Confronting the Islamic State
Contrary to the President’s assertions last week, the Islamic State IS Islamic and it IS a state – or at least has all the attributes of a state. It is precisely this combination that makes it so dangerous: a messianic and clearly stated intention to wage jihad on American soil and the resources and equipment to do so.
In response to this danger, the President proposes that the United States wage a continuing air war against the Islamic State, but to avoid any commitment of ground forces. Instead, he seeks to use vetted elements of the Free Syrian Army as the American proxy force and proposes to arm and train them for that purpose.
This raises two major concerns.
First, many elements of the Free Syrian Army have a long history of collaborating with the Islamic State. Its principal mission is to destroy the Syrian government which, though utterly despotic, is currently fighting against the Islamic State. We court a very real risk that this equipment will either be turned against Syria as it fights the I.S. or turned over to the I.S. as elements of the Iraqi Security Forces recently did.
Second, committing insufficient force in any conflict is self-defeating, and air strikes alone cannot win a war. For 13 years, the brave young Americans who stepped forward to defend our nation after 9/11 have found themselves hamstrung by political correctness on the battlefield; perilously commingled with hostile forces; endangered by rules of engagement that undermine their ability to defend themselves and denied the full resources and commitment of our country.
We are in precarious times with an administration that either cannot or will not learn from the mistakes of the past. Until we are prepared to put the full might and resources of our nation behind a war against the Islamic State, we can at least act to contain I.S. advances, protect our people, and restore the martial strength and national will that we will certainly need in the years ahead.
First, I believe the President is correct to order selected airstrikes in tactical support of resistance forces where they are actively engaged against the I.S. Where we can turn the tide of battle in these engagements, we must. And the immediate destruction of oil fields under I.S. control is vital to reduce the resources it is currently converting to cash.
Second, it is appropriate to take immediate, significant and focused retaliatory strikes against the Islamic State in response to specific acts that it commits against American interests. This was the Reagan model in Libya and it worked.
Third, the direct threat posed to the United States by the I.S. is not on Syrian or Iraqi soil – but on American soil. The Islamic State has been explicit in declaring its intention to insert a fifth column within our borders and wage jihad on Americans. For far too long, we have ignored the threat posed by a wide-open southern border, lax enforcement on the northern border and non-enforcement of visa overstays – and this neglect needs to stop now. We must secure our borders, enforce the time limits on visas, and change the law to revoke the passports of any Americans who take up arms for the Islamic State.
Fourth, we must recognize that the improving world situation that justified reducing military spending in recent years has now reversed, and so must our priorities. The world is now becoming more dangerous and unstable and our military budget must be adjusted to meet that growing danger. Our nation’s weakened fiscal condition requires a comprehensive review of our spending priorities as a matter of vital national security.
Fifth, we must assure that our only reliable ally in the Middle East – Israel – has all the equipment, supplies, and assistance it may need in coming years, and that it has the unqualified support of the United States when it must take action for its own security.
Islamic fascism is now advancing into a vacuum that many past blunders have created – the worst of them being to underestimate the terrible demands that war requires. These are mistakes we can no longer afford to make. Confronting the rise of European fascism in the 1930’s, Churchill counseled measured resistance where possible while undertaking utmost martial preparation. That advice lights the path our nation must take today.