September 18, 2014

A Return to Jihadistan Requires Purpose

There already are combat boots in Iraq. Defining the mission is key.

We are at war – the Long War. We have been at war with ISIL in its previous manifestations for over a decade. Since at least Aug. 8, we have returned to war. We can’t rely on an official declaration of war from Congress – one hasn’t been passed since FDR denounced the “day which will live in infamy.” Yet American pilots are already climbing into their birds, streaking across the sky and making bomb-mash of ISIL in northern Iraq. In other words, there are combat boots in Iraq.

The goal: “Degrade and ultimately destroy” ISIL. It’s hard to imagine how Barack Obama plans on degrading a group of 30,000-something radical Muslims, but one thing is clear: Destroying means their blood will irrigate the sands of Iraq. That’s justice.

The first act of the Long War was violent and deliberate. On 9/11, George W. Bush sat in Air Force One when he told Vice President Dick Cheney, “We’re going to take care of this. When we find out who did this, they’re not going to like me as president. Somebody’s going to pay.”

Unfortunately, the second act is now in the hands of the Nobel Peace Prize-winning president who tried what he could to artificially keep the peace. In the end, even he is using military force.

And that means we’ve entered an even more dangerous time for our nation. Obama isn’t thinking of what we are fighting for, and so, he doesn’t have a strategy for victory or how to return to peace.

We have seen the fruit of this kind of asymmetric war against radical Islam. From the post-9/11 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), out grew secret kill lists, drones, an intelligence apparatus spying on its own citizens, and, tangentially, police militarization such as that on display in Ferguson, Missouri. Under the guise of greater security, we now have less Liberty.

Osama bin Laden is dead, but the war brought with it hell. Young men who won glory in Iraq returned to the states and could not sleep. Others drank themselves sick. Still others decided life wasn’t worth living. “War is an ugly thing,” John Stuart Mill said, “but not the ugliest of things: the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth a war, is much worse.”

This is why we need a clear purpose in fighting ISIL. What are we fighting for? Where do our morals lie as we take up arms against ISIL? Is the trade-off worth it?

Obama’s actions over the last few weeks indicate he values peace and cooperation, though above all else is politics.

Worrisome, too, is his morality. Obama acted on ISIL only when he had a supposed consensus from the world’s nations, as if what is good and moral in the world is decided by the majority. But there actually isn’t consensus – and no real “coalition.”

Even Obama’s generals broke rank to oppose his soft war against ISIL because they believe America needs to respond with conviction – boots on the ground if need be. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of staff, told the Senate, “If we reach the point where I believe our advisers should accompany Iraqi troops on attacks against specific ISIL targets, I will recommend that to the president.”

Gen. Ray Odierno, Army Chief of Staff, has told at least four news outlets the Army may need to return to Iraq. He told The New York Times, “You’ve got to have ground forces that are capable of going in and rooting [ISIL] out. [Airstrikes] will not be the end all and be all solution in Iraq.”

In response, Obama waged political war against his own generals. At MacDill Air Force Base, Obama publicly overruled his generals, saying, “I want to be clear: The American forces that have been deployed to Iraq do not and won’t have a combat mission. As your commander in chief, I won’t commit you and the rest of our Armed Forces to fighting another ground war in Iraq.”

A nation loses war if it unnecessarily limits itself in such a way. Obama’s former Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the U.S. will not be successful if they wage this war from afar, using allies in the region as puppets. “And I think that by continuing to repeat that [the U.S. won’t put boots on the ground], the president, in effect, traps himself.”

This is a conversation happening at the high, executive level of government. One man decides the direction of the nation, quickly, with little public rationale for acting.

Obama sends Americans over Iraq in bombing runs, never legally committing to the eradication of ISIL, but instead recycling the AUMF passed after 9/11. He also cites the AUMF that took Bush into Iraq, even though Obama has always opposed it.

Congress has taken up the question of what to do about ISIL. The House quickly passed a resolution to train the Free Syrian Army 273 to 156, but there was little debate, only a quick vote by members with eyes on Election Day.

The legal justifications for Obama to go to war are arguably stale. Politically, there’s no question: Congress must pass a new Authorization for the Use of Military Force, or better yet, declare war, because the nation needs a clear purpose.

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