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Sunday, October 23, 2016

The bombs are dropping, and how can we not watch?

Boom. There goes an Islamic State communications center.

Boom. There goes an Islamic State training camp.

It’s all on TV, the strikes recorded on videos taken by U.S. fighter jets and drones as they pummel jihadist strongholds in Syria.

This is the only kind of war that Americans can stomach right now, a high-altitude, low-risk barrage.

It gives us a sense that we’re doing something to hurt an enemy that’s truly evil, something much safer and saner than launching another ground invasion.

Yet, as a long-range strategy, the bombing campaign is like kicking an ant pile. The surviving Islamic State fighters will scatter, regroup and resume their mission.

These are bad guys, the worst of the worst. They torture. They rape. They massacre. And they behead their hostages and broadcast it proudly to the world.

So when you see aerial footage of a guided bomb smashing a building, you hope a hundred of those creeps were hiding inside when the walls came down.

You hope it wasn’t a block of apartments filled with families, or a school, or a medical clinic.

The air campaign against the Islamic State, isn’t cheap. A Tomahawk cruise missile costs more than $1 million, and Navy warships have been firing scads of them. Then there are the F-15s, F-18s, F-22s, tanker planes for midair refueling, Predator drones and Reaper drones.

As expensive as it is, the bombing blitz in Syria is supported by most Americans. They see it as an alternative, not a preamble, to sending combat troops.

Almost everyone in authority agrees that the Islamic State presents a threat to our homeland security. They also agree that ground forces will be necessary to rout and cripple the terror group.

If history is a guide, then the proposed training and arming of “moderate” Syrian rebels is probably a lost cause, the weapons destined to fall into the wrong hands. (Many of the Islamic State fighters are using American guns, traveling in American military vehicles surrendered by American-trained Iraqi soldiers, who cut and ran.)

Another option would be for Turkey to send troops to Syria. If you asked the American people, the response would be: Any soldiers but ours.

In a speech last week to the UN General Assembly, President Obama said that “the only language these terrorist groups understand is force.”

Force can take many forms, but bombs raining down from the heavens will definitely get one’s attention. What we don’t know yet is whether the air attacks will blunt or inflame the threat of the Islamic State.

It was encouraging that five Arab states, led by Saudi Arabia, participated with the United States in the raids, the first time that a group of Sunni governments has agreed to strike out against Sunni extremists.

Americans are well aware of the stupefying complexity and volatility of the Mideast mess — the broken leadership of Iraq, the repugnant regime in Syria, the lurking specter of Iran.

Meanwhile we are despised by so many factions in so many places that it’s hard to keep up.

One of the targets of last week’s raids was a low-profile terror cell called the Khorasan Group, which sounds like a Wall Street hedge fund but is actually an offshoot of al Qaeda. (Remember them?)

Government officials say air strikes were aimed at Khorasan operatives because the group was planning a deadly attack against the West, possibly using sophisticated explosives on a commercial airliner.

At this point, you can’t blame Americans for reacting to that news with a grim shrug. It seems like every group of radical fanatics threatens to bring their bloody holy war here.

The scary thing is that some of them are competent, even clever. We’ve got to pay attention.

Our country remains hung over from the futile, costly war in Iraq. Most people wish we could get out of the Mideast completely. It seems like eons ago when al Qaeda was the only gang of maniacs we worried about.

Perhaps we can be forgiven, then, for taking some satisfaction from watching the massive air assault on the Islamic State in Syria.

There’s no such thing as a surgically flawless war, but we want to believe — need to believe — that every one of those bombs is landing on a bad guy.


Carl Hiaasen is a columnist for The Miami Herald. Readers may write to him at: 1 Herald Plaza, Miami, Fla., 33132.

AFP Photo/Staff Sgt. Shawn Nickel

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  • FT66

    This time the cost of war in the Mideast has to be treasure only and NOT blood be shed by US soldiers. No matter how expensive it will be. Any voter wherever you are, ask your representative what is their stand before casting your vote, as they are avoiding to take a vote on this war. People in the Mideast must shed their blood for their countries and NOT US soldiers. I heard recently one Major saying: those ISIS fighters might be people working in their shops at day time, and come to fight at night. They don’t were uniform, they have no any sign on the their faces to differentiate them from a normal civilian. How can US troops fight these people if not only to be sent there and get killed? It looks like the war in the Mideast is starting to shape up how midterm out come will be. Voters must know where everyone stands.

    • joe schmo

      I agree with most of your statement. The cost and price of going back in just isn’t worth it. However, I am more concerned with the welfare of OUR soldiers than I am for the people in the Middle East. Their problems are just that, their problems. However, threatening us is another matter. As is chopping the head off of two of our citizens. 1) I believe we need to go in and retrieve our people who are being held captive. Nothing more nothing less. 2) We also need to rely less on the Middle East for fuel. Instead we should focus on creating our own energy and become energy independent. 3) Lets just get rid of the problem in the U.S. For the time being, send the Muslims packing. Lord knows they have invaded Europe and they are doing a good job taking it over. Let’s Isolate them and take away sanctions. Let them fight their own battle and sort things out. In case they decide to attack us, we still need to exude our power just to let them know we don’t back down. Other than that we need to be out of the ME.

