Islamic Terrorism and U.S. Role

Member Group : Lincoln Institute

Bombing is not a strategy!

Without a clear understanding of the mission and strategy behind the current "bombing campaign" against ISIS, our nation faces a grave risk of a 30 year war as former Secretary of Defense Panetta warns.

While this administration is clueless as to its strategy and strategic mission in bombing ISIS, it is simultaneously sending mixed messages to ISIS about how seriously the President takes the ISIS threat. By being engaged in one of the largest reductions in military forces since the end of the Vietnam War while bombing ISIS, the administration is sending the message that ISIS is "JV" which has dire consequences for our nation should we underestimate our enemy.

To reduce end strength of military forces and cutting spending on defense while at the same time initiating a new "campaign" of bombing without a strategy is tantamount to dereliction of duty. The idiocy and irresponsibility of a major policy shift on personnel and end strength while at the same time not knowing the end state is only compounded by senior military leadership not sounding the alarm as former Secretary of Defense has done AFTER he left office.

From my experiences of having briefly served in Afghanistan as well as serving a tour of duty in Iraq as a senior military advisor with the Multinational Forces in Iraq (MNFI), this conflict with ISIS is an entirely different type of conflict than the counterinsurgency operations with which our forces of had to deal with since 2001.

Typically, our enemy in Iraq and Afghanistan to include the former Iraqi military and the Taliban and Al Qaeda used psychological operations as part of their military operations. This is not to imply that they used psychological operations to the exclusion of military force but rather that they frequently engaged in tactics designed to disrupt and scare their opponents through fear.

US forces use psychological operations as well as part of a coordinated military campaign. The difference between our use of psychological operations and the Al Qaeda and Taliban is that more frequently than not threats of retaliation by our enemy were just that – threats with little military substance to tip the scales to victory for our enemy.

The Arabic language is frequently characterized by cultural influences in which assertions of threats or the threats themselves carry as much meaning as actually carrying out the threat. From 1950 to 2001, one would frequently encounter very blustery Arabic threats with a clear understanding that the threat was more psychological than real. Some of the linguistic differences between Arabic and English are presented in an excellent discourse called "Arabic Rhetoric – a pragmatic analysis"

The major concern relative to the current bombing campaign against ISIS is that this enemy of the free world is not following the same pattern as other terrorist organizations or the former Iraqi military under Saddam Hussein.

ISIS threats are real, executable, violent, and apparently coordinated. The enemy has adapted to counter our strengths and exploit our weaknesses and must not be taken for granted.

The ISIS use of psychological operations against Western nations through the use of beheadings when combined with their relatively effective ground operations in seizing territory particularly in Iraq poses a severe threat to stability in the Middle East and the world.

This enemy has demonstrated that it will carry out its threats. The beheadings and the announcement each time of who the next victim will be is intended to strike fear and anxiety. It is working.

ISIS understands that a nation or terrorist organization is at war with an entire people not just its military. The North Vietnamese and Viet Cong understood that in order to defeat the United States they needed to defeat the American people. They were successful in that endeavor.

Absent a strategy against ISIS and taking use of ground forces off the table at this stage of the campaign is the same as announcing to the North Vietnamese that we would not invade Cambodia during the Vietnam War.

The ISIS have taken the fight globally with their threats and intent to go beyond the Middle East battlegrounds. If this were Al Qaeda such threats could be minimized due to their rhetoric. Minimizing the ISIS threats as rhetoric is dangerous.

Military actions against ISIS must be a well coordinated air, ground, counterinsurgency, and unconventional warfare approach to include our use of psychological operations against the opposing force. The President needs to send the message to ISIS that we are serious and cancel all force reductions in the U. S. military until the ISIS threat is destroyed.

Anything short of a well thought out and orchestrated US and world response will likely put the United States and our allies in the same position as the Japanese at the Battle of Midway in which the Japanese dismissed the United States Navy as ineffective because of the defeat at Pearl Harbor.

Heed the words of Secretary Panetta. This is a 30 year conflict unless we adopt a clear, well thought out, and extraordinarily well executed strategy. Anything short of that is taking this enemy for granted which we will all regret in the long run.

Col. Frank Ryan, CPA, USMCR (Ret) and served in Iraq and briefly in Afghanistan and specializes in corporate restructuring and lectures on ethics for the state CPA societies. He has served on numerous boards of publicly traded and non-profit organizations. He can be reached at [email protected] and twitter at @fryan1951.