This Is War

In 2012, Dr. Lamont Colucci was approached by U.S. News and World Report to write a weekly column on foreign policy and national security. This is under the aegis of World Report – Insights, perspectives, and commentary on foreign affairs. View the article on

Historians may judge that January 10, 2015, was when western Europeans became serious about the war the West is in. It has also exposed the doublespeak from the Obama administration, which, out of fear, avoids using the proper language to describe the war we are in and propagates a dangerous myth about the cause of terrorism.

On Saturday, in the wake of the Paris attacks, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said that his country was engaged in “a war against terrorism, against jihadism, against radical Islam, against everything that is aimed at breaking fraternity, freedom, solidarity.” Valls had stated what many in the United States government, and some in Congress refuse to acknowledge. This is not a war against terrorists; terrorism is a tactic to achieve a political end, not an end in itself. This is a war against Islamic extremism, representing a fundamentalist, large minority of Muslims worldwide.

The rise of the Islamic State group proves that Islamic extremists were following their stated goal: They knew that a campaign of terror to achieve conquest would never work. Ultimately they required territory through old-fashioned invasion. This is what the Taliban achieved in Afghanistan prior to their ouster by the United States, and this is what the Islamic State group is attempting in Iraq and Syria. The West is not engaged in counterterrorism in this part of the world, but rather counter invasion. Ultimately the West will be required to use ground troops to remove them, a cost we would not have had to incur had the proper actions, that were advised, taken place in 2013.

The first fallacy of the Obama administration is to continue to foster the fantasy that the prime strategy for the U.S. is counterterrorism operations, and therefore avoid any declaration of war against the world of Islamic extremism. This is why the administration is so heavily focused on special operations and drone strikes. This is also why there was – and is – the massive drawdown in Iraq and Afghanistan. The administration has used every term other than stating that the war is against Islamic extremism – from the first presidential term’s use of “overseas contingency operations” and “man-caused disasters” to the White House’s upcoming “Summit on Countering Violent Extremism.”

In the end, this is an act of avoidance that does nothing to advance the Western agenda or mollify its enemies. This leads to the second fallacy that Valls inadvertently exposed. The Obama team has adopted a view propagated by former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and President Bill Clinton, which argues that American foreign policy actions cause terrorism. The latest push is over the prison at Guantanamo Bay. The case being made to reduce America as a target is that high-level detainees need to be released, even if it is recognized that a good percentage will not only return to assist in extremism, but also return to actual combat against the United States. What is almost laughable is that so many attacks against U.S. forces, personnel, diplomats and people occurred prior to the existence of the Guantanamo prison – for instance, the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia, the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania and the 2000 suicide attack on the USS Cole, not to mention the 9/11 attacks themselves. Does anyone seriously believe that if we closed Guantanamo and even left the Middle East, that the Islamic extremists’ movement would be satisfied? What possible reading of anything that the extremists have written or stated would lead any literate person to believe this? It is so fantastical that it reduces truth to an inconvenient fact.

There is no evidence that indicates that engaging in the mental gymnastics of avoiding the term “Islam” when discussing terrorism or extremism, or that closing the prison at Guantanamo, would reduce the hatred of the Islamic extremist movement for the American people and the U.S. government by one millimeter. It was an equal fantasy to believe that by killing Osama bin Laden you could end the war forever. The Bush administration made the same case against Islamic extremists as the Reagan administration had made about communism: Until you view this as a long war that is as much about ideology as it is about bullets and bombs, there will be no victory. Islamic extremism is the enemy of the United States and the West. The extremists will not cease until they are victorious. There can be no concessions; there is no ability to make peace with them. The Islamic extremists’ political goal to seize territory and governments must be thwarted, reversed and decimated. The inability or unwillingness of leaders to recognize this has cost us and the world thousands of lives and untold misery. Stopping the Islamic extremists is the real cause of human rights, but it is one that actually has a price.