Make the ISIS Caliphate a Jihadist Kill Zone

by Bruce S. Thornton // FrontPage Magazine

Photo via FrontPage Magazine
Photo via FrontPage Magazine

President Obama’s proposed Authorization for the Use of Military Force against ISIS comes at a time when Iran and ISIS are fomenting disorder and destruction throughout the Middle East. Despite the enmity between these two species of jihadism, both pose serious threats to our interests and security and those of our allies in the region. The president’s stubborn refusal to strengthen his dubious negotiations with Iran by approving Congress’s more punishing sanctions, along with his pledge not to use force against the mullahs, is guaranteed to make Iran a nuclear power that will dominate the region. And nothing in the AUMF will achieve his alleged “core objective” to destroy ISIS. Quite the contrary–– it will squander an opportunity to concentrate and eliminate tens of thousands of jihadists.

Iran’s regional power and reach are increasing every day. The collapse of Yemen to Iranian-supported rebels proves prophetic an Iranian member of parliament last November. “Three Arab capitals (Beirut, Damascus, and Baghdad) have already fallen into Iran’s hands and belong to the Iranian Islamic Revolution,” he bragged, and implied Sana would be number 4. As for ISIS, it is setting up franchises in Libya, Afghanistan, Egypt and Algeria, contrary to Obama’s claim that it is “on the defensive” and “is going to lose.” More troublesome, so far some 20,000 foreigners from 90 different countries have journeyed to northern Iraq to fight for the new caliphate, creating the danger that ISIS-controlled territory will become what Taliban-controlled Afghanistan was in the decade before 9/11––a training camp for jihadists planning to attack the West, this time filled with recruits possessing passports from Western countries.

Obama’s responses to these serious challenges have been criminally naïve and incompetent. He has downgraded terrorist attacks to crimes a “big city mayor handles,” and blames the media for hyping the terrorist threat. He denies that jihadism has anything to do with Islam or anti-Semitism, most recently when he said that the murder of Parisian Jews in a kosher deli was perpetrated by malcontents who decided to “randomly shoot a bunch of folks in a deli.” He preposterously asserts, contrary to years of data from Pew polls, that “99.9% of Muslims” want “order, peace, prosperity.” He indulges Orwellian misdirection like “strategic patience,” a euphemism for inertia, retreat, and appeasement. And he relies on the magical thinking of diplomatic “engagement” to transform Iran’s Islamic Republic––for 35 years a relentless enemy of our country, killer of our citizens, and fomenter of global terrorist violence––into a “strategic partner” whose nuclear capabilities will be limited to peaceful use.

Just as bad, from the beginning of his presidency he has ceded the moral high ground to the jihadists by apologizing for the alleged historical crimes of America against Islam that presumably have driven the denizens of the “religion of peace” to murder, enslave, rape, behead, crucify, and torture those deemed enemies of Allah. His recent fatuous historical analogy between the Crusades and Muslim terror, and his embarrassing ignorance of the Spanish Inquisition, are merely reiterations of groveling statements he made during the infamous 2009 “apology tour,” when in Cairo he told the Muslim Brothers he invited to sit in the front row that the “tension” between Islam and the West resulted from “colonialism that denied rights and opportunities to many Muslims.”

Now we have the AUMF against ISIS, which astonishingly is valid only for 3 years, and subjects the authorization to this limitation: “The authority granted in subsection (a) does not authorize the use of the United States Armed Forces in enduring offensive ground combat operations.” No doubt this proviso is a political sop to the quasi-pacifist, anti-war left, not to mention gratifying neo-isolationist Congressmen on the right. And it is probably pleasing to millions of Americans who are sick of fighting in the Middle East. But these shortsighted preferences and politics are what a farsighted leader must challenge and overcome. Just think of Churchill’s relentless fight in the 1930s against disarmament, pacifism, and appeasement if you need a historical example. And in what alternative universe does telling your enemy what you won’t do help you to win?

In fact, the prohibition against ground troops misses an opportunity to destroy thousands of the most committed jihadists who are now concentrating there, something critical for slowing down the movement’s momentum. We need to remember that a passionately ideological movement like Islamic jihadism depends on a hard core of fanatics. William Sherman understood this psychological truth during the Civil War. For the Union to prevail, he wrote, “We must kill three hundred thousand . . . and the further they run the harder for us to get them.” Any mass movement based on passionate belief depends on the true believers and bitter-enders, the ones most willing to kill and die. The bulk of the rest, even if they share the beliefs and support the cause, will go along only while the movement is successful, and will give up when the true believers are destroyed and momentum stalls.

