I recently wrote the op-ed below about the dangers of violent Islamic extremists and how we must work to bring about their demise.The American people, the free world and the violent Islamic extremists around the globe need to see President Obama take a forceful, aggressive approach to winning this war.
As printed in the PRESS ENTERPRISE:
The 9/11 attacks seared many images into our collective memory. One of those unforgettable moments took place in the days after the attacks when President George W. Bush stood atop the rubble and addressed the firefighters digging through the still-smoldering debris from the World Trade Center. Through a bullhorn, President Bush told the firefighters, the country and the world, “I can hear you. The rest of the world hears you. And the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon.”
To our shock and horror, the barbaric and perverse interpretation of Islam that motivated 9/11 recently manifested in the Inland Empire. Fourteen members of our community were taken from us and 22 others were injured by radical Islamic extremists. Inland Empire residents are left wondering: How did this happen, how did we get here, and how do we stop this from happening again?
The rise of ISIS coincides with the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq in 2011. That withdrawal took place despite recommendations by Pentagon officials, including former Secretary of Defense Bob Gates, to keep between 10,000 and 16,000 troops in Iraq to train Iraqi soldiers and work with them on counterterrorism missions. The failure by President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to successfully negotiate a Status of Forces Agreement with the Iraqi government ultimately led to a power vacuum and an environment that invited Islamic extremists.
Similarly, President Obama’s toothless approach to the ongoing civil war in Syria has exacerbated the turmoil, the fleeing of refugees and again provided Islamic extremists another vulnerable region to exploit. The growing strength of Islamic extremists goes far beyond the territories controlled by ISIS. Boko Haram continues to secure territory throughout West Africa. Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula is making gains in southern Yemen. Al Shabab controls territory in Somalia. Secretary Clinton’s reckless war in Libya, combined with President Obama’s feckless “lead from behind” approach, and a desire to whitewash the dreadful results of both provided our enemies with the clearest signal yet that we have a jayvee team running our foreign policy.
As many experts have pointed out, the president’s claim that Islamic extremists have been contained is simply out of touch with what is really happening in the Middle East and throughout the world.
Islamic extremists are united in their determination to establish the most significant caliphate since the Ottoman Empire. To establish a caliphate, Islamic extremists believe they must secure territory, which is then ruled by a caliph who is compelled to apply Shariah law to everyone who lives within its boundaries.
Holding territory is critical to maintaining the caliphate Islamic extremists desire. The attacks on ISIS and other armed radical groups by Western countries threaten their ability to secure these areas, which is why the airstrikes must be increased in ferocity and tempo.
President Obama’s current strategy for defeating ISIS and other Islamic extremist organizations is failing. The attacks in Paris and in San Bernardino are the latest examples of that failure. Time and again, we have heard the president state he will not engage in another large ground war in the Middle East. Americans are smart enough to realize there are strategic options available other than a large ground war or stumbling along with the president’s failing strategy.
Along with our coalition partners, our military should enforce a no-fly zone over Syria and help establish safe zones that would allow Syrians to remain in their country. American special operations forces can and should play a larger role in the fight without having our troops “lead the fight.” In addition, we must work with our coalition partners to provide those fighting on the ground and our allies in the region with intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets, as well as appropriate weapons.
The president needs to take a stronger and more active role building our coalition and, particularly, making it clear that moderate Muslim nations must take meaningful actions to curb the growth of extremists. Countries must choose a side in this global struggle for our civilization.
We must also dry up their finances and effectively combat them in cyberspace. But make no mistake, the key to defeating ISIS is defeating ISIS on the ground until they hold no territory.
The American people, the free world and the violent Islamic extremists around the globe need to see President Obama take a forceful, aggressive approach to winning this war. We need him to be able to name our enemy – radical Islamic extremists. It’s time for him to grab a bullhorn and make sure everyone hears us.
Ken Calvert represents California’s 42nd Congressional District.