Excerpt from Chapter 1 of Scott Mann’s #1 Amazon International Best Seller “Game Changers”
“Who cares about Afghanistan?! Those people have been killing each other for hundreds of years. We need to just bring our people home and forget about that place.” This comment came from a fellow traveler who was watching the same airport broadcast as me when President Obama announced he was keeping the U.S. troop strength at its present level in Afghanistan.
Despite, this somber reminder that the fight against Islamist violent extremists in that tattered land is far from over, there seems to be a growing disinterest across America in confronting the threat of Islamist…at least for now.
But what if a catastrophic attack happens again in America? The threat grows every day. In fact, FBI Director Comey admitted not long ago that he is concerned about his agency’s ability to hold these extremists off much longer. This reality, coupled with the unbending determination of Islamist extremist groups like ISIS, make an attack on the U.S. a matter of “when,” not “if.”
I am actually more concerned about how we’ll respond to the attack as I am about the attack itself. Based on all the uninformed rhetoric from U.S. politicians on both sides of the aisle, our national response will put us on an even more dangerous course than we’re already on.
The attack will come to America. Will it be an elementary school? Shopping Mall? Water supply?
When it comes, there will be collective disbelief across the nation. We will shake our heads and ask, “How could this happen?” Others will scream amidst the chaos, “We must do something!” As a way of “doing something,” hundreds of thousands of American flags will go out on balconies, porches, and stoops. We will come together, briefly.
Then, dismay will give way to anger.
This anger will rise slowly. And then, almost on cue, the long formations of young military heroes will reappear. Tens of thousands of warriors with short cropped hair and determined faces will board aircraft to make the long flight across the ocean.
These images will stir our national soul and our lust for vengeance to its core.
Our enemy will feel all the military might the U.S. can bring to bear. Some will never know we are coming. Most will cower in fear. But a few extremists will smile.
They will wait anxiously like a child about to open their long-awaited birthday present. After all, they are the ones who wanted us there in the first place.
This isn’t theory. Osama bin Laden was counting on a massive U.S. response after 9-11-2001 in order to mobilize his religious base for global jihad. In a video released by bin Laden in 2004, he bragged about “bleeding America to the point of bankruptcy.” He went on about how easy it was to “provoke and bait this administration.”
ISIS is making similar warnings today about destroying America’s financial system.
Just as Osama Bin Laden was thinking three or four steps ahead of us before the first box-cutter blade came out of its sheath on that clear September day, so too will this next generation of ISIS violent extremists eagerly wait for our response. For with our arrival will come our lust for vengeance, which ensures we forget everything we learned from the first decade of war.
Our response will be epic. We’ll lose hundreds. We’ll kill tens of thousands. By all accounts, it will be a clear victory for the far superior American military. But, violent extremists will be the real victors, as we once more walk right into the extremist narrative trap that was set for us: Islam is under attack by the West.
Time will march on, slowly, as we wonder why the foreign central government we’re throwing billions of dollars at can’t extend influence or power beyond the capitol. The war will drag on like a slow funeral march. One by one, the American flags will come off the porches as the once clear U.S. combat mission, built around retribution, will start to blur. Political ineptitude manifested in policy constraints will creep into tactical missions.
Soon, our celebrated liberation will become an unwelcome occupation.
It doesn’t have to be this way. Military action against Islamist violent extremists in Afghanistan and other rough places is a necessity. But, this time around, let’s do it on our terms and in a way that plays to our narrative, not one that feeds the global recruiting narrative of our enemy.
This strategy isn’t necessarily intuitive. It’s imperative that we examine realities of these rough places where our enemy operates and prepare our national response before the attack. Otherwise, our reactionary desperation to “do something” in the face of an audacious attack will leave us one step closer to fiscal insolvency, and much weaker on the world stage.
Scott Mann is a retired Green Beret and CEO/Founder of the Stability Institute. His best-selling book Game Changers, examines new ways to defeat violent extremists where they live and work, with less U.S. blood and treasure, with a call to all citizens to demand policy and strategy change toward winning this war.