Ideas abound on how to fight ISIS and one of the oddest ones came from Bill O’Reilly this week. He proposes we form an international mercenary army to be the “boots on the ground” to bolster President Obama’s comprehensive strategy to destroy ISIS and wage the long war against terrorism.. He envisions American military personnel commanding this force, while other countries and the US provide funding. So, while President Obama guts our already trained force, Bill O’Reilly wants to embark on this “well-paid international force”, yes, well, okay, it’s time for one of those boring LB personal stories.
Long ago, when I was a young soldier stationed in Germany, my soon to be husband decided we should fly back to the States to get married. We got married in my little country church in the mountains of PA and then headed back to Germany. We had a little German apartment and a lot of my kitchen accessories came from a sergeant who sold the whole shebang real cheap, because he was in a hurry to leave. My memory is a little hazy on the exact details, but the story went something like this sergeant had taken leave to go back to the States too, except he was attending the funeral of his brother, I believe. His brother had been shot by some other guy. This sergeant shot the guy who shot his brother and flew back to Germany and quickly left. He told my husband he was going to try to join the French Foreign Legion. Of course, the other person we’ve recently heard about trying to join the French Foreign Legion was Bowe Bergdahl. Rumors swirled about the sergeant we knew and most of the rumors said he was accepted. From Bergdahl’s saga we learned he was turned down. One can only wonder what experience O’Reilly has with mercenary forces and aside from that, one can only wonder if he has followed the controversy of US forces training foreign soldiers, like the School of the Americas, but even more recently, the quite lackluster results of our efforts to train the Afghan and Iraqi security forces. The last thing the US military needs to do is command an international mercenary force – good grief! American credibility is already at an all-time low and trying to outsource national defense to some mercenary force sure won’t help restore our national honor.
Since only political calculations move President Obama to act, it’s obvious that the only thing motivating him to use military force against ISIS is the upcoming elections. Retired US Marine Corps Commandant, James Conway stated,“I don’t think the president’s plan has a snowball’s chance in hell of succeeding,” which pretty succinctly assesses the plan as described by Obama political flunkies.
If history is prelude, then Afghanistan should clue us in on how President Obama wages war. In Afghanistan he blathered on proclaiming that the “good war”. He came up with a strategy, ostensibly, to win that war too. That plan involved an ambitious winning the hearts and minds of the people of Afghanistan, ramped up counterinsurgency activity, and a surge modeled after the successful Iraqi surge. Of course, as with all military matters in Obama world, the advice of the top generals was disregarded, in lieu of White House politicos, with their vast (*laugh*) knowledge on military affairs. Alas, he never delivered on the full-troop strength promised for that surge and he pulled the plug on that plan, declared an end to the war with a change in rhetorical flourish – “end this war responsibly”, a definite new vision,where we pack up our military and leave the battlefield, thus ending the war………. leaving the enemy still there fighting.
Iraq followed a similar decision-making trajectory, where against the advice of his top military commanders, President Obama declared Iraq stable and its security forces able to stand alone. Out came American forces, political instability ensued, the security forces weren’t able to stand alone and along came a determined terrorist army to capitalize on the power vacuum. Of course, I could throw in the debacle that is Libya, which thanks to President Obama’s disastrous regime change strategy there, it now joins the growing list of failed states and hospitable safe havens for terrorists. Every military decision he has made was short-sighted, was not in America’s national interest, was based on completely skewed understanding of the historical realities, the present realities on the ground and utilized cherry-picked intelligence. The political left shrieked for years about President Bush lying about Saddam Hussein’s WMD as a pretext to invade Iraq, but their silence is deafening on President Obama’s chronic lies about intelligence data and willful disregard of intelligence that doesn’t bolster his politics.
The air campaign, as sold to us, won’t work. Long ago, in Iraq we won a decisive military victory over Saddam Hussein, but the decision was made not to go on to Baghdad and remove him from power. What ensued was a long, attempt to keep Saddam boxed in using American air power, with periodic escalations, and a domestic political propaganda here at home, assuring us this policy was working. Administrations changed and President Clinton, humanitarian-in-chief, felt the military approach was hurting Iraqi civilians, leading to his promoting the UN oil-for-food program, to relieve the suffering. As with all these UN programs, Saddam quickly corrupted this program, the Iraqi civilians still suffered and we maintained the “no-fly zones”. Our air approach never really weakened Saddam’s power in Iraq.
We could also take a look at President Clinton’s air campaign in Kosovo – another dubious American military adventure, where we were sold a whole lot of half-baked “facts” about Serbian atrocities, we began aiding the KLA (radical Islamists with ties to Al Qaeda), made decisions based on political motivations rather than fact-based intelligence estimates and there again was another American President stating, “no American boots on the ground!”, choosing to rely on air power alone for political reasons, NOT militarily sound judgment. Aside from all the lies about the political realities amongst the various indigenous factions in the Balkans, the air approach demonstrated that we quickly run out of strategic targets and the forces on the ground remain impervious to air attacks. They adapt and learn to work around American air power.
You can fast forward to post 9/11 uses of air power and the same reality hits us in the face – from Afghanistan to Iraq to Libya, back to Iraq and now into Syria. Air power as part of a comprehensive strategic use of military force that includes American troops on the ground can achieve real military successes; air power alone can’t. These lessons learned are so obvious that even your average American news viewer should have gleaned this.
President Obama’s hesitant, wobbly start of an air war, where he chose to rely on political consultants rather than trained warfighters sent the message to the world and especially to ISIS that he is not serious about this fight. His plan provides political theater for the November elections, just convenient optics of
war to fit his narrative about being tough on fighting ISIS. A responsible CINC would have gone to Congress and begged to put the military draw-down on hold, in light of being faced with a gravely unstable Middle East. A responsible CINC would have looked to America itself and recognized that securing our borders heads the list of steps necessary to provide security for Americans here at home. All the other tracking efforts internally to locate potential terrorists and plots seems ludicrous if he deliberately leaves the doors open on the border. Energy independence ranks high up on the national security list too and there again, this president prefers to rely on low-wattage ideas and tilting at windmills as our future. He really did mean war.