IMMEDIATE RELEASE 22 Mar. 2016
Today’s Events in Historical Perspective
America’s Longest-Running Column, Founded 1932
Terrorists win when the world plays defense
By Douglas Cohn and Eleanor Clift
WASHINGTON – When the 9/11 attacks occurred the United States went on offense, striking al-Qaeda where it had found a safe-haven: Taliban-ruled Afghanistan. Through the use of air power, the CIA, and Special Operations forces, the U.S. backed the 20,000-strong Northern Alliance to oust the Taliban and sent al-Qaeda scrambling. The U.S. response was quick and effective. Such cannot be said of the U.S. or the world’s response to ISIS.
The ISIS-sponsored attacks in Brussels following upon and tied to the November attacks in Paris, are once again proving the inability of civilized nations to fight with a defensive strategy. ISIS controls large swaths of territory in Syria and Iraq, including Iraq’s second largest city, Mosul. And ISIS is expanding in Libya and elsewhere. As a result, that terrorist organization has revenue, recruits, and a nefarious legitimacy.
The Obama administration’s aversion to boots on the ground has signaled our allies that the U.S. is more interested in following than leading, and absent that leadership few other countries are going to go.
It should be remembered that armies were required to defeat Saddam Hussein’s Iraq in 1991 and 2003, but no such force is necessary to defeat ISIS. And sooner or later ISIS will be defeated, but each month they remain viable is a month that is likely to witness additional deadly terrorist attacks. In addition to the horrible loss of innocent lives, the economies of the nations attacked are going to face problems as commerce is interrupted and people are frightened away.
In short, playing defense is not working. President Obama must face this reality and weigh his options. The quick solution is to send in one armored brigade of around 5,000 soldiers, backed by air and logistical support units. Faced with such power, ISIS as an organized polity and military force in Iraq and Syria would vanish, and such a force would certainly steel our allies to the fight.
The second option is to opt for a reliable ally to do the job. To date, the only allies proving to be both willing and capable are the Kurds. But NATO-partner Turkey is fighting PKK Kurdish communists/terrorists in their country and is wary of PKK-related Kurds in Syria as well as moderate Kurds in Iraq. Meanwhile, the Shiite-dominated Iraqi government has had no choice but to acknowledge Kurdish autonomy, but it refuses to recognize a Kurdish state. These facts should undermine the Kurds’ willingness to fight ISIS, but the opposite has occurred, which is why the U.S. must carve a Kurdish state out of northern Iraq and Syria and present it as a fait accomplish to the nations of the region. Then, as with the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan, the U.S. can provide the means and the Kurds can provide the troops to eliminate ISIS.
There are other options such as supporting Iranian and Iraqi Shiites to go into Sunni regions controlled by ISIS, but this would only set up an internecine religious war that could spread to neighboring countries. There is also the possibility of creating an Arab army drawn from nations of the region, but this has been an ongoing plan that has yet to prove successful, and even if it does begin to develop, how much time will be expended before ISIS can be brought to heel?
The options are available, and the responsible government leaders here and abroad need to quit talking about what should be done and start concentrating on what must be done.
Douglas Cohn’s new book, “The President’s First Year: None Were Prepared, Some Never Learned – Why the Only School for Presidents Is the Presidency,” is available in book stores.
© 2016 U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.
Distributed by U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.
END WASHINGTON MERRY-GO-ROUND