By Sal Bommarito
The probable beheading of a second American, Steven J. Sotloff, is roiling our country. Many of us mourn and resent the death of yet another non-combatant, a journalist.
What is the appropriate response to this savage act? The Obama administration hopes to lead a unified worldwide effort to rein in ISIS, but the vast majority of Americans want swift justice in the form of a deadly strike against the terrorists.
There are many issues that must be considered before the U.S. strikes ISIS. Apparently, the task of deciding to move forward is overwhelming the administration, so maybe this analysis will be useful to them.
The most important matter is whether ISIS is a threat to U.S. national security. Are ISIS operatives capable of attacking our homeland? In recent days, we have been told that a growing number of westerners with legitimate passports have traveled to Syria and enlisted with ISIS. Since they have the ability to reenter the U.S. or Great Britain (or any other western nation, for that matter), they pose a threat and could deliver a small bomb to a western country. This fact alone is enough to justify a unilateral attack on ISIS.
Should the U.S. act with allies in a military operation against ISIS? Ideally yes, but it will take weeks and maybe months to organize a “Bush I” Iraq style invasion with our allies. In the meantime, ISIS will kill, maim and take more territory. The U.S. should not wait for other nations to jump on its bandwagon.
A proper invasion by the U.S. would entail an attack on Syria and Iraq. The former has not given authorization to the U.S. to conduct military operations because we are supporting the elimination of Syria’s president Bashar al-Assad. Iraq has given the U.S. permission to act inside its borders against ISIS. Considering the imminent danger and the current status of Syria’s civil war, the issue of attacking this sovereign nation is moot. We should move forward with or without its approval.
Ironically, our interests relating to ISIS are similar to Iran’s. It is doubtful that the two countries will be able to work in concert as a unified force, but at least Iran will not be demonizing the U.S. at the United Nations if we go it alone. The U.S. should not defer because of Iran.
If a full scale bombing operation is preferable over boots on the ground, the most important consideration is collateral damage, the unintended killing of innocent bystanders. It is not clear whether ISIS is marching across the desert, or whether it is imbedded in populated areas. If ISIS is marching, it makes no sense to wait another moment. The U.S. should obliterate ISIS convoys and every combatant manning them. If collateral damage is a real concern, then bombing attacks must be more surgical.
Boots on the ground offer great advantages and great disadvantages. It is clear that Americans do not have the stomach for another invasion with troops and the inevitable loss of lives. The U.S. has shed enough blood supporting this God-forsaken part of the world. Yet, boots on the ground are a way to effectively root out and kill the enemy. Is it possible to enlist other countries to provide “the boots?” I doubt it. Bombing is the way to go, all things considered.
America is the strongest and greatest nation in the world. Why would we allow a gang of religious thugs and terrorists to intimidate us and kill our citizens without paying a huge price? The death of the two journalists is justification for many Americans to respond, and with deadly force. Where is American pride? Why are we standing by allowing ISIS to run amok in a strategically important part of the Middle East? The U.S. should act now, not in several weeks. Our generals have prepared plans, and Obama should authorize them.