Retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn, the onetime Pentagon intelligence czar who said President Obama fired him for pushing war against “radical Islamism,” asserted Wednesday that the Islamic State has established a global footprint that will not be wiped out by liberating Iraq.
Mr. Flynn gave an assessment that runs counter to the Obama administration’s narrative in recent weeks that taking ground in Iraq means the Islamic State is losing and is attacking global targets out of desperation.
“They have the global strategic initiative,” said Mr. Flynn, who retired after 33 years, his last post as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency. “I don’t care if they lose Fallujah. I don’t care if they lose Raqqa. Look at what they have been able to do globally. There is a global footprint.”
U.S.-backed Iraqi forces in late June liberated Fallujah, one of the first Iraqi cities seized by the Islamic State in late 2013. Raqqa is the group’s self-proclaimed capital in central Syria.
The Islamic State has viable irregular armies in six countries outside Iraq and Syria and has terrorist cells in at least another six countries.
“The strategy they have assumed is a global strategy,” Mr. Flynn said at The Heritage Foundation. “And the strategy that we have taken on is a very narrow tactical strategy. They understand that weakness in our system and they fully, fully exploit it.”
The hard-charging Mr. Flynn, a supporter of Donald Trump, is promoting his new book that warns that unless Washington begins fighting to win now, the United States’ existence will be endangered later this century. He urged endurance in a war on Islamic extremists that has lasted since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, putting U.S. boots on the ground in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and elsewhere.
“I was asked this the other day, ‘The American public is tired,’” he said. “The American public will be tired if we lose because they will be slaves.”
He also burnished his politically incorrect credentials by saying Americans should embrace what has built the country: Christian values. He portrayed American culture at this stage in history as more tolerant and kinder than what is found in Islamic countries.
“We should not fear what our country was built on: a set of Judeo-Christian principles,” he said. “There’s like this sense of fear in our country. There are cultures around the world — this is not a racist issue. I could care less if someone is purple polka-dotted. This is about internationally acceptable standards of behavior, and what I want is a standard of behavior that is internationally accepted. And not treat women the way we see some women treated; to treat children, boys and girls the way that they are treated. So, yeah, are there societies, are there cultures that have a higher acceptance of behaviors and actions and attitudes? Absolutely. I believe ours does — absolutely believe ours does.”
The Heritage Foundation is a nonprofit think tank prohibited by IRS rules from engaging in politics. Neither the names of President Obama nor Mr. Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, came up during the one-hour talk.
Mr. Flynn, who was reportedly in the mix to be Mr. Trump’s running mate, is promoting “The Field of Fight: How We Can Win the Global War Against Radical Islam and Its Allies.” It was co-written with like-minded Michael Ledeen, a longtime Washington scholar.
Mr. Obama refuses to use the term “radical Islam” and prefers to call al Qaeda, the Islamic State and other terrorists as simply extremists.
Mr. Flynn told the Heritage audience that the label “violent extremist” does not tell the military and intelligence people what they are trying to defeat.
“I’ve been called an extremist,” he said.
Mr. Flynn, who was top intelligence officer in Afghanistan, said that incrementally bumping up troop levels in Iraq is not the way to defeat the Islamic State. This flaw goes back to post-Sept. 11 and President George W. Bush and, now, the Obama administration, he said. The Pentagon sends troops in segments for six months or a year and then brings them home instead of telling them, “You come home when the war is won,” he said.
“None of us wants to stay in those Godforsaken places,” he said.