The New Cold War

The New Cold War

Twenty-five years after the fall of the Berlin wall, we seem to have come full circle. On that day which began the true end of the Second World War, returning pre-war countries to the control of its citizens, the future looked bright. Country after country reclaimed its heritage, not without problems and adventures. Even the Soviet Union fell and gave back control of many of its vassal states to the people. The down side of all this was the closing of minds in the West to any potential reversal of these activities. In the intervening years, all eyes have moved toward the Middle East, with all the problems, wars, and barbarity that has become the Middle East.

To play down the dangers of groups such as ISIL or countries like Iran that can and have plunged the region into war and fear would be foolish. The darkness that has enveloped that part of the world has the potential of spreading outward to engulf the rest of the world. However, the immediate threat to the Western world is once again coming from Russia. The fall of the Berlin Wall did not remove the danger of men such as Putin; it only drove them underground for a little while. While the West went forward into a new age of freedom and prosperity, Russia remained, well Russian.

The West has forgotten the Cold War and what it pertained. The barbarity of ISIL notwithstanding, the current rash of Russian aircraft and ships testing NATO defenses in conjunction with the Russian invasion of Ukraine and annexation of Crimea must be understood in an older context then the current batch of leaders appear willing or able to do. I suggest a rereading of the book “Arms and Influence” by Thomas Schelling for all decision makers. Understand what Russia is doing and what responses are required.

First off, and this is important, we must understand that Russia will continue limited wars until its objectives are meet. That is until the price is too high. Lines must be drawn and aggression contained. If NATO and the West continue to fail to respond to Russian provocations, they will become more belligerent. Who is to blame? Schelling would likely say the West. By failure to up the ante, we are giving Russia permission to continue its actions. Economic sanctions are not going to contain military action. Russia, as Putin envisions it, is capable of self-preservation. The West, as Putin envisions it, is incapable of sustaining an economic embargo against Europe’s energy supplier. So then, the answer is to nuke Moscow, not really.

The answer is to show resolve in the face of this naked aggression. Movement of NATO forces into western Ukraine close enough to be a threat but far enough back not to be an immediate danger. Then it becomes quid pro quo. Russian forces advance deeper into Ukraine so does NATO. Is this brinksmanship or a game of chicken? Yes it is. Could it lead to a larger war? Yes, it could. But the alternative is to allow the Russians to continue to move west until??? At what point do we call a halt and at that time what would it take to stop the advance? The longer it takes the less likely Russia will feel anything is going to happen. The longer it takes the larger and more dangerous will be the response.

The new cold war can only remain cold while there is a credible threat of actual war. Currently Russia does not see that threat. I do not advocate war, just the opposite. We need to set the boundaries, to let Russia know what the limits are. A new cold war is a terrible thing and should never have been allowed to happen. However, it did happen and now we must respond. If we learn from the past, we can contain war and avoid conflict. If we ignore what was learned the world may pay a terrible price.

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The US still has no strategy in its fight against ISIS

pleasethink1

With the administration pressed on all sides because of its lack of an effective foreign policy, a group that had been building up in Syria struck with speed and violence that caused a major breakdown in the regional status quo. Military planning requires time and information to produce a strategy that will result in a desired end state. The current US operation against the Islamic terror group ISIS (ISIL, IS, Da’esh) has shown none of the earmarks of a strategy.

What is strategy; it is the ways and means to an end. The end state given is the total destruction of ISIS. So what then are the ways and means, the strategy to accomplish this? The United States announced it would begin forming a coalition that would engage ISIS from the Air and then from the ground. The ground portion would consist of regional forces with the US leading with…

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The US still has no strategy in its fight against ISIS

With the administration pressed on all sides because of its lack of an effective foreign policy, a group that had been building up in Syria struck with speed and violence that caused a major breakdown in the regional status quo. Military planning requires time and information to produce a strategy that will result in a desired end state. The current US operation against the Islamic terror group ISIS (ISIL, IS, Da’esh) has shown none of the earmarks of a strategy.

