Bad Ideas for Combating the Islamic State

GOP candidates offer solutions that are redundant, meaningless, or reckless.



Adversity, it's been said, doesn't build character; it reveals it. The terrorist attacks in Paris managed to expose a lot about the character and wisdom of several Republican candidates for president, and the discoveries are not reassuring. 

The entire field is united in condemning Barack Obama's handling of the war against the Islamic State, also known as ISIS. The candidates' ideas on how to do it better, however, fall into three categories: redundant, meaningless and reckless. 

Carly Fiorina is at a disadvantage critiquing the administration, because she has no apparent idea what the administration is doing. The first step, she declared, is "acknowledging that ISIS is at war with us and therefore we must be at war with them." 

She is probably the last person to realize we are already at war with the Islamic State. Over the past 15 months, the U.S. military has carried out more than 6,300 airstrikes, which it says have killed upward of 10,000 enemy fighters. 

Fiorina also insists she would provide arms to the Kurdish forces fighting the Islamic State, as well as to the government of Jordan. But the U.S. already supplies weapons to the Kurds, though it routes them through the Baghdad government. 

The administration announced in September it would increase military aid to Jordan and provide weapons more advanced than in the past. As for Egypt, a National Security Council spokesperson told me the U.S. has provided intelligence analysis on the October airline bombing, among other matters. 

Donald Trump said he would "bomb the (bleep) out of them," with a focus on the enemy's oil infrastructure. He missed the story in The New York Times the day before the Paris attacks that reported, "The United States and its allies have sharply increased their airstrikes against the sprawling oil fields that the Islamic State controls in eastern Syria in an effort to disrupt one of the terrorist group's main sources of revenue, American officials said this week." 

Ted Cruz has the notion that you win wars with words. He says we are handicapped by "a commander in chief unwilling even to utter the words 'radical Islamic terrorism.'" To Islamic State fighters who worry about being vaporized by Hellfire missiles, Obama's preference for terms like "violent extremists" is cold comfort. 

The president, like Hillary Clinton, avoids Cruz's favored nomenclature in deference to our Muslim allies.

"You certainly do not want to describe the threat in terms of a war on Islam," Juan Carlos Zarate, an adviser to President George W. Bush on terrorism, has said. "We struggled mightily about how you describe the ideology." 

Cruz believes that to stop an enemy that slaughters innocent people, we have to slaughter innocent people. The Islamic State, he said, "will not be deterred by targeted airstrikes with zero tolerance for civilian casualties." 

It will cheer him up to learn that Canada's CBC News found "credible allegations" that up to 600 civilians have died in the U.S. air campaign. It doesn't occur to Cruz that each innocent person blown up by an American bomb produces more people eager to slaughter Americans. 

Trump, Ben Carson, Jeb Bush and John Kasich have indicated a willingness to use ground troops, but none proposes the sort of numbers deployed in Afghanistan (which peaked at around 100,000) and Iraq (166,000). The candidates don't acknowledge that a small force might be inadequate. Then what? Go big or go home? 

Marco Rubio took a novel tack, criticizing Cruz and Rand Paul for supporting the USA Freedom Act, which curbed the National Security Agency's collection of Americans' phone records. He charged that this "weakening of our intelligence gathering capabilities leaves America vulnerable." But a federal court and a presidential review commission found no evidence the program prevented a single attack. 

Rubio may not realize we are far likelier to get information on the Islamic State from a separate NSA program, which involves listening to the phone calls and reading the emails of foreigners abroad suspected of terrorist activities—a program the USA Freedom Act left alone. 

For sheer vacuity, it's hard to top Carson, who said, "I would be working with our allies, using every resource known to man, in terms of economic resources, in terms of covert resources, overt resources, military resources, things-that-they-don't-know-about resources." 

Maybe Obama is already deploying all the resources they don't know about. That's information Carson wouldn't have. But in this group, lack of knowledge is no hindrance.

© Copyright 2015 by Creators Syndicate Inc.

NEXT: Paris, Fear, and Freedom

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  1. Hillary will come out with a plan to defeat ISIS as soon as Sidney Blumenthal can find a way to funnel money through it to the Clinton Foundation and back to him.

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  2. So you mean to tell me that it’s all meaningless rhetoric from all the challengers? Shocking!

  3. Again, Rand Paul is ignored. Why give so much time to stupid candidates and none to someone who actually thinks straight? Your headline pools Paul in with rest of them. Fail.

