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Barbarians at the Gate

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

I would not watch the video of Jordanian pilot Mouath al-Kasaesbeh being consumed by fire, because to do so was exactly what the Islamist barbarians who produced it wanted. They wanted not only to kill their captive in the most horrific way imaginable, but also to burn the images of his immolation into the minds of those who oppose them. Terror is their most effective weapon. The only way they can achieve victory is by frightening people into submission. Scare off those who would join an alliance to fight the Islamic State, and ISIS wins.


But barbarity also has a way of inspiring courage. King Abdullah II of Jordan, no stranger to combat as a former attack helicopter pilot and commander of Jordan's special forces, has vowed a "relentless" fight against ISIS. If the terrorists thought they would make fellow Arabs retreat, they may be in for a rude awakening.

Jordan responded to the murder by flying more sorties over ISIS-held territory in Syria. Other Arab leaders have responded, as well -- though more rhetorically than tactically. But defeating ISIS from the air is unlikely. And here, all civilized nations should be concerned.

Has any war ever been won from 20,000 feet -- short of dropping a nuclear bomb? And even the U.S. victory in the Pacific in World War II with the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki came only after nearly four years of relentless battles on land and sea and in the air.

Yet President Obama has said again and again that he will not put boots on the ground to fight ISIS. Indeed, the president authorized sending more U.S. soldiers to West Africa to fight Ebola last year than he was willing to commit in even an advisory capacity to fight ISIS in Iraq. In September, The Washington Post reported up to 4,000 U.S. military personnel were being sent to Africa to help fight the deadly disease, while the paper reported this week that only about 2,700 U.S. military advisers have been deployed to Iraq to provide security and support to Iraqi troops.


ISIS will not be stopped until nations commit to fight them with all their resources. The Arab world should step up to the plate -- but they won't as long as the U.S. holds back.

As Sen. John McCain said two weeks ago on CBS's Face the Nation, "We need more boots on the ground. I know that is a tough thing to say and a tough thing for Americans to swallow, but it doesn't mean the 82nd Airborne. It means forward air controllers. It means special forces. It means intelligence, and it means other capabilities."

If the horrific video teaches us anything, it is that the barbarians are at the gate. Either we fight them with all the means we have at our disposal, or we will see more of their torture and killing. We already have witnessed crucifixions, children buried alive, women raped and stoned to death, countless beheadings and now a prisoner burned in a cage.

The Islamists are on the march in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia. They have attacked us in New York, Washington, Paris, Madrid, London, Mumbai and Nairobi. They have threatened to wipe Israel off the face of the Earth and kill all Jews. They force schoolgirls to be sex slaves and kill little boys in their classrooms. How much more will it take until we say "no more"?

If fighting this evil is not worth sacrifice, nothing is. Obama can say, as he did in response to the killing of the Jordanian pilot, that "we'll redouble the vigilance and determination on the part of our global coalition to make sure (ISIS is) degraded and ultimately defeated." But unless he commits to lead the fight, the video of First Lt. al-Kasaesbeh will not be the last grisly death we're asked to witness. We choose courage or submission. There is no middle ground.


Linda Chavez is the author of "An Unlikely Conservative: The Transformation of an Ex-Liberal." To find out more about Linda Chavez, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at


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