Taking the Offensive Against ISIS: A Historical View- Part 2, by S.G. in Florida

Bret Stephens in the Wall Street Journal recently identified political beliefs that are endangering Europe.iii Mr. Stephens should have broadened his view to the West in general. Piggybacking on his ideas, the first thing that the West must do is recognize that there is something in the West worth preserving. It requires a great unlearning of the political mythologies on which modern society is ingesting. Among those mythologies: that the relative peace of the post-World War II world is the result of a postwar moral commitment to peace rather than a Paz-Americana; that Christianity is of merely historical importance rather than central to Western identity; “that there’s no such thing as a military solution; that one’s country isn’t worth fighting for; that honor is atavistic and tolerance is the supreme value. People who believe in nothing, including themselves, will ultimately submit to anything.” Ultimately, identity is the “great preserver of liberty, and that free societies cannot survive through progressive accommodations to barbarians.” Western Civilization should not only be taught but followed and defended by its beneficiaries.

Some have argued that World War III is already upon us and that this war pits the Islamic world against everyone else. To the extent that a person believes this, and if the fight is to be joined, the means to be employed can be escalated depending on the severity of the threat. Using history as a guide, there are several strategies that exist that are not currently being employed (at least as far as the general public knows). Other people argue that we are not at war with “Islam” but that only a minority of that religion are Jihadists. That may or may not be true, however, I think we can all agree that a certain segment of Islam is at war with us, and that portion, whatever the percentage may be, is the part that believes in global Islamic domination, violence, slavery and murder or subjugation of non-Islamic people. This self-identifying group is the one that would be targeted. Those imams who advocate violence, slavery, and conquest make themselves the enemy. If we are truly at war with them, then they are legitimate targets for the retributive acts. They are clearly at war with us. Given that traditional war models fail when dealing with this threat, unconventional means are an alternative response that may be effective in the long run.

One strategy is targeted assassination of Jihadist propagandists and leaders by secret agents who are “licenced to kill” and afforded diplomatic immunity by the sanctioning state in the case of capture. This is done to a limited extent by the Obama administration that employs targeted killing drone strikes throughout the world. Unfortunately, these actions are only weakly employed so as to deflect political criticism that no action is being taken. For this strategy to be effective, Islamic leaders who advocate Jihad and celebrate Islamic terrorism must be systematically targeted.

A second action that can be taken is the denial of safe operating bases worldwide for the training and recruitment of Islamic Jihadists by use of conventional military forces. This was the rationalization for the initial occupation of Iraq by the United States (since abandoned and filled by ISIS). This is the current justification for the current U.S. involvement in Afghanistan. This strategy requires at a minimum the destruction and occupation of ISIS-held areas of Iraq, Syria, and Libya by non-Jihadist forces.

Another area that could be explored to prevent future mass casualty attacks are symbolic psychological acts designed to deprive Islamic Jihadists of ideological victories. For example, Osama Bin Laden was given respect and an Islamic burial. Many critics have derided this decision, instead advocating for the disposal of dead Islamic Jihadist bodies in ways designed to deny glory or heavenly escape. Push back against symbols of Muslim conquest should also be considered. Hindus accomplished such an act by destroying the Babri Masjid in 1992. While such an act is clearly provocative, in the long term the non-Islamists must demonstrate that Allah is not with the Jihadists. Only through a symbolic war can such a message be delivered to the Muhammadan masses.

A policy of summary execution of out of uniform, non-state enemy combatants could be reinitiate. This policy was carried out by the United States in a limited way during World War II under Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and it was used much more widely by Nazi Germany, particularly in Crete. This idea could be expanded to include all imam leaders preaching Jihadi ideology to Jihadi foot soldiers and out of uniform fighters planning to execute mass casualty attacks. In the World War II example, eight out-of-uniform Nazi saboteurs were captured and executed by the United States. The United States Supreme Court upheld the authority of the U.S. to summarily execute the spies, citing their non-conformity with the Geneva Convention and laws of war. The Jihadi attacker is entitled to even less protection than the Nazi spies, since they are not even protected by the laws of nation states. The Nazi experience in Crete also demonstrates the extreme limits of warfare that can be exercised by a Western power. Summary executions of civilian populations in order to pacify the un-uniformed partisan resistance was found to be an authorized act of war. For example, Commander Kurt Student was not charged for his actions against the civilian populations in Crete but only for actions taken against uniformed prisoners of war at the Nuremberg trials.v While this is at the extreme end of what might be contemplated, it must be understood what acts are within the realm of possibility.

