I write from the point of view of an ex-soldier. The lessons of history teach that one wins a war by having the last infantrymen standing with loaded weapons and the enemies’ will to resist throughly shattered. That was the outcome at Mexico City, Appomattox, Berlin, and Tokyo. Since then, Mexico, the Confederacy, Germany, and Japan have never troubled us. That was not the case in 1918, 1953, or 2011. WWII was required to settle the open issues of 1918. North Korea still festers. And now, ISIL/ISIS/IS.
Air power is a wonderful asset. However, it can’t hold ground. It can’t root out an enemy surrounded by civilians. (After days of air strikes, the Israelis had to use soldiers in Gaza.) The alternative is to use carpet bombing (Dresden and Tokyo) or nukes (Hiroshima and Nagasaki) to make a desert that can be called peace.
At some point, men with rifles are going to have to personally confront ISIS. Obama seems to hope that these men will be Kurds or Syrians or Iraqis—anyone except Americans, with the possible exception of a few SEALs or Delta operators. We shall see, but I’m betting that the matter won’t be settled in any way favorable to our interests until American soldiers and/or Marines get involved.
UPDATE—Meanwhile, it seems that some Brits understand the problem. From the BBC:
Colonel Richard Kemp, former commander of British forces in Afghanistan, said it was vital that Britain took some “serious action” against IS.
“The key issue here is that we cannot rule out the use of large-scale ground forces. I don’t mean the kind of thing that’s happening now. I mean large-scale intervention forces,” he told BBC Radio 5 live.
Failure to do so would mean Britain would “just accept the fact that the Islamic State will continue to expand, continue to decapitate our citizens, continue to pose a threat to our country and countries in the region”.
Unfortunately, Prime Minister Cameron doesn’t.
This is not about British combat troops on the ground. It is about working with others to extinguish this terrorist threat.