What is strategy; it is the ways and means to an end. The end state given is the total destruction of ISIS. So what then are the ways and means, the strategy to accomplish this? The United States announced it would begin forming a coalition that would engage ISIS from the Air and then from the ground. The ground portion would consist of regional forces with the US leading with Air strikes supported by regional and international air forces. The problem is this is not a strategy; it is at best the start of a plan.

The immediate military requirement was to stop the forward momentum in Iraq. This should have been easy. We had air power in the region and we had regional ground forces engaged with the enemy, The Kurdish regional guard, the Peshmerga. The Peshmerga had eyes on the enemy and had up to date intelligence on ISIS locations and movements. What they did not have was sufficient firepower to engage effectively. Therefore, the answer is simply, coordinate targets with the Peshmerga and at the same time resupply them with needed weapons.

With everything so clear and easy why are thousands of Kurds, Yazidi, Arabs and Christians still dying at the hands of ISIS.

The United States and its allies are so tied up in the theoretical world of politics that dogma has replaced critical thinking and while waiting for an epiphany thousands more will die. The US wants to run all weapons through Baghdad, which has refused to support the Peshmerga or share in oil revenues as required by their own constitution. It is not as if the option is the Iraqi army, they are worthless. While being the recipients of US weapons and training they ran at the first sign of a fight and left the weapons and weapon systems behind. So then, give the weapons to the Kurds directly. Baghdad says no and our NATO ally Turkey is against arming Kurds at any time for any reason. Turkey has a legitimate concern since one of the Non-Iraqi Kurdish groups, the PKK, has been at war with Turkey for decades. Turkey has a less then legitimate excuse; they have been supporting ISIS in an attempt to overthrow the Assad regime.

Inside of Syria, we have disparate groups that are fighting not only ISIS, but also the Assad government and each other. The Free Syrian Army (FSA), the group that receives all the press, is an amalgam of rebel groups that began the attempted overthrow of Assad in 2011, during the Arab Spring. The FSA is undisciplined, self-serving and untrained. This may have been different had the west responded to request for assistance from the beginning but it did not and the FSA is so broken and dysfunctional and infiltrated by ISIS and Assad and a number of others that it is not the boots on the ground the US needs. Therefore, whom do we turn to inside of Syria?

Stop me if you have heard this one, the Kurds. The Kurdish militia in Syria known as the YPG has been successfully fighting ISIS for two years. A highly disciplined and committed force they defended Kurds, Arabs and Christians from Assad and ISIL. They sent fighters to Iraq and helped rescue the Yazidi from Mt Sinjar while the west was considering action. The YPG while being Kurdish has also raised units of Arabs, Christians and Yazidi. So what is wrong with the YPG? They have been tied to the PKK.

Now back to the lack of strategy part. As said, a strategy is the ways and means to an end. If the desired end is the destruction of ISIS then there must be boots on the ground. If they are not to be US boots then they will need to be someone’s. The Iraqi army is out they are broken. The FSA is out they are incapable, Regional armies would be good but Turkey Jordan, UAE etc. will not likely commit to invade a neighbor regardless of the security situation. The Kurds are engaged. The strategy then would be to arm and support the Kurds, cooperate and coordinate air attacks. Train them to go beyond guerrilla tactics and stand and protect themselves while destroying the bad guys.

The current action of the US and allied air forces have been to seek out and destroy convoys and attack stationary targets identified as command centers. This is good, this helps. This is not a strategy to achieve the end result of the destruction of ISIS. These are actions that individually cause temporary harm, it is not a strategy designed to achieve the ultimate declared end.

I call on the US and the individual countries involved to engage with the Kurds to fight a common evil. We may not agree with their politics but they are not now, have never been nor will they ever be a threat to the west. In fact, if treated fairly we may find a good true and loyal friend in a region that is not likely to give the west many opportunities at friendship.

