General George S. Patton Jr. said in World War II that wars “may be fought with weapons, but they are won by men.”
He was referring, of course, to leadership and the integrity of soldiers.
But there’s another interesting truth in that quote, something clear from the times of military strategist Sun Tzu.
The infantry, that is, men on the ground, will never be obsolete, because living, breathing soldiers will always be required to ensure the success of any armed conflict.
With that in mind, the question for the U.S. is this: If the White House officially recognizes the terrorist cell ISIS as a wartime enemy, does the U.S. land “boots on the ground” to ensure the destruction of the murderous group? Or will President Obama unwisely delegate the chore of ISIS’s destruction to America’s military technology?
This question has dogged White House officials for weeks as ISIS’s influence continues to grow and more Americans have been exposed to its gruesome tactics.
Now, two beheaded U.S. journalists later, it doesn’t appear that the White House is any closer to figuring out a strategy for dealing with an enemy that has declared war on the American people.
Indeed, based on an interview Thursday between CNN’s Chris Cuomo and Deputy National Security Advisor Tony Blinken, it looks as though administration officials are still uncomfortable with the idea of committing U.S. servicemen to the task of dismantling ISIS.
“Chris, we’re not going to repeat what happened a decade ago,” Blinken told Cuomo. “You don’t need to solve this problem by putting 150,000 Americans on the ground and getting them stuck there for a decade.”
Cuomo responded: “But I didn’t say 150,000. I said any. ... It’s difficult to understand how [U.S. military advisers currently stationed in the area] are there and there’s fighting going on around you and you’re not part of it. If you want to be clear, shouldn’t the clear truth be Americans may well wind up fighting on that ground again? How are you going to beat ISIS if you don’t have the best forces in the world fighting?”
“We’ve already seen this in action as recently as a few weeks ago in the north of Iraq, where bearing our air power to Iraqis and Kurdish forces on the ground was very effective in pushing ISIL back in those areas,” he said. “But this has to be done in a much more comprehensive way, it requires having an effective Iraqi partner on the ground, it requires building up the moderate Syrian opposition on the Syrian side of the border, and it requires getting other countries in on the deal, But, again, we don’t need to be sending tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of American troops on the ground. We tried that once before. It didn’t work out so well.”
At the moment, the White House wants to delegate the chore of ISIS' destruction to local forces while offering technological support. And that's it.
This strategy could work, possibly leading to the eventual elimination of ISIS forces. However, based on generations of military strategy that favors manual engagement, it's extremely risky.