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Breitbart, by James P. Pinkerton, Nov. 21, 2015:
I. The Roman Way
In writing about the Paris massacre in The Wall Street Journal, Peggy Noonan was blunt:
These primitive, ferocious young men will not stop until we stop them. The question is how. That’s the only discussion.
Okay, let’s take up Noonan’s challenge: How do we stop ISIS? Once and for all?
Let’s stipulate that President Obama, who has been waging a phony war against ISIS for over a year, is not the man for the job. And let’s stipulate, also, that Islam is not “peace,” as George W. Bush so famously suggested back in 2001.
Islam is something different. Not all Muslims are terrorists, not by a long shot, but in its current form, Islam provides safe harbor for way-y-y too many Salafi jihadists, aka, terrorists. Here at Breitbart, Pamela Geller provides a handy itemization; her list of Islamic terrorist groups runs a full 27 lines.
As the late Samuel Huntington wrote in his landmark 1998 book, The Clash of Civilizations—a work approvingly cited by Sen. Marco Rubio earlier this month—Islam has “bloody borders.”
History tells us that no attitude is permanent. Yet for now, extremist elements within Muslim societies make it impossible for many Muslim states to get along with their neighbors, either near, in Eurasia, or far, in America.
So what should we do in the face of a relentless, and remorseless, enemy? The Roman Empire had a good answer. Yes, 2,000 years before Ronald Reagan summed up his Cold War strategy as, “We win, they lose,” the Romans had the same idea.
Rome’s dogged determination to prevail is perhaps best exemplified by its long struggle against the rival empire of Carthage, in what’s now Tunisia.
The Rome-Carthage conflict—the so-called Punic Wars, of which there were three—raged all over the Mediterranean littoral and lasted, on land and sea, for over a century, from 264 BC to 146 BC. Interestingly, the single best general on either side was the Carthaginian, Hannibal. His smashing pincer-movement victory over the Romans atCannae in 216 BC is still studied at West Point and other military academies.
And yet the Romans were more organized and resourceful, as well as determined, and, over time, those qualities gave them the edge. For literally decades, the Roman senator Cato the Elder closed every speech to his colleagues with the ringing words, Carthago delenda est—“Carthage must be destroyed.” And yet Cato, who died in 149 BC, didn’t actually live to see the final victory, which came three years later, when the Roman legionnaires besieged and and conquered the city of Carthage itself.
Appian of Alexandria described the final victory in his Historia Romana, written in the second century AD. Here’s Appian describing Rome’s final military operations against Carthage; as we can see, under the leadership of General Scipio Africanus, the Roman legionarii were not nice:
Now Scipio hastened to the attack [on] the strongest part of the city, where the greater part of the inhabitants had taken refuge… All places were filled with groans, shrieks, shouts, and every kind of agony. Some were stabbed, others were hurled alive from the roofs to the pavement, some of them alighting on the heads of spears or other pointed weapons, or swords. . . . Then came new scenes of horror. As the fire spread and carried everything down, the soldiers did not wait to destroy the buildings little by little, but all in a heap. So the crashing grew louder, and many corpses fell with the stones into the midst. Others were seen still living, especially old men, women, and young children who had hidden in the inmost nooks of the houses, some of them wounded, some more or less burned, and uttering piteous cries. Still others, thrust out and falling from such a height with the stones, timbers, and fire, were torn asunder in all shapes of horror, crushed and mangled.
You get the idea. Tough stuff, to be sure, but after Scipio’s triumph, Carthage was never again a problem for Rome. In fact, the Romans not only razed the city but, for good measure, plowed the ground with salt to make sure that nothing would ever grow there.
The Roman historian Tacitus quoted a barbarian enemy to make an approving point about the Roman strategic approach: “And where they make a desert, they call it peace.” Yes, when the Romans wanted to make a point—they made a point. We might note that the Roman Empire endured for another 622 years after the fall of Carthage, all the way to 476 AD.
Of course, Americans would never do anything like obliterating Carthage, even if the few German survivors of the 1945 firebombing of Dresden, or the even fewer Japanese survivors of Hiroshima, later that same year, might beg to differ. Still, we might pause to note that both Germany and Japan—two countries once both full of fight—haven’t so much as raised their fist at us even once in the last 70 years.
II. The Challenge in Our Time
Today, there’s an echo of the old Roman resolve in the voice of many Republicans. As Sen. Ted Cruz, who frequently quotes Reagan’s we-win-they-lose maxim, declared the other day, “In a Cruz administration, we will say to militants, if you wage war against America, you are signing your death warrant.”
Needless to say, Cruz doesn’t speak for the intellectually fashionable, who preach a kind of defeatist sophistry. Among the smart set, it is often said that we shouldn’t attack ISIS because that’s just what they want. CNN’s Fareed Zakaria, for example, writing of possible US retaliation in the wake of the Paris raid, assures us that ISIS “wants all of this.” And Sally Kohn, also of CNN, adds her voice: “Bombing terrorists feeds their ideology.”
And we have this dire headline from the lefties at Salon:
We’re already caving to ISIS: Bloodthirsty jingoism is precisely what the terrorists want: The chief goal of these terrorists is to launch a “cosmic war.” Bigotry and calls for invasion provide exactly that.
Well, maybe the leftists are correct: Maybe it would be a mistake for us if we defeated ISIS—but maybe not. Indeed, it sure seems that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS, is doing his best to survive. To be sure, he says he’s ready for martyrdom, but he’s not seeking it out. If he really wanted to be dead, he already would be.
Yes, there’s something to be said for winning, not losing—for living, not dying. As Osama bin Laden himself observed, “When people see a strong horse and a weak horse, by nature, they will like the strong horse.” And of course, it’s no accident that Al Qaeda went into eclipse after bin Laden was killed by US forces in 2011, to be replaced, alas, by ISIS.
To put the matter starkly, being killed suggests that maybe God is not on your side. It’s perhaps glorious to die for a winning cause, but not so glorious to die for a losing cause.
So let’s hereby resolve that we will be on the winning side. And let’s get right down to it, and name—yes, name—the central challenge of our time: Defeating the Salafi terrorists once and for all.
Michael Vickers, a counter-terrorism subcabinet official in the Obama and Bush administrations—and an operative with a record going back to the CIA campaign against the Soviets in Afghanistan—is flatly declarative about what must be done; we must defeat ISIS, or ISIL, by depriving it of its territory. By any name, they—including the remnants of Al Qaeda—need to be defeated and their home-base destroyed:
ISIL, as its name implies, is a de facto state. It holds territory, controls population, and funds its operations from resources that it exploits on territory it controls. If there’s one thing the American military knows how to do it is defeating an opposing force trying to hold ground.
So yes, we must defeat ISIS. ISIS delenda est. But yet there are more variables to consider: Unless we plan to do to the Jihadi Zone exactly what the Romans did to the Carthaginians—that is, kill them all—we need a plan for not only pacifying the area, but also for keeping it pacified.