Posted by Daniel Greenfield @ the Sultan Knish blog 16 Comments
“We can not win
this war by killing them,” Marie Harf said on MSNBC.
of years of battlefield experience in which wars were won by “killing them”,
the State Department spokeswoman argued that you can’t defeat ISIS by killing
"We can not kill our way out of this war,” she said. “We need in the
medium and longer term to go after the root causes that lead people to join
these groups, whether it is lack of opportunity for jobs."
War is one of the few things in life we can reliably kill our way out of. The
United States has had a great track record of killing our way out of wars. We
killed our way out of WW1. We killed our way out of WW2. The problem began when
we stopped trying to kill our way out of wars and started trying to hug our way
out of wars instead. Progressive academics added war to economics, terrorism
and the climate in the list of subjects they did not understand and wanted to
make certain that no one else was allowed to understand. Because the solution
to war is so obvious that no progressive could possibly think of it.
Harf’s argument is a familiar one. There was a time when progressive reformers
had convinced politicians that we couldn’t arrest, shoot, imprison or execute
our way out of crime.
We couldn’t stop crime by fighting crime. Instead the root causes of crime had
to be addressed. The police became social workers and criminals overran entire
cities. The public demanded action and a new wave of mayors got tough on crime.
While the sociologists, social workers, activists and bleeding hearts wailed
that it wouldn’t work, surprisingly locking up criminals did stop them from
It was a revelation almost as surprising as realizing that it does take a good
guy with a gun to stop a bad guy with a gun. Addressing root causes won’t stop
a killing spree in progress. (That’s another one of those things we can and do
kill our way out of.)
But bad ideas are harder to kill than bad people. And stupid ideas are the
hardest ideas of all to kill.
The same plan that failed to stop street gangs and drug dealers has been
deployed to defeat ISIS. Heading it up are progressives who don’t believe that
killing the enemy wins wars.
General Patton told the Third Army, “The harder we push, the more Germans we
kill. The more Germans we kill, the fewer of our men will be killed.” That kind
of thinking is passé. General McChrystal, Obama’s favorite commander (before he
had to be purged for insulting Obama) had a much better plan.
“We will not win based on the number of Taliban we kill,” he said. “We must
avoid the trap of winning tactical victories—but suffering strategic defeats—by
causing civilian casualties or excessive damage and thus alienating the
rotating shift of commanders, we avoided the trap of winning tactical
victories. Instead of following Patton’s maxim, American casualties doubled.
The Taliban struck closer to Kabul while US soldiers avoided engaging the enemy
because they wouldn’t be given permission to attack unless the Taliban
announced themselves openly while avoiding mosques or civilian buildings.
“We will not win simply by killing insurgents,” McChrystal had insisted. “We
will help the Afghan people win by securing them, by protecting them from intimidation,
violence and abuse.”
But we couldn’t protect the Afghan people without killing the Taliban. Civilian
casualties caused by the United States fell 28 percent, but the Taliban more
than made up for it by increasing their killing of civilians by 40 percent. Not
only did we avoid the trap of a tactical victory, but we also suffered a
strategic defeat. American soldiers couldn’t kill insurgents, protect civilians
or even protect themselves. We’ve tried the McChrystal way and over 2,000
American soldiers came home in boxes from Afghanistan trying to win the hearts
and minds of the Afghans. Many more returned missing arms and legs. The Taliban
poll badly among Afghans, but instead of hiring a PR expert to improve their
image, a Pentagon report expects them to be encircling key cities by 2017.
Unlike our leaders, the Taliban are not worried about falling into the trap of
winning tactical victories. They are big believers in killing their way to
popularity. As ISIS and Boko Haram have demonstrated, winning by killing works
better than trying to win by wars by winning polls.
Now the same whiz kids that looked for the root cause of the problem in
Afghanistan by dumping money everywhere, including into companies linked to Al
Qaeda and the Taliban, think that the way to beat ISIS is with unemployment
centers and job training. Many of the ISIS Jihadists come from the social
welfare paradises of Europe where there are more people employed to find the
root causes of terrorism through welfare than there are people working to fight
them. So far they haven’t had much luck either.
The Europeans were still searching for the root causes of Muslim terrorism back
when Obama was smoking pot on a dirty couch. They’re still searching for them
even while newspapers, cafes and synagogues are shot up. Meanwhile unarmed
police officers lie on the ground and beg for their lives.
Obama’s real ISIS strategy is even worse than his Afghan strategy. He doesn’t
have a plan for beating ISIS. He has a plan for preventing it from expanding
while the sociologists try to figure out the root causes for its popularity.
American air power isn’t there to crush ISIS. It’s there to stop it from launching
any major advances and embarrassing him too much. Meanwhile hearts and minds
will be won. At least those minds that haven’t been beheaded and those hearts that
haven’t been burned to ash.
We won’t be falling into the trap of winning victories. Instead we’ll be
figuring out how to create jobs so that all the ISIS fighters go home to
Copenhagen and Paris where they won’t be Obama’s problem.
But while it’s tempting to believe that stupid ideas like these are solely the
realm of lefties like Obama, it was Mitt Romney who announced during the final
debate that, “We can't kill our way out of this mess.”
“We're going to have to put in place a very comprehensive and robust strategy
to help the world of Islam and other parts of the world, reject this radical violent
extremism,” he insisted, calling for education and economic development.
“Killing our way out of this mess” has become an orphaned strategy.
Neither Democrats nor Republicans want to take it home with them. But killing our way out of wars used
to be a bipartisan strategy.
Truman believed in a plan to “kill as many as possible.” Eisenhower could
casually write, “We should have killed more of them.” But why listen to the
leaders who oversaw America’s last great war when we can instead listen to the
architects of the social strategy that turned our cities into war zones.
What did Eisenhower and Truman know that Obama doesn’t? They knew war.
Truman cheated his way into WW1, despite being an only son and half-blind. He
took the initiative and took the war to the enemy. They don’t make Democrats
like that anymore. They do make Democrats like Barack Obama, who use Marines as
umbrella stands and whose strategy is not to offend the enemy.
In Afghanistan, the top brass considered a medal for “courageous restraint”. If
we go on trying to not kill our way out of Iraq, that medal will go well with
all the burned bodies and severed heads.