Old war strategies out of place

Published 11:18 am Friday, February 19, 2016

One of the most important issues to American voters is the fear of terrorism here in the U.S. Unfortunately, some fuel those fears rather than explain the limits of the terrorism.

Those who advance the argument that ISIS intends to defeat America are fear-mongers of the highest order. While terrorism, and its blind cruelty, must be an American priority, the false religious devotees of Islamic radicalism, do not present an existential threat to America. That is, unless we allow our fear to take away our freedoms.

It is therefore important then that candidates for president offer us a serious discussion about what they would do as president to address the issue of terrorism.

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So far, voters have been denied anything resembling a serious examination of the future American response to this global threat.

Republican candidates, as well as Democratic candidates, have blamed the Obama foreign policy for the condition of terrorism today. So, too, have foreign policy critics asked “Where is the American power in the world today?”

But any foreign policy, going forward, needs to address some of the issues that the Obama administration has addressed to reflect a changing global community.

In the 20th century, after the second world, America became clearly the leader in fighting the enemies of peace. Other Western democracies stood aside and allowed American military power to fight dictators on their behalf.

The beginning of the 21st century though, saw a different global challenge arise. The wars of nations became less and less frequent, while at the same time, the number of civil wars, the frequency of rejection of dictators, became more numerous with the advent of the Internet and cell phones.

So too came the struggles, in the Middle East, of religious wars. The region, dominated by two sects of Islam, Shiite and Sunni, used the new media of cell phones and the Internet to recruit young men to their quasi-religious campaigns against each other.

During this same, post 20th century period of change, America discovered that all of our military might could not provide stability in the Middle East, as both Iraq and Afghanistan taught us over the most recent 15 years.

So the Obama administration shifted from soldiers in the field to drones and airstrikes and the development of coalitions in the region. While the drones have killed terrorist leaders, they have not impacted terrorism. And while the airstrikes have had effect, they have not had enough effect to defeat terrorism.

The coalitions have largely failed, Kurd successes aside, and reluctant Turkish cooperation considered.

So in light of the possible lessons from this recent history, the candidates this year offer a good deal of criticism, but virtually nothing in workable solutions. Most argue for more airstrikes, though our military tells us airstrikes cannot provide victory. A few suggest sending Americans advisers impacted within coalition troops. That is already being done.

Some suggest troops on the ground, as though two Middle East wars have taught us nothing.

Others suggest building strong coalitions. The U.S. has a 65-nation coalition, but one that lacks one key ingredient, willing troops from our Middle East allies.

But few, other than Rand Paul, no longer a candidate Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Bernie Sanders, suggest that the U.S. should not continue to be solely responsible for Middle East peace.

The Obama policy was a reflection of changing times, flawed though it was. The next President must not abandon the lessons learned, but should build upon the foundation that American security lies in American independence on oil, and recognition that 20th century war strategies of troops in the field, now rarely have a place in American foreign policy.


Jim Crawford is a retired educator and political enthusiast living here in the Tri-State.