The time for the American public to demand a real debate on the United States’ role in the fight against ISIS is now. Right now. Any objective assessment of the facts and dynamics at play points to the inescapable reality that a perfect storm of abject horror, opportunity for vindication, tactical ability, and public support has formed which could justify war without restraint. Now is the time to debate what role the United States will play.
In October, ISIS bombed a Russian jetliner. 224 people, most of whom were Russian vacationers, literally fell from the sky. Two days ago, ISIS methodically murdered over 120 people in Paris. Horror was everywhere, with thousands of cell-phone videos memorializing the massacre.
Since the day he assumed power, Putin has longed to reassert Russia as a military superpower. Russia was showcasing new weaponry in Syria before the jetliner was attacked. Now, Russia is a victim, and Putin has an obligation to retaliate, which renders moot any further examination of his motives for having ordered Russian intervention in Syria’s war with ISIS in the first place. Putin’s obsession with, and spending on, military superiority has been legitimized.
For France, vindication is within reach. French President Francois Hollande declared ISIS’ attacks to be “acts of war”. Not “terror”, or “cowardice”, or “barbarism”. War. His reaction is as consequential to the rest of the world as the bombs and bullets were to Paris itself. Hollande was present in the soccer stadium outside which suicide bombers slaughtered indiscriminately. For many commanders in chief, war is an abstract thing. Not so for Hollande. He felt the jolt and saw the body parts. The acrid stench of carnage engulfed him. He tasted war. France is going to trade up from the “surrender first” moniker with which it has been maligned for so long.
For Russia and France, they have accelerated straight past the “gloves are off” stage. The brass knuckles are on. And each possesses the tactical ability to convert rage to ruin. Russia’s redoubted military requires no further introduction. Of considerably less notoriety is the fact that France has had nuclear weapons since 1960.
The most compelling reason for the United States to debate its involvement in the war against ISIS is that public support exists, on a multi-continental scale, for extreme measures. I cannot be the only person who believes that the war with ISIS could involve nuclear weapons. If nothing else, ISIS has succeeded in convincing the world that its objectives are non-negotiable. This, combined with the parade of high-def, elaborately produced videos ISIS has released, depicting murder of civilians by decapitation, drowning, burning, and bullets, has positioned ISIS as an urgent, kill-them-all-by-any-means-necessary enemy.
Another under-discussed reality is that there is a flip-side to the refugee crisis ISIS has created. People fleeing ISIS controlled territories number in the millions. From a tactical perspective, there are simply fewer civilian casualties to consider when deciding whether to employ nuclear solutions to the ISIS problem. Military decisions are made tactically.
Complicating this situation further is the fact that the Middle East is fractured on the war against ISIS. There is no unanimity among Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, and Syria. The United States’ relations with other countries will suffer, and consequences will follow. The only variable is the identity of the nation or nations that oppose us.
Our position as global leader has never been more tenuous than it is now. Are we going to lead this fight? If so, how? Are we going to place limits on the prosecution of this war? Are we willing to tolerate – or sanction – the use of nuclear weapons to eradicate an enemy that intends to kill every person on earth who does not embrace its version of Islam? These considerations are real. The war against ISIS is going forward with or without the United States’ increased involvement or consent. Americans will be affected by the manner in which the war is fought. The time to debate is now.
Rob Kilmer, the President of You Defend It, Inc. is a lawyer with a litigation practice in upstate New York. He hosted the “You Defend It with Rob Kilmer” radio show until 2009 and since then has produced You Defend It debates.. He worked as a guest commentator for CBS4 in Miami during the 2012 Presidential debates, and Pulitzer Leonard Pitts Jr. wrote a piece on him called: “A Solution for Loud, Empty Talk”.
Mr. Kilmer’s initiative focuses on current, divisive issues, and provides members of the public with an opportunity to witness a dignified debate, the purpose of which is to identify how people’s lives will actually be affected by the outcome of the issue being debate. Towards that end, You Defend It debates are governed by two, simple rules: 1) each debater must directly answer the question asked; and 2) each must do so without a single reference to his or her opponent’s argument, party or (presumed) political philosophy. In other words, each debater is expected to show up at the debate with his or her own solution – and defend it.
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