We’re Already at War

Bill Neinast


History’s purpose is to record facts.  A second function, and possibly more important, is to teach.  

The teaching function is recognized in the common statement that those who don't know history are doomed to repeat it. That adage extends back to political theorist Edmund Burke of the 18th Century and beyond.

In the school of history, President Barack Obama consistently earns grades of F-.

Consider, for example, the use of or ignoring experts.  To build a skyscraper, the best architects, engineers, and builders should be given the job.  To conduct a war, the most competent and experienced military commanders should be in charge,

Several recent events record that historical fact.  If Hitler had followed the advice of the German General Staff, we might all be talking German today.  Likewise, if Lyndon Johnson and his Secretary of Defense, Robert McNamara, had listened to their military advisors, the results of our engagement in Vietnam might have been very different from the final withdrawal. 

The problems inherent in letting “civilians” conduct the Vietnam conflict are documented in H. R. McMaster’s “Dereliction of Duty.” 

Another example is the history proven tactic of surprising your enemy.  Surprise is the third of the nine Principles of War, as defined in the Army Field Manual FM-3 Military Operations.   In this context, surprise is defined as striking the enemy at a time, at a place, or in a manner for which he is unprepared.


One of the better examples of how surprise can lead quickly to victory is Sam Houston and his rag-tag body of volunteers surprising Mexican President Santa Anna, “the Napoleon of the West,” and his well trained army at San Jacinto on April 21, 1836.  The unexpected, unanticipated attack on Santa Anna’s army during their siesta led to a quick, unequivocal surrender of the Mexicans and the capture of their leader.

Compare that well planned and executed military maneuver with our President broadcasting to the world that we are going to destroy or degrade ISIS or ISIL, whatever you want to call the enemy.  He adds, however, that we are not going to “put U.S.

boots on the ground” but will just keep inflicting the pin pricks of some air strikes in Iraq, but not in Syria, where ISIS/ISIL is headquarters.  We might have the assistance of France, and maybe others, in these air strikes, but do not worry about boots on the ground.  Big ears are not required to hear the guffaws, and thanks for the heads-up coming from the terrorists’ headquarters when they hear this.

An even bigger mistake fostered by the President’s ignorance of history is his staunch refusal to call our war with Muslim Jihadists a war.  As late as Friday, Secretary of State John Kerry testified before a Senate Committee that “we are not at war.”

If we are not at war, how can sending U.S. warplanes with lethal weapons over the territory of another sovereign country be justified?

Any person with a rudimentary knowledge of history will recognize that we are engaged in World War III.  The heaviest fighting is currently in the Middle East, but the battles are not confined to that region.

We have had two battles in WWIII here at home.  On 9/11/2001, over 3,000 Americans died at the hands of Jihadists in New York, Washington. D.C., and Pennsylvania.   Thirteen more American were killed and 30 others were injured at Fort Hood less than eight years later.   Another skirmish in that war occurred in Australia last week. Fifteen Muslim Jihadists were arrested there and charged with planning mass beheadings and other acts of war on that big island.

We are at war.  No war can be won from the air alone.  To defeat an enemy, his territory must be occupied by his enemy’s boots on the ground.

Our President says we are not going after our enemy’s territory because we are not at war.  We might, however,  send some boots of “our coalition” in the future.  That will take almost a year or more to build a coalition of allies and train them for combat.  This gives the enemy notice that we might be coming and that they should take their vacations now and then harden their defenses.

This absolutely stupid strategy is contrary to the advice and suggestion of every experienced military authority who is allowed to talk about it.  

Robert Gates, the President’s first Secretary of Defense, said in a recent  interview that, if we are going to defeat ISIS, we will have to put boots on the ground. The media is overflowing with retired generals and senior officers saying the same thing.  Leon Panetta, who also served the President as Director of the CIA and as Secretary of Defense, echoes those comments.  He adds something like, “I told him so.  This may have been prevented, if the President had approved my recommendation to leave some troops in Iraq.”

Under the conditions and limitations that President Obama has put on actively engaging in the war that he says is not here, putting together a coalition will be difficult, if possible at all.  

I have just returned from two weeks in Europe.  The sentiment there is one of skepticism.  The mood in the news and on the street is, “We’ll see.”  Obama has proven to be not a man of his word.  He has drawn too many lines in the sand and then stepped back.  Once we are convinced that this time he means what he says, we might, just might, help.  America is no longer seen as the leader of the world.

So here’s the perspective.

President Obama has forgotten or ignored every lesson of history on engaging in war.

Unless and until he recognizes that we are already in a world war and begins to take the advice of his military experts, his successor in 2017 will inherit the major tragedy of our time. 


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