Yes, you heard me right, we are not shooting enough cows.
If you read my Facebook feed this morning, I told a story to illustrate my thoughts on the current “action” against ISIS in Syria and Iraq. My concern is that our focus, the one that supports and protects our national interest, should be to totally destroy ISIS. Unfortunately, I believe that we are taking a short sided tactical approach rather than looking at this from a strategic point of view. What is the difference? I am glad you asked that question, my friend.
General Curtis LeMay was a World War II bomber commander whose planes reduced most of Japan’s cities to cinders. He was later the Commander of the Strategic Air Command, America’s flying nuclear arsenal. He was a big believer in strategic air power. Someone once asked him what the difference between tactical and strategic operations was. His response went something like this. Say you decide that you don’t want your neighbor to have milk. Tactical is going into the barn every morning after milking and kicking over the milk bucket. Strategic is going out the pasture and shooting the cow.
I told that story this morning and noted that with the strategy against ISIS, we seem to be kicking over a lot of buckets and not shooting any cows. I was challenged, asking if I was for reinstating the draft and having the U. S. be the world’s policeman. No, I did not say that. But if you have decided that ISIS is a threat to our national interest, it only makes sense to me that you should do whatever it takes to cut the head off the snake. That is the only thing snakes understand. So, in the interest of being as clear as I can, I would like to pose some questions and what I think are the reasonable answers.
Are we at war? Yes we are. When you are conducting live fire military operations and bombing targets in other countries, you are definitely at war. According to Webster, war is “a state of usually open and armed hostile conflict between states or nations.” The United States if a nation and ISIS is a state (it says so right in its name) and what we are doing is both armed and hostile. So, yes we are at war. I don’t understand why that concept is so difficult for some people to admit. Planes, bombs, shooting and bombing sure look a lot like war to me. And when you don’t call a war a war, you really let yourself in for problems. We thought Korea was a “police action” and Vietnam was merely a “conflict”. But ask the people who were there and they will tell you it sure looked like a war. Maybe someone is worried they may ask for that Nobel Peace prize back. I dunno.
Are we at war with Islam? Yes. Definitely. Not all of Islam, mind you, but this is definitely a war against Islam. Radical Islam to be exact. But it is disingenuous (that is a polite word for a lie) to say this war is not against Islam. We are going after ISIS. The first “I” stands for “Islamic”, as in the Islamic State in Syria. So, if this is not a war against Islam, someone need to tell them they need to change their name. And, this is a war against terrorism, but since the early 1990’s the only terrorist to target us are radical Islamist ones. Why is that so hard for some people to comprehend? We are bombing and strafing targets in parts of the Middle East that are not in Israel. Does the President think those are Methodist down there on the ground? I think what he means to say is that we are not at war with Muslims simply because they are followers of The Prophet. That is like President Roosevelt denying we were at war with Germany because not all Germans were Nazis.
Could we have prevented this? Maybe. When you are raising a child and you give them an ultimatum, such as behave or else, and then don’t enforce it, their behavior tends to get worse, not better. Why? Because they know you don’t mean it and they keep pushing until they get what they want. Same sort of thing happens in international relations. When you draw lines in the sand and don’t do anything when they are crossed, people don’t take you seriously.
Should we feel morally superior in this thing? Yes, although the President doesn’t seem to think so. I watched a historic moment live on television yesterday. For the first time ever, the President of the United States presided over a session of the United Nations Security Council. And what did he do? He apologized for the United States and our perceived racial problems, specifically bringing up the situation in Ferguson, Missouri. Really? I am still at a loss to explain that one. I think he was trying, once again, to show that this is not a war against Islam and that Muslims are not bad people. True, most of them are not. But we should not be ashamed of being at war with the radical ones. It is true that, right or wrong, many black people in America feel they are getting the short end of the stick. But I followed the chaos in Ferguson pretty close. I do not recall any reports of black folks beheading people, burning down mosques, murdering infants because they were white or systematically raping and murdering women in the name of their cause, all things which have become commonplace for radical Islamist.
