Right Hooks

Trump's Military Strategy Is Working Against the Islamic State

He has cut the red tape and allowed military leadership to do its job without being politically micromanaged.

Thomas Gallatin · Jul. 6, 2017

Last year, then-Candidate Donald Trump made clear his plan for dealing with the Islamic State: “Quickly and decisively bomb the hell out of ISIS,” he said. During the campaign Trump was widely panned by his opponents for lacking a realistic, dynamic or well-developed strategy for defeating the Islamic State. But Trump is proving his critics wrong. He has correctly surmised that the role of the commander in chief is that of a manager, not a producer. As a result, he has enabled and entrusted leaders and experts within the military to develop, recommend and implement the best strategies for winning.

In May, Defense Secretary James Mattis announced a new annihilation strategy, stating, “No longer will we have slowed decision cycles because Washington, DC, has to authorize tactical movements. I’ll leave that to the generals who know how to do those kind of things. We don’t direct that from here. They know our intent is the foreign fighters do not get out. I leave it to their skill, their cunning, to carry that out.”

Mattis’ statement was a direct repudiation of Barack Obama’s practice of politically micromanaging the military’s war efforts. Retired Air Force Lt. Gen. David Deptula noted, “The reduction in micromanagement of tactical level actions by the White House staff during the Obama era, to the delegation of authority to conduct military actions to military professionals by President Trump is a laudatory step in assuring our national security strategy is optimally executed.”

Similar to his executive orders cutting onerous and costly regulations, Trump has cut much of the red tape that was binding the military’s efforts in combatting the Islamic State. Freed from Washington’s micromanagement, U.S. forces have been able to engage the enemy to greater effect — they’re now able to adapt more rapidly to battle conditions in determining tactical actions without having to get clearance from DC.

And as Trump promised, the bombing of Islamic State forces has increased. This past February, coalition forces conducted 831 airstrikes compared with 684 in February 2016. Essentially, the biggest change seen in the war effort from Obama to Trump has less to do with strategy and more to do with trust. Besides having created the Islamic State, Obama calculated the political cost of every move, and micromanaged accordingly. Trump fully trusts the leadership and the soldiers of the U.S. military to do what they are trained to do. He is simply giving them the green light to go and do their job.

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