They beheaded another one of ours. The psychotic savages of the Islamic State have claimed a third American victim.
Peter Kassig once served as a U.S. Army Ranger. Starting in 2012, he founded a relief organization for the victims of the Syrian civl war. Kassig took food, medicine and supplies to the front lines, helping countless Muslims, including the wounded, the elderly, and children. In the midst of a nightmarish Syrian civil war, Kassig took great personal risks to bring aid and comfort to those who desperately needed it.
This undated file photo provided by the Kassig family shows Peter Kassig standing in front of a truck filled with supplies for Syrian refugees. (Image source: AP/courtesy Kassig family, file)
Despite this, and the fact that Kassig became a Muslim and took an Islamic name, the psychopaths of ISIS dismembered him on video. He is not the first, and unlikely to be the last. The Jihadist executioners are proud of their latest atrocity, have more captives at their disposal, and don't fear any U.S. response in the least.
On this last point, it is time for a change. America has to dramatically escalate the costs of murder for the Islamic state. A message needs to be sent. The kind of message that leaves very deep holes in the ground.
It's a straightforward proposition: They kill one of ours, we rain down the fire of hell upon them.
Not a few strikes against ISIS targets here and there, not several precision munitions a day deployed against an armored vehicle or an artillery piece. What is needed is a response that immediately elevates the costs to the Islamic state for killing an American captive.
This is not about chest-pounding. The air campaign against ISIS so far has been a trickle compared to similar U.S. efforts, and the results have been telling. ISIS continues to fight on multiple fronts, hold vast swathes of territory in two embattled countries, and its ranks are growing. America's anti-ISIS campaign needs to be ramped up, and the murder of Kassig should be the spark.
But that's not what's going to happen. We know how the rest of this week plays out. The White House has already released a boilerplate statement of condemnation. Obama will give his usual stern but sanguine speech asserting that this was wrong, the international community doesn't like it, and that will be it. Back to diplomacy, working with allies, and our anemic air campaign.
The President still fails to grasp the gravity of what is happening in Iraq and Syria. And he is unwilling to muster the necessary response to acts of barbarism. He fails on both the messaging and military fronts.
We are in a war against evil. Our fight against ISIS is part of a larger conflict against global Jihadism, and it's not some resource struggle, a squabble over borders or local political rule that will go away in time. This is a fight to the death with Jihadists who adhere to a cult that venerates the destruction of life over all else- and who have promised to take this war to our shores at their first opportunity.
FILE - In this undated file image posted on a militant website on Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2014, which has been verified and is consistent with other AP reporting, fighters from the Islamic State group march in Raqqa, Syria. The Islamic State group is often described as the most fearsome jihadi outfit of all: a global menace outweighing al-Qaida, with armies trembling before its advance. But while the group has been successful at seizing parts of Iraq and Syria, it is no unstoppable juggernaut. (AP Photo/Militant Website, File)
None of this seems to resonate much with this administration. When it comes to battling Jihadists, we have become used to a certain apathy from our Commander-in-Chief, whose inexcusable lapse of playing golf mere minutes after giving a speech about an earlier beheading spoke volumes about how seriously he takes all of this.
Obama probably assumes that's all forgotten now. To be sure, he hasn't changed his view of the situation. With only two years left in office, the President still drips with contempt for the foreign policy of his predecessor. He sneers at those who suggest that some bully pulpit bravado and a forceful military response from the Commander-in-Chief is called for after the ritualized execution of an American citizen. This White House is too worldly, too refined to fall for any brash acts of American jingoism. Yeah right.
On foreign policy, as with every other aspect of this presidency, the explanations you hear from Obama and his supporters only sound plausible until a moment's thought is applied. Their defenses then rapidly devolve into the stuff of comedy. Obama is about smart decisions, not tough talk, they say. He's about problem solving, not shooting from the hip.
Even these self-serving claims of subtlety are all nonsense anyway. For all his much-hyped deliberative nature, what problem has Obama solved on the world stage? And while we are on the subject, since when is Obama, nobel Peace Prize laureate, one to shy away from theatrics and a hefty dose of swagger? I still remember the Greek columns, lowering the rise of the seas, and the berating of the Cambridge police officer.
Obama has plenty of bluster (and firepower) to unleash- just not against the Islamic State.
And so here we are, another American beheaded, a Jihadist army numbering in the tens of thousands slaughtering and enslaving whole cities, the rise of a true terrorist state in the heart of the Middle East- and the White House gives it only perfunctory attention. They treat ISIS as an annoyance not of their making or concern. And the most recent beheading of an American is a tragedy they will forget as soon as the news cycle does.
It does not have to be this way. And it wasn't always this way.
Long before the U.S. was the global hegemon it is now, American Presidents weren't shy about flexing military muscle in the Middle East for far less than the depredations of the Islamic State. A single kidnapping of an American, or a solitary murder, and our sabers weren't just rattled- they were readied for battle.
Yes, there was a time when U.S. Presidents would risk war in the Middle East over the life of a single American. It was about showing the world- and particularly the unpredictable Middle East- that America would go to any lengths to defend its own.
During the 19th century era of "Gunboat Diplomacy," the U.S. was willing to send cruisers and battleships to the coast of the Ottoman Empire and its Arab possessions in cases where just a single U.S. citizen was in duress. In 1903, when Teddy Roosevelt heard that the American Vice Consul in Beirut (at the time an Ottoman protectorate) was assassinated, he immediately dispatched three US warships to demand the perpetrators be handed over (it turned out no assassination had taken place).
Similarly in 1904, when it was believed a U.S. citizen was taken captive by brigands in Tangier, Morocco, the US battleship Brooklyn was dispatched. This time twelve hundred Marines were landed to protect the Embassy and demand the Moroccan authorities effect the release of the American hostage. He was released with only minor injuries.
Six-thousand tons of Uncle Sam's finest floating steel, bristling with 305 mm guns and a contingent of Marines sent a pretty clear message to the leadership in Istanbul. Given that the most important cities of the Ottoman state were seaside- and therefore could be pounded into dust by the U.S. Navy- shows of force in the Mediterranean no doubt saved the lives of American Ambassadors, missionaries, and civilian travelers alike in the latter part of the 19th century.
Of course, that was before the era of aircraft carriers, cruise missiles, and stealth bombers. America's reach is exponentially longer and more powerful now.
The basic principle, however, remains the same. Perception matters. If our enemies- particularly the maniacal devotees of the Islamic State- think that America will only take limited action in response to the murder- specifically for propaganda purposes- of one of our citizens, they will be spurred on to further aggression.
Already Muslim radicals from all over the world are flocking to Syria and Iraq to partake in a Jihad because they perceive it to be a glorious, holy adventure. While we watch the beheading video in abject horror, the Jihadist recruits celebrate it and view America's impotent response as invitation to more viciousness.
So here's an idea, President Obama: whenever ISIS beheads an American, order the pace and ferocity of airstrikes for the next 10 days to be so sustained and thunderous that the pathetic little sadists of ISIS think the armageddon they so desperately await has arrived a few days early.
Eliminate hundreds of ISIS fighters. Hobble their war fighting capability. Yes, shock and awe. Go big.
The wrath of this country should be directed at ISIS as a message not just for the Jihadists we face now, but for those who are waiting in the shadows.
It's time to lay waste to the Islamic State.
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