“The Language Of Force”

As the fight against ISIL continues, we are greeted with this headline from The Washington Post:

U.S. and Arab aircraft attack oil refineries seized by Islamic State in Syria

The story reports a rather remarkable fact: “U.S. fighter jets and drones, alongside warplanes from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, struck the refineries in remote parts of the Syrian desert.” It is quite extraordinary that we have partnered with Arab nations to attack the source of much of ISIL’s funding of its uae female pilotjihadist brutality. Quite extraordinary. As NPR reported this morning, “the Saudi’s released photographs of the pilots” involved—two of them “sons of senior princes”—because “the royal family wants to show they are ready to put their own sons on the front line.” The UAE even released a photograph of a woman who is flying missions, which may strike additional fear in the minds of some of the religious fanatics connected to ISIL, because apparently some of them “believe they’ll go to hell if they die at a woman’s hands.”

I know most of you have by now heard President Obama’s remarks in New York yesterday, but I want to highlight two passages that pretty much say it all about terrorism in general and ISIS in particular. First the general statement President made at the United Nations Security Council Summit on Foreign Terrorist Fighters:

Resolutions alone will not be enough.  Promises on paper cannot keep us safe.  Lofty rhetoric and good intentions will not stop a single terrorist attack.

The words spoken here today must be matched and translated into action, into deeds — concrete action, within nations and between them, not just in the days ahead, but for years to come. For if there was ever a challenge in our interconnected world that cannot be met by any one nation alone, it is this:  terrorists crossing borders and threatening to unleash unspeakable violence.  These terrorists believe our countries will be unable to stop them.  The safety of our citizens demand that we do.  And I’m here today to say that all of you who are committed to this urgent work will find a strong and steady partner in the United States of America. 

That last sentence should be emphasized. Without the United States, without a general American commitment to remain a strong and reliable partner with other world nations, the fight against specific terrorist groups will be a feeble one. And as for the specific terrorist group we are fighting in Iraq and Syria, the President made a few things clear, as he spoke before the U.N. General Assembly:

…the terrorist group known as ISIL must be degraded and ultimately destroyed.

This group has terrorized all who they come across in Iraq and Syria.  Mothers, sisters, daughters have been subjected to rape as a weapon of war.  Innocent children have been gunned down.  Bodies have been dumped in mass graves.  Religious minorities have been starved to death.  In the most horrific crimes imaginable, innocent human beings have been beheaded, with videos of the atrocity distributed to shock the conscience of the world.

No God condones this terror.  No grievance justifies these actions.  There can be no reasoning — no negotiation — with this brand of evil.  The only language understood by killers like this is the language of force.  So the United States of America will work with a broad coalition to dismantle this network of death.

That line, “The only language understood by killers like this is the language of force,” may disturb some people who think our actions to degrade and destroy what President Obama called “this network of death” will only perpetuate the violence and breed more terrorists in the future. But the President is right. And for those who think he is wrong, they are obliged to tell us just what alternative language will work to stop the advance of ISIL, to stop the raping of mothers and sisters and daughters, to stop the murder of children, to stop the public beheadings.

In the mean time, here’s to hoping even more women will be dropping bombs or firing missiles at those ISIL bastards. Hell, I hear, has plenty of room.


  1. Agreed, force is an essential component of the Obama strategy, and I must say it’s the most important one politically. The body politic must be satisfied and the visuals of the United States Navy firing cruise missiles and it planes firing precision-guided weapons are inspiring, to say the least.

    But organizing a multi-national approach that includes both force and global finance is also essential, and that’s what marks a stark difference between this strategy and that of the Bush 43 strategy, go it alone and nation-build. Those who leapt to criticize Obama for not ‘having a strategy yet” failed to understand the distinction. That it’s coming together so quickly is remarkable. And isn’t it convenient that ISIL is cooperating by beheading multi-nationally, thus pissing off and terrorizing more countries than just us? I think they aren’t so smart as some think.


    • Well said, Jim. Well said. I have never thought that ISIL leadership was cleverly tricking us into confronting them for their own advantage. If they had really been smart, they would have tried like hell to keep us out of the mess altogether. I am still amazed at how many pundits on TV give them great credit for being such great tacticians.


  2. Troy

     /  September 25, 2014

    The President delivered a wonderful speech to the world. And there should be no misunderstanding of what he said nor this countries commitment to it. I wish Russia and China would offer to help in defeating these killers too. But it is good to see that some of the Arab countries are participating in this grueling and long process. Might we all, together, prevail……keep hope alive!


    • Obama has not received enough credit for getting those Arab countries involved in a fight against other Sunnis. It really is a big deal. But, as usual, mostly what he gets is knocked around as a “weak leader.” At this point, there is nothing he can do to please the other side and, increasingly, his own side. He just has to do what he thinks is best and let history be the judge.


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