In his speech to the United Nations last week, President Obama pledged to the world that the United States would use its might to stop the horrific depredations of the terrorist movement variously known as the Islamic State, ISIS, or, as he calls it, ISIL.
“This group has terrorized all who they come across in Iraq and Syria,” the president proclaimed. “Mothers, sisters, daughters have been subjected to rape as a weapon of war. Innocent children have been gunned down. Bodies have been dumped in mass graves. Religious minorities have been starved to death. In the most horrific crimes imaginable, innocent human beings have been beheaded, with videos of the atrocity distributed to shock the conscience of the world.”
These are brave words that well and truly denounce evil for what it is. Unfortunately, the president’s actions since then have been anything but consistent with his pledge to stop the terrorism.
As these lines are being written, some 400,000 Kurds in and around the town of Kobane in northern Syria, on the Turkish border, are being besieged and assaulted by massed legions of Islamic State killers armed with scores of tanks, armored personnel carriers, and heavy artillery. Against these, the Kurdish defenders have only AK-47s and rocket-propelled grenades. The Kurds have called on the U.S. to send in air strikes to take out the jihadist forces. In response, the administration sent in two fighter jets Saturday, which destroyed two Islamic State tanks and then flew away. The Kurds are begging for arms. The administration has not only refused to send arms, but is exerting pressure both on our NATO allies and on Israel not to send any either. Over 150,000 Kurds have fled their homes to try to escape to Turkey, but they are being blocked at the border by Turkish troops. Meanwhile, Turkey is allowing Islamist reinforcements to enter Syria to join the Islamic State, while Islamist elements of the Free Syrian Army, funded and armed by the United States, have joined forces with the group in the genocidal assault on the Kurdish enclave.
If we are to win the war against the Islamic State, we need ground forces, and the Obama administration has rejected the idea of sending in any of our own. The Kurds, who have demonstrated both their bravery and their willingness to be friends with America, are right there, and already engaged in the fight. If supplied with adequate arms and backed by serious U.S. tactical air support, they could roll up ISIS as rapidly as the similarly reinforced Northern Alliance did the Taliban in the fall of 2001. Done right, this war could be won in months, instead of waged inconclusively for years.
The administration, however, has rejected this alternative, and has instead opted for a Saudi-Qatari plan to allow the Syrian Kurds to be exterminated while training a new Sunni Arab army in Saudi Arabia. Given the Saudi role in the new army’s tutelage and officer selection, the Islamist nature of this force is a foregone conclusion. At best it might provide a more disciplined replacement for the Islamic State as an Islamist Syrian opposition at some point in the distant future (current official administration estimates are at least a year) when it is considered ready for combat. Meanwhile the killing will simply go on, with the United States doing its part to further Islamist recruitment by indulging in endless strategy-free bombing of Sunni villages.
So now, to paraphrase the president, “Mothers, sisters, daughters will be subjected to rape as a weapon of war. Innocent children will be gunned down. Bodies will be dumped in mass graves. Religious minorities will be starved to death. In the most horrific crimes imaginable, innocent human beings will be beheaded, with videos of the atrocity distributed to shock the conscience of the world.”
Surely we can do better.
— Robert Zubrin is president of Pioneer Energy, a senior fellow with the Center for Security Policy, and the author of The Case for Mars. The paperback edition of his latest book, Merchants of Despair: Radical Environmentalists, Criminal Pseudo-Scientists, and the Fatal Cult of Antihumanism, was recently published by Encounter Books.