How to deal with ISIS? The argument rages on. President Obama defends and is conducting a campaign of attrition, of slowly wearing down ISIS with limited airstrikes, limited ground troops, supplying and training allies on the ground, and diplomacy. Obviously not an all-out effort to crush the enemy. After all, they’re way over in the Middle East and it’s not really our fight.
The president has challenged 2016 candidates critical of his approach to explain what they would do differently, and most dodge the question by saying they’d have to consult military experts. (Presumably the president has already done that and continues to do so.)
Even those of us out here in the American hinterlands have probably given at least a passing thought to what we would do if given the chance. I have, on occasion, felt we should just carpet bomb every known ISIS stronghold in the Middle East. Eradicate them like the infestation they are. But of course that would involve massive amounts of collateral damage — the killing of innocent civilians — something I’ve always decried.
So what to do? I don’t know. But those military experts that the president’s opponents would consult, what would they advise? Politico Magazine consulted eight of them and came away with expert — and diverse — opinions. “Obama, Here’s How You Should Be Fighting the Islamic State” makes fascinating reading for those interested in military tactics.
Maj. Gen. Paul Eaton, U.S. Army (ret.), managing director for the VetVoice Foundation, thinks “We are roughly on track militarily but seriously behind in the application of the diplomatic, economic and information operations components of national power.”
Jane Harman, president of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, says, “Seizing the narrative high ground is necessary and urgent—but not sufficient. We still lack credibility on the ground.”
Lt. Gen. James M. Dubik, U.S. Army (ret.) observes, “We need a real coalition. So far, our approach has been more like a posse of the Old West following a sheriff—a militarized approach to a political problem.”
Lawrence Korb, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, says, “It would make a real difference in President Barack Obama’s approach to dealing with the threat from the Islamic State if he were more careful and more explicit with his own statements in addressing the dangers of ISIL and what the United States is already doing to grind it down.”
Winslow Wheeler, former director of the Straus Military Reform Project at the Project On Government Oversight: “Unlike the nonexistent moderate opposition in Syria and the faux Iraqi Army, the Kurds don’t need anyone else to do their fighting on the ground for them, but fulsome employment of close (repeat close) air support from several squadrons of the only aircraft capable to effectively performing it, the A-10 and its American pilots, would result in more dead ISIL fighters than anything Obama or his cat-callers … have ever accomplished …”
Kori Schake, research fellow at the Hoover Institution: “… we will not have the luxury of providing only the military enablers or advisers: Our credibility is so diminished that others will not believe we’ll stay the course unless we’re standing—fighting—right next to them. So we’ll have to be a visible part of that fight for others to coalesce.”
John Arquilla, professor in the special operations program at the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School: “To use an anatomical analogy, the Islamic State is composed of several major organs—urban areas of concentrated presence—supplied with their lifeblood by narrow, vein-like links along roads. Which means that ISIL fighters, in a tactical sense, control very little of the territory under their putative rule. This opens up a tremendous opportunity …”
Maj. Gen. Charlie Dunlap, U.S. Air Force (ret.): “American air power needs to be unleashed, but so far the air effort has been amazingly anemic. During 1991’s Operation Desert Storm, 6,613 bombs were dropped per day. Against ISIL? As of last July, only 43. To defeat ISIL, every one of their fighters should know the stark terror that death from above is coming for them, but that hasn’t happened yet.”
These remarks represent only a small portion of ideas presented in the story. It’s well worth reading if you’ve any interest in what some of our military experts suggest.