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Location: Douglas, Coffee Co., The Other Georgia, United States

Sid in his law office where he sits when meeting with clients. Observant eyes will notice the statuette of one of Sid's favorite Democrats.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

A New Kind of Terrorist Threat - There's a good reason no one is protesting Obama's bombing of Iraq.

Peggy Noonan writes in The Wall Street Journal:

The question "What should we do about ISIS?" is not the same as the question "Do we want to go back to Iraq?" One is about facing up to an extreme and immediate challenge, which we have to do. The other is about returning to an old experience, which almost no one wants to do.

The Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham is not just a grandiose army of freelancers and fanatics. They're something different in kind from the al Qaeda of old—more vicious, more organized and professional. George Packer in the New Yorker estimates ISIS controls 35,000 square miles of land. "The self-proclaimed Caliphate stretches from the newly conquered towns along the Syrian-Turkish border," through northern Syria, across the Iraqi border, "down to the farming towns south of Baghdad." ISIS funds its operations not like primitives but sophisticates: They sell oil and electricity and empty banks in the areas they seize. (A CNN report put their haul from the oil fields alone at $2 million a day.) They also make money from kidnappings and what they call taxation. Mr. Packer quotes a former Pentagon official: "ISIS now controls a volume of resources and territory unmatched in the history of extremist organizations."

They are something new and different in the Mideast drama. They ably take left-behind American and Russian armored vehicles and weapons. They are savage: Al Qaeda once threw them out for brutality and bloodlust. "Extreme Violence Lies in Isis DNA," is how the Financial Times pithily put it. They have a talent for war and draw fighters from throughout the world, particularly young men from the culturally fractured and materialist West. Those young men, desperate to belong to something, to be among men on a mission, to believe in something bigger and higher than their sad selves, are ripe for jihadist recruitment. Many hundreds of ISIS fighters are said to hold U.S., British or German passports, which will make it easier for ISIS to come here, as they have promised to do. ISIS has a social-media presence that would be the envy of Josef Goebbels : They taunt the West, promise mayhem, post pictures of their murdered victims and videos of beheadings. One of their Twitter hashtags: #CalamityWillBefallUS. They are driven not solely by hatred for America and the West but by a desire to create their own trans-Arab state. The caliphate will be fundamentalist and totalitarian, Shariah with all its brute simplicities.
America this week learned of their beheading an American journalist, James Foley. Before that there were beheadings of Christians and other infidels. ISIS is in fact helping to depopulate the Mideast of Christians, a fact so shocking people still can't bring themselves to believe it.

The U.S. cannot be certain of ISIS' immediate strategic plans. Perhaps they will concentrate on holding the land between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. It is possible they will widen their war. In an audio statement in January the ISIS leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, referred to America while speaking to ISIS fighters. "Soon we'll be in direct confrontation," he said. "So watch out for us, for we are with you, watching." Those associated with ISIS have promised to raise their black flag over the White House.

Writers and politicians have for years made points by quoting lines from "The Godfather." ISIS keeps making me think of a line from "Goodfellas." A gambler is beaten to a pulp and realizes the mob is going to kill him if he doesn't come up with the money. He calls a relative and says through broken teeth: "These guys mean business." ISIS means business.

America is said to be war-weary. I think it's more like war-leery, or war-wary, which a great nation should be, especially after two wars, both bungled in their execution and their ending.

But now, after months of graphic violence and crude propaganda, and after Foley's beheading, the nature, threat and intentions of ISIS have become clear. This week the president sent bombers. There were no demonstrations in protest. Even the pope didn't protest. To stop violent aggressors, Francis noted when asked about the U.S. bombings, is "licit." He did not explicitly support bombing, but noted the stopping of groups such as ISIS was justifiable.

The good thing, the comfort, is that as each day passes the civilized world, as we used to say, gets a closer, clearer look at who these people are.

One of my fears in the early years of the Iraq war was that if it proved to be the wrong war—if no weapons of mass destruction were found, if sustained unrest showed Saddam Hussein was the garbage-pail lid who kept the garbage of his nation from spilling out—it would mean that at some time in the future when America really needed to fight and had to fight, she would not. I feared the war's supporters would be seen to have cried wolf, and someday there would be a wolf and no one would listen. Now there is a wolf.

We tell ourselves that we do not want to go back to Iraq, and we don't—all the polls show this. But facing up to what ISIS is and what it plans to do is not returning to Iraq in that we are not talking about nation-building, quixotic exercises in democracy-bringing, or underwriting governments ruled by incompetents. We are talking about other things.

The president was rhetorically serious this week, after too long dismissing ISIS as the "junior varsity." This time he called them a "cancer" that must be cut out. He said they have "rampaged across cities and villages, killing innocent, unarmed civilians in cowardly acts of violence. . . . They have murdered Muslims—both Sunni and Shia—by the thousands. They target Christians and religious minorities, driving them from their homes, murdering them when they can for no other reason than they practice a different religion."

All this is true.

Then, alas, looking like an unserious man, like one who doesn't know the import even of his own words, he went golfing. It is obvious he doesn't care what people think anymore, but soon he will return to Washington where there is much he can do.

Such as:

Continue bombing ISIS where potentially efficacious, as heavily and for as long as needed. This week's bombing forced them to give up the dam they'd seized at Mosul, an act that left ISIS looking, for the first time in its history, reduced and stoppable. Go to Congress for authorization of force, showing the world we have gained at least some semblance of unity. Give the Kurds, our actual friends, every kind of help they need, from military to material. Use the threat of ISIS to forge new bonds with allies and possible allies, such as the leaders of nearby countries that are immediately threatened. Go to the U.N., pound the table, ask for the world's help. Let them humiliate themselves by doing nothing if that's what they choose. At least it will be clarifying.

And be prepared, to the degree possible, for a hit or hits on American soil or that of our long-standing allies. ISIS says it's coming. So far they've done pretty much everything they said they'd do.


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