- - Friday, August 15, 2014

Finally, President Obama did something to confront the murderous thugs known as the Islamic State. It took two years of sitting on his hands while they rampaged throughout Syria and Iraq in a brutal and wanton orgy of destruction against everything and everyone who does not fit their twisted worldview.

It is tragic that it required the imminent massacre of 150,000 innocents — tens of thousands of whom are children — to finally spur the administration to action. Had we acted sooner, perhaps the 5,576 Iraqi civilians killed, 11,665 wounded, the 1.2 million driven from their homes, the hundreds of women and girls reportedly subjected to genital mutilation, the destruction of the Tomb of the Prophet Jonah and numerous holy places, the crucifixions, rapes, beheadings and endless other atrocities committed by the Islamic State all could have been avoided.

Yet, once again, as was the case with Boko Haram in Africa, the Obama administration’s wait-and-see approach proved to be an utter failure. We are now in the fight, though. American air power and arms can tip the balance and allow Kurdish and Iraqi forces the opportunity to gain the upper hand, but the goal must be to destroy the Islamic militant group — not merely contain it, as some inside the administration are advocating.

First, this group’s long-term aims are clear and unambiguous: conquest of territory, a slavish adherence to the Islamic State’s leader and ideology, and genocide for all ethnic and religious groups who are different. If this doctrine sounds familiar, it should, because it is basically the same platform of conquest and hatred preached by the Nazis throughout the 1930s. All those calling for containment would do well to remember the lesson of World War II. The world tried to buy off the Nazis, hoping that the evil could be confined to one small piece of the world. It couldn’t — appeasement never works — and between 60 million and 85 million people, soldiers and civilians, died trying to stamp it out. To this day, scholars and historians still debate the great “what if”: What if the world had stood up to Adolf Hitler earlier — could millions have been saved? Like the Nazis or al Qaeda before it, the Islamic State cannot be reasoned with, negotiated with or contained. The world must unite and confront this genocidal hatred.

Second, the militants the president once dismissed as a mere “junior varsity” team now control nearly 50 percent of Iraq and more than one-third of Syria, including nearly all of Syria’s oil and natural gas fields. In addition, its recent seizure of the Iraqi army’s American-supplied armored vehicles, weapons and ammunition means these thugs are better armed than their Kurdish and Iraqi opponents. If they ever were a JV team, they aren’t anymore. They are a full-fledged army threatening the peace and stability of Iraq and the broader Middle East. Apart from the untold human suffering that would result should the Middle East slide even further into chaos, the world is still simply far too dependent on the energy supplies from the region to let that happen.

Iraq ISIS ISIL Jihadi Illustration by Greg Groesch/The Washington Times
Iraq ISIS ISIL Jihadi Illustration by Greg Groesch/The Washington Times more >

Finally, the Islamic State is a direct threat to the United States and the Western world. According to media reports, an estimated 10,000 to 20,000 foreigners have traveled to join the fight on the side of the Islamic State, including between 1,500 and 2,500 extremists from Europe. They also include 100 to 200 Americans who hold American passports and consequently will have a far easier time re-entering the United States if their terrorist activities go undetected by authorities. In addition, the Islamic State’s ability to utilize social networking has allowed them to spread their rabid anti-Western ideology further and faster than al Qaeda dreamed possible. Because they control such a vast swath of territory, the organization can exploit revenue from the granaries, oil wells and power plants under its control. Human trafficking, extortion and kidnap-for-ransom operations are also bringing the group millions of dollars. Al Qaeda, in contrast, was heavily dependent on Osama bin Laden’s personal fortune. In short, the Islamic State has the manpower, financial resources and military expertise to carry out attacks in the West whenever it chooses. To wait for them to attack us would be irresponsible.

If the president is at all serious about the oath he took to defend our country and our Constitution from all enemies foreign and domestic, he must finally lead from the front, rally the American people and our allies around the world to disrupt and destroy the Islamic State before it can turn its attention toward the United States. Containment is not the solution.

Former Rep. Dan Burton, Indiana Republican, was a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and chairman of its Europe, Eurasia and emerging threats subcommittee.