Military analyst Jack Jacobs takes a gloomy view of U.S. strategy in the war on terror, saying there is no clear-cut approach to stopping ISIS.
“We’ve used military issues and power to no particularly good result over the last 12 or 13 years,” the retired U.S. Army colonel said in a phone interview with NJJN. “We rely on military power because we’re not particularly good at the other stuff. We need it to be integrated with other instruments of power: economic instruments, diplomatic instruments. We use the military as a default issue.”
Jacobs will describe options, military and otherwise, on Feb. 12 during and after Shabbat services at Neve Shalom in Metuchen. An analyst for NBC/MSNBC and CNN, he has served as a professor of political science at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, and the National Defense University in Washington, DC. He co-authored with David Fisher the 2012 book, Basic: Surviving Boot Camp and Basic Training, a history.
Jacobs grew up in Woodbridge and is a graduate of Woodbridge High School and Rutgers University. His family belonged to Congregation Adath Israel of Woodbridge, which merged with Neve Shalom about 10 years ago.
Jacobs said European and Asian allies need to be kept economically stable even as concrete policies on fighting terrorism, achieving stability in Africa, and fending off cyber-attacks remain elusive.
“We rely very heavily on special forces largely because we don’t have the capital will to send conventional forces to seize and hold terrain, and by themselves special forces are not enough to get the job done,” said Jacobs, noting that a full operation would involve large numbers of troops and a long-term commitment.
Moreover, the American public thinks of these places as far away and doesn’t have “a very good feel” for how events in the Middle East and elsewhere affect their everyday lives.
“Successive administrations have not done a very good job of selling [the need for military intervention] to the American people, and they’ve not done a good job because they don’t understand it themselves,” said Jacobs. “We haven’t thought very clearly about what our objectives are, so here we are with tactics but no strategy. Without a strategy you are going to fail.”
He said a top priority should be elevating people capable of formulating such a strategy to a command level position. Any politician, Republican or Democrat, who claims to have a strategy is “either lying or stupid,” he said.
“None of the [presidential] candidates, nor this administration or the previous administration since 9/11, has done anything that isn’t a reflexive tactic, and it’s insufficient to solve our national security problem,” said Jacobs.
The challenges include cybersecurity, with nations like China and Iran hacking into American intelligence and business interests.
“It doesn’t make any sense to allocate resources to something when you don’t know what you’re trying to accomplish,” said Jacobs. “One of our objectives is to stop the spread of terrorism. I don’t know whether that means the Middle East, at home, or somewhere else. No one at any level of government knows.”
Jacobs received the Congressional Medal of Honor for action in Vietnam, as well as two Purple Hearts, three Bronze Stars, and two Silver Stars. His actions in Kien Phong Province on March 9, 1968, were credited with saving the lives of one American adviser and 13 Allied soldiers and restoring the company to an effective fighting unit.
Jacobs said he hoped the coming election would produce “somebody with some sense in the White House,” but pointed out the electorate should also not ignore congressional races.
“We’re all paying attention to the [presidential] candidates because it’s entertaining,” said Jacobs. “But people need to pay attention to Congress because that’s where all enumerated power is, not with the president. Paying attention to what goes on on Capitol Hill is far more important to the security of the nation than paying attention to the presidential election.”