    1. I haven’t seen Paul’s stance. What is he saying, currently?

  4. Since Chapman’s talking about candidates’ views, where’s his analysis of Clinton’s and Sanders’ plan? I’m certain they have something cooked up beyond not calling Islamic terrorists Islamic. How do those plans differ meaningfully from the plans of the various Republicans (they don’t)?

    Chapman is a shill for the Democrats in general and Clinton in particular and Reason continues to put him front and center on foreign policy matters. Why not find a true Libertarian to write about these issues?

    1. Why not find a true Libertarian to write about these issues?

      Because there’s not such thing as a true libertarian. That purity test is a real bitch. /sarc

    2. If you expand beyond Chapman to include Reason, there’s been about 3 articles just today about Hillary’s own dumb position on this.

      As for Bernie, there’s been two articles this week, I believe. The first one was about how his wanted to avoid any foreign policy questions in the debate in the wake of the Paris attacks because “it’s not fair to expect him to be able to prepare in such a short time.” Obviously, if he becomes president, world events will need to slow their roll so the Bern can have adequate time to prepare.

      If that wasn’t enough, Reason pilloried him for actually suggesting that fundamentalist terrorism is the result of global warming. He thinks that if we could just curb all those nasty carbon emissions, those crazies would learn to take a deep, low-carbon breath, chillax and ease up on the beheadings and suicide bombings.

      Say what you want, but to accuse Reason of siding with the democrats shows you are simply not paying attention. I think they tend to focus more on the republican side for two reasons: 1) There are a lot more of them running and that nomination is much more up-for-grabs than the foregone conclusion that is Hillary and 2) the Republicans are SUPPOSED to be the party of smaller/less intrusive government which suggests that they might possibly have some appeal for libertarians. (Emphasis on SUPPOSED TO BE, they actually are about as much as the Dems are still the party of civil liberties, which is to say not at all.)

      1. I hear what you’re saying but I didn’t say Reason is shilling for the Dems, I said Chapman was and, for that reason, they would do well to not publish his nonsense. He’s an obvious partisan who already publishes at an obviously partisan rag, the Chicago Tribune, and those of his ideological ilk have plenty of other places to publish their dreck.

    3. Maybe Chapman is angling for a job working ass a democrat lackey. Hence this hit piece. It’s kind becoming all too common at Reason.

  5. 10,000 dead from 6,300 strikes- about half the strikes, no bombs are dropped, and most strikes drop more than 1 bomb, so let’s say its 10,000 dead from 10,000 bombs.

    One bomb per dead guy? Sounds about right. A GBU 54 bomb with a guidance kit costs around $50k. Add in the cost of dropping the bomb, can easily get you to $500k per dead jihadi.

    Seems like snipers would be cheaper.

    1. “Seems like snipers would be cheaper.”

      French or Russian snipers, cheaper still.

  6. There’s a lot of bullshit to unpack in this article, but I will try.

    “Cruz believes that to stop an enemy that slaughters innocent people, we have to slaughter innocent people.”

    ISIS kills innocent people on purpose. The US military kills innocent people by mistake.

    “It doesn’t occur to Cruz that each innocent person blown up by an American bomb produces more people eager to slaughter Americans.”

    If this was true, then no war would ever end because no one would see defeat as a better option than death or more war. I’m sure each dead Johnny Reb boosted recruiting for the Confederacy in the beginning.

    The president, like Hillary Clinton, avoids Cruz’s favored nomenclature in deference to our Muslim allies.

    “You certainly do not want to describe the threat in terms of a war on Islam,” Juan Carlos Zarate, an adviser to President George W. Bush on terrorism, has said. “We struggled mightily about how you describe the ideology.”

    And we have paid a price for that avoidance. The beginning of wisdom is to call things by their proper names. Perhaps our Muslim allies would be making more than a token effort if they knew that the reputation of Islam is in danger and that there is a dire need for change.

    The problem is not western imperialism, Muslim tyrants, poverty, or Israel. The problem is Islamic doctrine- specifically the ones about martyrdom and jihad.

    1. “The problem is Islamic doctrine- specifically the ones about martyrdom and jihad.”

      Nice of you to parrot for us what you learned from your TV but it’s not true. Surprisingly, those who study the motivations of suicide bombers have found that religion is pretty minor when compared to political factors. In a nut shell, it’s a tactic to force democracies to withdraw from territory the terrorists want for themselves. It has nothing to do with the teachings of Islam. There is no advantage to be gained by dressing up terror as some kind of spiritual practice.