Why Putin is pushing the door open to a New Cold War

Putin

In a March 17th article in Foreign Policy Magazine Gordon Adams, a professor of international relations at American University’s School of International Service, advices that we “Don’t Poke the Russian Bear.” It is Professor Adams’ contention that the reasoning behind Russia’s actions in Ukraine is driven by traditional Russian paranoia, and I agree. He also states that American policymakers do not get it, and again I agree. He then goes on to discuss how there is not only little we can do about it but that we should just accept the current reality and accept these actions as an inevitable part of Russia protecting its interest and its borders, now I have to disagree. According to the good professor the current crisis:

“It’s not about democracy. It’s not about annexation. It’s not about aggression or a new Munich. It’s not about a return to the Cold War. It’s about centuries-old Russian paranoia about the states on its borders and what Moscow think the Europeans, the Chinese, or the Americans are up to in its near abroad.” [1]

I am sorry professor, but it is about democracy, it is about annexation, it is about aggression, it is about a new Munich and it most certainly is about a return to the cold war.

So let us discuss these points. Is it about democracy? When did Vlad the impetuous decide that the evil government in Kiev was subjugating the Russian-speaking people of the Crimea? If I recall it was after the Ukrainian people in a popular move removed the President of Ukraine who just happened to be pro-Russian and was refusing to accept a relationship with the European Union, supported by most Ukrainians, in favor of closer ties with Russia. Of course this raises the question, does the removal of a duly elected president, by popular rebellion, encompass democracy, or is it an undemocratic action. I would remind Mr. Putin that he became the second (and fourth) president of Russia due to the removal of the Soviet era government by popular rebellion, supported by the military. Russia will not accept the new government in Kiev and considers Viktor Yanukovych as the legitimate leader of Ukraine. This following an election considered by most to be free and open, even those in the rebellious east had an opportunity to vote. Understanding that a reason for keeping control of the Crimean peninsula was to maintain a warm water port for the Black Sea fleet, allowed under treaty, there was no attempt to discuss this with the new government. The democratic loving Putin fermented a revolt supported by Russian forces, even though Moscow denied it, and then sending in the Russian army to keep the peace. So much for democracy, let us try aggression.

Well I guess we kind of did aggression but let’s recap. A large country with millions of soldiers under arms backed up with modern equipment attacks a smaller country with a small army and little in the way of modern equipment and secures some land. That’s aggression, oh no I guess it’s not really you see Putin got permission from the Russian Duma (Congress) to use the army if needed to protect the subjugated Russian speaking population of a foreign country. You see that’s not aggression…its war. Of course, the professor wrote this article before the downing of Malaysian Air flight MH17 and before the revelation that the Russians were firing on Ukrainian positions from inside of Russia, but nonetheless to say that this is not about aggression is a little much.

What about this being a new Munich. This requires us to understand the full implication of what happened in 1938 and how it does relate to Russian and Western actions today. The short of it is that the United Kingdom and France in order to appease Hitler gave Germany a portion of Czechoslovakia based on the argument that it was home to mostly German speaking peoples, without the Czechoslovakian government being invited to the table. The Czechoslovakian government considered this a great betrayal as they had a pact with both Britain and France to protect Czechoslovakia. Ok so we have not signed a pact with Putin to cede eastern Ukraine. The military actions taken by Russia violates a treaty signed between the US, UK, Russia and Ukraine to protect Ukrainian borders in recognition of Ukraine giving up its Nuclear arsenal following the breakup of the USSR. Germany completed the takeover of the remainder of Czechoslovakia in March of 1939. While Britain and France protested, they could only increase military preparedness with no other follow on action. WWII started in September after Germany invaded Poland. This should also cover annexation.

