My column for the West Bend Daily News is online. Here it is:
It had been a long time since a foreign power darkened the City of Light, but the Islamic State did just that last week. Hours after President Barack Obama declared that “we have contained them,” the Islamic State killed at least 129 people and injured hundreds more in synchronous suicide attacks on several locations in Paris.
The Paris attack is, sadly, another in a string of attacks perpetrated by the Islamic State as they have continued their aggressive growth. From a small band of terrorists forged in the power vacuum of Iraq in 2011, the Islamic State has grown into a powerful, depraved quasi-nation with separatist outposts on three continents.
Since June, the Islamic State has killed 38 tourists on a beach in Tunisia; 102 people in Ankara, Turkey; 224 people on a Russian airplane leaving Egypt; 18 people at a funeral in Baghdad; 44 people in south Beirut; and many other smaller attacks. They have been flexing their terrorist muscles on foreign soil in an effort to strike terror into their enemies, recruit more fanatics to their cause and fulfill what they believe to be their sacred duty to kill anyone who does not share their Islamic faith.
The attacks in Paris were not an aberration. They were the furtherance of a strategy. There will be more. Many more.
How should America respond to the certainty that America will soon see attacks like those that have been spreading to other nations?
On the defensive side of the coin, there is a lot that we can do. The Islamic State has shown an affinity to strike at soft targets — places where there are large groups of unarmed people. Take the Paris attacks as an example. The attacks were coordinated to happen at the same time, but they were not particularly sophisticated. They did not require a tremendous amount of preparation, money or time to carry out. It took less than 10 fanatics who were willing to die for their cause to assemble some crude, inexpensive weaponry, and fan out into the city at the same time. A couple of the thugs failed to penetrate a stadium and were limited to only killing a couple of people. Some of them just massacred theatergoers without any plan other than to kill until they were killed. What should worry us is the ease of which a handful of slapdash terrorists can kill so many.
These kinds of attacks could easily happen in America. One way to make them more difficult and mitigate the damage when they occur is to harden our targets. Americans have long been a proud, independent, free people who took responsibility for safeguarding their liberties against all threats. Any American who is able should consider it their duty to arm themselves and be prepared to defend themselves and others. When a terrorist reaches his hand out in America, he should feel the thorns instead of the rose.
Our public policy should align with supporting a free people vigorously protecting their liberties. Instead of politicians carving out more soft targets with gun-free zones and onerous restrictions on law-abiding citizens, they should remind Americans that each of us take responsibility for the liberties that we all share. Unfortunately, the Obama Administration is advocating policies that would disarm more Americans in a naive and disingenuous promise that the government can protect us all the time. It is worth remembering that Paris has some of the strictest gun restrictions in the world.
On offense, the choices are far less clear. The Islamic State is run by people who consider it their religious duty to kill us. In fact, they consider killing us to be a path to paradise. Such people cannot be swayed with diplomacy or soothed by concessions. The only way to stop them is to imprison them or kill them — and there are not enough jails to imprison all of them.
But America should not be the only nation to expend blood and treasure to eliminate a threat to all of Western civilization. While the Islamic State can reach America, its proximity to other nations makes their cooperation both necessary and possible. America should lead in building a broad coalition of international forces to invade the Islamic State’s strongholds with overwhelming force. They cannot be defeated with drones and squads. They can be defeated with tanks and divisions.
Unfortunately, building such a coalition is unlikely with President Barack Obama in office. Under his direction, America has retreated from world leadership and ceded too much power to other nations. From his early abandonment of the Iranian rebels, to the evaporation of his “red line” for Syria, to his estrangement from Israel, to his silence on Ukraine, to his cold shoulder to Poland, foreign leaders do not trust Obama enough to enter into such a precarious enterprise with him. Much like Obama is incapable of building coalitions among his own countrymen in Congress, he lacks the skills and temperament to build and lead an international coalition against the Islamic State. Americans will just have to hunker down and wait for the next president to take on the difficult task of eliminating the Islamic State.