ISIS could be defeated now — if Obama wanted to

The “complex” battle with ISIS isn’t as difficult as you’re being led to believe.

America has the overwhelming means to defeat ISIS. Why haven't we? (USAF file photo)

HONOLULU, May 28, 2015 — Is ISIS invincible? The fall of Ramadi and the Islamic proto-caliphate’s ongoing resistance to some of the most advanced Western remote sensing and military firepower the world has seen has led many experts to conclude that this new form of “whack-a-mole” warfare is one that can’t be won easily or soon.

Like Ellen Ripley of the original Alien movie who, plagued with a hostile alien organism, sought the advice of her futuristic computer to “Request Clarification on Science Inability to Neutralize Alien,” frustrated Westerners are scouring the internet to find out why President Obama and the United States are unable to defeat ISIS. Not even Osama bin Laden at the height of his terrorist ambitions would have dreamed of Islamic insurgent forces rolling through the streets of an Arab nation, armed with American tanks and captured artillery pieces. So why does it go on?

“Whack-A-Mole” Warfare?

Depending on which political pundit you listen to, the reason the West can’t beat ISIS ranges from “complex regional issues that are extremely politically sensitive” all the way up to “insurgency is a long-term conflict that doesn’t end overnight.”


Anyone who doesn’t believe that Obama has in his power the ability and resources to annihilate ISIS as early as this weekend (assuming he actually wanted to) has no business advising our government or the American people. If we are at “war” with ISIS, America should finish them off once and for all—or go home altogether.

Consider: Has anyone ever wondered how, with so many ISR drones watching every inch (supposedly) of Iraq with 1.8-gigapixel cameras ISIS can routinely hold parades in streets jam packed with white pickup trucks without being turned into a modern day Highway of Death? How can ISIS hold any public gatherings or executions without coalition drones or strike fighters suddenly swooping down on them?

In 1991, the U.S. and its coalition allies had nowhere near the kind of ISR capabilities that today’s post-9/11 military possesses, yet Iraqi forces were filled with such an overriding expectation of instant destruction that they often surrendered to drones and even passing news crews. Without the benefit of super stealthy drones or super attack helicopters armed with Brimstone missiles, coalition forces in Operation: Desert Storm obliterated any threat the minute it emerged. Consider the words of USAF Gen. Chuck Horner:

“When we seized control of the air, that set the battle, and we seized control of the air that first night – every time the Iraqi interceptor planes, their best defenses, took off, it was take off, gear up, blow up because we had two F-15s sitting on every airfield, overhead every airfield, and so we never gave them a chance. In Vietnam, we gave the Vietnamese air force free rein. We didn’t attack their airfields, we felt that would escalate the war. We weren’t interested in escalating this war, we were interested in getting this war over with, so it was escalated from the very first moment as high as we could get it.”

To think that a column of glossy white pickup trucks loaded with insurgents in black garb could have survived to parade even a minute in 1991 is unimaginable, but somehow, under Obama, ISIS can parade as frequently as a Soviet May Day military march. But why?

Not “Shock and Awe” but “Show Up, Blow Up”

The “war” with ISIS is not so complicated as the experts portray it to be. All armies, insurgent or conventional, need supplies, and “there is nothing in the desert and no man needs nothing.” Any facility controlled by ISIS or providing black market revenues for ISIS operations should be dealt with in precisely the same manner that USAF F-111s dealt with the Al Ahmadi pumping station in Desert Storm. Any parade of ISIS vehicles should be immediately hammered by allied airpower, with the first and last vehicle in the column taken out to prevent escape.

One journalist remarked that to fight ISIS, Obama should employ “shock and awe.” Away with that. The policy should be if the enemy shows up, he gets blown up by U.S. airpower. The intent is not to “degrade” or even “demoralize” the enemy with airpower, but rather to decapitate the enemy with a final, inescapable battle of annihilation. That is how America wins modern wars.

This ongoing, slow-boil approach to warfare only adds credibility to the (false) belief that the West is weak and that technology should be replaced with masses of men on the ground. The truth is, America’s enemies would like nothing more than to lure our men into the field, because, though America excels in superior technology, her enemies are always able to field numerically more men in the field. The one thing that our enemies are counting on is for America to fight them on their level, face-to-face. We don’t need more boots on the ground, we need more Mk. 84s hitting the ground.

Again, why does ISIS remain? Just why did Ramadi fall, and why did Obama allow ISIS to keep Ramadi? The minute ISIS began to threaten the city, an overwhelming array of airpower should have annihilated them. During the Cold War “Ax Murder” incident of August 1976 in the Korean DMZ, President Gerald Ford replied to a skirmish between ROK and DPRK troops with an airpower response that one intelligence analyst characterized as “blew … their [the DPRK] minds.”

Why didn’t Obama give a similar order for Ramadi? When a city is in danger of being overrun by an enemy presence, the rule of thumb for U.S. airpower should be, “if it has wings, it flies” against ISIS. When America sets an example that extremist barbarism will be extinguished with overwhelming firepower, we won’t find ourselves in decade-long conflicts anymore. That’s not preemption doctrine; that’s deterrence.

The truth is, the U.S. and its allies have, even in these times of fiscal and military decline, overwhelming means to obliterate ISIS and end the threat. What we lack is the political willpower to either totally obliterate our enemies or totally disengage from the region. If Obama really wanted it, the war against ISIS could be over by this weekend. The question, then, is why hasn’t the war ended yet?

Dr. Danny de Gracia is a political scientist, an ordained minister, a former elected official and the author of the new political thriller, “American Kiss,” available from 

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Danny de Gracia
Dr. Danny de Gracia is a political scientist and a former senior adviser to the Human Services and International Affairs standing committees as well as a former minority caucus research analyst at the Hawaii State Legislature. From 2011-2013 he served as an elected municipal board member in Waipahu. As an expert in international relations theory, military policy, political psychology and economics, he has advised numerous policymakers and elected officials and his opinions have been featured worldwide. He has two doctorates in theology and ministry, a postgraduate in strategic marketing, a master's in political science and a bachelor's in political science and public administration. Writing on comparative politics, modern culture, fashion and more, Danny is also the author of the new novel "American Kiss" available now from