      1. WTF, Bagdadi himself has gone and on and on about how the tactics they use are DIRECTLY indicated in their interpretation of the teachings and practices of Mohamed. The entire raison d’etre of his movement is that the renewed existence of a caliphate means (in his mind) that the only proper way to practice Islam is to adhere to the practices that existed while Mohamad was alive. Trying to modernize or modify anything, including refraining from beheading apostates, is, in itself, blasphemy.

        I am not saying we need to agree with him, but it is stupid to continue to deny that he and his followers actually believe what they believe and insist that their actions must have some other, secret, non-religious motive.

        To be fair, I understand that in our own post-Enlightenment society, it’s inconceivable to think this way. For example, if the Pope came out tomorrow and insisted that we re-introduce the public stoning of adulterers just like it was done in the year 20 A.D., even the most devout, church-going Catholics would think he’s lost his mind, never mind what all the various protestants, agnostics, atheists, etc. would think. But that’s us. While I’m sure the vast majority of Muslims think Bagdadi and his followers are loons, that religion has not yet had the benefit of a Reformation and Enlightenment to weaken the iron shackles of theocracy and introduce the idea that religious practice is an individual choice and not a groupthink necessity.

        1. “WTF, Bagdadi himself…”

          What qualifications does Bagdadi have to sound off about Islamic doctrine? Why do you quote him as some kind of expert. If you are serious about looking into this matter I urge you to look further than Bagdadi. You might even go with someone who
          is not a Wahabist. I think Bagdadi is little more than a phony cleric giving a stamp of religious respectability to a gang of mercenaries and cut throats.

          “but it is stupid to continue to deny that he and his followers actually believe what they believe and insist that their actions must have some other, secret, non-religious motive”

          How do you know in so much detail what motivates his followers? I’ve yet to see one of them interviewed in the press. Is your source Bagdadi yet again? You really must be more careful with your sources and not simply believe that last thing you heard on TV.

      2. More bullshit from trueman…….

        Yptrueman hasn’t a fucking clue what he’s talking about. Deep has it pegged.

        1. “Deep has it pegged.”

          He’s under the spell of a romantic fantasy that muslims are hopelessly trapped in the past, unable and unwilling to join the modern world. He’s a stooge for all manner of hate mongering.

  7. so you attack their plans but offer none of your own and since Obama’s plan is not working then maybe their plans will.

    1. Here’s a plan. Stop micromanaging the military and take the cuffs off. Let them attack targets of opportunity with real strategic value. Step up the bombing 20-30 fold. And quit worrying so much about collateral damage. Them just fucking exterminate them.

      1. “Stop micromanaging the military”

        More TV talk. This has nothing to do with micromanagement of the military. It’s policy – regime change in Syria. Not only has ISIS the same goal as Obama, they have the means and motivation to put in the work at achieving regime change, without all that much help from the US. I wouldn’t expect too cuffs off until Obama disavows getting rid of Assad, directly or otherwise.

        1. It isn’t ‘tv talk’. I know lots of people who actually are in military intelligence, or work for MI or civilian intelligence related companies. They all tell me the same thing. We don’t target the places we need to. The same kind of crap Johnson did back in Vietnam.

          1. “It isn’t ‘tv talk'”

            It’s rubbish. Soldiers love to gripe. Life in America’s most communistic institution will do that. You need to think for yourself. As long as Obama is focussed on removing Assad, Obama and the military he commands are allied with his chief enemies. Changing the rules of engagement isn’t going to remedy that. It’s a policy decision.

            1. Right. It’s whatever random thoughts YOU might have. Fuck off you stupid ignorant troll. I straightened you out. Best to thank me for my generosity, sit down and shut up.

              1. “Best to thank me for my generosity”

                Thanks for reading my responses to you. You can go back to your TV now. There’s bound to be another retired general coming up soon for you to parrot.

                1. Fuck you and your strawman, shitbag. I actually know what is going on from real people that I actually know who go over there and have access to real information. All you do is shoot peope down based on your imagination. You know nothing.

                  You’re the one getting their information from talking heads. Stupid little punk.

                  1. “I actually know what is going on from real people”

                    Why don’t you ask these real people whether or not regime change in Syria is US government policy? Then think it through for yourself. You don’t have to have any special mental powers for this but your TV viewing habits are not helping you. This micromanaging nonsense you are parroting makes that clear.

  8. “GOP candidates offer solutions that are redundant, meaningless, or reckless.”

    The GOP is Reason Magazine!?!?!

  9. “Cruz believes that to stop an enemy that kills innocent people, we have to slaughter innocent people.”

    Chapman thinks that there are ways to win a war without killing innocents?

  10. So, what are your good ideas?

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