The world watched in horror as coordinated attacks by ISIS killed at least 132 people in Paris on Friday. For the second time this year, France has been the target of well-planned complex attacks by extremists. France seems to be the soft target in Europe, but no country is safe, including the U.S.
What will it take before the world takes decisive action against ISIS? President Obama before these attacks stated that the Islamic State was not gaining strength and that they were contained. Now he has asked his national security to pick up the pace against ISIS.
This won’t be difficult to do given that we are averaging only 4 airstrikes a day against them. During Operation Desert Storm in comparison, we averaging 1200 a day. One prominent retired General has called our current operation against ISIS “Desert Drizzle.” On Sunday France struck back by dropping 20 bombs on ISIS targets.
But is this enough? ISIS is resilient. They have easily recruited new fighters to offset the 18,000 killed by airstrikes since the beginning of operations. This shows the difficulty of fighting an enemy that easily recruits from all parts of the world, to include Western Nations. ISIS has stated that this is the tip of the spear. This year over 700,000 refugees have flowed into Europe from the Middle East and North Africa. How many are truly seeking asylum versus are part of the 500,000 that ISIS threatened to send to infiltrate and sow chaos?
The U.S. isn’t immune to this either. Despite the 10 Governors stating that they won’t take Syrian refugees, President Obama is continuing with plans to accept them. FBI Director James Comey has warned us that there was no way for us to know if ISIS has infiltrated since we can’t adequately vet all of them. As we have seen in the recent terrorist attacks to include 9-11, it doesn’t take large numbers to wreak havoc.
To understand ISIS and other Muslim extremists groups, we must first understand the nature of the conflict and their mindset. The “War on Terror” is not a war on an enemy, but a war on a tactic, a tactic that religious extremists use to fulfill their aim. Unlike conventional warfare, there is no distinct boundary or nation to fight.
ISIS has the goal to establish an Islamic caliphate and kill infidels, including other Muslims, that don’t hold their hardline beliefs. When radical Muslim preachers say that cartoonists who draw Muhammad deserve to die, we see how far they are willing to go. They are highly motivated to achieve their aim and willing to give their lives for it. This is why slaughtering innocent people is fair game. As a martyr, they get to bask in eternal glory with Allah, which is a reward greater than anything that can be provided while alive. For us to think that they will police themselves up and have the problem go away is to be in complete denial.
The international community must take the fight to the enemy. It cannot rely on one or two countries like the U.S., but in a unified front the world must make a bold statement that it will stand up to terrorism. There must be no compromise, which means devoting all military, political, economic, and even cultural means to fully stop them.
We do have the capability to destroy them and deny their sanctuary of terror. But it will be a long and at times difficult campaign. It will require us to use more than just the current airstrike strategy. ISIS has no problem hiding behind human shields. They use it to their advantage, waging an information operation campaign that innocent civilians are killed by the West and as a result recruit more for their cause. This severely limits our current capability against ISIS.
Instead of seeing ISIS as an unorganized insurgent group that can be stopped by limited action, we must recognize ISIS as a government entity. ISIS is a cancer to the world, and like cancerous cells, they must be removed aggressively. It will have to involve full-scale use of ground troops and robust air support. Although military technology has drastically improved, history is clear that battles are won with troops on the ground. It will also involve a strong coalition with the Arab world who agree that ISIS does not represent what Islam truly represents. It cannot be half-hearted, it must be overwhelming and focused on optimizing our advantage.
This must be done quickly. The more we wait, the more ISIS will continue to commit atrocities and export their brand of terrorism. And if we don’t act, countries like Russia, which is looking after only their interests, will unilaterally move in. We also can’t continue to solely rely on corrupt and incompetent militias, police forces, and the Iraqi Army. Many of them have made clear their allegiance and must know that they will be held accountable.
Except for ISIS, nobody wants civilians to die. But we must acknowledge that while we can and must minimize avoid casualties the killings of ISIS pale in comparison to the unintended casualties this may cause. In fact the only way to minimize casualties is to stop and destroy ISIS as quickly as possible, sending a message that the world won’t idly stand by.
We must also be clear that this isn’t Islamophobia or attempting to destroy a religion, which is why the Arab World must be involved and take the lead. It is about freedom and the value of human life. While President Obama and many believe that terrorism is not unique to a particular faith and that we shouldn’t profile or target anyone because of their faith, we must confront the fact that ISIS and their global jihad is definitely unique to Islam. If we do not blame radical Islam or are afraid of offending anyone for focusing on what is true, we play into the hands of ISIS.
The question now if the world and its leaders have the stomach for this? French President Francois Hollande called the terrorist attacks “an act of war.” Other countries have offered support, but if history tells us anything it may just be symbolic gestures and equating more of the same as the right response. As the old saying goes, the definition of insanity is the doing the same thing and expecting different results.