Ever since the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, the United States Government has mainly used its military as the hammer to solve the growing problem of terrorism here on the homeland. In theory, use of the military makes sense to the majority of the American people, but if you listen to the politicians in Washington, they say the American people are “war weary.” However, this is nothing more than political spin and everyone from pundits to elected officials know it. The fact remains that we are no closer to eradicating this threat than we were 15 years ago.
Today I awoke to the news that ISIS conducted a massive attack on civilians in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad, killing or wounding over 200 people. I expect the casualty count to rise as the day goes on.
Earlier in the week, ISIS struck in Bangladesh, killing 20 people. Days before that, ISIS struck at the Airport in Istanbul, Turkey, killing 36 and wounding over 147. I see these most recent attacks as an operational response to an Iraqi victory in Fallujah and the US attack of an ISIS convoy feeing the city in retreat. ISIS needed to show the world that the loss of territory, fighters and equipment did not degrade their ability to conduct attacks worldwide; they succeeded at least regionally.
I believe that fighting terrorism using conventional military methods puts a nation in a “no win” situation. In fact, such a strategy begs the question whether or not we really want to defeat the terrorism force or is our true strategy intent one of “containment” for political survival?
The United States military operates and conducts its combat missions based upon the laws of land warfare and rules of engagement approved by appointed civilian officials and written by attorneys. We have used this practice for decades and it has served us well as nation with a few exceptions. Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq come to mind as places where I believe such a practice has not provided us the affects we desired.
That said, all three wars that I’ve mentioned above have one thing in common. They all involve an enemy that fought unconventionally and used acts of terrorism to win the “hearts and minds.” They also involve the inclusion of “safe zones” or no penetration areas where we allow the enemy to hide, plan and launch future attacks. This is particularly true with ISIS. We know they are centered in Syria, but we are unwilling to go and finish the job. Once again, rules of engagement and political correctness are losing the war on terrorism and putting the security of every American at risk.
Without question, terrorist attacks over the past 15 years have had profound effect on our political processes and threaten our constitutional rights. Most recently, the political debate has been centered on gun control, profiling, privacy and religious freedom. This is exactly the affect that terrorists want to have; it’s the slow bleed and it’s paralyzed us.
In my opinion, the evidence is clear and convincing, yet many Americans cannot and will not utter the words “Islamic Extremism” based upon their loyalty to their political ideology and their love of political correctness. This is what I’ve previously termed “terrorism denial.”
Terrorism deniers while not a physical danger to the citizenry, are a clear and present obstruction to eradicating acts of terrorism around the world. Deniers have been indoctrinated that it is racist or somehow an act of xenophobia to acknowledge that terrorist acts occur in the name of religion. Accordingly, “winning the hearts and minds” must first begin here in the United States and we must be unified in our approach. If we cannot convince ourselves, we have lost before we’ve begun and the fight is over.
I do not believe in my heart that the fight against terrorists and the global threat of terrorism cannot be won. It is achievable and within our grasp; however, we cannot fight them in a conventional military sense. We must use everything in our kitbag to eradicate this religious extremism.
Thus far in our attempts to combat terror cells, we have used very predictable methods and techniques. The enemy has adapted to us and adjusted their methods of terror to trap us. We too must change our methods.
I believe we must remove the handcuffs that have kept us from defeating this evil. Specifically, it is long overdue time to unleash terror on the terrorists. Terrorists are not part of a recognized State military and should not be given quarter under the rights of land warfare nor should they be afforded safety under any political rules of engagement.
While we cannot change those who have already been radicalized, we can and will help them get to a better place, as well as show those yet to be caught in the web of terror, that Jihad is a losing cause not worth of religious or self-glorification.
Colonel (Ret) John D. Vernon, USA, is the author of “Angels Watching Over Me” and is the CEO, American Warrior Press. Learn more at http://americanwarriorpress.com and follow him on twitter @JOHNDVERNON1. ©JohnVernon2016