Sunday, September 14, 2014

Leaving Things Unfinished


While it inevitably happens from time to time, I hate leaving things that are half finished but sometimes other priorities come to the fore and there is no other option. Eventually, I go back and complete that item or project but there is generally no guarantee when that will happen. However, that task is always on my mind and it doesn’t take much for me to return to the work that was once abandoned.

I was reminded of this when hearing the president speak last week. Unfortunately, his hand had to be forced in order to return to an unfinished war. There was no golf course to which he could retreat that would hide him away from that speech that you could tell he was dreading. When the words were spoken we listened hoping that we would hear of a solution that we could all stand behind. For many of us, the ‘solution’ presented fell far short of what we wanted to hear.  

The threat that we currently face from ISIL is one that many of use feared would grow out of our abrupt departure from the region. We hoped to hear of an all-out campaign to obliterate this terrorist organization that some report to be as much as 31,000 strong. While we have been engaging in targeted strikes, this does not seem to be stemming their growth. We need to show strength but we were left with the following rhetoric from the president:

Now, it will take time to eradicate a cancer like ISIL.  And any time we take military action, there are risks involved –- especially to the servicemen and women who carry out these missions.  But I want the American people to understand how this effort will be different from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  It will not involve American combat troops fighting on foreign soil.  This counterterrorism campaign will be waged through a steady, relentless effort to take out ISIL wherever they exist, using our air power and our support for partner forces on the ground.  This strategy of taking out terrorists who threaten us, while supporting partners on the front lines, is one that we have successfully pursued in Yemen and Somalia for years.  And it is consistent with the approach I outlined earlier this year:  to use force against anyone who threatens America’s core interests, but to mobilize partners wherever possible to address broader challenges to international order. 

With a government a mere days old at the time of the speech and our greatest source of intelligence in the region, Israel, having to fight alone to defend their borders, we have little regional support that could counter this growing threat. There are times when overwhelming force is not the answer but this is not one of those situations. We gave up once, we let this threat grow unchecked, and we failed in finishing the job. We can’t let that happen again and trying to claim victory from a distance is not a viable solution.

There is a time for rhetoric… not now. There is a time for negotiations… not now. There is a time to let others handle the problem… not now, we started it. There is a time to step on their necks and not stop until they are wiped off the map and relegated to the biography of a failed president… that time is now. Now is the time to claim victory and fight for the peace and stability of the region.