Jihadism, of course, is different because it is a tenet of a religion with 1.6 billion adherents and a 1000-year record of military success and dominance that wasn’t checked until the 17th century, a success predicated on doctrines and dogmas still fundamental to Islam. Hence we cannot definitively stop the jihadist threat the way the Southern slavocracy or 20th century fascism was. But we can deal it a serious blow that diminishes its glamour, buys us some years of relative peace, and shows the region that the U.S. is the strongest tribe who will help its friends and punish its enemies. Remember what happened after our military quickly destroyed Saddam Hussein’s army, the largest in the region? Libya’s Ghaddafi abandoned his WMD program, Syria ended its 29-year occupation of Lebanon, and Iran suspended its development of nuclear weapons, at least until we returned to our current posture of retreat and appeasement.

Defeating the ISIS jihadist franchise, then, means committing enough American troops to the caliphate’s territory to kill as many jihadists as possible. Yes, the “international community” will squeal, but so what? When has Vladimir Putin or Xi Jinping ever been deterred by complaints and scolding from foreign media, progressive professors, NGO’s, and U.N. functionaries? When do China and Russia agonize over the anger of the world’s Muslims the way the West constantly does? Putin handled his jihadist problem in Chechnya by killing up to 160,000 people and shelling Grozny. China continues to wage a repressive culture war against 10 million Uighurs and their Islamic faith. But that hasn’t elicited from the Muslim world the condemnations and violence that greet satirical cartoons or preposterous rumors of mistreated Korans. Russia and China pursue their interests without regard for the world’s opinion, and so should we––particularly since our interests, unlike Russia’s or China’s, are consistent with a world governed by law and respectful of human rights.

But won’t we get bogged down in yet another endless war? Not if we don’t make our goal the transformation of Iraq into a liberal democracy, or pursue some other three-cups-of-tea fantasy. But what happens after we depart? If this time we leave behind sufficient forces and bases to patrol the area, we will be able to keep groups like ISIS from metastasizing. Doesn’t that mean an open-ended commitment? But we already have had for decades several deployments of U.S. forces abroad. Right now there are about 12,000 troops in Kuwait, nearly 50,000 in Japan, 28,500 in South Korea, and 38,500 in Germany, with another 60,000 scattered across the globe. We have had troops in Europe and Japan for 70 years, and in South Korea for 62. For 4 decades during the Cold War, 250,000 U.S. troops were stationed just in West Germany, facing not glorified gangs, but a nuclear-armed Soviet enemy and its 1.8 million soldiers. That’s what you have to do to protect your global interests and security when you are the world’s sole guarantor of order.

Committing 100,000 of the world’s best warriors to the fight would seriously degrade ISIS’s forces and its ability to hold territory, let alone expand. It would kill off thousands of future jihadist infiltrators of the West. It would also concentrate the minds of Bashar al-Assad in Syria, and put the mullahs on notice that all options are not just rhetorically, but actually on the table. But if we continue down the feckless, appeasing road Obama is driving us, we will soon have a nuclear arms race in the Middle East, Iraq and Syria turned into Iranian client states, Israel facing a nuclear-armed genocidal enemy, and a jihadist statelet in northern Iraq. And what follows those developments will make the current disorder look tame.

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26 thoughts on “Make the ISIS Caliphate a Jihadist Kill Zone”

  1. You’d make a perfect Sec. of State after reading your above analysis of what’s wrong under our appeasement President who is finding it more and more difficult to deny the Islamic-fascist threat that our nation is facing. It’s now reached the point of total absurdity like when he called the recent “Citizen” massacre in Libya having nothing to do with them all being Christian!

    The only problem is that he’s too intent on following the Muslim Brotherhood plan to destroy Israel and forge an unholy alliance with the Shiite Religious zealots of Iran.

    Strange times still lie ahead until Mr. Obama is finally removed from power which can’t come soon enough.

  2. Excellent thoughts, professor Thornton.

    Let us reexamine concepts about our world: Third World appears to be Tribal in nature, and the tribal Muslims are gaining territory. Let us now consider the Second World appears to be Controlling (hat tip to Glenn Beck) in nature. Let us call this Second World the European Socialist/Communist Union — including France, Germany, Greece, England, etc. Let us also say that the Second World of Controlling dystopia includes Russia, China, India and South America and Mexico. Alas, this Second World also includes California, the East Coast and Illinois and Hawaii.

    So then, this leaves us the First World of 1776 Liberty. It is dismissively called Fly-over country, and perhaps it includes the middle of the US, the middle of Canada and Alaska.

