What are our politicians and bureaucrats doing mucking it up with U2 lead singer Bono in a Senate national security hearing when they should be burning up the shoe leather whipping political support for defining and defeating radical Islam?
At a Senate hearing last week, Bono made waves suggesting that we fight ISIS with laughter. It is not a hair-brained idea. It has been advocated by former CIA director James Woolsey. Regardless, when rock stars start giving diplomats and politicians tips on how to defeat radical Islam, it should draw attention to the fact that our strategy, a 15-year drone war with no end in sight, is a failure.
We have gone through four presidential terms, eight Congresses and two wars—15 years!—but we do not have a well-rounded strategy or even a defined threat. Instead, we have the drone war, and Bono chipping into the effort. The president and Congress have shirked their responsibility to build a political consensus around the threat.
We will not bomb ourselves out of this fight. We should be fighting a war against the ideology, not merely the terrorists.
President Bush misdiagnosed the threat and called for a war on terror, as incorrect a formulation as if President Roosevelt had tried to rally the United States for a war against U-boats. Like President Obama, Bush became a verbal contortionist to avoid identifying radical Islam.
Our drone strikes kill terrorists in far-away places. Who is against facilitating terrorists’ destiny with 72 virgins? Not many people. Yet, now the Islamist threat has metastasized and we see it manifesting in San Bernardino, Brussels and Paris. We will not bomb ourselves out of this fight. We should be fighting a war against the ideology, not merely the terrorists. Our unending drone war is just a high-tech game of whack-a-mole. How many high-value targets have we killed only to see someone quickly fill their shoes? Our drones bagged a big trophy just last week. Yet, ISIS is still chugging along. Of course it was not a drone operation, but we killed Osama bin Laden five years ago. Today al Qaeda's Yemen affiliate is seizing territory and building a war chest reportedly worth $100 million.
Radical Islam’s raison d’etre is to convert or kill everyone reading this.
Think about that for a second. This war—and it is very much a war—has been going on for over a decade, has involved thousands of strikes, and we do not even know which countries we are bombing. Creepy. Normally, Congress would have something to say about such a state of affairs. Instead, this Congress is complicit. Instead of making news asking necessary, obvious questions to the White House they have to rely on U2’s front man and Borat to get this on the radar.
In 1947, President Truman announced the Truman Doctrine to reverse policies that were too sanguine toward the expansionist Soviet Union. One of the greatest things President Truman did was to define the communist threat and organize the country politically behind the goal of defeating it. Truman’s doctrine simply declared that we would support those resisting communist subjugation.
Radical Islam’s raison d’etre is to convert or kill everyone reading this. We have no choice but to defeat the ideology, yet our leaders will not even define it. Instead, they hang with rock stars. If they need some serious work, I have a list they could start with. Drive a political consensus in this country that radical Islam is indeed a threat. Then, we must reform government to fight it effectively. Instead of leading this political challenge, Republican leaders are arm-in-arm with Obama calling for more drone strikes, hoping the problem just goes away. It won’t.
You often hear that foreign policy is not political. That is false, though it was true with regard to communism. Truman shepherded a decades-long political consensus that communism was bad. The next president would do us a tremendous favor by corralling our leaders to usher us toward a similar consensus for radical Islam.
Kristofer L. Harrison was a Defense and State Department official in the George W. Bush administration and is a foreign policy adviser to Senator Ted Cruz. His views here are his own. You can view his LinkedIn profile here.