Marine combat veteran Bing West explains how to defeat our enemies in today’s National Review. We reprint here.
By pulling our forces out of Iraq in 2011, Mr. Obama claimed, he “ended the war.” Three years later, the winner of that war is a barbarous Islamist army that has seized the northern half of Iraq, threatening both Kurdistan and Baghdad. An alarmed Iraqi parliament has just elected a new prime minister, opening the door for American assistance.
So what should we do? The chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Martin Dempsey, has suggested that we “initially contain, eventually disrupt, and finally defeat [the Islamists] over time.” Notice that the general used the word “defeat.”
What is necessary to put flesh on Dempsey’s objectives? First, both parties in Congress must agree that this Islamist army is a mortal threat to America’s core values and must be destroyed. General James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, has testified that ISIL, or the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, poses a potential threat to the homeland. The phrase “potential threat” is fraught with ambiguity. Until catastrophe occurs, many will argue that ISIL is a murderous religious cult confined within regional geographic boundaries. That was how Mr. Clinton viewed Osama bin Laden before 9/11. If the commander-in-chief does not perceive a mortal threat and if the press grossly underreports the persecution of Christians and other minorities, then the public will see no reason for our military to become heavily involved.
With the Obama administration, nothing is ever what it was or may be in the future. There is no constancy. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel has described the threat in terms of “some of the most brutal, barbaric forces we’ve ever seen in the world today, and a force, ISIL, and others that is an ideology that’s connected to an army, and it’s a force and a dimension that the world has never seen before like we have seen it now.” The Visigoths, Attila, and Tamerlane have a new rival. Obviously this new scourge upon mankind must be destroyed.
But wait: Then Mr. Hagel delivered the punch line. “I recommended to the president, and the president has authorized me, to go ahead and send about 130 new assessment-team members.” Mr. Hagel is holding the rest of our force in reserve in case the Martians attack. One hundred thirty assessors are sufficient to deal with “the most barbaric forces we’ve ever seen.”
We have to get serious about this: Does the U.S. view the Islamist army as a threat that must be destroyed by American force of arms, or not?
Second, to contain, disrupt, and defeat ISIL, our policymakers and generals must view themselves as virtual warriors. War is the act of killing until the enemy is defeated. During his seven-month tour in Afghanistan, a Marine grunt takes one million steps on patrol, never knowing when he will be blown up. His goal is to kill the enemy and to finish every firefight standing on the enemy’s position. That image of implacable violence should be seared in the policymaker’s mind. It is the gritty foundation of policy. The Marine goes forward to kill or die. If the policymaker is not as deadly serious, then don’t send the grunt.