Americans revile war, but we also have a history of refusing to hide from reality. It is clear that U.S. airstrikes will never defeat the IS monster created by our Iraq withdrawal.
'Victory in the Cold War has been accompanied by congenital ambivalence," observes Henry Kissinger in his new book, "World Power." "Either American objectives had been unfulfillable" since then, "or America did not pursue a strategy compatible with reaching these objectives."
According to the former secretary of state, "Critics will ascribe these setbacks to the deficiencies, moral and intellectual, of America's leaders. Historians will probably conclude that they derived from the inability to resolve an ambivalence about force and diplomacy, realism and idealism, power and legitimacy, cutting across the entire society."
The most obvious moral and intellectual deficiency in American leadership today is President Obama's politicized adherence to refusing to place U.S. boots on the ground in any real way in Iraq in the face of the Islamic State threat.
But the ambivalence that Kissinger alludes to regarding U.S. power and realism is a phenomenon for which 21st century U.S. society cannot evade blame.
Mistakes were undeniably made after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in strategizing and conducting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan — as they were decades earlier in Vietnam. But just as our failures in Vietnam were no rationale to pretend there wasn't a Cold War to be won, the flaws of the Iraqi and Afghan campaigns are no excuse to pretend IS is not the threat that it is.
Yet according to the latest IBD/TIPP poll, some 52% of the public opposes sending in U.S. ground troops. Meanwhile only 36% are confident that our Arab allies can effectively fight IS without U.S. ground troops; 62% are not confident.
All the same, 81% approve of the current airstrikes in Iraq and Syria by the U.S. and its allies against IS.
Those airstrikes, however, will not defeat IS.
The Wall Street Journal reported Sunday that the "Islamic State appears to have largely withstood the airstrikes so far and with scant pressure on the ground in Iraq and Syria, the militants have given up little of the territory they captured before the campaign began."
Anti-Assad Syrian activist Mohammad Hassan said, "Most of the training camps and the bases were empty when the coalition hit them."
What's more, IS forces have relocated weapons and hostages while maintaining "much of their financing and recruiting capability, and continued to crack down on local populations, anti-regime activists and rebels in Syria said."
IS also successfully held territory and "pressed on with an ambitious offensive on the Syrian city of Ayn al-Arab" near the Turkish border, the Journal reported. The IS has shifted its tactics, "operating in smaller groups than before the strikes began."
The introduction by the U.S. of helicopters on Sunday can be seen only as an admission of the deterioration of the situation, as IS forces made gains on the Western outskirts of Baghdad.
And on top of all this, the U.S. has been failing to obtain actionable intelligence on where to bomb, which has meant less bombing.
Training Iraqis and Syrians to fight a proxy war instead of using our own far superior forces "in some ways, is more daunting than what the U.S. faced previously in Iraq or in Afghanistan," the paper's correspondents wrote.
Americans should start listening to the voices of realism, like that of ex-Obama Defense Secretary and CIA Director Leon Panetta, who in a USA Today interview warns, "I think we're looking at kind of a 30-year war" that could extend beyond IS to addressing Islamist threats in numerous African countries as well.
War is always thrust upon America. But wishful thinking doesn't make peace; it leads to defeat. In this case at the hands of fanatical, beheading savages.