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The Long War Part 2: Naming the Enemy and Empowering the Military


Wesley Smith

June 29, 2016

5 min read

National Security



(Part 2 of 3)

It is maddening and irritating to realize that we are at war with an enemy that our leaders cannot or will not name. History illustrates this problem.

In World War II we declared war on Germany even though we knew that not all Germans supported the Nazi regime and Adolph Hitler. For two generations we fought Communism in the Cold War, and we did not equivocate in naming that threat. Consistent with this history, it is strategically important that we call out this latest threat to civilization by the name which accurately indicates their identity, their motivation and their ultimate goal of establishing a world-wide caliphate under “Islamic” law.

Naming the enemy is imperative in defeating the enemy. By naming it we gain insight as to the nature of the fight we face, as well as a better understanding of the resources needed to achieve victory and ultimate peace.

In I Corinthians 14:8 the Apostle Paul, speaking of spiritual warfare, asks: “If the trumpet blows an uncertain sound, who will prepare for battle?” Not naming and defining our enemy today is the epitome of a trumpet’s uncertain sound.  Indeed, it appears there is much confusion between the Executive Branch, our intelligence community and the Pentagon as to the threat we face and the means to defend ourselves from Jihadists.

The lack of a clear and executable strategy in the war on terror complicates our life and death struggle with ISIS (the Islamic State). The mounting criticism of President Obama in this regard is becoming more and more pronounced. In recent interviews, all three of President Obama’s former Secretaries of Defense have expressed frustration and alarm over the conduct of our fight against ISIS.  Even though President Obama claims that his strategy is working, no one seems to know what that strategy is.  This includes his recently nominated AFRICOM Commander who oversees operations in Africa, including Libya.  Testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee recently, Lieutenant General Waldhauser was asked if there was an overall strategy to defeat ISIS, especially in Libya where the terrorist group is estimated to have 8,000 fighters.  The general said he was not aware of an overarching, unifying strategy. When asked if he has the authority to bomb ISIS fighters and fortifications in Libya were he to locate them, his answer was an embarrassing “No.”

Former Defense Secretaries Panetta, Gates, and Hagel talked about the White House using “operational micromanagement” and “over-correction” in the war against terrorism. Secretary Hagel opined that there was not one single veteran on the President’s senior staff, except himself, when he served as Secretary of Defense. Secretary Gates complained that junior staffers at the White House would ignore the chain of command and directly call generals in the field and second-guess their decisions as battlefield commanders.

Speaking of young and inexperienced staffers at the White House, it is worth noting that the National Security Council was formed by President Truman in 1947 and has existed under every administration since. This small group of advisors includes the Vice President, the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of the Treasury and the Director of National Intelligence. By statute, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is also a member.  This small but experienced circle of advisors deals with matters of strategic importance, advising the President on matters related to the security of our nation and the conduct of military engagements.

Despite the wisdom offered by these advisors, on May 26, 2009, President Obama unilaterally decided to add a number of youthful and inexperienced staffers from the “White House Homeland Security Commission” to the existing staff of the National Security Council. Today, this group numbers over 100 people and has been renamed the National Security Staff. While the President still meets with a few selected officials regarding national security, impartial observers complain that the National Security Staff is comprised predominantly of young, largely inexperienced individuals. Moreover, this staff has become unwieldy due to its sheer size. Streamlined decision-making—an element that is vitally important when the President is making decisions about life, death, and the security of our nation—is hindered by such a large group of people who all feel they have a right to give input to the Commander-in-Chief’s security and military decisions. It was inexperienced staffers from this group that Defense Secretary Gates complained about because they would directly call operational military commanders in the field and question their actions.

It is no wonder that the Administration’s decisions regarding the fight against Islamic Terrorism are hesitant, flagging and frequently lacking in a coherent purpose. This was vividly illustrated recently when President Obama touted gains in the fight against ISIS claiming that this terror group struggled with recruitment, morale and the ability to launch attacks. On the very next day the Director of the CIA stated just the opposite and warned Congress that ISIS was still a grave threat to the world and the homeland.  He stated that while we have killed many ISIS fighters, their ability to launch attacks, even in the United States, has not been diminished.

Just yesterday, jihadist terrorists struck once again when they attacked the arrival halls and parking lot of Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport, killing at least 41 and injuring at least 239. More than 100 remain hospitalized. And most intelligence officials believe ISIS is responsible.

Let there be no doubt - We are in a long war.

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