    Employing this perspective, in WWII the First World Allies beat the Tribal Japanese and the Controlling Germans/Italians. Then in 70 years, we find the Tribal Muslims want to fight the Controlling Euro-US-Union.

    What will force a greater part of the world (than just Alaska and the flyover parts of the US and Canada) to become 1776 Liberty-minded? What will return leaders to First World Liberty?

    Who wants to send US troops to win a war against Tribalism, so that Controlling dystopia wins? Would you want to fight Tribalism so that New York/California dystopia rules and reigns over the entire planet?

    1. Point of clarity:

      Second World countries control, via central banks, the interest rate, in vain attempt to prevent clearing of mal-investments and fat entitlement spending. This keeps Second World countries generating billionaire banksters and ruins the classes below, who cannot have strong matriarch or patriarch families with any wealth. Second world leaders care how they look, not how they are corrupt inside.

      Third World Tribal extremists hate and fight and kill the people of Second World countries in frustration.

      First World countries, if they could, would kill their central bank, have a currency that doesn’t devalue, would have a press that is not propagandistic, would clean their government house, would make government as absolutely small as possible. All this, so a man or woman could be a strong family leader, could get ahead in life, if left alone by the Second World Controllers.

  3. One last point to my above comment and that is President Obama is keenly aware of the dramatic repercussions that would result if he were to identify the Islamic threat as “Islamic.” For him to do so would make all his Muslim Brotherhood buddies in the WH re-insert all the many, many deletions they made in all the FBI handbooks, etc. This would have two immediate effects. One, it would allow the FBI to patrol the radical, fascist Islamic fanatics in all the mosques around the country; and two, it would endanger his argument of continuing to try these killers as “civilians” vs. into the military courts where they rightfully belong. Also, it would make it impossible for him to try to close Gitmo and release anymore prisoners.

  4. It is often said that we are fighting for our “interest and defense” in these regions. What interest? economic ? monetary? trade? oil? payoffs? corruption regimes? neo cons and the ” industrial military complex, which Eisenhower warned us about”, thirst for war and its economic benefits to our corporations and economy?
    We talk and act on one hand of bombing with drones, killing hundreds or thousands, disrupting lives, dispossess thousands,cause refugees, ruin infrastructure and economies, and on the other hand talk that we “want to spread freedom and democracy ” to the world.
    I, as an American citizen, want to know, how does this help me or my fellow citizens? Any reason why we just cannot leave them alone? anyone have an answer to this question?

    1. Thomas, I will give it a go.

      A little history as I remember it.

      Early 70’s and Palestinians (Infatada) go to war with Israel and are soundly beaten.

      Except in one way they are not.

      Palestine/West Bank at the time has the highest birthrate in the world.
      Hmmm….lots more people…jobs??? no, but an ideology of hate & Arafat to unite them…

      Please check me on this, but at present the birthrate in Islamic countries are the highest in the world
      Hmmm…lots more people…jobs??? no, but ideology of hate & ISIS to unite them…

      One example of a high birth rate from the news: remember the Somalian man 29 yo who was a refugee and came to Minnesota, he joins ISIS and is killed, leaving his wife and 9 children for you and I to support.

      So yes, I’m in my 60’s I could leave them “the middle east” alone, except I wouldn’t be doing my grandchildren and great grandchildren any favor. If my attitude toward this danger were of appeasement or indifference, that “Kumbaya” worldview would end up harming them.

      Evil exists in the world. Deal with it now on our terms or deal with it later on theirs.

      By the way, should we merely ignore the news/social media as it lets us know “an ISIS franchise is coming to a mall near you”?

      1. Cas, thank you for your thoughts. But would it be different if were not over there? If we had not established “puppet” dictators who”protected” our “interest”, while the population lives in poverty, and their dictators live in extravagant wealth?

        Similarly, our Civil War required a “good cause i.e slavery” to justify the war, whereas much of the war was fought over economics and states rights, of the industrial north vs agricultural south. I am side tracking a little, I know. But I question our “interest.”, and am not excusing their barbarism.

    2. Put more simply, we either fight them there or we fight them here. Either way we’re going to be fighting them.

      I choose there, where the muslim street can see what mad dogs they are cheering. Where the point can be made most stringently where violent jihad is going to take them and why *they* don’t want it. And where the supporters of violent jihad bear the cost of that support.

  5. “Nero fiddled while Rome burned.” may not just be a history lesson, but perhaps future proof that “history does [sometimes] repeat itself.” When is the government going to wake up and see what’s happened since Obama was elected!?

