With the weakest national security team since World War II, it is no wonder that both our foreign- and national-security policies lack coherence and direction. The administration’s faculty-lounge logic that in the 21st century, “diplomacy” will substitute for military solutions to international crisis, overlooks or chooses to ignore a key factor: recognized military power that provides the essential underpinnings to successful diplomacy. It is called “peace through strength.”
How did we get to the rudderless position we are in today? Clearly, a series of policy mistakes have been made. It should be remembered that it was President Carter’s misguided policies that gave rise to Islamic resurgence by undercutting our key ally, the Shah of Iran, by fostering the return of the Islamic zealot Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini with his 7th-century mentality. Furthermore, much like President Obama today, he oversaw a deliberate drawdown of our military forces and capabilities.
Regrettably, each successive administration, be it Democrat or Republican, has also contributed to the chaotic situation we now face in the Middle East by essentially ignoring the 34 years of acts of war by Iran against the United States. These have included the takeover of our embassy in Iran; the bombing of our embassy and U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut without responding; and the material and training support to the Sept. 11 hijackers, as well as a host of other acts of war that have caused the loss of life of thousands of American military personnel and civilians.
Recently, we have witnessed the Obama administration’s embrace of the Muslim Brotherhood, which has clearly facilitated the advance of the Islamic global agenda. Mr. Obama’s June 2009 Cairo speech was the catalyst for the Arab Spring movement, which evolved under the political direction of the Muslim Brotherhood.
We all know how that has turned out. In the current Israeli-Hamas conflict, it should not be forgotten that Hamas is the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, whose creed is to eliminate Israel’s very existence. Clearly, no peace can be achieved as long Hamas remains in control, and the Palestinians continue letting themselves be used to further the agenda of these merchants of hate. There are some indications that Hamas maybe losing some of its luster. Many hold Hamas responsible for the current Gaza humanitarian crisis. It must be made clear that the only way the Israeli and Egyptian blockade will be lifted and border crossings opened is with the removal of Hamas. There can be no reward for terrorism.
It appears no matter where you look, we have serious global instability. The Middle East essentially is in a total meltdown. Russia continues its aggressive move into Ukraine’s eastern provinces. With China continuing to press its illegal claims in both the South China Sea and East China Sea, the impotence of American leadership is clearly evident. As a result, our allies don’t trust us, and worse, our enemies don’t fear us.
Russia has embarked on an accelerated modernization of both its strategic and conventional forces, while China continues with an unprecedented military expansion of both its strategic and conventional forces. The Obama administration’s response has been to continue with the unilateral disarmament of our military forces This will leave us with the smallest Army since prior to World War II, and the smallest Navy since prior to World War I. Furthermore, our strategic forces have been allowed to atrophy over the past two decades. Our national leadership is deliberately jeopardizing our national security.
The draconian budget cuts to our military under the Obama administration’s sequestration mandate must not only cease immediately, but be reversed to meet these new and dangerous challenges. Such an announcement by the administration would provide a much-needed morale boost to our allies, as well as sending an unmistakable message to our enemies.
Aside from Ukraine, which should be provided the necessary requested military equipment to protect its sovereignty, the most pressing problem facing the Obama administration is the Islamic State’s threat to Kurdistan and what remains of Iraq. This threat must be destroyed before it expands into surrounding countries of Jordan, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia. The half measures we have taken so far are clearly inadequate. To protect and support Kurdistan, the only viable ally we have in the region (besides Israel), will require a sustained comprehensive air campaign. To complement the current naval airstrikes and sustain such a campaign, we should establish a forward operating base alert element of F-16 fighters and A-10 close air-support aircraft in Kurdistan, which has one of the longest runways in the world at Irbil International Airport. Further, we should fly in the heavy military equipment that the Kurds have requested, as well as additional anti-tank weapons and ammunition.
The Obama administration’s position that they would only provide support through an all-inclusive Iraqi government was nonsense. Even with widespread support for his former lieutenant, Haider al-Abadi, current Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has refused to accept him as a successor. However, this should be short-lived. While they have endorsed the new prime minister, Iran’s leadership most likely wants to see an inclusive Baghdad government so that Iraqi and U.S. forces will prevent the Islamic State from threatening Iran.
The Islamic State is a barbaric, murderous, evil terrorist group, which must be crushed. However, our involvement should not be as a protector for Iran. Will the Obama administration change its strategy? Whatever plan the administration implements, it must remember that the objectives of the Islamic State, al Qaeda, the Muslim Brotherhood, and the Iranian regime are all the same — destroy Israel and the United States. The administration must decide which side it is on.
James A. Lyons, a U.S. Navy retired admiral, was commander in chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet and senior U.S. military representative to the United Nations.