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We Can Kill Our Way to Victory

“We can not win this war by killing them,” Marie Harf said on MSNBC.

 Reversing thousands of years of battlefield experience in which wars were won by “killing them”, the State Department spokeswoman argued that you can’t defeat ISIS by killing its fighters.

"We can not kill our way out of this war,” she said. “We need in the medium and longer term to go after the root causes that lead people to join these groups, whether it is lack of opportunity for jobs."

War is one of the few things in life we can reliably kill our way out of. The United States has had a great track record of killing our way out of wars. We killed our way out of WW1. We killed our way out of WW2. The problem began when we stopped trying to kill our way out of wars and started trying to hug our way out of wars instead. Progressive academics added war to economics, terrorism and the climate in the list of subjects they did not understand and wanted to make certain that no one else was allowed to understand. Because the solution to war is so obvious that no progressive could possibly think of it.

Harf’s argument is a familiar one. There was a time when progressive reformers had convinced politicians that we couldn’t arrest, shoot, imprison or execute our way out of crime.

We couldn’t stop crime by fighting crime. Instead the root causes of crime had to be addressed. The police became social workers and criminals overran entire cities. The public demanded action and a new wave of mayors got tough on crime. While the sociologists, social workers, activists and bleeding hearts wailed that it wouldn’t work, surprisingly locking up criminals did stop them from committing crimes.

It was a revelation almost as surprising as realizing that it does take a good guy with a gun to stop a bad guy with a gun. Addressing root causes won’t stop a killing spree in progress. (That’s another one of those things we can and do kill our way out of.)

But bad ideas are harder to kill than bad people. And stupid ideas are the hardest ideas of all to kill.

The same plan that failed to stop street gangs and drug dealers has been deployed to defeat ISIS. Heading it up are progressives who don’t believe that killing the enemy wins wars.

General Patton told the Third Army, “The harder we push, the more Germans we kill. The more Germans we kill, the fewer of our men will be killed.” That kind of thinking is passé. General McChrystal, Obama’s favorite commander (before he had to be purged for insulting Obama) had a much better plan.

“We will not win based on the number of Taliban we kill,” he said. “We must avoid the trap of winning tactical victories—but suffering strategic defeats—by causing civilian casualties or excessive damage and thus alienating the people.”

Under Obama’s rotating shift of commanders, we avoided the trap of winning tactical victories. Instead of following Patton’s maxim, American casualties doubled. The Taliban struck closer to Kabul while US soldiers avoided engaging the enemy because they wouldn’t be given permission to attack unless the Taliban announced themselves openly while avoiding mosques or civilian buildings.

“We will not win simply by killing insurgents,” McChrystal had insisted. “We will help the Afghan people win by securing them, by protecting them from intimidation, violence and abuse.”

But we couldn’t protect the Afghan people without killing the Taliban. Civilian casualties caused by the United States fell 28 percent, but the Taliban more than made up for it by increasing their killing of civilians by 40 percent. Not only did we avoid the trap of a tactical victory, but we also suffered a strategic defeat. American soldiers couldn’t kill insurgents, protect civilians or even protect themselves. We’ve tried the McChrystal way and over 2,000 American soldiers came home in boxes from Afghanistan trying to win the hearts and minds of the Afghans. Many more returned missing arms and legs. The Taliban poll badly among Afghans, but instead of hiring a PR expert to improve their image, a Pentagon report expects them to be encircling key cities by 2017.

Unlike our leaders, the Taliban are not worried about falling into the trap of winning tactical victories. They are big believers in killing their way to popularity. As ISIS and Boko Haram have demonstrated, winning by killing works better than trying to win by wars by winning polls.

Now the same whiz kids that looked for the root cause of the problem in Afghanistan by dumping money everywhere, including into companies linked to Al Qaeda and the Taliban, think that the way to beat ISIS is with unemployment centers and job training. Many of the ISIS Jihadists come from the social welfare paradises of Europe where there are more people employed to find the root causes of terrorism through welfare than there are people working to fight them. So far they haven’t had much luck either.

The Europeans were still searching for the root causes of Muslim terrorism back when Obama was smoking pot on a dirty couch. They’re still searching for them even while newspapers, cafes and synagogues are shot up. Meanwhile unarmed police officers lie on the ground and beg for their lives.

Obama’s real ISIS strategy is even worse than his Afghan strategy. He doesn’t have a plan for beating ISIS. He has a plan for preventing it from expanding while the sociologists try to figure out the root causes for its popularity. American air power isn’t there to crush ISIS. It’s there to stop it from launching any major advances and embarrassing him too much. Meanwhile hearts and minds will be won. At least those minds that haven’t been beheaded and those hearts that haven’t been burned to ash.

