If America would ask its young men — and now women — to fight a war, the rest of us must be willing to go all-out to win it. If we’re not, it’s immoral to send them. Soldiers and citizens must understand what’s at stake and have confidence in our commander-in-chief to defeat the enemy. Half-measures won’t suffice. War is all hell, as General Sherman said, and when you’re going through hell, don’t stop until you come out the other side. Go all-out or don’t go.
So, are we going to defeat ISIS or not? It’s not clear. President Obama promised to degrade and destroy ISIS more than a year ago, but admits he doesn’t have a strategy. He’s been bombing ISIS for a year, but not most of the oil trucks carrying oil from ISIS-controlled oil fields, and then only after he drops leaflets first giving them a 45-minute warning! After the ISIS attack on Paris, France bombed hundreds of these trucks and that left Americans wondering. If we’ve been bombing ISIS for a year, why are there so many trucks left for the French? Where are those oil trucks making deliveries? There are only a few possibilities given that they are, after all, trucks.
When ISIS set off a bomb aboard a Russian passenger jet, and Turkey shot down a Russian fighter plane, Russia accused Turkey of buying oil from ISIS. Could that be true? Turkey is allied to the United States. It belongs to NATO. The Obama Administration insisted Turkey is not buying ISIS oil, but ISIS makes $4 million per day selling it and there are only so many places a truck can go, right? Turkey is right next door.
Last month, the UK Guardian reported that: “Turkish businessmen struck lucrative deals with Isis oil smugglers, adding at least $10m (£6.6m) per week to the terror group’s coffers.” The Jerusalem Post’s Caroline Glick reports that: “For nearly two years, we have known that Turkey is Islamic State’s major arms supplier. And for six months we have known that they are their partners in oil exports.” The Daily Beast reports that fifty US intelligence agents filed a formal complaint with US Central Command that intelligence reports were being doctored by senior intelligence officials in the Obama Administration for political reasons. When America special forces killed an ISIS finance guy, they seized his computer with information on ISIS oil sales to Turkey.
Monroe Mann, one of my former students, returned from northern Iraq where he’d been a US Army intelligence officer working with the Kurds. He delivered a presentation to all five of my US History classes and his esteem for Kurdish soldiers as allies of the United States was enormous. After Obama was elected, he pulled all US forces out of Iraq and the Kurds were on their own. Today, most analysts recognize them as the only effective opposition to ISIS on the ground — but Obama won’t send them military aid. Why? Because Turkey doesn’t want him to. Historical Kurdistan overlaps Syria, Iraq, Iran, and Turkey — and Turkey is afraid of a Kurdish independence movement. So are the other countries.
Confused yet? It gets worse. After Obama allowed Bashar Assad to overstep his red line on chemical weapons, Russia moved in to support Assad. Iran supports him too. Obama has walked on eggshells negotiating his ill-advised nuclear treaty with Iran and didn’t want to upset the mullahs by undermining their ally Assad. Even though Obama declares over and over that Assad has to go, he has no strategy to accomplish that either. Meanwhile he’s overseeing feeble military efforts against both Assad and ISIS while Russia and Iran openly support Assad and Turkey secretly supports ISIS. Should we be sending any US soldiers into a conflict in which we’re not sure who we’re fighting for or against? When we don’t know who our enemies are or who our friends are?
“War is the locomotive of history,” said Bolshevik commander Leon Trotsky. Teaching US History, my approach was to analyze each war’s causes, major battles, and most of all — its effects, after which students were tasked to consider whether it was worth fighting. Then I’d tell them to imagine themselves as 18-year-old males during each war and ask themselves if they would have volunteered to fight in it. I also taught current events and we followed Desert Storm, the Afghanistan War, and the Iraq War as they happened. Like Monroe Mann, many went on to fight. Some still are.
They’d ask me what I’d have done, but I’d defer until each had taken a position and defended it. If I were teaching about the situation in Syria and Iraq today, I’d have to tell them I would stay home until we figure out what the hell we’re doing.