As to the return of the Cold War, we would need to define Cold War. According to most, it is a heightened level of political and military tensions between two sides. In the old days, that was the West (NATO and others) and the East (Warsaw pact and others). While NATO still exists, the Warsaw pact is gone. Putin however is trying to reestablish it through a Russian federation. This new federation established the same way as the Warsaw pact was, through force of arms. The real question is this a new Cold War or a continuation of the original following a lull. Does not matter, ITS BACK.

Which raises the question, does Putin know what he is doing and does he care. From a Western mindset, it would appear that everything Russia is doing is counterproductive to a desire to be a full partner in the world community. Nevertheless, let us return to the last part of what the professor said. “It’s about centuries-old Russian paranoia about the states on its borders and what Moscow think the Europeans, the Chinese, or the Americans are up to in its near abroad.” [2] Russia has always been an outlier to the western world.

The cultural bias that drives the why a person or government thinks and acts is no small item. First, let us define cultural bias. Most of us view cultural bias as the problem with standardize test, such as the SAT. This is a good place to start to understand. When a group of people designs a test, whose questions are constructed in a manner that is unintelligible to the intended audience, based on a different worldview or understanding, it is cultural bias. There is a lot more to it than that but you get the idea. A case in point of the larger picture of cultural bias is a recent posting from Russia that set out side by side a photo of Putin petting a leopard and one of President Obama holding a dog. From the Russian perspective, this shows Putin as a “MAN” who is fearless and capable of standing up to a west as defined by Obama holding a tamed dog. From the western perspective we see a kind and humanitarian Obama (no politics here just an observation making a point) and a person doing something (holding an animal that can tear you to pieces) only a circus performer or an idiot would do. The photo was in a Tweet from the deputy prime minister Dmitry Rogozin and captioned “We have different values and allies.”

Let us now extend this to the current crisis. Is Vladimir Putin acting as a lone wolf, angry at the west for some perceived slight or is he acting like a, well, Russian. To re-quote the professor “It’s about centuries-old Russian paranoia about the states on its borders and what Moscow think the Europeans, the Chinese, or the Americans are up to in its near abroad.” This is not a condemnation of Russia or Russian leadership or a statement of good or evil, it is a statement. If we accept that there is truth to the statement, then we can look for answers to the crisis. I warn you these answers are not always the ones we want or want to deal with.

In a recent article in The New Yorker, David Remnick discusses the problems Michael McFaul, who recently resigned as the US Ambassador to Russia, had with Putin. McFaul an academic and an expert on Russia should have understood the culture and cultural bias. Like many Americans, however McFaul was caught up in his own worldview, which sees only the good. When nominated Dmitri Medvedev was President of the Russian Federation and US-Russian relations was OK, not great but OK. After his official appointment, Putin declared his intention to run for the office, which sparked demonstrations in Moscow.

“In the three months between McFaul’s appointment and his arrival in Moscow, a great deal changed. Putin, feeling betrayed by both the urban middle classes and the West, made it plain that he would go on the offensive against any sign of foreign interference, real or imagined. A raw and resentful anti-Americanism, unknown since the seventies, suffused Kremlin policy and the state-run airwaves.”[3]

From the beginning, Putin was set to prove that Russia was going to be a great power once more. As before, the concept of power was through force of arms and other traditional Russian methods. Most recently, the management of REN TV canceled a Russian political program, which was the last TV show to be critical of Putin and the current government. Is Vlad just being an impetuous leader out of touch with the Russian people? His latest approval rating is 80%.

We are in what appears to be a cold war with an advisory that is trying to compel us to do something. So what is the something we need to do. We can discuss diplomacy but to Putin that just give 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. Back in June, some Russian bombers flow off the coasts of Alaska and California to within 50 miles of the US. Bing honest 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 masculinity points. An old saying goes something like this “All evil needs to succeed is for good men to do nothing.” We need to do something to shut the door on this new cold war.