We won’t be falling into the trap of winning victories. Instead we’ll be figuring out how to create jobs so that all the ISIS fighters go home to Copenhagen and Paris where they won’t be Obama’s problem.

But while it’s tempting to believe that stupid ideas like these are solely the realm of lefties like Obama, it was Mitt Romney who announced during the final debate that, “We can't kill our way out of this mess.”

“We're going to have to put in place a very comprehensive and robust strategy to help the world of Islam and other parts of the world, reject this radical violent extremism,” he insisted, calling for education and economic development.

“Killing our way out of this mess” has become an orphaned strategy. Neither Democrats nor
Republicans want to take it home with them. But killing our way out of wars used to be a bipartisan strategy.

Truman believed in a plan to “kill as many as possible.” Eisenhower could casually write, “We should have killed more of them.” But why listen to the leaders who oversaw America’s last great war when we can instead listen to the architects of the social strategy that turned our cities into war zones?

What did Eisenhower and Truman know that Obama doesn’t? They knew war.

Truman cheated his way into WW1, despite being an only son and half-blind. He took the initiative and took the war to the enemy. They don’t make Democrats like that anymore. They do make Democrats like Barack Obama, who use Marines as umbrella stands and whose strategy is not to offend the enemy.

In Afghanistan, the top brass considered a medal for “courageous restraint”. If we go on trying to not kill our way out of Iraq, that medal will go well with all the burned bodies and severed heads.


  1. The evil which one suffers patiently as inevitable seems insupportable as soon as example demonstrates the idea of escape from it. --

  2. Anonymous22/2/15

    “Violence, naked force, has settled more issues in history than has any other factor, and the contrary opinion is wishful thinking at its worst. Breeds that forget this basic truth have always paid for it with their lives and their freedoms”
    ― Robert A. Heinlein, Starship Troopers

  3. Fisk Ellington Rutledge III22/2/15

    The problem with our current wars is that, in order to appear as if they are "doing something", our "leaders" are killing people on the other side of the world in order to try and solve the problems of domestic crime and violence; problems that are caused almost entirely by the millions of nonWhite, Third World savages within our borders.

    The real war is here at home. While we waste our time and money killing savages in the Middle East and elsewhere, we are being overrun by Third World savages at home who are expressly invited here by Leftist traitors and cowards; many of whom are Republicans.

    Instead of the pathological impulse to Invade the World and Invite the World, we need to leave the savages entirely alone in their own countries and expel them from ours. Period. Most of these savages don't even need to be sent that far away. Just dump them all on our worst enemy, Mexico.

  4. JK Brown22/2/15

    What jobs could we help the potential ISIS recruits get? Surely not wedding cake baker or wedding photographer? We'd also probably want to avoid, caterer, event planner, event venue manager.

    Well, unless Obama is willing to throw Gays off the building?

  5. We can certainly kill our way to stalemate.

  6. Anonymous22/2/15

    You can make crime a less attractive option in a good economy than a bad economy. You can make countries think twice about risking prosperity by engaging in war (the Saudis have never opted for war just plausible denial terrorism). What you can't do is allow a state of absolute chaos and believe that suddenly the violent and greedy won't take advantage. Once you give up the rule of law for a fuzzy rule of happy shining people you get mob rule.

    I don't really believe the politicians believe this (academics will believe anything as long as they get some kind of imagined applause for it). They are just trying to pocket money and assuring "the folks" as they call 'em that once the budget for traditional governmental responsibilities are slashed to become payoffs it will all be okay.

  7. Dan Patterson22/2/15

    "If you kill enough of them, they stop fighting."
    - General Curtis LeMay

    And damned if he wasn't right. The ineffective nonsense from much of our military spokesmouths about "shock and awe", "remove the enemy's will to fight", and "surgical strikes" seems to stem from some misplaced desire to please an elderly grade-school teacher or appease politcal donors. Battles continue until one side surrenders or withdraws, not when the light of reason dawns on them and they buy one another a Coke and a Smile. An enemy adores it when his opponent buckles and gives ground, and the ground can be geographic or philosophical; either way he wins. Our opponents have won on most every battle ground in the 21st century.

  8. This is not WW2. There is no specific enemy industrial base or capital to destroy of capture. It is asymmetrical warfare, and must be fought with conventional armies and tactics, or we will repeat the same mistakes in Vietnam fighting the bad guys on their terms, chasing charlie in the bush and getting ambushed and booby-trapped, while he disappears like a ghost.

