Thursday, September 04, 2014

Calling Jimmy Doolittle

On 21 December, 1941 - two weeks after the attacks on Pearl Harbor - President Franklin D. Roosevelt directed the Chiefs of Staff of the US military to conduct a bombing attack on the Japanese homeland as soon as possible.

It was understood that the military accomplishments of such an attack would most likely be negligible, and that the risks would certainly be high. Nevertheless, the president understood that the moral effect of the attack overshadowed those drawbacks. It was necessary for the American people to see themselves as rising to the enemy that had attacked them, just as it was necessary for that enemy to consider the consequences that would result from its actions. That attack, led by Lt Col James (Jimmy) Doolittle, would become known as the Doolittle Raid, and would set the tone for American defiance in the face of a determined enemy.

At the same time, and for a considerable period afterward, the President, Prime Minister Churchill, and Joseph Stalin were debating the way in which the United States would finally, fully enter the war. Some lobbied for an attack in Europe that would immediately draw German divisions away from Stalin's beleaguered forces, while others counseled an attack at a point where American troops might face a slightly more gradual learning curve. Thus was conceived America's unlikely mode of entry into World War Two - an invasion of North Africa to attack Germany in response to Japan's attack on Hawaii.

It is worth noting that during this period of intense debate, the leaders did not refer to not having a strategy. That is most likely as it should be.

It is also worth noting that even before a comprehensive strategy was devised, the planning for an attack had been ordered, an attack that may not have been militarily decisive, but that went more to the heart of the enemy than has any of the 100 or so airstrikes launched recently against ISIS targets in Iraq. Such an attack is in order today, just as it was 72 years ago. (The raid was actually flown in April, 1942.)

In having declared itself the Islamic State, ISIS has made our job easier. With a state against which we can focus our efforts, we can dispense with the ridiculous concept of a "war on terror." The President can ask Congress to declare war on the newly-formed state, and we can get about the business of destroying it.

All we need is a modern-day Jimmy Doolittle, and the kind of men who will set him in motion.

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