The recent despicable attacks in Paris are just the latest in a long list of terrorist attacks going back more than 15 years, first from al Qaeda and now from ISIS. Our sustained effort to eliminate the Taliban in Afghanistan, al Qaeda’s haven, and eventually the elimination of Osama bin Laden greatly reduced the striking power of that group. There has been no such focus against ISIS. The Paris tragedy brought statements of outrage from many national leaders, and some have even indicated more forceful action against ISIS. But was that enough?
Virtually all efforts by the U.S. and our European friends to counter terrorism are defensive in nature, trying to stop the next terrorist attack. Offensive successes against terrorist networks have been highlighted by the killing of bin Laden, other senior al Qaeda leaders, and some ISIS leaders and executioners. And we have employed selective use of air power against ISIS targets in several countries. While this U.S. strategy has been able to disrupt their operations, it has done little to effectively reduce their ability to attack soft targets, with scores of civilian deaths and casualties. And these terrorists seem to be more emboldened with each new deadly attack.
Isn’t it time to take the fight to their home turf in Iraq, Syria, Libya, and Yemen? Is there any other effort that will slow down the terrorists attacks, and eventually eliminate their ability to strike anywhere. Why don’t western nations organize such an effort and include resources from several Arab countries? Of course, the U.S. in other times would be the natural leader of such a coalition. But this president has consistently been reluctant to take sufficient and forceful military action when necessary. He has opted time and again for the minimum necessary to show he is doing something. He offers only condolences and support to the French without any fire in the belly to take on this evil threat. This is not a time for “leading from behind.”
Large scale military actions appear to be the only solution against an enemy that seems to become more confident in its aggressiveness, and it is filling its ranks with recruits from western countries. Of course, a major U.S.-led coalition means many more boots on the ground, a move all of us would rather not contemplate. But do we have an effective alternative? Negotiation with ISIS is clearly not an option. The longer we delay taking forceful action against terrorists the more the West will have to endure attacks like those in Paris? And some may have even worse results. The longer the delay in taking a large military offensive against ISIS, then more boots on the ground will be needed for success. Is the West merely putting off the inevitable?