    But if you still seek to fight a war like Patton, then you better be prepared to fight it like WW2, and mobilize a million US soldiers, cause 110,000 that we employed during the so-called "surge" years ago was laughably insufficient to cover the amount of ground to interdict insurgents--Especially when 2/3's of those troops were support troops, not infantry.

    Speaking of infantry, that is what you're going to need a whole lot of to win. Not air power or drones or cruise missiles. Either we take ground, hold it, or don't play at all, because unless you have boots on the ground, you don't deprive the enemy of ground. So demand for a draft, send a million plus grunts at a million a piece over there and expect your taxes to skyrocket to pay for it. That is the only way we can "win"---If we can afford the blood and treasure to maintain it.

  9. Curtis Lemay; "If you kill enough of them, they stop fighting."

  10. The core problem we have in dealing with Islam is our cultural arrogance. Or more properly, the cultural arrogance of our leadership since most of the decisions are from the top down rather than from the bottom up. What we take for granted is that they need fixing, and what we do not take into consideration is that the followers of Islam are no longer interested in the fix. Instead they have jihad, which is their effort to fix us by imposing their cultural norms as expressed by Islam on us.

    That is why all this nation building stuff is a bad idea. We are no longer an imperial power that is so advanced that we can impose our solution, our culture, on local populations at will. That is also why bringing them into our culture is a bad idea. They are not going to be fixed and become more like us because they think we should be more like them.

    Now to be an equal opportunity critic, there is more than enough arrogance on the other side, but we have only a limited ability to change them. And so if we do not like the outcomes of our involvement with Islam, we have to change what we do. That leaves us with two choices: submit to Allah or appreciate that there is going to be mutual antagonism and operate in that framework of expectations.

  11. workingstiff,

    There are industrial bases to destroy. Islamic terrorism is funded by oil money. More nation building and occupations aren't the answer.

    We aren't fighting enemy powers capable of denying us access to their airspace. Not for long at any rate.

    We don't need to take any ground unless we intend more nation building occupations.


    Or we can simply end Muslim immigration.

  12. Earlybird22/2/15

    Thank you Daniel for again saying what needs to be understood. I think it was another of your pieces years back where I read "You cannot win the hearts and minds of the heartless and mindless". That was a great line.

    I believe it was from one of your insightful essays that spoke of diplomats believing that they can buy peace with our enemies with money and favors; that the days of fighting wars for victory were over, and clinking a wine glass to (a false) peace. I'd love to re-read it if I could locate a link.

    And related to the "give them jobs" strategy:
    "Some ideas are so wrong that only a very intelligent person could believe in them." ~ George Orwell (1903-1950)

    Thank you again Daniel.

  13. Anonymous23/2/15

    Ms. Harf is full of crap !

  14. working stiff built the strawman liberals always build: "if you don't agree with me then you will have to full goose bozo to accomplish your objective" .

    Thanks, DG for answering him.

  15. Anonymous23/2/15

    Also, we can't drill our way to more oil...

  16. Fallacies and false philosophies provide fuel to keep the Left's fires burning at night as they dance around counting coup inside their glorious fantasies.

  17. " “We can not win this war by killing them,” Marie Harf said on MSNBC."

    Thank you for the article.

    Until as a nation, and particularly within the American political and military communities, we recognize the following, we will continue to drift from one miserable 'police action' to the next, wasting American lives and American assets as we go.

    You fight wars because you recognize that a country or countries, driven by an evil ideology, represent a mortal threat to your country.

    If you fight a war, you fight all out without regard to anything except unrelentingly slaughtering the enemy to win. Civilian casualties be damned.

    Islam is an evil belief system which demands of its followers that they murder or enslave anyone who disagrees with them. (That some followers of Islam are not actively engaged in rape, murder, child abuse, slavery, all demanded by Islam, means nothing. These passive supporters of Islam are actively supporting those who do.)

    Islam has declared war on the West. (Anyone who doesn't see that clearly is consciously evading the last 50 years or more of world history.)

    It is time for the West to declare war on Islam and eradicate it. If we don't, they will eradicate us.

  18. Anonymous23/2/15

    Marie Harf, and her bosses, are ignoramuses if they truly believe what she said. And we — the country — are the worse off for them believing it.

    Because our enemies have ears and eyes and see reality as it is.

    Fortunately, new examples are now emerging just about daily which show how foolish that belief is and making this fact clear to more and more of the public. At some point, it all tips — and the regime stands naked for the self-deluded idiots they are.

