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.
15 thoughts on “How would you deal with ISIS?”
Thanks for the survey of opinions. I enjoyed reading them.
I don’t personally ever fantasize about what I would do if I was in government. I have useful skills, but global military/political strategy isn’t one of them. If ISIS was dumb enough to show up in my small town, where we really do know everyone’s name and look out for the houses of those who go on trips, they would be easy to spot as outsiders. We have daily conversations at the cafe about what “that tourist who came through this morning” was driving. It’s so much easier to hide in big cities.
I don’t know any more about military/government strategies than your average suburban grandmother. But I do find discussions of military strategies and tactics, such as these experts provided, interesting. And I can’t help wondering why we haven’t pursued some of the tactics they suggest. Cutting supply lines between ISIS strongholds, for example, seems like a no-brainer, something that could be done with air attacks. And we certainly do need to up our game in cyberwarfare and cyber defense. When it comes to politics, public policy, diplomacy, negotiations, etc., I’m completely in the dark, especially where the Middle East is concerned. I can’t even keep the players straight.
I think President Obama has it right. His policy merely needs some tweaking–step up the bombing, concentrate on severing supply routes (just a few days ago a major route was taken by the Kurds with our support) and keep American boots out of there.
Just wish we’d inflict our attrition on them a little faster and more emphatically. But I’m torn between that and getting completely out of a region where we really have no vested interest — other than to fight them on their ground instead of ours.
What to do about ISIL, I submit, is primarily a political problem. The job of the military is to apply shock and awe to defeat an armed foe, so to ask a General what to do about ISIS is putting the cart before the horse. It would solve the problem in the short term if we invaded Syria and Iraq (again) with hundreds of thousands of troops and impose military law. But we all know how that turned out in the long term last time. The Obama approach is the right one – to support and encourage Europe and the Persian Gulf states to take care of their own backyard.
Well, the interviews weren’t just with generals. And there was a lot of talk about the equal importance of other approaches — diplomacy, cyber technology, etc.
It’s a little late for my libertarian perspective, but if (in hindsight) we didn’t have a reputation for barging into foreign conflicts that pose no immediate threat to our homeland and way of life we might be able to set a hands off example that included a Curtis LeMay type retaliation for attacks against us. As it is, we aren’t able to resist trying to influence foreign governments to adopt our constitutional republic ideal and so it’s easy to attack us while claiming that it (their attack) was really in response to our prior meddling.
As it is… we’re in a pickle.
Yep, I think we provoke a lot of resentment by meddling in the internal affairs of other nations and acting like they should all be representative democracies like us. ISIS loves it, of course. It helps them whip their fighters into a frenzy against the west.
Boy, that is the question of the year. I’ve talked about this with my roommate several times and we both end up shaking our heads and glad it’s not our decision. Personally, I hate war, I hate violence. However, considering these circumstances, I’d love to just go in and bomb the #%&@# out of them. One big problem with that, though, is the loss of innocent lives, especially any hostages that they have. What’s worse, though? Making martyrs out of the hostages? Or continue to let ISIS bomb innocent people around the globe? Talk about being between a rock and a hard spot. I’m turning in my key and checking out when it comes to this decision.
I don’t know what the answer is, but I do think we should stop messing in the internal affairs of other countries and I am glad to see other nations finally getting into the fight. I’m just sorry it took the Paris attacks to get Europe’s attention.
I’m not any sort of military expert, but this is a very old conflict of philosophies. Difficult to compromise when on side would rather die than compromise – and is unwilling to live and let live.
One thing that does bother me is the constant weeping that ISIS does so well on social media – what can we do… Seriously? Once there was Radio Free Europe….and other music/radio/news sources. Now we have all sorts of creative major advertising and marketing firms, we have all sorts of techies and computer wizards like Apple, FaceBook. We have Hollywood and the music industry….
And none of them can be tapped or come up with a glossy flashy hip anti-recruitment/what terrorist really do campaign presence online to counter theirs?
Sure sounds like lack of interest or will to do anything to me. Totally infuriating.
I dunno what the answer is. On the one hand I think Obama is right to pursue gradual attrition instead of all out war; on the other hand I worry that he’s just biding his time till he gets out of office so the next president can deal with it.
What do you do when the enemy hides among the civilian population? When they use hospitals, religious buildings, and businesses as places of refuge to ensure any attack results in massive collateral damage that they can then use as propaganda against any attacker? When they themselves have no issues attacking such places and no problems killing civilians or anyone else that gets in their way?
I would say it’s not our fight and not our problem, but a lot of it actually is our fault. After taking over Iraq, we basically ‘fired’ the army, which was full of Baathists. They then had no jobs, resulting in a huge number of disenfranchised pissed-off assholes with military training. Then we allowed al-Maliki to further alienate the Sunni minority (who used to rule Iraq under Saddam) by essentially keeping them out of government and preventing them from having representation. So basically all the people who used to run things (admittedly assholes) lost power and jobs. You want to know who’s running ISIS/ISIL? It’s mostly these guys. If we hadn’t invaded Iraq, if we hadn’t eliminated the Iraqi army, if we hadn’t allowed the new government to alienate the Sunni minority, then we wouldn’t be in this situation. The assholes put in place by Saddam were assholes, to be sure, but they were given nowhere to go and nothing to do. These are the same dickheads that engaged in psychological warfare against us. They know what they’re doing, and they obviously do it quite well. They’re savage, and they’ve basically created their own bastardized version of Islam so they can brainwash their soldiers.
I don’t have a solution, but I do think we are responsible for their existence. Of course, I can’t guarantee they wouldn’t still have come exist if we hadn’t invaded Iraq, but I think it’s unlikely they’d exist in this form. They would have remained contained. Now, I don’t necessarily disagree with the concept of helping other people revolt against corrupt dictatorships, but we haven’t done such a good job of country building afterwards. Personally, if I could have picked a country to invade and liberate, I would have picked North Korea, but W had it in for Saddam because Daddy and Oil.
Obama’s tactics are safe and probably the wisest ones for now, but it might not stay that way, and thanks to W and Dick Cheney, it’s already to late to put the cat back in the bag. These pricks are spreading their message and radicalizing people among us right now. Even wiping them out in the Middle East won’t change that. This is a battle that can and will be fought in and among the civilian populations of the world. Don’t get scared. Get angry. It took 8 years of Republican stupidity put us here. Don’t forget that. Obama didn’t start this problem, he inherited it.
Dood!! Wonderful to see you again. It’s been a long time and I’ve wondered how you were doing.
Yep, we mucked around and made a huge mess in the Middle East. It’s no wonder they hate us. I’d hate us too if I lived there. Damn Americans coming in like they know what’s best for everyone else. And we keep messing in their business, proving to them every day that ISIS is right; America is the great Satan. Making ISIS’s case for them. Yep, W. did it. At least the world could see we had a reason to go into Afghanistan and look for Bin Laden (no reason to stay after he left, but reason enough to go in). But Iraq? None of our business. Made up excuses to commit an entire nation to war, just to pursue personal objectives.
In a sense, we created ISIS. And we keep feeding their narrative. I’m not scared. I am angry. I’ve been angry ever since W. was elected.