The American Thinker | 8.30.15
By Alan W. Dowd
everyone knows about the three American heroes—two of them off-duty military
personnel—who foiled a terrorist attack on a packed Amsterdam-to-Paris train.
Armed with an AK-47, a handgun, nine magazines of ammunition and a box cutter,
the lone-wolf terrorist opened fire. Most passengers ducked for cover. But the
Americans “immediately took action,” as The Washington Post reported, citing the firsthand account
of a British businessman. They rushed the gunman—a Moroccan man tied to
“radical Islamist movements,” according to French officials—subdued him by
force and then began treating the wounded. “We just did what we had to do,”
said Alek Skarlatos, an Army National Guardsman and veteran of Afghanistan.
U.S. Airman Spencer Stone, who was stabbed during the attack, said the jihadist
“seemed like he was ready to fight to the end.” But Stone added: “So were we.”
one of those microcosm moments that serve as a metaphor for much larger truths.
we are at war. The enemy is real. It is tenacious. And it wants to kill those
who oppose its death creed.
president may not like the term “war on terror.” He may want “to focus on
nation building here at home.” He may truly believe that “It is time to turn the page on a decade of war.” But as
Gen. Jim Mattis explains, “No war is over until the enemy says it’s over.” And
this enemy is anything but defeated. The evidence is everywhere.
of National Intelligence James Clapper called 2014 “the most lethal year for
global terrorism in the 45 years such data has been compiled.”
al Qaeda, AQAP, AQIM, Boko Haram and the rest of bin Laden’s heirs are surging.
There are 41
in 24 countries today—up from 21 groups in 18 countries in 2004. Those groups
are inspiring attacks like the one foiled in France, the Charlie Hebdo
massacre, the Marine recruiting-center shooting, the Boston Marathon bombing in
2013, the Ft. Hood shooting.
is arguably stronger than al Qaeda was on 9/11. It controls more territory,
commands more footsoldiers, reigns over a population of some 2 million, looks
and acts like a nation-state, and has fought a U.S.-led air armada to a
stalemate. Plus, ISIS is attracting a steady flow of recruits (1,000 per month)
and is spreading beyond Iraq and Syria, with affiliates in Afghanistan, Libya,
Yemen, Egypt’s Sinai and Nigeria.
moment they cease to be fought against,” as former British Prime Minister Tony Blair said of our jihadist enemies,
“they grow.” And that’s what has happened as Washington has turned inward.
policymakers may want to define this as a law-enforcement matter, but ISIS, al
Qaeda and their kind define this as a war: In 1998, Osama bin Laden called on
his followers “to kill the Americans and their allies…do not differentiate
between those dressed in military uniforms and civilians; they are all
targets.” A recent ISIS statement warned Americans, “We will drown all of you
short, these are not drug dealers or mobsters. They are mass-murderers. Hence,
trying to fight them with lawyers rather than warriors is futile. Indictments
didn’t stop bin Laden from waging war on America. SEAL Team 6 did. Indictments
didn’t blunt the Islamic State’s blitzkrieg through Iraq. The U.S. Air Force
and Navy did. Indictments didn’t thwart the Euro-rail jihadist. Quick reactions
and overwhelming force did.
second truth underscored by this train-car terrorist episode is that the world
is a dangerous place. When the danger threatens us, we turn to warriors to
Keegan argued in his History of Warfare that “All civilizations owe their
origins to the warrior.” But more than that, all civilizations owe their
continued existence to the warrior. Think about the train attack: When the
terrorist took aim, three American warriors—joined by a Brit and a
Frenchman—fought back. Without them, France would be reeling from another mass-murder,
another assault on civilization.