Can you win a war without boots on the ground? I don’t think so and I am not alone. The proponent of airpower, including General LeMay, have always put forth the idea that you can win a war with strategic air power. The problem is, that has been tried many times and it has never been successfully accomplished. You can accomplish a lot from the air, but sooner or later, you have to have troops on the ground to take and hold territory. And I am not alone in that assessment. In the last week, former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, former Secretary of Homeland Security Leon Panetta and the former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff have all said that we cannot accomplish what the President says he wants without troops on the ground. And those are not a bunch of Republican nut jobs. They are 2 of President Obama’s former cabinet members and a professional office he appointed as JCS Chairman who are saying he is kidding himself, and us too, if he thinks we can do this without boots on the ground.
Should we rely on coalition partners or moderate rebels to handle the ground stuff? No. No, no, no. We, that is the United States of America, have decided that the destruction of ISIS is in our national interest. So, why should we depend on someone else to do the heavy lifting? The fall of the Roman Empire began when they lost the stomach for maintaining and army had to start hiring mercenaries to fight for them. Same thing with the British hiring the Hessians to fight for them. If it is important enough to fight for, it is important enough to do it ourselves. Put another way, if you knew that your home and your family were likely to be targeted for a home invasion robbery by a murderous gang of thugs, would you be satisfied to go out and buy some shotguns and ammunition, but then give them to your neighbor and tell him you are counting on him to take care of this? I didn’t think so
. Should the United States be the world’s policeman? No. But is September 11 thought us anything, it was that we need to confront our enemies on their own ground before they bring their murderous scheme to ours.
So, having answered those pesky little questions, let’s get back to why we need to be shooting more cows.
So far, the U.S. and its allies have conducted tactical bombing raids on targets in Syria and Iraq. Our aviators and those of our coalition partners have performed professionally and bravely. But, the first round of strikes targeted buildings, bunker and other structures that are part of ISIS’s command and control structure. The purpose of those appear to be to make operations more difficult. The second round of strikes took out about a dozen small oil refineries which ISIS was operating to finance its activities. We blew up some building and took out some black market refineries. And in the process we killed an estimated, we think, probably, around 14 ISIS fighters. 14 out of how many? Let’s say that ISIS has 14,000 fighters. At this rate, it is going to take us 1000 days and a lot of fuel and ordinance to get the job done. That is a lot of buckets to kick over
What we should be doing is finding ISIS’s troop concentrations and bombing the hell out of them. When you encounter a rabid dog, you don’t start out by cutting off his tail. You shoot him between the eyes. That is the only thing ISIS is going to understand. They have a fetish for death. Let’s give it to them. General Robert E. Lee was a military genius. He was trained as a solider and was considered the best military mind of his time. He was ahead of his time in that he understood that in war, your goal is not to take territory or capture the enemy’s arms and munitions. Those things were only tools to reaching your ultimate goal: destroying the enemy’s army. It is a hard thing, but Lee understood that the only path to victory was to kill as many of the enemy as quickly as possible. Robert E. Lee understood why you need to shoot those cows. Unfortunately, those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it.
So, in my humble opinion, the strategy to deal with ISIS is simple. We treat them like they used to treat pirates in the 1700’s. Declare that they are a pariah on all civilized people. Any nation is within its rights to hunt them down and dispose of them wherever they are found. In this case, that means tracking them down and bombing them, day and night, day in and day out. With cluster bombs, high explosives or any other anti-personnel armaments on hand at the time. Of course, I am sure someone is going to ask what about civilian casualties? My response is, what about them? If you are living and travelling with ISIS, you are not an innocent civilian. Make sure everyone understands, you are either against the terrorist or you are one yourself. Now, wasn’t that simple?
Yep, I think we need to be kicking less buckets and shooting more cows.