What To Do and To Don’t in Response to the Paris Attacks

By Frederick W. Kagan and Kimberly Kagan

American Enterprise Institute

November 15, 2015

The ISIS attacks in Paris mark a step-change in the threat that group poses to the West.  The tactics employed came straight from the battlefields of the Middle East into the heart of Europe.  The group hit multiple targets simultaneously without detection by French security services, which are among the best in the world, despite a series of arrests aimed at disrupting this operation.  That capability demonstrates superior planning ability, resilience, and operational security.  The successful use of multiple suicide vests shows that ISIS was able either to smuggle them all the way to Paris or, more worrisome, build them from materials available in Europe without detection.

Europe’s proximity to the Middle East and relatively open borders make it much more vulnerable to this sort of attack, but Americans should be very concerned that a group with these capabilities could also penetrate our homeland.  We must draw the right conclusions from this incident in the context of regional and world crises if we are to maintain our security in the months and years to come.  The following things to do and things not to do are the correct next steps for ensuring our security.

DO take the gloves off against ISIS in Iraq and Syria.  Adjust the rules of engagement to accept the risk of collateral damage (civilian casualties), hit every ISIS target on our lists, and do as much damage as possible from the air quickly.  This should be our immediate response.

DO put the necessary U.S. forces on the ground in Iraq to help the Iraqis retake Ramadi and Fallujah rapidly and prepare them to retake Mosul within six months.

DON’T over-rely on Kurdish forces for rapid, decisive operations beyond Kurdish ethnic boundaries.

DON’T drop into a defensive crouch

DON’T line up with the Russians, Iranians, and Assad against the Sunni Arabs

DO take action to drive the Assad regime—not just Assad—from power

DO get the Russians out of Syria

DON’T imagine that they couldn’t do that in the U.S.