If you wish to understand the terrorist attacks sweeping the world, there’s no better place to start than The Field of Fight: How We Can Win the Global War Against Radical Islam and Its Allies, by Lt. General Michael Flynn and historian Michael Ledeen. With terrorist attacks in past months all over the world, including Orlando, Nice, and Baghdad, it’s imperative that average Americans know what is going on, who is behind these crimes, and what we can do to stop them.
This is a book that both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton should read and give to their military advisers. In a few months, one of them will be president, and the burden to defend America will be on his or her shoulders.
Reasonable people might well think that terrorism is an unlikely event that will not affect them. They may think that the violence is irrelevant because they do not frequent gay bars in Florida, or airports in Brussels, or markets in Baghdad. But terrorism can strike anywhere, at any time. Plus, its avoidance imposes vast costs on society beyond the tragedy of death and physical destruction.
The recent terrorist attacks in France and Belgium have reduced tourism, causing a revenue loss of 760 million euros ($850 million) in the latter, according to Belgian finance minister Johan Van Overtveldt.
After the attacks of September 11, 2001, the United States ramped up spending on security. We are now spending $7.3 billion a year on the Transportation Security Administration, which has more than 50,000 employees on payroll and screens 660 million passengers annually.
Terrorism will not just go away on its own, much as some people might like to think so. The phrase “field of fight” comes from a battle between men and gods in Homer’s Iliad. The book describes who the enemy is and what we need to do to win the war.
Flynn and Ledeen are stating the obvious when they say that the first step is calling the enemy by the correct name: radical Islamists. For reasons of diplomacy or political correctness, the current administration has assiduously expunged that term from its vocabulary. Yet we cannot win anything, be it a war or a game, if we do not know against whom we are fighting. Football and soccer teams spend hours getting to know the records of the individuals on the opposing teams. It’s a different game if you’re up against the Steelers or the Skins.
Flynn used to be in special operations, and one of the most fascinating parts of the book is the discussion of methods of intelligence gathering. Flynn set up the intelligence systems in both Iraq and Afghanistan. He discusses his relationship with Colonel Abdul Razziq, of the border town Spin Boldak, in Kandahar Province. Razziq now a general, had several bullet wounds and lost two of his brothers to the Taliban. Flynn writes of him:
I didn’t like what he represented or what he did, but we needed him badly. He maintained stability in his tribal areas, he knew what was needed, and he ruled with an iron fist. . . . As we drove through some villages, he would veer off the road and along what can only be described as a path that, he knew, was clear of mines and other explosives.
The Field of Fight details the cooperation between Iran, Hezbollah, al-Qaeda, the Taliban, the PLO, and Russia. To give but two of many examples, Iran funds Hezbollah, which trains al-Qaeda terrorists. The British found an Iranian terrorist manual in Bosnia that had been used for training militants in Sudan. It detailed the use of sophisticated surveillance devices provided to terrorists by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards.
Flynn and Ledeen detail the cooperation between Iran, Hezbollah, al-Qaeda, the Taliban, the PLO, and Russia.
The discovery that in January the United States secretly transferred $400 million in foreign cash to Iran in exchange for the release of four American hostages makes the book’s publication even more topical, because it shows how U.S. foreign policy is centered around appeasing Iran. Iran will continue to use the West as an ATM machine by taking more hostages. Over the past five months Iran has detained four Westerners of Iranian descent, including Nazak Afshar, a French citizen; Nanzanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a British charity worker; Homa Hoodfar, a Canadian academic; and Reza “Robin” Shahini, an American student.
Flynn and Ledeen suggest four strategies for winning the war against these intertwined enemies.
First, America must organize national resources under one accountable leader, and take this war as seriously as we took World War II or the Cold War. If one general doesn’t succeed, the president should replace him with another one. Winston Churchill and Abraham Lincoln went through several generals before they found one who won the war.
Second, America must tackle the radical Islamists in all parts of the globe and drive them from their territories and training camps. The countries that are sheltering radical Islamists must either eradicate them or allow America to enter to do so.
Third, and related, we must force the countries that are assisting the enemy by providing funding and training camps to end their support. If they do not, America should cut military and economic ties with these nations. We need to stop simply blaming other countries for sheltering terrorists — we must provide evidence and make them change their behavior.
Fourth, America must address the ideology of the radical Islamists that calls for the death and destruction of the West. We overcame the ideology of the Nazis and the Japanese in World War II, and the Communists during the Cold War. Now, practically no sensible person believes in these doctrines.
The book contains bad news and good news. The bad news is that we are in a real war against clever and committed enemies, and we are in danger of losing. The good news is that if our leaders have the will, the plan, and the financial commitment, then America can win. The course of history depends on the next president.