The United States must immediately wage a more comprehensive and wholehearted war against ISIS in Iraq, Syria, and Libya, and wherever ISIS might be found. Terrorist events of recent weeks remind us that the longer we wait to launch a full-fledged assault, the more our nation and its allies will suffer and the more our likelihood of success will diminish.
First, there is just cause for going to war, as ISIS and its affiliates are killing American citizens and the citizens of our allies. As Pete Hoekstra noted, jihadist-related deaths have increased from an average of roughly 2,500 innocents per year from 2001 to 2006 to an average of more than 28,000 per year in 2014-2015. ISIS and its affiliates not only claim two caliphates—one in Iraq and Syria and another in Libya—but are using those two bases to launch genocidal missions across Africa, Asia, and Europe.
Second, there are no nonviolent alternatives in this scenario. Unlike state actors such as North Korea, ISIS will not be deterred by economic restrictions or compelled by financial incentives. They are waging war in order to achieve the conditions under which, according to Islamic texts, the world will end. They wish to draw American-led infidel forces into a battle in which ISIS wins. They believe that Jesus will return to earth to lead ISIS fighters in destroying the infidels and establishing a world-wide caliphate.
Third, we would be dangerously irresponsible not to increase our efforts. A number of Westerners think that war will not stop the atrocities. They are probably right that war will not put an end to the atrocities. However, if ISIS is left unchecked, it will only grow stronger. They will not stop until they have either established a world-wide caliphate or have been defeated. They will continue to expand until they have eroded our own national security and the interests of our international allies. Which is what makes this conflict the business of the United States of America.
Fourth, we are already at war with ISIS. Since we are, we must pursue it wholeheartedly. We must be in it to win it. If we continue to act only half-heartedly, our chances of success are reduced considerably. However, if we act now and act wholeheartedly, there is a high probability of success. ISIS is a very determined enemy, but we can be even more determined. We must do more than merely bombing trucks and oil facilities; we must focus on their leadership, their headquarters, their propaganda, and their resources.
Finally, as we wage a full-fledged war against ISIS, we should be very careful not to isolate the hundreds of millions of Muslims who are not inclined to participate in terrorism or approve of it. Although some ISIS-bred terrorists are entering Western countries by posing as Syrian refugees, we must be very careful not to portray the Muslim world or Muslim refugees as a teeming swarm of probable terrorists. To portray the world’s 1.7 billion Muslim neighbors in such a manner is not only inaccurate but dangerous. It alienates potential allies who are best equipped to fight back against terror-promoting versions of Islam.
The United States should not seek to play the role of world policeman by waging war whenever we spot a humanitarian concern in another country. We are neither capable of fulfilling such a responsibility nor justified in trying to do so. However, the United States should wage war on ISIS in order to protect our own country and the security interests of our allies. Failure to do so will weaken our country, harm our allies, and strengthen ISIS’ hand so that they will become even harder to defeat in the future.