    Richard Fernandez essay is very on-point: http://pjmedia.com/richardfernandez/2015/02/22/a-question-of-personality/

    His message is that Obama's regime is built upon a cult of personality, the like of which this country has never seen. We've had charismatic leaders before, but every one of them had a track record of accomplishment before the presidency. BHO is supported only by his own hot air, and the balloon's leaks are becoming abundantly obvious — to our enemies' delight.

  19. Common 'tater24/2/15

    Thank you for saying this, but not enough people out there have the guts to say this. Not enough people have the guts to say what Rudy Giuliani has regarding BHO.

    Those were interesting quotes from Eisenhower and Truman. But what happened after WW2? The last time we went in to truly win a war or action was in Greece right after WW2. We proved that you can beat guerillas by: closing the borders and removing a sanctuary. Prevent them from getting resupplied and support. Hold territory, show the locals that you can protect them and you do this by killing the bad guys.

    So why did we fold up and change our tune in Korea? It was Truman and Eisenhower that folded. However, the US made its gravest mistake by getting involved in Afghanistan and supporting the anti-Soviet Jihad. Prior to that we folded when Arafat and his crews hijacked airliners. Reagan sent our Marines over to Lebanon and allowed them to be sitting ducks. We have failed to support Israel for decades whenever they wanted to defend themselves. We actually supported the same people in Afghanistan that were behind the terror attacks of the 1970's and 80's. Well, the chickens are now coming home to roost.

    I wonder what there is left to learn that we did not learn from 12/7/41 and 9/11/01? FDR (and I am not one of his admirers) said (paraphrased): "We have been attacked by Japan. We have declared War on Japan. Were you planning on going on vacation? Don't, our boys will need that gas to fight Japan. Were you planning on taking a trip? Don't, our boys will need those tires." George Bush: "Go ahead, go shopping, take that vacation, don't let the terrorists know that they have won."

    Neither Bush nor BHO have been willing to identify and go after the state sponsors of terrorism. For one thing, that would shut off the OPEC money spigot. Neither one of them nor any of their predecessors would close the border. We are open to the terrorists just marching in, any time. Get on a plane, no papers, claim refugee status. The list of both tactical and strategic blunders has been going on for too many decades. This cannot end well. Will there be enough people willing and able to stand and fight if we end up with a street fight here, as it has in so many other parts of the world? Most of Western Europe, je suis Charlie not withstanding, has pretty well capitulated without much of a fight.

    By the way, I beg to differ with you regarding your last post. European colonialism did not modernize Islam. Some Muslims may have become Westernized and modernized, but that is it. Al Sisi, is on the right track, but he will most likely be given the Sadat treatment by some of his fellow believers.

  20. Anonymous24/2/15

    Do not volunteer to die for your country. Volunteer to make the enemy die for his.

  21. I think ISIS members and those progressives who want to create jobs for them should be put in a room, and then see how long it takes for the progressives to began screaming for the military to start killing ISIS members. Simple equation: Idiots + ISIS = someone is gonna die = call the Marines.

  22. LFMayor24/2/15

    Some guy named Josh? Meh, it's just a story in a dusty old book.

  23. More than this, killing is the only answer because killing is the challenge that Islam poses to the World - Join us or we will kill you. The only sustainable, logical, correct and lasting answer to such a threat is to kill muslim, especially their religious and leadership castes, until they theologically innovate themselves into a doctrine of eternal pacifism. Maybe a new sura will be "revealed" .... Killing is the only way to get there and we have never had elites so incapable of understanding and acting on this. For the sake of all that is good and noble in this world, I pray they do so within the next 200 years.

  24. Anonymous24/2/15

    Dan vs Obama - like Jerry Fletcher vs Dr Jonas.

  25. Anonymous25/2/15

    The Left always derided and scoffed at the 'Hearts And Mind' pacification strategy in Vietnam. Now they embrace it when it is spoken by King Barry.

  26. Anonymous25/2/15

    Well we're not going to win any war by expecting them to surrender...


  27. Ciccio3/3/15

    Killing Muslims is not going to do it, at the end of WWII Pkistan had half the population of Germany, between 1980 when it was double and 2010 it added another 60 million, equal to the entire population of Germany. When outbreeding all other faiths is such an integral part of their religion Muslim leaders welcome any attacks on their faithful, it proves to them they are doing their job. If however any Muslim leaders or wannabe leaders declarations of war against the West/Infidels/whatever is promptly answered by a cruise missile in his back yard, or if they are in the West, an unfortunate gas explosion at his mosque or home radical Islam will be ended within the week.

  28. Actually Ciccio, killing muslims works just fine. Kill enough of them, the problem disappears.


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