holds true in the macro. The U.S. military provides a security umbrella to more
than 50 nations, keeps the sea lanes open, polices the world’s toughest
neighborhoods, and serves as civilization’s first responder and last line of
defense. Ukraine wants America’s help today. The Iraqi government begged
America to return in 2014. In 2011, Libyans appealed to the U.S. for
protection. Kosovo and Korea and Kuwait, Jordan and Japan, want U.S. troops to
maintain regional stability. From Germany to Georgia, those who remember a
Europe of concrete walls want U.S. forces on their soil as a hedge against
Russia. And all across the Asia-Pacific region, those who fear China’s rise are
strengthening their ties with America.
is a force for good in the world.
is anything but perfect, but few nations have so often and so freely used their
power—military, economic, political—to expand the circle of freedom, defend the
defenseless and help the helpless. Within the Pentagon’s walls, Americans have
planned peacekeeping missions for Kosovo, Bosnia and Lebanon; humanitarian efforts
to save Berliners, Somalis, Kurds, Sumatrans and Yazidis; rescue operations to
defend Korea and Kuwait; democracy-building missions in Haiti, Afghanistan and
Iraq; the defeat of German fascism, Japanese militarism and Soviet communism;
and countless counterstrikes against jihadism.
short, Pope Benedict XVI was not overstating things when
he asked then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to deliver a message to the U.S.
military: “Thank you for helping to protect the world.”
freedom and peace cannot be preserved without force of arms.
freedom to speak and think how we wish, the freedom to worship or not worship,
the freedom to travel from Amsterdam to Paris and anywhere in between or
beyond, all of these come at a price. These freedoms didn’t emerge by accident,
and they don’t endure by magic. They are under constant threat—and in need of
president, hoping our enemies live up to his hopes, is fond of saying that we
are “heirs to those who won the peace and not just the war, who turned sworn
enemies into the surest of friends.” He believes not in peace through strength—a
proven strategy embraced by Washington and TR, Truman and Ike, JFK and
Reagan—but in peace based on “a gradual evolution in human institutions, on a
series of concrete actions and effective agreements.”
There is nothing wrong with praising peacemakers, building institutions that
promote justice and finding common ground with our neighbors—that’s the world
America has tried to forge since the end of World War II. But there is
something fundamentally wrong with not understanding that those Americans who
“won the peace” first defeated our enemies, with airbrushing away the hard work
of defending civilization:
President Reagan called Gorbachev a “friend,” he revived America’s
deterrent strength, waged economic warfare against the Soviet state and won the
President Truman and Secretary of State Marshall conceived a plan to rebuild
Western Europe, they vanquished the Axis; rallied the war-weary West against
Moscow; and poured unprecedented sums into a standing peacetime army to deter Stalin.
he rescued West Berlin with an armada of food-laden planes, Gen. LeMay
destroyed Hitler’s war machine with waves of bomb-laden planes.
he transformed Japan from a militarist society ruled by a god-king into a normal
nation, Gen. MacArthur waged and won a just war against Japan’s armies.
short, history shows that freedom and peace are byproducts of military
strength, which is why the bipartisan gamble known as sequestration is so
dangerous. In a time of war, the defense budget has fallen from 4.7 percent of
GDP in 2009 to 3.2 percent today—headed for just 2.8 percent by 2018. We
haven’t invested so little in defense as a share of GDP since 1940.
to former Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno, today’s Army has “the
lowest readiness levels” since he entered the service 38 years ago.
Force is reducing its fleet by 286 planes. “Back when I was a young pilot
growing up in the ‘80s and ‘90s,” Gen. Herbert Carlisle of Air Force Combat
Command recalls, “we used to make fun of the Soviet Union because they only
flew 100 to 120 hours a year. That’s what our pilots are flying now.”
height of President Reagan’s buildup, the Navy boasted 594 ships. Today’s fleet
numbers 284 ships. “For us to meet what combatant commanders request,” explains
Adm. Jonathan Greenert, “we need a Navy of 450 ships.”
no doubt that America’s warriors are ready to defend us and willing to fight to
the end, but they can’t succeed without the necessary equipment, training and