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War Drums Along the Potomac

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By:Pat Buchanan | September 05, 2014

By releasing the grisly videos of the beheadings of American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, ISIS has altered the political landscape here and across the Middle East.

America is on fire.

"This is beyond anything that we've seen," said Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, "ISIL is as sophisticated and well-funded as any group that we have seen. ... They marry ideology, a sophistication of strategic and tactical military prowess."

Sen. Lindsey Graham calls ISIS an "existential threat."

Even Rand Paul has caught the war fever: "If I were president, I would call a joint session of Congress. I would lay out the reasoning of why ISIS is a threat to our national security and seek Congressional authorization to destroy ISIS militarily."

Polls show Republicans turning back toward interventionism. Joe Biden, among the more doveish in the Obama camp, says we are going to chase ISIS to "the gates of hell."

Why would ISIS show themselves engaged in what decent men regard as barbarities, such as the beheadings of innocents and the mass execution of Syrian and Iraqi prisoners, with their hands tied behind their backs?

Though undeniably evil, the men of ISIS are not stupid. And our reaction is playing directly into their hand.

America's recoil, which revealed to the world how the United States has been wounded, enraged and alarmed by ISIS' savagery and success, sends to the most extreme of America-haters in the Islamic world a clear message.

Given our horrified and hyperbolic reaction, ISIS can credibly make this boast to the jihadists from Nigeria to the Hindu Kush, from Libya to Iraq, from Somalia to Syria:

"ISIS is the enemy the Great Satan fears and hates most. ISIS is the Islamist organization that strikes fear into NATO. Not al-Qaida, not Boko Haram, not Ansar al-Sharia, not the al Nusra Front—ISIS. If you would join the climactic battle for the future of mankind, if you would be in the front lines of the martyrs' brigades changing the world and creating the caliphate of the Prophet, join us. ISIS wants you!"

Thanks to the West's stunned and shocked reaction, ISIS has eclipsed al-Qaida. America daily confirms it. ISIS is today receiving the attention Osama once got for bringing down the twin towers and inflicting the worst blow to America since Pearl Harbor.

Unfortunately, what we view as horrifying, our worst enemies in the Islamic world view as the mark of authenticity, of uncompromising faith.

But while our natural and normal response to these videos is hot-blooded, hopefully, in our retribution, we will be more cool-headed than we have been in the recent past.

U.S. policy should be designed to do the maximum damage to ISIS and the least damage to us. Which means we ought not plunge back into Iraq or drop the 82nd Airborne into Syria. That is what ISIS seeks, to be seen by the Islamic world engaging American soldiers on Islamic lands.

The Turks have 400,000 men under arms. Assad has hundreds of thousands of soldiers. The Kurds have thousands of fighters. Iraq has hundreds of thousands. Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia have hundreds of thousands of troops and hundreds of planes.

No need for U.S. boots on the ground.

What course should the United States pursue?

While President Obama may not have a strategy yet for Syria, his strategy in Iraq is succeeding. After its sweeping gains following the capture of Mosul, ISIS has suffered four straight defeats.

The move into Kurdistan has been halted. The Mosul dam has been retaken from ISIS. The Yazidis on Mount Sinjar were rescued from ISIS. The Turkmen in Amerli were rescued by Kurdish peshmerga, Shia militia that Americans fought years ago and the Iraqi army.

Moreover, the Kurdish PKK, whom we regard as terrorists, and military officers of Iran were apparently among the forces helping inflict the defeats on ISIS, along with the decisive use of U.S. air power.

In short, a coalition is forming in Iraq that can provide the ground troops for the steady attrition of ISIS and recapture of the Sunni lands it has taken, while the U.S. strikes from the air.

Syria is another matter.

The United States has to ask itself whom do we prefer in Damascus: Bashar al Assad or ISIS? For in the near term, these are the only realistic options.

Second, if ISIS is the main enemy, the principal enemy, the enemy with whom reconciliation is impossible, are we prepared to work not only with Assad, but his allies -- Iran, Hezbollah, the PKK, and Vladimir Putin's Russia, for the defeat of ISIS?

But before President Obama takes any action in Syria, he should force Congress to vote both to authorize and to set the limits of such action.


Patrick J. Buchanan is the author of the new book The Greatest Comeback: How Richard Nixon Rose From Defeat to Create the New Majority. To find out more about Patrick Buchanan and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Web page at




9/5/2014 05:43 PM

  Today we are at war with Eurasia and Eastasia is our ally. Tomorrow we will be at war with Eastasia and Eurasia will be our ally. Either way, the sheeple will be whipped into a frenzy and I don't believe a word of it.

Clyde Wilson
9/5/2014 08:50 PM

  I don't know about America, but I , for one, am not on fire.

r.a. schulz
alphaville usa
9/6/2014 01:16 AM

  is there a time better to be aflame than to smolder ?

robert m. peters
9/6/2014 07:15 PM

  I am frankly far more concerned about the millions of illegal aliens coming into what is left of American and being welcomed at our fiscal and moral costs by the our elites, by the growing debt which in the forms of inflation, taxes and interests on the future is stealing money out of our pockets and out of our grand children's inheritance, and by the "federalization" of every backwater event, including Ferguson, than I am by ISIS. Furthermore, from the humble perspective of our climes, it seems to me that we created ISIS. Thus, it is either a Frankenstein monster of our making, gotten out of hand and out of control; or it is, this being even worse, the puppet of elites who are leveraging the chaos which it is creating to their own nefarious advantage. So cynical have I become.

9/6/2014 08:29 PM

  Pat always reminds me--(and this is complimentary)--of Grant having to do Lincoln's bidding. The General believes that like the Mexican American War in which he also fought, the Civil War is itself "unholy" as well, and says so, (see Grant's Personal Memoirs) - Adding that in his opinion of course the Founders would have allowed the States or a State to leave the Union, and had they anticipated the moment would amend the Constitution to permit it. But Grant must under the circumstances fulfill his duty by prosecuting the war to a successful conclusion. Grant was quite a man, and I think his memoirs are superior to either Caesar's or Napoleon's. Fortunately Mark Twain as publisher made sure Grant got a fair price for his work, which Grant had to write to save his family financially after the whole Grant-clan had been swindled (where else?) on Wall Street, and made bankrupt. So I'm complimenting Pat, he's Grant-like, but always having though, to serve Abe.


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