What should we do about the satanic state? What can we do? The Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham, or ISIS, which also calls itself the "Islamic State," has supplanted al Qaida as the greatest concern and danger to America and its interests in the Middle East.
The horrors come at us every day. As I write, soldiers in the garb of the Kurdish YPG security forces knock on doors in the town of Kobani, Syria. As the families come out, they are gunned down. The soldiers are Islamic State group radicals who've stolen the YPG uniforms for the wanton murder of innocents. That's what they do for a living.
Here's another glimpse of what's going on that numbs the senses. There have been an odious number of reports of butchery and rape, so many that the statement "the women were raped" becomes almost anodyne. Rape is a noun without blood. But there is no escaping the cries of agony in a report from Zainab Salbi for the Women in the World website. She is a celebrated humanitarian activist, born into the inner circle of Saddam Hussein. She escaped the terror and has since dedicated herself to humanitarian causes. Women, especially in Muslim societies, have considerable cultural reticence and their families demand it. But Salbi found an articulate young woman (she calls her Leila for her safety and that of others still in captivity). She'd do anything, she said, to "tell the truth of what they did to me, and all the women in my community." She secured her surviving brother's permission to speak.
When ISIS had shot all the men in her community, they assembled her and hundreds of other women in a courtyard, and let the militants take their pick. "They all had long hair and long beards," the woman told Salbi. "But the worst of all is their smell. I have never smelled such awful smell in my life. They do not bathe. They feel more like beasts than human." She became a slave of a beast she called The Thin Man. "I had my period that night ... But that did not mean he left me alone." He ordered her to strip and he "molested me throughout the night. By the time morning arrived I was frozen both physically and psychologically. Nothing mattered after that point. I didn't know I had not seen the worst of it yet."
The account continues: "Only Yazidi women are taken as slaves. Shia women they burn alive. We saw one Shia woman burned alive in front of us. Christian women they leave on the condition that their family must pay a fee to ISIS for being Christians in ISIS territories. And Sunni women are left alone as long as they follow ISIS orders. If they don't, they are whipped and tortured." When she asked her captor about why women were being raped, he said it was his "religious duty" and sent her to his half-dozen guards, who, Salbi recounts, "stripped naked all at once and gang raped her for an entire night." According to the victim, "As long as a girl has some breast, she is considered a woman and that entitles them to rape her. Some girls are as young as 10 and 11 years old."
The moral imperative is painfully clear. And then there's the strategic imperative.
Then-Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel captured it well when he described the Islamic State group as "an imminent threat to every interest we have, whether it's in Iraq anywhere else." Alas, President Barack Obama, who was focusing on protecting American personnel in outposts in Iraq, stated at that earlier point, "We don't have a strategy yet."
Our vision for this part of the world is virtually nonexistent. We have the greatest military in history but are unwilling to use it. We are confining ourselves to air attacks, and that has a certain satisfaction. It has been defended by Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as the best thing we can do at the moment. He's right, too, that we have to gather accurate intelligence on selected targets, and this takes time. So Dempsey calls for "strategic patience," but he is confident that if we do decide on ground operations, the military battle could be won relatively quickly.
We have minimized the capabilities, appeal and power of this growing caliphate. They are benefiting from billions of dollars of stolen American- and Russian-made armored vehicles and heavy weapons. The Islamic State group has also already recruited hundreds of suicide bombers who can carry out operations across the region; they have hundreds of fighters who hold American and European passports, who will someday return home with the training, skills and arrogance of battlefield victory.
The result is that the caliphate how we hate to call it that now controls a volume of resources and territory unmatched in the history of nongovernment extremist organizations. It is a state that runs from Iran to the border of Aleppo, Syria now composed of 16 provinces or administrative districts in Iraq and Syria. Meanwhile, radicals in Egypt, Libya and Algeria have all rallied to the black flag of the Islamic State group, and it looks as if more are copying them in Nigeria (Boko Haram), Pakistan (Jundallah) and the Philippines (Abu Sayyaf).
Let's make no mistake about it. We are now faced with a foe driven by its will to impose a horrendous vision on the world. The Obama administration has downplayed the Islamic State group's military successes, and now, it seems, their ability to create some kind of malign social order, based on fear and the provision of shelter, food and order for those too scared to protest. The Islamic State group is motivated by the dynamic transcendent power of its faith, and it is given a religious dispensation to torture, murder, kidnap, rape and fight. We scoff at its belief that if its members die in battle, they go to paradise. But they believe it, and that's what matters.
