Cal Thomas: 'It takes an army to defeat an army'

When liberal Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and the conservative former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich agree on something, attention should be paid.

Feinstein, who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee, said last Friday that the U.S. must confront the jihadists who call themselves the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS or ISIL). “It takes an army to defeat an army,” she said, adding, “I believe that we either confront ISIL now or we will be forced to deal with an even stronger enemy in the future.”

In an article first published on CNN.com, Gingrich noted there is now “an arc of terror from Boko Haram in Nigeria through Hamas in Gaza to ISIS in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, there is a clear wave of vicious religious warfare being waged against civilization by fanatics who openly promise and engage in genocidal killing.” Gingrich added that since Americans were seized as hostages in Iran in 1979, “the United States has been at war with radical Islamists. They knew it. We hid from it.”

Republican and Democratic administrations have been in denial about this threat to civilization. Presidents George W. Bush and Obama have tried to paint a picture that minimized Islamism.

Just as early diagnosis and treatment enhances survival from a life-threatening disease, so does confronting terrorists on their territory improve chances of avoiding more attacks on the West.

Unfortunately, President Obama continues to live in the land of wishful thinking. In an interview with Thomas L. Friedman of The New York Times, the president said he would only increase America’s military presence in the region if Iraq’s different religious and ethnic communities agree to inclusive politics without regard to which side wins.

This demonstrates a misunderstanding of the real threat. The Islamists, though calling themselves different names, share a common doctrine of destruction. They seek to impose their will through beheadings, kidnappings, forced conversions, crucifixions, forced marriages, rape and other horrors. They intend to go after Israel, Europe and ultimately the United States, where they claim to already have agents awaiting instructions to conduct suicide bombings.

Speaking about the divisions in Iraq, the president made the leap to political divisions in the U.S., telling Friedman, “Our politics are dysfunctional.” He said the divisions in the Middle East should be seen as “a warning to us: societies don’t work if political factions take maximalist positions. And the more diverse the country is, the less it can afford to take maximalist positions.”

Really? The president wasn’t asked and didn’t say on which issues he and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid have compromised with Republicans, from health insurance to reforms in the tax code. Both have arguably taken “maximalist” positions on these and virtually every other issue.

There is much else in the Friedman interview that is laughable, such as the president’s claim the news media are “Balkanized,” meaning he and the left no longer have a monopoly on information dissemination. He also said there is too much money in politics; this from someone who spends as much time fundraising as he does playing golf.

Feinstein and Gingrich are right. Whatever it takes to defeat ISIL must be done now. The administration has just started arming the Kurds in Northern Iraq. That’s a belated but good beginning. Withdrawal and indifference is a policy for defeat, not only in Iraq, but in the wider war against terrorists.

Readers may email Cal Thomas at tcaeditors@tribune.com.

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