Terrorist attacks in Paris plainly illustrate U.S. and European efforts to thwart terrorism have failed, and a western ground force will be necessary to defeat ISIS.
In hardly more than a month, terrorist groups have killed about 100 people at a peace rally in Ankara, downed a Russian commercial jet on route to an Egyptian resort, and killed 129 and wounded at least 350 in attacks at a soccer stadium, the Bataclan concert hall and several other locations in Paris.
It is painfully clear ISIS is now capable of mounting sophisticated, coordinated and well-armed attacks, seeming at will, in Europe and perhaps the United States.
After the January attacks on the Paris headquarters of Charlie Hebdo and a Jewish grocery, the French government ramped up domestic surveillance of suspected terrorists and deployed thousands of well-armed soldiers onto the streets of France to protect synagogues and other potential terrorist targets. More than 400 French citizens are fighting extremists in Syria, and France participates in U.S.-led bombing against ISIS in Syria.
France’s policies, like those of the United States, are simply not enough.
One of the attackers entered from Syria through Greece and then enjoyed free passage into France thanks to the EU internal free travel agreements. And the great unanswered question is how did the three teams of terrorists plan and amass the weapons necessary to execute coordinated attacks in six locations across Paris—and catching French security authorities flatfooted and unaware.
Similarly, Turkey and Russia already have sophisticated internal security networks that challenge the civil liberty norms of western nations, yet they were caught clueless and off-guard by recent attacks.
In Syria, France and the United States supported early political opposition and armed insurgents seeking to oust Assad, but hesitated to throw the necessary weight behind those movements in the summer of 2012 when the regime was on the brink of collapse. The following year after drawing a red line, President Obama reneged on promised military action when Assad used chemical weapons against civilians. All of this opened the door to ISIS establishing in Syria and Iranian surrogates—and now Russian forces—entering the fray to help save Assad.
After the Paris attacks, no one should seriously believe the Obama Administration’s line that economic sanctions, airstrikes, drone attacks to take out ISIS leaders, and a token presence of military advisors will stop the expanding power and reach of ISIS.
ISIS has grown too powerful, too threatening and too sophisticated for France, the United States and other western powers to any longer expect us to believe the West can remain safe from persistent and escalating terrorist attacks without the direct commitment of large ground forces to not merely defeat ISIS but also to pull out and burn its roots.
The Russian presence to preserve Assad’s grip on power and fight ISIS in Syria requires the West to do business with Moscow or face the prospect of colliding with its military in any effective attempt to defeat ISIS.
European leaders are no doubt pressuring President Obama for more forceful American leadership. The simple facts are Europe is as rich as the United States and at least as threatened by ISIS and conditions in Syria—witness for example the flood of refugees created by the Assad regime. However, major European powers are incapable of acting in concert, and the richest and largest—Germany—refuses to ever put soldiers in harm’s way.
Washington should exact a high price for committing Americans to combat. The Western expeditionary force should be large enough to accomplish complete destruction of ISIS forces and its civilian infrastructure, and at least half of the personnel and materiel must be supplied by the Europeans—with substantial commitments from Germany.
America should remain committed to Europe’s security but only if Europeans bear their share of the cost.
Peter Morici is an economist and business professor at the University of Maryland, and a national columnist. He tweets @pmorici1