grandmother and allow a 22 year old Somalian national to pass without questioning. We allow a porous southern border—an interstate for Jihadis. Idiocy!

We must profile with intensity. Regardless of politically correct nonsense that is used to justify a shotgun approach to security, Jihadists fit a distinct profile (e.g., national origin, age, itinerary over the past few years, job or lack thereof, religion, local affiliations, as well as immediate psychometric factors) that is well-known to security professionals. Every person who enters the United States should be assessed using that profile, and everyone who fits it should should be questioned thoroughly on entry.

We must limit "free speech" if it involves websites that espouse violent, Jihadist ideology directly against the West. This will help to reduce ISIS recruitment and at the same time, send still another message that Islamists cannot act or espouse hatred with impunity. Specifically, we must apply sophisticated cyberwarfare to shut Jihadist websites and social media feeds down, and continue it every time a new ones pop up. We can and should track every Jihadist website visit and post and use every tech tool available to invade the privacy of those who do visit and/or communicate with known Islamist entities.

Will any of this completely eliminate ISIS or other Islamists? Absolutely not. But it will degrade them in their efforts to attack us, and as important, it will demonstrate that we are at least as serious about this war as they are.

*  In all honesty, I believe that Barack Obama and his team of 2s should stay away from any significant geopolitical moves until he leaves the presidency. His record in the area is so abysmal, it's astounding.

In January, 2014, Obama said this about ISIS: "“The analogy we use around here sometimes, and I think is accurate, is if a jayvee team puts on Lakers uniforms that doesn’t make them Kobe Bryant.” A few days ago, Obama's Secretary of Defense (another prominent member of the team of 2s) stated: [ISIS is an] “imminent threat to every interest we have,” while adding, “This is beyond anything that we’ve seen.” So under Obama's watch in 2014, the threat grew and grew and now his administration looks to be confused and in a panic. Interesting that this president missed it so completely.

Richard Fernandez comments on Obamas foreign policy missteps:
To salvage anything he has to go back to the known knowns. Like a man in a swimming pool who belatedly realizes that he can’t swim, his first step must be to extend his foot to see if he can reach bottom. If not, then where is the nearest gutter? The problem is the floundering man in the pool had introduced himself as the next Michael Phelps. Now he has to save himself without letting on.

The administration is caught between demoralization and the need to maintain appearances. More broadly, this is true of the left as a whole in this moment of crisis. Try as they might, the left can’t think of a way to reverse the catastrophes of their making because, like a bad leak that can’t be addressed by a washer change, the fault lies behind their wall. To fix things they’re going to have to rip everything out and start almost from the beginning.
Sadly, they can't "fix things," because they can't admit that major errors were made.