“The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it.” – Albert Einstein
Civilization should only move forward. The problem is that is goes forward very slowly, so slowly in fact that the past occasionally catches up. That is one of the reason we often hear the quote from George Santayana “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” The world has found itself in one of those periods today and needs to remember the past, because this time repetition could prove very costly. Social, religious and political difference has very often become social, religious and political intolerance. Welcome to a period of intolerance.
Currently the world is confronting the Islamic terrorist group ISIL. ISIL is a group of religious fanatics, similar to the Spanish Inquisition, spreading the word through torture, murder and forced conversions. ISIL is responsible for the deaths of thousands of Muslims, Christians and Yazidi in Syria and Iraq. Yet the United States did very little to stop these crimes against humanity until two Americans were gruesomely beheaded. While we did provide air support to Kurdish and Iraqi forces that fought back, it had to be forced on the administration to do so. Why the delay? Reason and history should have shown the need for immediate and forceful response. However, fear of a new war if we committed ground forces, boots on the ground, paralyzed the government. This is a case of reality and reason running into political doctrine and dogma. ISIL is dangerous and a threat to the region, to Europe and the United States. Air power can blunt the advances to a degree but it will require ground forces to destroy them. There is no Army in the region that can destroy them without massive support and training over a long period. Therefore, the two options are to pretend we are doing something, which will result in ISIL growing stronger and becoming a direct threat, or commit ground forces, in conjunction with others, and degrade and destroy them. We have currently committed 3000 troops to Africa to help contain the Ebola outbreak that to this date has taken 2500 lives. It is the right thing to do, but how many lives will be lost if we do not commit forces to contain the ISIL threat? Are there consequences for taking the latter course, yes. However, I suggest if viewed through the prism of history the result will show it to be the correct choice.
A greater threat to world peace is taking place in Europe. The Russian invasion of Ukraine represents a much larger and more direct challenge to the US and its European allies. One we have faced before. The building confrontation between the West and Russia will require a much different response then the one planned for ISIL. We are in what appears to be in a standoff with an advisory that is trying to compel us to maintain peace at any price. That price is the abandonment of a sovereign nation to a predator. We now, once again, face a foe that, as they have reminded us, is a nuclear power. What does history reason and logic teach us? We can discuss diplomacy but to Putin that just gives him more time to do what he wants. We can discuss economic sanctions, which will be of little effect on a country that does not have a strong economy outside of oil and gas exports and does not fear losing that revenue. We can discuss deterrence. Yes, we can discuss deterrence.
To be up front I am not suggesting that the next time Russian artillery fires into Ukraine that we nuke Moscow. What I am saying is that we can provide weapons and training, intelligence and logistics support. What I am saying is that the 6th Fleet can run some exercises in the Black Sea. We can make life more difficult for the Russian military as it tries to reinvent itself into what was the Soviet military. We can draw a line and say no further. Back in June, some Russian bombers flow off the coasts of Alaska and California to within 50 miles of the US. However they were within their rights and according to the Air Force the encounter was “professional.” Next time maybe a little less professionalism and a little more swagger.
Putin is not going to stop until he sees the potential of an encounter that may cost him. An old saying goes something like this “All evil needs to succeed is for good men to do nothing.” The threat of force has to be real and right now, it is not. The President removed the military option, which was a mistake, and even if he promised to return it, it is likely Russia would not believe us. The threat of military action, unbelievably, has stopped wars. Failure to use all tools, including the military, has led to major wars. The world may have been different had Japan been stopped in Manchuria, Italy in Ethiopia or Germany in the Sudetenland. If the US can lead a coalition into Syria, confront, and destroy ISIL, even a fast strike into the heart, would show a resolve that Russia has not seen from the West. I do not suggest we put young lives in harm’s way lightly. Once we can show resolve and commitment, standing up to evil, the world becomes a little less dangerous.