Why We Aren’t Bombing ISIS


Three out of every four times that Obama dispatches American warplanes over Iraq, they return to base without dropping any bombs or firing any missiles.

“Seventy-five percent of the sorties that we’re currently running with our attack aircraft come back without dropping bombs, mostly because they cannot acquire the target or properly identify the target,” said U.S. Army General (ret) Jack Keane in testimony before the U.S. Senate last week.

That’s why White House and Pentagon briefers usually talk about the number of sorties, not the number of air strikes. The number of missions flown is four times larger than the number of bombing runs.

Gen. Keane offered a straightforward solution. “Forward air controllers fix that problem,” he said.

Forward air controllers are specially trained to guide aircraft onto ground targets, often by radio or painting targets with lasers. They are on the front lines and often the difference between victory and defeat.

America’s swift seizure of territory in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya was largely due to such specialists, but the administration has been reluctant to send them against ISIS. Obama officials fear that additional “boots on the ground” would anger antiwar activists and combat deaths would be unpopular with the general public.

Without effective air strikes, the U.S. is fighting a phony war against ISIS.

Meanwhile, ISIS is reaching into North Africa, positioning it to attack what Winston Churchill once called the “soft underbelly of Europe”: Greece, the Balkans, Malta, Italy, France and Spain. Islamist groups in Tunisia, Libya, Nigeria, and elsewhere come under ISIS’ infamous black banner.

What’s needed in Muslim Africa is not forward air controllers who radio for bombs from above, but a kind of forward air controller who calls in waves of money and ideas. The landscape can be made inhospitable to ISIS if the ground is skillfully prepared. What’s needed is someone who is trusted simultaneously by military and civilian leaders, by religious and tribal leaders, as well as the financial elites in precisely those African nations where ISIS is seeking to expand. Ideally, it would also be someone who is also trusted by the United States and has a proven track record of combating extremism and expanding economic opportunity in the region.

That’s quite a job description. Fortunately, the perfect candidate exists: Morocco’s king, Mohammed VI.

By his country’s law and custom, the king is “commander of the faithful,” (Amir-al Momineen ) a religious role that allows him to promote his nation’s “mystical” and quietist form of Islam over forms that focus on using violence to make social change. Morocco’s main form of Islam emphasizes the changing of the self through increasing discipline and deepening obedience; radical Salafi forms of Islam (embraced by al Qaeda, ISIS and parts of the Muslim Brotherhood) stress murdering and maiming innocents to stampede the survivors into submission.

This is a war of ideas. On its outcome hangs the future of five different civilizations (Arab, Chinese, Indian, Russian and Western). So it is vital to supply the right ideas to the right people at the right time across the region.    —–Richard Miniter/ Forbes

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