  6. As always, a very insightful read. I particularly liked the question-and-answering done near the end.

    Whenever I read various reactions from regular people regarding these M.E. troubles, I notice we at least react to what is happening around us in the world. Yes, we have lots of different ideas of how to solve or deal with it, but AT LEAST WE REACT.

    As opposed to those who are our supposed leaders.

    From our leaders we hear that the world has never been safer, that these bad guys aren’t really who they say they are, and on and on with the obfuscation – but never any kind of meaningful REACTION to the world that could (at best) make a difference in the expansion of this problem, or (at worst) just signal to the rest of us that they are aware of the world’s dangers.

    I read elsewhere that the worst thing we could do is deliver a fight to ISIS (since, supposedly, this is what they want). That the best thing to do is try to counter their ideology over the course of decades, and to avoid being goaded into a ground fight.

    And then others who believe we really should take the fight to the enemy.

    I tend to believe in the latter. As brutal as it would be, I think a little bit of a Dresden approach would be a start. They seem to want some kind of Armegeddon, and we have the technical ability to deliver a version of it to them. As a nation – or even as a culture – I think we need to reacquaint ourselves with the idea that combatting the enemies of our way of life cannot be (nor should it be) a sanitized, touchy-feely ‘nice’ war where no one but enemy combatants are harmed.

    Our approach to radical Islam and terrorism in some ways reminds me of the American Revolution… Often the Brits lined their troops up in traditional battle formations only to have chaos reign down on them by people (us) who didn’t play by the Brit’s rules.

    Today we are the ones who need to recalibrate the way we send in the military. Everyone knows we have the most capable, cutting-edge military in the world, yet we restrain this force over political concerns. We’re obviously not really effective at ‘nation building’, but we’ve always been very, very good at breaking stuff – including our enemy’s will in the end.

  7. {does not authorize the use of the United States Armed Forces in enduring offensive ground combat operations.”} This meek statement tells me that our Pied Piper of False Pretenses in the WH is
    setting the perfect conditions for a Northern Alliance type maneuver. Rather than, as the article
    states, wiping out as many devils as possible, as soon as we have a massively large swath of them
    on the ropes the words “cease fire” will immediately be accepted and implemented. It’s the Obama way!

    1. It is not very good to see Beirut, Damascus and Baghdad lined up in the Iranian camp. Add Moscow and the consequences do not look good for the West’s strategic interests in the Middle East.

      Letting ISIS romp and stomp may unfortunately prove to be a terrible mistake as far as controlling and developing Iranian initiatives in the region. Russia no doubt looks on all this as a fabulous opportunity…. to the West’s detriment. A scary thought considering their already ubiquitous regional machinations.

  8. Well said. I think that Dr. Thornton is entirely right. I wonder, however, if the damage which Obama has inflicted to American national interest is permanent, or at least will take a revolution to return it to what it once was. From my point of view, the world is in the beginning stages of World War III (or IV, depending on who you are talking to), and that America’s primary enemy is the Barack Hussein Obama-Democrat Party Dictatorship. I think that this is by design, and that Obama is intentionally sabotaging America abroad, while he erects a some sort of a socialist dictatorship domestically.

    I was in Iraq 23 month’s between 2007-2009. I saw that by 2008, Iraq had been won. I still remember driving on the Syrian border through Sinjar and other villages on the north side of the mountain, and the Yazidi children would line the street’s as we passed by shouting “USA, USA” because the United States military had saved them and their families from annihilation. The fate of those children and their families will haunt Barack Obama’s soul, as will the souls of America’s children who’s future and birthright he has raped on behalf of his ideology.

  9. Your ideas are interesting. But here are some caveats:

    1. The jihadis are cowards, so they will hide themselves amongst the civilian population, especially in built up areas. Offensive operations in that environment will cause civilian casualties, which won’t look good on the evening news reports. Probably no politician has the guts to withstand the criticism which will follow.

    2. If you try to go after the jihadis in the manner you suggest, that’s going to mean the deployment of lots of infantry, backed up with some armoured vehicles and artillery. The Army has the capability to close with and destroy the enemy, which is exactly what they train for. (Forget the Marines, they are next to useless.) Very likely, the jihadis will be smashed. But the infantry will suffer casualities in the process. Your enemies in the press, both domestic and abroad, will have a field-day with that, in the same way that they ruined the reputation of President. Bush Jr.

    In one of your books, you referred to the Tet Offensive which took place towards the end of the Vietnam War. You made the point, quite correctly, that the guerillas were annihilated relatively quickly, but the furore caused in the media sapped all political resolve at home, so that a military victory was thereby turned into a strategic defeat. I suggest you consider this further.

