As the public and our nation’s foreign policy elites belatedly wake up to the real threat to American interests posed by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) there have been more calls for some kind of military intervention. Unfortunately, most of the clamor has been for a solution to the problem rather than advocacy for plans which might reasonably be expected to result in a solution. The president famously admitted that he has no strategy and for all the overwrought denunciations of the president’s irresponsibility on this issue none of his detractors seem to have any readily articulable strategy either.
Frankly, I don’t trust the president, Congressional leadership, or our foreign policy establishment to develop or implement a strategy which will earnestly seek to achieve victory over America’s enemies or secure American vital interests. Americans, especially conservatives, should be deeply disappointed in the way the Iraqi and Afghanistan Wars were conducted. Politically correct objectives like nation building and multicultural outreach were elevated above real world objectives like destroying the ability and will of our enemies to conduct future military actions against our soldiers. The longer the wars went on (the Afghanistan War is still going on) the more they became just another social engineering project where it was assumed the enemy would go away and the people would love us if only we built infrastructure and sat down for enough tea parties.
I do not believe the United States should commit the lives of its best young men and women, or tens of billions of scarce taxpayer money, to another conflict unless and until the American people, the politicians, and the foreign policy elite all demonstrate that they are committed to achieving victory. The best way to demonstrate that we, as a nation, have shed the obsolete and naive politically correct thinking that led to our defeat in Iraq is to revise the Rules of Engagement (ROE) for forces in Afghanistan and begin conducting that war in a manner designed to achieve victory. Only then will the American people have the assurances they need that future investments of blood and treasure will not be squandered in new operations elsewhere in the Middle East.
Current ROE have deteriorated since the Vietnam War into a doctrine of shackles that prevents our soldiers from fighting effectively. While the ROE are classified, from all appearances our soldiers are constantly required to place civilian safety ahead of their own safety and the achievement of their military objectives. Ironically, common sense would suggest that such rules could put civilians at even greater risk because it gives enemies a powerful incentive to conduct operations in proximity to civilians in order to frustrate American actions against them. Conducting a war in a politically correct manner also appears to stretch out the duration of the conflict, as evidenced by the fact that Iraq and Afghanistan are America’s longest wars, which inflicts the many hardships and deprivations of war on civilians for a much longer time.
These rules are disastrous enough against third world terrorist armies that lack modern weapons, logistics, training, and other battlefield essentials. Against a modern army backed by the resources of a near-peer competitor our current idealistic mindset and ROE could create the circumstances necessary for the unthinkable; the defeat of a major American military force in conventional combat. It is time to start operating in the real world again before something happens that we cannot ignore or undo.
ISIS is a very serious concern, as is Russia, Iran, Syria, and a whole host of other conflicts and potential conflicts worldwide. However, until America’s leadership and people demonstrate that they are willing to shoulder the burdens of fighting a war properly, including the unavoidable death of civilians and other brutalities that war bring, we should minimize our involvement in conflict as much as possible. America’s politically correct mindset has put it at an insurmountable disadvantage in war fighting. Until we grapple with the difficult realities of war and the uncomfortable moral gray areas that war entails, we are only setting ourselves up for more defeats that will leave us weakened in future conflicts. When America is defeated it doesn’t matter if the blame rests with President Obama or someone else. The world doesn’t see Democrat or Republican, conservative or liberal, it only sees America. Let us not commit to more war until we’ve first committed ourselves to victory at any price.