We are at war with extremism. It is a long war, and will continue well past my 50th birthday. The debate centered around the efficacy of force and cries for transparency into how it is used invariably create more problems than they solve. Going forward, it will be necessary to be far more secretive about the scope, location and duration of coalition actions throughout the region. The enemy gets a vote, but our objective should be to ensure he votes “not present.”Partnered with with moderate Sunni and Kurdish groups, the coalition can and should identify an inclusive government-in-waiting in Syria, return areas with Kurdish populations to Kurdish control and destroy the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Properly equipped, a unified command and control structure will allow up to 5,000 members of the opposition to dismantle ISIS while also combating Iranian influence. Some of these groups operate in a gray area morally, and may employ improvised explosives and unconventional warfare tactics that nonetheless leave them unparalleled on the battlefield. We should not stand in their way.
The enemy’s usage of urban fortification and human shields ensures airstrikes will result in civilian casualties. Both ISIS and Shiite militias are criminal networks masquerading as an army and make remarkably poor terrorists. These groups are no match for the full power of the United States Armed Forces. “The U.S. Air Force is the best in the world at close air support,” Air Force Col. Robert Spalding III, a military fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, remarked recently. He’s right, and the coalition should provide immediate close air support to any force capable of slowing ISIS’s advances. Fly, fight, win, as they say.
While previous counterterrorism campaigns relied heavily on drones in Yemen and Pakistan, Syria and Iraq require unbridled, unrestrained warfare.
In the aftermath of one air strike that went viral on social media, cement was vaporized and transformed into a fine mist versus the foundation it used to be. This illustrates the raw power of modern airpower and the utility of using all available resources to confront and destroy the enemy. It should continue.