Fighting ISIS on the Cheap Isn’t Going to Work
BY EDWARD KLEIN/ DECEMBER 22, 2015
I had a sinking feeling of déjà vu when Secretary of Defense Ash Carter announced that he was sending a 200-man “specialized expeditionary targeting force” to fight the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
“It puts everyone on notice in Syria,” the normally wonkish Carter uncharacteristically boasted. “You don’t know at night who’s coming through the window.”
Carter was also reviewing a proposal to establish quick-reaction military “hubs,” staffed largely by special operators, in key locations around the Greater Middle East to help defeat the metastasizing network of Islamic terrorists.
In this limited way, the Obama administration was trying to assure a fearful American public that it was taking the terrorist threat seriously when, in fact, it wasn’t taking the threat seriously enough.
If all this sounds suspiciously familiar, it should, because President Obama is borrowing a page from the counter-terrorism book of President John F. Kennedy.
More than fifty years ago, Kennedy sent 400 Army Special Forces advisers, also known as Green Berets, to South Vietnam. By dispatching this small expeditionary force to Vietnam with the romantic notion that 400 macho men, wearing green headgear and trained to eat snakes and ants, could defeat the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese army, the young president was trying to avoid committing boots on the ground.
Kennedy was heeding the advice of General Douglas MacArthur, who warned that a president who sent a big American land army into Asia should “have his head examined.”
So Kennedy tried to fight the Vietnam War on the cheap, just the way Obama is trying to fight the war on terrorism on the cheap.
It didn’t work in Vietnam.
And it’s not going to work against the Islamic State.