“We will hunt down terrorists who threaten our country wherever they are. That means I will not hesitate to take action against [ISIS] in Syria, as well as Iraq. This is a core principle of my presidency: If you threaten America, you will find no safe haven.” – President Obama
Amen, Mister President. Another 9/11, another terror group killing Americans. We need to think long-term and reorganize for action, like our enemy does. I hope that, by next year, Americans combat advisers are on the ground across the planet in a hundred coordinated unconventional attacks against our enemies worldwide to mark the anniversary.
I was in Mongolia on a JCET when the airliners crashed into the World Trade Center. Like most Americans, I was sick and I was angry. I hoped and prayed that America would reorganize her military for a new kind of war to stamp out this cancer. I got half of what I prayed for.
After 9/11, Pentagon planners wanted to stage Desert Storm 2 in Afghanistan, just like they learned at War College. As they briefed their months-long force build up to get 500,000 soldiers to the most remote corner of the Earth, President Bush said, “No, we need something now.” What we got, through Pentagon desperation, was Army Special Forces, (the Green Berets) and their secret friends were able to operate independently.
Given mission type orders without the crushing burden of conventional command and control, about 150 Green Berets and Paramilitary Branch officers did what they were trained to do. They linked up with a band of outlaws and ruffians and took over Afghanistan. Had they continued to leverage local assets and provide training to groups supporting U.S. objectives, we may have never seen ISIS.
After that win, Big Army, frightened at the implications for future budgets, took ownership of the victory and sent a 3-star general and the 18th Airborne Corps Headquarters to command those 150 men. Rather than remain at K2 airbase, a safe and perfect command and control facility in a neighboring country, they moved into Afghanistan and went to the Army’s core competencies. They built bases and generated force structure. In the following 10 years, the U.S. Military became the primary source of revenue for the Taliban, who found taxing supply trucks superior to blowing them up.
On the domestic front, lack of intelligence coordination was blamed for the 9/11 attacks. Millions were spent on the new Department of Homeland Security. In 2014, the same old FBI remains in charge of investigating terror plots, and the southern border is as porous as ever. Lack of immigration enforcement has made infiltrating armed teams into the United States as simple as a desert hike.
Complicating matters, a very successful conventional invasion of Iraq was overshadowed by flawed implementation of reconstruction. We tried to impose poorly thought-out and idealistic programs on an ancient culture in the cradle of civilization. They chose to stay in the 7th century and fight each other, giving us the situation we face today with ISIS. Better early management of Iraqi security assets could have avoided that.
I am heartened by President Obama’s speech. I am happy to hear that we are avoiding “Boots on the Ground.” Not so long ago, President Reagan was faced with the problem of an expansionary revolutionary movement in El Salvador. A Communist victory there would have destabilized a region within walking distance of Texas and California. President Reagan declared that we would send 55 advisors to help the Salvadorians. The Special Forces MILGRP commander’s motto was, “Keep it Simple, Small and Salvadorian.” I am proud to have been one of those 55 during the FMLN’s Final Offensive. The victory cost American lives and took decades, but it was certain and left a stable peace. We can do that again and again.
We don’t need infantry divisions to fight ISIS; that will make us a convenient target and disperse them, making ISIS harder to kill. We need indigenous sneakers on the ground. We need to play to our strengths and show these bastards our version of asymmetric warfare. It is easy to forget that Americans INVENTED asymmetric warfare. When they talk about it in the War College it is described as a dangerous threat technique.
America is the only country in the world with a unit who’s stated primary mission is to train indigenous personnel in denied areas – United States Army Special Forces, aka the Green Berets. This mission has been denigrated and avoided since the initial successes in Afghanistan. It is time to let them work. Half the world is filled with angry people who hate ISIS. Let’s bring all of them together and hit ISIS with a cloud of steel rain.
What we need is a Kennedy moment of clarity.
“Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty. – John F. Kennedy
We have the greatest system of intelligence and air forces in history and they get better each day. We have a vast cadre of combat experienced Green Berets. The CIA has decades of solid experience fighting these type of extremists. We need to stand up a dedicated joint unconventional warfare headquarters with the status of JSOC and allow its commander to deploy combat advisers and covert assistance to carefully chosen and monitored groups. Leverage our ability to conduct air strikes and collect actionable intelligence into coordinated unconventional operations conducted by local forces.
At home, we need to take ISIS threats very seriously. We must close our borders to random international travelers and continue to attack the Drug Cartels, who control large portions of Mexico. We must continue the aggressive vigilance against domestic terror without regard to political correctness. Groups who advocate attacks on American should be taken at their word and dismantled with the full force of immigration law and violent justice.
Politics will always be with us. I hope our leaders will realize what all Americans want is a safe homeland and an effective government. Not perfection, but the will to conduct aggressive offensive actions against those who threaten America and civilization. Precise strikes using local assets avoid collateral damage and remove the cover from hidden extremest among civilians. History and voters reward victory. Fortune favors the bold.
We have a mature unconventional warfare doctrine. We have all the resources and Green Berets and Paramilitary Branch officers we need, and we can train more. We have spent the last generation hoping these bad guys would go away. They spent a generation radicalizing their kids and learning the internet. Let’s spend the next generation hunting them down and killing them in precise and surprising ways.
Sneakers on the ground.