One of the more under-reported stores of late 2017 is how ISIS, once the terror of the Middle East, is rapidly collapsing. The New York Times is reporting how #Islamic State fighters, who once pledged to fight to the death, are now surrendering en masse, pathetic, broken men who have soiled their clothes and wanted nothing more than an end to the war. The vaunted caliphate is folding up like the proverbial cheap suit. How was it that a problem that seemed to be intractable during the Obama years ceased to exist not quite a year into the Trump presidency?

‘Degrade and destroy’ vs. ‘annihilation’

President Obama used to dismiss ISIS as the “JV team,” a turn of phrase that would come back to haunt him.

Advertisements
Advertisements

As the terrorist army took over large swaths of Syria and Iraq and especially started to launch terrorist attacks in Europe and the United States, the then president pledged to “degrade and destroy” ISIS. The idea was that a slow war of attrition with minimal effort would, in the #Fullness Of Time, end the Islamic State. The practical result was that while the spread of the Islamic State had been halted due to the efforts of local forces such as the Kurdish fighters, no progress had been made in the “destroy” part of the strategy.

In the fullness of time, the Obama administration ended and was replaced by a president that was serious about winning wars. Secretary of Defense James Mattis described the new strategy as one of “annihilation.” Weapons began to flow in more significant numbers and lethality to the American backed forces fighting ISIS.

Advertisements

Special operators arrived in the region to provide training and support. The tempo of the bombing of Islamic State targets escalated. As a result, the anti-ISIS coalition is taking territory in a campaign of hard fighting. The will of the Islamic State fighters to fight has all but collapsed.

What happens next?

One of the often-repeated catch phrases of Napoleon was, “If you start to take Vienna, take Vienna.” Napoleon meant that a great captain always followed through on his strategy and did not dilly dally executing it. Obama had never understood that maxim. Mad Dog Mattis and Trump did. The Islamic State will in short order be on the ash heap of history as a result.

To be sure, ISIS is likely to change from a quasi-country with territory to defend to a stateless terrorist group with the capability to commit death and mayhem. And the end of the Islamic State is creating a vacuum into which various players in the region are trying to shape a new reality. The Kurds, for example, would like their own country, much to the ire of most of the countries in the region. However, the Trump administration has won a significant victory, demonstrating what American power can do when it is married to the will to win. #President Trump