Adams, G. (2014, March 17). Don’t Poke the Runnian Bear. Retrieved July 24, 2014, from foreignpolicy.com: http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2014/03/17/don_t_poke_the_russian_bear_ukraine

Remnick, D. (2014, August 11). The New Yorker. Retrieved from http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2014/08/11/watching-eclipse

[1] (Adams, 2014)

[2] (Adams, 2014)

[3] (Remnick, 2014)

On the need to return the military option to US foreign policy

What is Old is New Again

By Paul Davis

As we grow older, we discover through events that occur around us that the world changes little and that history repeats itself regardless of what we should have learned and passed on. Not all lessons are benign, not all lessons that would keep us from harm are learned. I began my military career in the early 1970’s just as the war in Vietnam was winding down. The enemy at the time was the Soviet Union with its large army and nuclear capabilities. Through a series of deterrent actions such as the Berlin Brigade or direct actions such as the Cuban Missile crisis we out lasted the evil empire and watched as peace broke out around the world, or most of it, or some of it, well at least for a little while.   My analytic career as well began with the Soviet Union then progressed, both in the military and then as a civilian, from the Soviet Union, through North Korea and then the Middle East. So now, after all these years, and triumphs and the peace dividend, where are the hot spots, and which regions/countries threaten world peace, Russia, North Korea and the Middle East. The news and events of the day continue to remind us that the world is a dangerous place to live.

Russia (USSR, Czarist Empire) has always been paranoid and xenophobic. It has always relied on hard power, its military. Even under the Czars, it was never an economic power, though it had the potential after the fall of the Soviet Union. Today it has Oil and Natural Gas and uses these resources as a weapon to subjugate and control. It has always been expansionist and it has never gotten along with the West. Now today thugs run the country. These thugs envision a return to empire and to expand back to the lands they lost; historically they have expanded through force of arms.

The West apparently does not understand Russia. We rejoiced when the Soviet Union fell and elected the first president of Russia, a verbose alcoholic. We then saw a “democratic” transfer of power from the alcoholic to an unknown former KGB agent. The KGB agent then engineered another election in which his handpicked successor became President and he became Prime Minister. This was convenient since it allowed for no real transfer, which became official in the next election when the KGB agent was once again the President and his successor became the Prime Minister. During this time things started to get interesting. In 2008, Russia decided that the regions of a former Soviet Republic, Georgia, actually should be independent since they had Russian speaking separatist movements. Therefore, while the West tried to negotiate a resolution, Russia invaded and “freed” Abkhazia and South Ossetia; the US imposed economic sanctions, which did not last after the next administration reset the world. The thugs also decided that this whole experiment in a free market economy needed to be brought under the thumb of the thugs. How to do this? The KGB guy had an idea. In 2003, a privately owned oil company under the leadership of Mikhail Khodorkovsky was in direct competition with the government both economically and politically. The government, now stop me if you have heard this one, arrested Mikhail Khodorkovsky on trump up charges and shipped him off to Siberia. Next take the private company and roll its assets into the government run oil industries. The West will not object as long as they get their oil. The West did not object. OK now let’s see what can be done about all this foreign capital in Russia that the thugs don’t control. In 2007 a financial group called, Hermitage Capital Management was accused of trump up tax evasion charges and taken over by government goons. This time an employee of the firm, Sergei Magnitsky, thought he could help by bringing out the truth. He was wrong. He is dead. This time the West, after several years, did something. The US congress passed a law that barred some Russian officials blamed for the death from entering the US.

Now let us move forward to 2014. The thugs have now seen that the West in more interested in oil and peace then right and wrong. That when their morals are affronted they will resort to wholesale diplomatic finger wagging. So next, the thugs chopped off a piece of Ukraine that they claim is full of Russians and really should be independent like those parts of Georgia. No wait, the West did nothing then so let us not just say they are independent lets hold an open and honest vote with Russian troops in the street that makes this part of Ukraine part of Russia. This now is too much for the West that, after days of finger wagging, decides to punish the thugs by economic sanction of about seven people, most of whom have no economic interests that the West can control. You know the rest some additional sanctions imposed on additional people. Yes, the sanctions have hurt the Russian economy but as we said, they have never been an economic power so the thugs will not feel the pain.

