American efforts to vet and enlist Syrian and Iraqi candidates for an anti-Islamic Caliphate military coalition are misadventures in the making.
Even President Obama know this is a fool’s errand. Earlier this summer he dismissed the idea of recruiting “farmers, or teachers or pharmacists” to take on the murderous forces of Islamic Caliphate and/or the equally murderous Assad regime. “How quickly can you get them trained?” asked Obama rhetorically. “How effective are you able to mobilize them?”
The answer is obvious: Never.
The idea of a pro-western citizens’ militia rising in righteous indignation and defeating the Syrian dictatorship is preposterous. The possibility that such a militia could destroy the marauders of the Islamic Caliphate is ridiculous. The notion that it could do both of these things simultaneously is delusional.
Still, there are “experts” in Washington who argue that the Free Syrian Army might be able to transform itself into a real military with American training. There is absolutely no evidence for this. There are some defectors from Assad’s military among the Free Syrians, but there is no reason to think they include competent combat officers. much less leaders capable of training a real army and eliciting its loyalty.
The U.S. military spent a decade trying to build an army in Iraq. General Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has conceded that 26 of Iraq’s 50 army brigades are incapable of working effectively with US forces, and the others need additional military training. In plain English, the Iraqi army, after billions of dollars in US aid and equipment and countless hours of American tutelage, is worthless.
If the United States wants a military coalition in the Middle East, it will have to lead it. If it wants to actually win, it will have to fight on the ground.
Destroying a terrorist enemy can’t be done from behind (see: Libya). It can’t be done simply from the air, as Israel’s failed campaign in Gaza against Hamas, recently demonstrated. It can’t be done by NATO allies that are unwilling to fight Muslims (Turkey), preoccupied with the threat of Russian expansion (Germany, Poland and the Baltic states), scared of entering Syria or simply devoid of any real military capacity.
An American campaign in the Middle East requires a new coalition composed of countries that are both able and willing to name the enemy and fight until it is defeated. The first step is saying out loud who the enemy actually is.
As President Sisi of Egypt has said, that enemy is not simply the self-proclaimed Islamic Caliphate but radical political Islam in all its forms.
Some groups are Sunni (the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas and Al Qaeda in all its permutations) and some are Shi’ite—the Iranian Ayatollahs and Lebanese Hezbollah (and their ally, the Assad regime in Syria). They may hate one another, but they share a common foe, known variously as Crusaders, Christians, Satans (great and small), Hindus, Zionists, Jews, Infidels, Imperialists and Colonialists.
The jihadis also have a common goal: To reconquer the lands of Islam. By this they mean an area extending from the Atlantic coast of West Africa to the Caucasus Mountains, Al-Andalus (what western usurpers call “Spain”) to Pakistan and western China.
That the jihad, in its various forms, is serious can hardly be doubted at this stage. Vast expanses of the globe and its resources are now under Muslim control. Where that control ends, wars rage.
The successes of the Jihad, from the sneak attack on 9/11 to the beheading of western journalists, have thrilled and inspired millions of Muslims, including an unknown but evidently growing number of American and European citizens.
Despite its technology and military tradition, the West can lose this conflict. Defeat would not take the form of Islamic forces occupying New York and L.A., Paris or London. It would simply mean life in a world where Western values and interests are under constant pressure from ever more powerful, aggressive and fanatical foe. No one can predict what that will lead to eventually. But it probably wouldn’t be good for infidels.
The second step is to set a strategic goal -- victory -- and understand what it will require: Disarming the jihadi groups and the radical states and regimes that support them, and installing pro-western leaders in the currently ungoverned spaces of the House of Islam.
America has not undertaken a military challenge of this magnitude since World War II. Perhaps President Obama is right to shy away from it. That is certainly the meaning of his “no boots on the ground,” pledge. But there is no point in pretending; without American boots on the ground, no sane foreign leader (or Syrian podiatrist or Iraqi foot soldier) will rush in where America fears to tread.
Zev Chafets is a Fox News contributor. His latest book is "Remembering Who We Are: A Treasury of Conservative Commencement Addresses" (Sentinel 2015).