      • FT66

        Joe, am also partially agreeing of what you have written. Let us altogether forget putting our noses in the Mideast affairs and concetrate on whatever we have back home. Where I do not agree is thinking those monsters who chopped off heads of 3 or 4 people, means they will come in a big Group to US and chopp off everyone’s head. That is quite impossible and no one should be afraid of it. Also asking muslims in US and in Europe start packing, that is out of my understanding. Why should you generalise? Should other people (in this case all muslims) pay for the sins of others while they don’t fall under this category? I believe you are a Christian. If one Christian behave terribly (like those who chopped the heads off of some), should the muslims hold you accountable and other Christians for what fellow crazy Christians did? I do not HOPE so, and I do not HOPE the rest of muslims who haven’t done anything wrong, should face any threat of any kind.

      • Sand_Cat

        Sending Muslims who are US citizens “packing” is unconstitutional and the kind of thing one can expect from a totalitarian state. Sort of like sending the Jews “packing,” with likely the same end result. Assigning guilt to all members of a religious or political group is – in addition to being unconstitutional – unjust and immoral.
        Having said that, most of the rest of your post seems eminently sensible, but neither party is likely to see it that way. Almost none of them seem to know what to do with themselves without at least one war – or at least, an alleged existential threat.

      • WhutHeSaid

        I guess we’d better send the Christians packing too, right? After all, if we would have done this we could have prevented things like the Oklahoma City bombing that Christian terrorist Timothy McVeigh committed.

  • Dominick Vila

    Can there be a good outcome? I doubt it. Bombing ISIL and Al Qaeda fighters, shooting them, sending them to Gitmo, and other such measures simply delay the inevitable and prolong our babysitting duties in the Middle East and the Persian Gulf.
    The real threat is not the physical threat the ISIL and Al Qaeda fighters pose, but the anti-American feelings, and the determination of millions of Muslim to fight our values, our culture, our interest, and the influence we exert on their young. They are fighting for the survival of their culture, and propose solutions such as the creation of a medieval Caliphate to achieve their goal. The real challenge for us is finding a way to convince them to consider alternatives to their ancient ways which, judging by the events of the last decade and those taking place right now, is not going to happen. In fact, the end game is likely to be a worsening of relations with Muslim countries, a reiteration that we are their enemy, and greater determination to defend their sovereignty and culture against foreign influences.
    We may win this battle, but we are likely to lose the war.

  • sealbeams

    Obamas first remarks about not destroying ISIS but managing them, in my opinion is correct. Similar to what Israel does with Hamas. Mow the lawn when needed. I don’t think they can be destroyed and I don’t think it is possible to change their anti American mindset. Mowing the lawn can only make them hate us more, if that is even possible.

  • CPAinNewYork

    I believe that the Muslims are winning the battle for the “hearts and minds” of the world.

    We are isolated with Israel. I remember when it was rare for the United Nations to condemn israel. Now it is a common occurrence.

    Our “traditional allies” have abandoned us, mainly because of our lack of truthfulness in justifying the second Gulf War. Israel is not far from being counted as a pariah state and we may not be far behind, because we back everything that Israel does to the Muslims within its borders.

    We have “painted ourselves into a corner.”

  • 1standlastword

    This is a good time to be middle-middle aged!

    WWIII is just around the corner. For far too many years the “exceptional” societies in the world have played monopoly with the unexceptional societies.

    Then with globalization, secular greed and religious fanaticism this has all changed.

    When humans drive recklessly, contemplating safe driving principles while the car is plummeting towards the bottom of the ravine is too phucking late.

    For once Bone Head got it right when he said that we will have to put our boots on the ground.

    Here’s how I see it.

    We have to go all in (and we will…most likely too late) When IS takes Iraq (they are sitting 5 miles outside Bagdad as I type) they will recruit Sunni men and boys or they will be beheaded in mass. Their strategy is to keep building their army all the way to….guess where……Israel!!!!

    That is when Uncle Sam will put his war boots back on and get down to business. We will have to put moderate Islamic and Kurds in our uniforms (more like trucks, tanks etc.) and hope for the best. The worst is Iran, China and Russia will side with the terrorists and bingo…WWWIII

    We have lost our way. We can’t stop ourselves. We have to NOW go all the way in. The Neocons got what they wanted…It’s a New World Order in the making. There is no stopping now!

    Yep…Nobody wants to loose. And for sure…we can’t loose because we are “exceptional”

  • bcarreiro

    here we go again…………………….we never left. we will win the war on terrorism!!!

  • charleo1

    Carl Hiasssen I think, pretty much sums up the feelings of most war weary Americans, myself included. “Here we go again!” Steve Kroft, of 60 Minutes ask President Obama, the question that now weighs most heavily on the minds of most of the public. “What if just bombing doesn’t work? What if the Syrian Army we propose to train and equip in Saudi Arabia, like the Iraqi Army we spent billions training and equipping, won’t fight? What then? The President didn’t speculate. On what again, I think the American Public sees as a mostly a rhetorical question. A forgone conclusion, that the Pentagon has not exactly been quite about. In fact, Martin Dempsey, Head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has been uncharacteristically public about his assessments of what would be necessary to complete his assigned mission. Not openly disagreeing with his Commander in Chief. But in not agreeing fully with Obama, and publicly saying so, is a big deal for a Joint Chief. Of course a spineless Congress has left town to fund raise, and campaign, without comment. Lending credibility to the theory that some of man’s biological ancestors were not lizards at all, but jelly fish. By the way, Speaker. How’s that lawsuit coming along against the President for his flagrant abuse of Executive Power? I agree! Going to war is entirely different than acting like a Potentate, without so much as a bye thee bye to Congress, on the vital issue of extending the time employers have to comply with the new healthcare law! Pretty outrageous eh? You have a tough job, Mr. Speaker. It seems with the elections upon us, this President has finally done something your base will not permit you to disagree. He’s taken the Country to war.

  • Dr. Dave

    Time to test a nuke.