Now the thugs have been trying for years to bring the whole of Ukraine back into the new empire but most Ukrainians do not like the Russians, and would like to be part of the West. Well the thugs cannot have that, so they send in special army units to pretend to be Russian speaking Ukrainians to arm and train Ukrainian thugs who may be able to chop off more land for Russia. To this end Moscow continued to arm the rebels with more and more sophisticated weapons, until it resulted in the deaths of 298 innocent people going home or on vacation or, for some of the top researchers in the world, to an AIDS convention. This horrific consequence of war shook the resolve of the Russians and their Ukrainian proxies for about 24 hours; long enough to remove the anti-aircraft missile launcher back to Russia. The Russians did hold back for a while until the Ukrainian terrorist started to lose the fight. The Russians then invaded with a small army to rescue the agenda they had set out, the annexation of Ukraine. Up to today. The west has failed, the Russians are looking more and more like they will annex east Ukraine and the Ukrainian government is helpless to stop it without western support. DIRECT western support.

HOW DID WE GET HERE

Now let’s get back to lessons learned or not learned. In order to do this we need to travel back in time (this is when you see the wavy lines and hear strange music) back to 1532. In his book, “The Prince” Nicolo Machiavelli asked “… is it better to be loved then feared or feared then loved…” The answer obviously is feared. Am I endorsing Machiavelli, of course not, but sometimes he does make a good point. Now let’s move a little forward in time to 1832. Following his death, the book, “On War” by the Prussian General Carl von Clausewitz was published. I will not go into all of what he wrote but one thing he did point out is that war is a continuation of foreign policy by other means. There are many interpretations of what he meant, but all agree that at a minimum when diplomacy fails, the state still has the military option. How does all this tie in. In 1966, Thomas Schelling an American economist and professor of foreign affairs, national security, nuclear strategy, and arms control wrote “Arms and Influence” in the first chapter, he wrote about the “diplomacy of violence.” The diplomacy of violence states, amongst other things, that regardless of the size and capability of your military should your enemy perceive that it will not be used then the deterrent effect is nullified. In other words if the military option is off the table then the bad guy has nothing to fear. This is the lesson the leaders of today have not yet learned. That what has been passed down to us by all of the above and others is that without the military option there is no diplomatic option.

Russia has no reason to be concerned over its actions, there is nothing the West will do, we have removed the military option. As I stated above no iteration of Russia has ever been an economic power and the threat of economic sanctions is of little effect. In fact, I can think of no place in modern history where economic sanctions had any effect other than punishing subjugated populations.

This is not a call to arms every time someone pisses us off. Diplomacy is always the preferred method to conflict resolution. Nevertheless, we must understand that diplomacy has to be a two way street with both sides acting to come to a reasonable accord. When you are dealing with thugs, if there is no fear of a violent response, there is no hope for a peaceful resolution. There was nothing we could have done when Russia took the Crimea. Yes, we could have streamed ships into the Black Sea or sent troops to Kiev. This would not at the time been a credible deterrent since there was no belief of any actual engagement. Had there been, then maybe the threat would have been enough. Had there been then maybe the crisis would not have begun. Had Europe stood up to Hitler in the 1930’s would so many have died. In 1962, did the world become safer when the US confronted the Soviet Union over missiles in Cuba and the Kremlin understood that the threat of force was real? I do not believe that war is an answer to the world’s problems but I do believe that sometimes there needs to be a credible threat of violence to contain violence.

Benjamin Franklin said “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” Can we paraphrase that to say those who give up someone else’s liberty to secure their own temporary safety… well you get the point.

Civilization should only move forward

“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.