A retired U.S. Army special operations officer says the key to eradicating ISIS is a combination of common sense, killing political correctness and beating the terrorists at their own propaganda game.
Retired U.S. Army Lt. Col. Scott Mann served 23 years in uniform, 18 of them in Army special operations. Fifteen of those years were spent with the elite Green Berets. Mann is also author of “Game Changers: Going Local to Defeat Violent Extremists.”
He says a multi-layered approach needs to be undertaken immediately on multiple fronts, starting with clamping down on who we allow in the U.S.
“They’ve made it clear they’re here and they’re coming and they’re going to keep escalating violence. We’ve got to consider that when we look at our immigration policies. For starters, how about securing the southern border. For starters, how about just an honest look at our immigration and our visa policy as it currently stands in relation to what terrorists are exploiting now,” said Mann.
While Mann believes the Donald Trump proposal of placing a temporary ban on Muslim immigration is unenforceable and would feed into the ISIS narrative, he does think we need to be more stingy when it comes to immigrants from certain areas.
“I think we may have to get a little bit draconian on some of the point of origin countries like North Africa and Syria and Pakistan until we sort this out,” said Mann.
While this is just one part of his approach, Mann says it should be a no-brainer and the politics involved in blocking such remedies is maddening.
“There’s a lot we can do on the front end with relation to immigration with just common sense. Get rid of this political correctness because the threat is here and it’s growing,” said Mann.
Another major component of defeating ISIS, according to Mann, is confronting them in cyberspace, where the group’s propaganda and recruitment have proved very successful.
“One, hold a mirror up to ISIS like Frank Capra did with the Nazis in World War II . Show what they really do. I haven’t seen us do that yet. Number two, what is our narrative? What do we stand for here in America. How are we working with the majority of Muslims around the world to help them protect their religion that frankly being hijacked by Tolkien’s version of modern-day Orcs,” said Mann.
When it comes to defeating ISIS militarily, Mann says we need first to understand how ISIS and other radical Muslim groups gain power and territory.
“They go into areas that are beyond the reach of a fragile government and co-opt and manipulate tribes and clans at a community level. That’s how they set up their shop,” said Mann.
He says that’s also the key to crushing ISIS.
“That’s where they’re most vulnerable. The only thing I have seen work in the almost 15 years of this war is when we do something very similar, where we come up in a bottom-up kind of way at a community level and we empower resilient leaders to push back from the inside out and push those guys out,” said Mann.
Mann’s strategy also involves local Sunni tribes leading the military effort. Efforts to train rebels have proven elusive, with a major U.S. program spending many millions of dollars and producing only a handful of fighters. Mann says that doesn’t mean it can’t be done but it needs to be done in a much smarter way than recruiting and training locals in a sanitized, unrealistic way.
“If you’re not willing to work in these dark and tough areas where ISIS and Al Qaeda set up shop then you shouldn’t even do this kind of program. That’s exactly what we did in Syria. We basically brought in and recruited marginally vetted groups. We trained them behind the fortification of where our troops were. Then we basically launched them out and said, ‘Have a nice time storming the castle,'” said Mann.
Before that can happen, Mann says the Obama administration needs to stop trying to deal with ISIS and the Assad regime in Syria at the same time. He says the threat comparison isn’t even close.
“I do think ISIS is the greater threat. I don’t think the Obama administration has done a good job of laying out the threat and prioritizing how we should come at this. As a result of that, this thing has morphed and evolved in a million different angles and it’s really confusing,” said Mann.
“I think if you just step back from it and look at what poses the greatest threat to the United States and its interests both in terms of will and capacity, I think it’s unequivocally ISIS,” said Mann.