The catalogue of atrocities committed by Daesh pails in comparison to any committed even by Al Qaeda core. Their public executions by beheading and now by burning alive, must be stopped. Today’s execution of Jordanian Lieutenant Moaz al-Kasasbeh, the pilot hostage, represents a strategic inflection point, and a game changer that suggests: “enough is enough, time to act!”
Advocates of diplomacy will likely refer to a trinity of escalating political measures against Daesh through persuasion, coercion and then a threat or show of force. Politics have been in play throughout, with Jordan recently engaging Daesh directly in their valiant attempt to save Lieutenant Moaz and also Japanese hostage Kenji Goto following the beheading of his countryman Haruna Yukawa a few days earlier. Politics is failing.
Advocates of informational approaches talk about forming a counter-narrative to their ideology and certainly education, soft power efforts, and strategic messaging can set conditions for a longer-term solution. Such efforts will get at the roots of the problem of violent extremism. But informational approaches seem to offer little in the immediate term.
Advocates of an escalation of direct military action are growing in number. The coalition is certainly making progress and the air campaign is proving successful in reducing the capacity of the extremists. Military training teams that support building coalition partner capability and capacity are commendable but are a medium to long-term solution. Covert action is just that, and one can only speculate about what is going on behind the scenes by these unsung heroes who selflessly and at great risk set conditions in support of overt action. Iraqs, Kurds and Syrians plus a range of free fighters have joined the cause and are in the heart of the fight right now. They too are heroes and heroines.
Advocates of economic approaches are pressing for more sanctions, cutting funding and reducing Daesh’s ability to finance operations, plus reducing its ill-gotten oil gains. Economic measures over time will certainly have an effect but there is no direct comparison between fiscal sanctions and beheading and burning alive.
National security strategists would wish to see an orchestrated approach involving all elements of state power (diplomacy, informational, military and economic) to achieve national objectives linked to national interests and values. Arguably all are by and large in play right now with one obvious exception - overt conventional military intervention.
The debate about boots on the ground is sadly framed in a post 9/11 strategic environment, linked to recession-preventing thinking within fast-food-esq popularity and statistic-driven opinion polling. The American people, like all people across the world, abhor the actions of Daesh and their desire to do something is growing with every atrocity. But are we truly angry enough to mobilize?
History tells us that you cannot win by air power alone. Like orchestrating instruments of state power, airpower is one component of a coordinated military arsenal of capabilities embracing land, sea, air and space. Air power can deliver results, can offer opportunities to join a coalition of the willing, but infantry holds ground, not planes. History also teaches us that there are occasions when war is necessary to defeat evil because when other approaches are not working, not working quickly enough or the enemy is not responding by changing its behavior…there is no other way.
Daesh clearly is not getting that point and it is now time to step up, despite the potential loss of blood and treasure that may result. Superpowers are such, because of what they do. Daesh is evil.
The recent murders of Jordanian pilot Moaz and two Japanese nationals are the latest saga of public executions of countless others and a holocaust-esq irradiation of anything decent. Like Hitler before World War II, we must see Daesh for what it is, evil. It is not listening or responding to us or our people, who are being butchered in plain sight. Now is the time to show our metal, now is the time to be the superpower and really do some good. Our objective is unconditional surrender of Daesh or its destruction if easier. The war against violent extremism, a man on man duel and a fight to the death to defend our values, in on. Pinch yourself and stare in the mirror as you ask; why are we putting up with Daesh? This fight has been going on since at least 9/11 and it will likely last at least 2 more generations. Get ready for a long war.