  10. Spineless fools lead their countries away from fighting painful present wars on enemy ground and into future excruciating wars on their own ground. It may take awhile but will become Obama’s legacy unless new leadership is able to turn events around after his exit.

  11. Derangement—- trust and over-confidence that no axis powers would ever dare challenge the United States shrinking military advantage.( First stike on a hedonist French maginot line .) Google– “”” Arms race 2.0 china more submarines”” from zero hedge. From washington free beacon, “”” China’s space weapon’s threaten U.S satellites””. The final tell—- an always smiling Chinese dictator who is consolidating power by killing off any contenders to the throne. And pray tell, just how is it that a communist country that not to long ago was selling us tiny umbrella’s for our drinks, is now arming in a way to directly dethrone the United States via first strike capability—- How did this utter and absolute treason come about…..2001 U.S china trade deficit, 83 billion. After signing China into WTO, 2014 trade deficit that funds arms buildout, 342 billion.

  12. Thomas, you think what a great many Americans think. You are, however, fighting for your interests in Iraq whether you wish to acknowledge it or no. It is sheer fantasy that we in the West can disengage. Didn’t work in the time of the Barbary Pirates, did it? Didn’t work at 9/11, did it? Are Muslim pirates off Somalia interfering with shipping, or not? Have you noticed that jihadist attacks in the US are on the rise? Oh very slowly, for sure. But Islam does not relent. Supposedly, Caliph Ibrahim when he was released from American detention in 2009 or so, said to his former captors, “See you boys in New York.” It wasn’t braggadacio. It took militant Islam seven centuries to capture the Red Apple – Constantinople! It isn’t going to take seven centuries for them to capture the Big Apple. It probably won’t even take seven decades.

    “See you in New York!”

  13. I might add to the above, that the case of Spain is instructive. It took seven centuries to drive the Muslims out of Spain, culminating in the final defeat by Ferdinand and Isabella of Islamist forces at Granada in 1492. So that was that for Islam.

    Except that it wasn’t. Muslims are back in Spain, and are numerousl. Restaurants serving halal food are common, as are the various forms of female covering. Mosques are tucked away here and there And (not quite Spain) on the southern tip of Gibraltar a splendid new mosque has been built. Always nibbling away – as in regard to the cathedral of Cordoba.

  14. Never, ever, ever let a Muslim get the drop on you. If they try and capture you fight with every ounce of strength that you have to get free. No matter if they shoot you dead right there, it is better than being used as propaganda by getting your head lopped off or being burned to death in a cage.
    The enemy is here, and part of their plan is us using massive resources to track them so we drain our treasury.

  15. I agree, Iran and ISIS both must be fought. But who first and by whom? As a priority the US must fight Iran first. By first I mean now. If you don’t and engage ISIS militarily instead you will be fighting under Iran’s nuclear umbrella soon. That means you would be effectively Iranian mercenaries.

    When I say fight Iran I do not merely mean stop the nuclear program. I want to defeat the regime, go for victory. Establish Persia replacing the Islamic Republic of Iran. Once that is achieved, you will find allies in the Persioans to fight ISIS. That is if ISIS still exists in that scenario.

    The entire reputation of the US in the Middle East does not depend on the US fighting ISIS. Your reputation depends on and suffers from you intimate relations with Saudi Arabia. Their motto is: one beheading a day keeps the jihadis away. Withdraw troops from Saudi Arabia and leave them at the mercy of the islamic-trash jihadis. Noone in the Middle East believes in American goals of freedom and democracy as long as you are talking to princes in funny clothes. These are but a luxurious well dressed version of your ISIS jihadis.

  16. The solution that involves little or no commitment of American troops is right in front of us, and would be instantly plain to any 19th century British colonial officer. To see it, just review what has happened since 9-11-2001: They killed a couple of thousand of us, we killed a couple of hundred thousand of them, they have killed a half million or so of each other.

    The reason for that last bit, you rehearse in your second sentence, “…the enmity between these two species of jihadism.” So what we need to do is capitalize on that. Ensure a sufficient measure of success for ISIS that Iran is forced to go after them. And if by the time that’s all over, they have killed a couple of million of each other, so what? All tolled, in my book as a mouth-breathing “isolationist,” the whole pile isn’t worth fifty American lives.

    Our problem is, as 21st century Americans, that we just aren’t Machiavellian enough.

  17. A good article, a good analysis, for sure. To what point, I cannot say. With good advice, “a wise man don’t need it; a fool won’t heed it.” It will be wasted on the US Administration and its tame generals, because they have no intention of winning anything anywhere, and at this point no idea of how to win or what winning entails.

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