- - Tuesday, July 7, 2015


There was flash and bang aplenty from coast to coast over the Fourth of July, but nothing was fired in anger or with malice. A threatened terrorist attack on the homeland that gave the authorities such concern last week did not happen. The lone wolves stayed at rest in their sordid dens of iniquity. Targets of terror elsewhere, though, were not so fortunate.

The Islamic State, or ISIS, released a video showing the mass shooting of 25 Syrian soldiers by child executioners. Staged at an ancient Roman amphitheater in Palmyra, each kneeling soldier was dispatched with a pistol by an ISIS-uniformed child of 12 or 13 while a crowd of men and boys cheered. The venue suggests the cruelty of the Romans, or it might have been intended to send the message to descendants of the founders of civilization in the West that greatness no longer matters. Depravity rules.

On Monday the terrorist army claimed that one of its young followers was responsible for a suicide bombing in northern Syria that killed 50 Kurdish militiamen. The bomber was a boy of 14. Hamas terrorists made the infamous boast to the Israelis that “we love death more than you love life.” ISIS has taken the intimidation a step further, enlisting the young who have the most to live for to do the killing.

Middle East turmoil by ISIS and its kind has tested Barack Obama no less than his predecessors. There is no chapter in his book of war strategy titled, “Kids Who Kill.” The president went to the Pentagon Monday to talk to the generals and the admirals about how to stop the bloodletting, or at least to eliminate it from the 24/7 news cycle. He emerged to tell reporters for the umpteenth time that “no amount of military force will end the threat that is [ISIS].”

To use American military won’t work, he said, because evildoers will take up the butchery when the Americans leave. He did not speak of his contribution to the butchery with his precipitous withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan and Iraq. War isn’t won by playing whack-a-mole, as he put it, but his strategy of conducting “a long-term campaign” of seven years and counting hasn’t worked, either.

The irony is not lost on congressional Republicans. “Over the last year, ISIS has expanded its reach exponentially,” says Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas, a Republican, of the president’s Pentagon visit, “and the group’s influence continues to grow. Currently we’re relying on Iran — the largest state sponsor of terrorism in the world — to shoulder the majority of the burden in the fight, allowing the ayatollahs to expand their malign regional influence. Worse, it was President Obama’s delusion about ISIS that brought us to this point in the first place.”

Words can offer a powerful preview of fearful warfighting, but Mr. Obama’s summation of his plan for defeating the soldiers of Muslim extremism is more fizzle than sizzle, a little razzle and not much dazzle. To tell Americans that they face a “generational struggle” sounds like a tacit admission that the task of facing down ISIS and its child killers will be left to our children and their children. War by whack-a-mole may be unappealing to the president, but so are the alternatives. To validate his preferred strategy, he’ll search in vain for a policy paper titled “How to Succeed in Warfare Without Really Trying.” It’s a text unwritten, for obvious reasons.

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