Guest Opinion: Ramping up ISIS fight wisely
The Defense Department is preparing plans that would enable President-elect Donald Trump to ramp up the conflict with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria as soon as he assumes office.
On the stump, Trump notoriously lambasted the way the war has been conducted — blaming not only President Obama but the Pentagon itself.
If Trump wishes to deliver quickly on a signature campaign issue, he will take a good look at the toolbox presented to him, which includes potentially path-breaking options in cyberwar and space weaponry. It is a risk to go down this road. Ultimately, however, it is wise.
There is an obvious imperative and value in destroying the self-proclaimed caliphate, which has mastered online techniques that enable its highest-ranking tacticians to organize and manage terror operations with new effectiveness from afar.
There are other important factors, however, in their way. Sequencing America’s military priorities will be one of the toughest and most urgent challenges facing the whole defense and security apparatus, which includes the White House, the Pentagon and the intelligence community. Right now, the incoming Trump team disagrees, perhaps strongly, with assessments elsewhere in government that military preparedness against Russian threats should be given top priority. Time spent sorting out America’s posture toward Moscow in the new administration should be used simultaneously to achieve decisive results on other important issues — like defeating the Islamic State.
Indeed, recalibrating U.S.-Russian relations will be easier to do, not harder, once the Islamic State is dispatched. Not only will victory clear the thicket of cross-cutting alliances clouding relations in the Mideast that President Obama left behind, it will leave the United States in a stronger regional and global position, fresh from flexing new and nontraditional military muscles.
Already, the Pentagon has ratcheted up a cyberwarfare campaign against the Islamic State; as Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein recently remarked, the next step is to determine how best to devolve authority on cyber and space to commanders in the field — a task that must be completed in order to make operations against the Islamic State as agile as they need to be to break the current logjam.
A related, but useful, conversation worth having is the possibility of Congress finally providing formal authority for our campaign against the Islamic State.
Two years into an ongoing campaign featuring tens of thousands of airstrikes, and the deployment of thousands of American personnel on the ground, Congress has abdicated its responsibility to adequately oversee the conflict.
Attempts by President Obama to obtain such authorization have, to date, been rebuffed. On the campaign trail, Trump claimed he would seek a declaration of war from Congress. “We probably should have done that in the first place,” he told Bill O’Reilly in May.
Though it is certainly in the best interest of the United States, as well as the people of Syria and Iraq, for the Islamic State to be swiftly dispatched, this must be done responsibly, so as to avoid a state of perpetual war without a clear endgame.