“After Paris, Islamic State’s rise and Syria’s agony are shaking a weakened Europe – and the broader international system,” writes the Brookings Institution’s Robert Kagan in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal. “Can the U.S. summon the will to respond?” “What the U.S. now does or doesn’t do in Syria will affect the future stability of Europe, the strength of trans-Atlantic relations and therefore the well-being of the liberal world order. … Just as in the 1990s, when Europeans could address the crisis in the Balkans only with the U.S. playing the dominant military role, so again America will have to take the lead, provide the troops, supply the bulk of the air power and pull together those willing and able to join the effort.”
Such an effort would require:
Establishing a safe zone in Syria to avoid having more refugees flood Europe and provide a place to return for those who have already fled. This would require not only U.S. airpower but also ground forces numbering up to 30,000.
An additional 10,000 – 20,000 troops to uproot Islamic state from its havens in Syria and Iraq.
An internationally negotiated transition in Syria ushering Mr. Assad from power and establishing a new provisional government to hold nationwide elections.
As Mr. Kagan reminds us the U.S. has taken lots of police actions in the last 70 years since the end of WWII: Korea, Vietnam, Panama, Kuwait, the Balkans, Afghanistan and Iraq being the big ones. “Not today. Americans remain paralyzed by Iraq, Republicans almost as much as Democrats, and Mr. Obama is both the political beneficiary and the living symbol of this paralysis. He may be the first president since the end of WWII who simply doesn’t care what happens to Europe.”
Mr. Kagan concludes, “Perhaps there are Europeans today wishing that the U.S. will not compound its error of commission in Iraq by making an equally unfortunate error of omission in Syria. They can certainly hope.”
The lead story in yesterday’s New York Times, “Experts Explain How Global Powers Can Smash ISIS,” starts out “Much of the world agrees that the Islamic State needs to be crushed. But how can that be accomplished?” Here is the strategy espoused in the NYT article and also by Garry Kasparov, writing in the Wall Street Journal:
Assad must go. “For the U.S. and the West to ally with Iran, Russia and the Assad regime in Syria would be morally repugnant, strategically disastrous and entirely unnecessary.”
The importance of the Sunnis. “To beat ISIS you need the enlistment of the Sunnis and this won’t happen as long as Assad remains in power.” Removing Assad “would immediately have the support of Turkey and Saudi Arabia.” “The 2007 U.S. military surge in Iraq was so successful because it included the protection and recruitment of Sunni tribes to fight Sunni extremists.” “The hasty exit from Iraq left the Sunnis at the mercy of a hostile Shiite government.”
Troops on the ground. “Anything less than a major U.S. and NATO-led ground offensive against ISIS will be a guarantee of continued failure and more terror attacks in the West.”
Long term governance. “For the long term, eradicating the Islamic State and other violent Jihadi groups will require drastic reforms in the nature of Middle East governments. ISIS thrives on their failures.”
After the Paris attacks, the West now realizes that ISIS represents a huge threat to world peace and stability. Hopefully the U.S. is also beginning to realize that only it can provide the leadership to organize an effective response.
I will soon return to talking about the fiscal and economic issues which I usually dwell on. Every once in a while another major issue intervenes and takes precedence.
What happened in Paris could also easily happen in London, New York City or Washington D.C. and soon will if our President does not adequately respond to the threat of terrorism. As the Wall Street Journal declared yesterday, “For seven years Mr. Obama has used the unpopularity of the Iraq war as a shield for his retreat from anti-terror leadership and the Middle East.” The American Enterprise Institute’s Danielle Pletka informs us that:
NATO aircraft scrambled more than 500 times in 2014, with only a few exceptions, in reaction to Russian incursions into NATO member airspace.
In 2014, Japan scrambled aircraft almost 1000 times, with all but a few of these incidents attributed to either Russian or Chinese warplanes.
Russian bombers entered US airspace 10 times in 2014, double the previous average.
Ms. Pletka also suggests how we should respond to four years of carnage in the Middle East:
The first step is to actually have a strategy, rather than a series of reactive tactics and incremental escalations.
The second step is to build a coalition with sub-state and national partners that we trust and that trust us to stick with the job.
The good news is that there is still time to lead a decisive war against ISIS.
There is no need to launch broadsides against all Muslims, the Syrian people and refugees in general. It is Islam extremists who are attacking us, not mainstream Islamists.
The world is a dangerous place and we have many enemies. On this website I am mostly focused on our own fiscal and economic problems which are very serious and need to be dealt with in a timely manner. However the immediate safety and security of our country is the highest priority of all and, on occasion, takes precedence over everything else. Now is a time for such heightened vigilance.