By Brent Budowsky - 08/20/14 05:30 PM EDT
After the latest grotesque atrocity by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the beheading of an American journalist, American and European policymakers must clearly understand the near certainty that unless it is defeated and destroyed, ISIS will launch a major terror attack on American or European soil.
Analysts estimate that ISIS has amassed a cash hoard of between $400 million and $2 billion. It is highly probable that ISIS will attempt to use some of this money to obtain nuclear, chemical, biological or other weapons of mass death on the international black market or from corrupt officials in nations such as Russia, China, Pakistan or North Korea to use in attacks against New York, Washington, London, Paris, Berlin, Rome, Brussels or other nations it considers infidel enemies.
This danger is magnified by the fact that ISIS has recruited nationals of the United States and Europe, who possess American and European passports and are physically indistinguishable from local populations in America and Europe.
It is alarming that the CIA, which launched intelligence operations even against the United States Senate, and the NSA, which launched massive and unprecedented eavesdropping operations, and intelligence services of leading European nations were blind to the magnitude of the ISIS threat until the most barbaric terrorists in modern history had taken over almost a third of Iraq and are on the brink of creating a terrorist super-state that dwarfs al Qaeda’s efforts prior to 9/11.
I vehemently opposed the misguided Iraq War from the moment it was proposed by former President George W. Bush and have never been a neoconservative, warmonger or super-hawk. But aggressive action against ISIS is urgently needed.
ISIS has stated its intention to attack the United States and Europe to advance its evil, messianic and genocidal ideology and ambitions. ISIS has the money to purchase the most deadly weapons in the world, and has recruited American and European traitors with above-average capability to execute an attack.
The odds that ISIS can obtain nuclear, chemical, biological or other forms of mass destruction weapons are impossible to ascertain but in a world of vast illegal arms trafficking, with so many corrupt officials in nations possessing arsenals of destruction, the danger is real.
The fact that WMD scares prior to the Iraq War ranged from mistaken to deceitful does not mean that the WMD danger does not exist today. It does.
I applaud the recent actions taken by President Obama. Obama’s airstrikes saved tens of thousands of Yazidis from genocide, took back the Mosul Dam from ISIS and saved countless Iraqis, Kurds and Syrians from slaughter. The airstrikes inflicted material damage to ISIS.
The diplomacy of Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry contributed mightily to the replacement of a disastrous Iraqi government by a government can unite Iraqi Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds. The Obama-Kerry initiatives will lead to the creation of a stable Afghan government and avoid the collapse that was possible after the recent controversial Afghan elections.
These are real successes. In the current political climate, Obama seems to get credit for nothing, but he deserves great credit for some important successes in recent weeks.
And yet the danger of ISIS pulling off a nuclear, chemical, biological or other mass death 9/11-style attack in a major American or European city is real. Even with dirty or primitive WMD weapons, the casualty totals could be catastrophic.
ISIS must be defeated and destroyed. This will not be achieved with “boots on the ground” proxies from Iraqi or Kurd forces alone, though Kurdish forces should immediately receive strong military assistance.
America should not initiate another massive Iraq ground war. What is needed is a multinational special ops strike force made up of 10,000 troops from NATO nations and possibly Arab League nations.
If I am wrong about this danger, America and Europe will be overprotected. If I am right, and we do not act, many Americans or Europeans will be dead.
A tired world must act aggressively and now or the legacy of Western leaders — from all political parties in all Western nations — may not be the past wars they fought or ended but the next 9/11 they failed to prevent.
Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen and Bill Alexander, then chief deputy majority whip of the House. He holds an LL.M. degree in international financial law from the London School of Economics. He can be read on The Hill’s Pundits Blog and reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.