The Islamic State group can only be destroyed by the U.S. through military support with our partners, stopping the flow of foreign fighters, countering the group's financing, addressing the humanitarian crisis it has created, and delegitimizing its ideology. Of course, it can't be defeated if it has a safe haven across the borders. In this case, the Islamic State group is free to retreat to Syria to lick its wounds and return to Iraq to wreak havoc.
There is easy talk of how convenient it would be to join forces with the Shia in Iran. This is nothing more than a dangerous delusion the old choice between finding the lesser of two evils, and in this case, the greater evil is arguably Iran, which runs a campaign of terrorism throughout the region and is on the verge of becoming a threshold nuclear state.
The president describes our country as tired of war and on many occasions has ruled out the use of ground forces, especially before anyone has even asked for them. However, if Obama believes that the destruction of the Islamic State group is essential to U.S. security, he must thoroughly engage now on fashioning a coalition of the sane and the brave against the enemies of civilization.
It will take years to rout the Islamic State group out of the territory it already holds, and that cannot be achieved without some expense and risk to the American military that must be compared to the potential costs of inaction. It requires leadership. Only the president can explain to and persuade the public why containing and defeating the Islamic State group requires deep, steady, serious and patient engagement. This cannot be a repetition of the Iraq war, from which we should learn the lessons that should help us think clearly about how we go forward.
The Islamic State group is not only a danger that concerns the integrity of the countries and the region. Its ability to channel money and advance weapons to terror organizations active in the region is also a strategic threat.
This is a foundation that could provide enough training and weapons for people moving freely in and out, that will turn the al-Qaida dream of two decades ago into the nightmare reality of this decade.
No wonder there are fears expressed by the leaders of the west Britain, the United States and France about the export of terror from the Middle East to their own countries. That argument has a solid base in thousands of young Muslims from all over the world who are present in Syria, move between Syria and Iraq and participate in horrific acts.
They are being indoctrinated and they are acquiring battle experience and skills in guerrilla warfare, which could be translated into terrorist activities in their countries of origin and create the phenomenon of a global jihad.
In places where we didn't interfere with protective, humanitarian measures, such as Syria, we now find ourselves sending personnel to confront the violent, terrorist, jihadist group that grew in part from our own inaction. To date, the Islamic State group has already attracted, by some estimates, as many as 12,000 foreign fighters, and its own forces have increased to over 30,000 people. It now threatens Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the broader Middle East and the international community at large.
British Prime Minister David Cameron said last August that the jihadists espouse "a poisonous and extremist ideology that I believe we will be fighting for years, and probably decades." The first steps ought to be to make sure that terrorism does not succeed and that it is not rewarded, validated or legitimized anywhere.
Every payment of ransom, every prisoner swap, every moral equivalence or offer of legitimacy, every unnecessary concession to a terrorist group only incurs more terror.
As retired-Gen. John Allen stated, "The real danger [the Islamic State group] poses to the existence of Iraq, the order of the region and to the homelands of Europe and America. … The abomination of [the Islamic State group] is a clear and present danger to the U.S."
Vice President Joe Biden spoke of going to the, "gates of hell" to deal with the Islamic State group, but he didn't say where that was, or who would be leading the charge. The president has cautiously vacillated in his decisions, and generally is unwilling for the American military to be involved in quarrels in foreign countries.
America is the only one who could defeat the Islamic State group on the battlefield. We need not be alone. The leader of Egypt, Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, "has confronted [the radicals] on their own religious turf, as no non-Muslim could do, by mobilizing Egypt's most prominent religious leaders to condemn [the Islamic State group], al-Qaida, and the rest for violating Islam's most basic precepts. Saudi Arabia, the cradle of Islam, has done much the same. King Abdullah of Jordan, a direct descendant of the prophet Mohammed, has not hesitated to strike Islamist terrorists, regardless of how they are described, while the the [United Arab Emirates], like Egypt, has resumed its own air strikes against [the Islamic State group]," according to Foreign Policy.
We can build an alliance, and the alliance can win.