In pursuit of a conventional war solution, some military strategists have advocated that the Western militaries play into ISIS mythology by designing a set piece battle in Dabiq, Northern Syria designed to destroy and humiliate Islamic Jihadists who have bought into ISIS propaganda.vi To ISIS, Dabiq is where they will battle and defeat the armies of Rome, bringing about the Apocalypse. Such a set piece battle would be an irresistible attraction to Jihadists and would essentially call the bluff of the Jihadi propagandists. This “flypaper strategy” would pit the Jihadist against our best soldiers and would result in annihilation of all attackers. By defeating the incoming masses of Jihadists, the West would demonstrate the falsity of the claims of blessings by ISIS propagandists.

Utilizing World War II as a model, many have compared the current Jihadist Islamists to the Japanese Kamikaze. After the Battle of Okinawa, the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was justified as the only way to prevent mass national suicide on the part of the Japanese. Along these lines, a more limited but symbolic act may be necessary. For example, the West could insure the utter destruction of Al-Raqqah, Syria– the home base of ISIS. Note that Syrian dictator Assad determined that this type of act was necessary when battling the Moslem Brotherhood when he authorized the destruction of Hama, Syria in 1982.vii An ancient example is the destruction of Carthage by the Roman Republic in the Third Punic War. Cato the Elder understood that allowing Carthage to continue to exist as a symbol of Roman resistance was dangerous to Rome and its citizens. In furtherance of this idea, Cato the Elder would end all of his Roman Senate speeches, no matter what the subject, with the phrase “Carthago delenda est” meaning “and in addition, I consider that Carthage must be destroyed.” Eventually, despite weak casus belli and a prostrate Carthage, Rome famously sacked its ancient enemy, even systematically destroying the city and walls to render the site uninhabitable. Whatever target chosen, it must be demonstrably destroyed in order to send the message of defeat to the ideology of Jihad.

Most importantly for the long term survival of humanity, the denial of nuclear technology and capability to State actors who support Islamic Jihad is essential towards preventing the conflict from becoming a generalized nuclear war.viii As Richard Fernandez of the Belmont Club has shown in his frightening “Three Conjectures”, such a war would inevitably end in the complete destruction of all Muhammadan populations on earth, with the non-Muslim world suffering some blowback.

Note that I am not advocating any of these particular strategies, and it would be very hard to identify or rank the effectiveness of any of them. It is also possible that none of these strategies can be politically sustained given the demonstrated lack of American and Western commitment to a long fight. Even bi-partisan agreement on a strategy (for example, Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002 passed after 9-11) is quickly betrayed for narrow partisan advantage. If this is so, then Fernandez’s nightmare scenario may be inevitable. However, it is important to take a historical view of the options mankind has opted for in the past, when dealing with death cults.


[1]Nedivi, Lior, “Gun Control And Mass-Casualty Shootings: Comparing Israel and the United States” SWAT Magazine. Retrieved on July 15, 2016 from http://www.swatvault.com/special-reports/gun-control-and-mass-casualty-shootings-comparing-israel-and-the-united-states/

[2]Goldberg, J. (2016) “The Obama Doctrine” The Atlantic, April Issue. Retrieved July 26, 2016 from http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2016/04/the-obama-doctrine/471525/

[3]Stephens, B. (2016) “Is Europe Helpless” The Wall Street Journal, July 25, 2016. Retrieved July 27, 2016 from http://www.wsj.com/articles/is-europe-helpless-1469488738

[4]Ex parte Quirin, 317 U.S. 1 (1942).

[5]Case No. 24 Trial of Kurt Student. British Military Courtm Luneberg, Germany 1946. Retrieved July 26, 2016 from http://www.loc.gov/rr/frd/Military_Law/pdf/Law-Reports_Vol-4.pdf

[6]Wood, Graeme (2015). “What ISIS Really Wants”. The Atlantic, March Issue. Retrieved July 15, 2016.

[7]Friedman, T. (1998). From Beirut to Jerusalem. London: HarperCollins Publishers, ISBN 0-00-653070-2. Chapter 4: “Hama Rules”.

[8]Fernandez, R. (2012). Three Conjectures. Kindle Edition. Retrieved from Amazon Digital Services LLC.