The many soldiers, police and public servants of America’s national security community risk their lives, fully aware that their greatest victories are kept secret and out of public view. This includes battles won, territories conquered, and great advances in industry and technology. Yet it also includes the dreary work that creates day-after-day stability and safety for all Americans and our allies. There is nothing more boring, but also rewarding, than finding that the status quo of security endures, that America’s enemies are quiet, and that the threat is asleep — if only temporarily.
While the recent gains against the Islamic State have been released to the public and shown to be a triumph, those accolades are shared not only among those in the secret communities and military circles but deservedly too by the leadership in Washington, specifically those in the White House. The shrinking map of territory held by the Islamic State and ISIS allies across the globe demonstrates our mutual successes in tangible terms, even if curiously the media would rather pick apart an isolated incident in Yemen, then another in Niger, as if these matters were more important the big picture. We should mourn the losses together, but also recognize and celebrate the victories attained side-by-side.
Most Americans can only imagine how strange the news seems to those who work in the intelligence community. The reality we know from our access to the raw intelligence data differs widely from the vision of the world propagated by CNN and MSNBC. How strange too it must seem to our men and women in uniform and to their families who hear first hand the stories from a dozen nations in conflict in phone calls home and then to turn on CNN and find not a single report. How strange it is to those working in the White House who most clearly recognize the media’s bizarre disconnect from reality.
It is as if the only battles reported involving our troops are when we suffer losses, or have killed civilians by accident, or made some other major misstep. The media would have us believe that every conflict is unwinnable, but they are all too willing to breathlessly report each “mess” as they pursue what they hope will be a Pulitzer Prize for their work. Against all logic and common sense, they report as if they know about everywhere our troops see combat. Armchair experts drone endlessly about our military’s incompetence, how we are over-extended, misguided, and poorly lead. The worst criticism is leveled at the White House, of course, and at our President. The implication is that we are waging a multi-front war that we cannot win. The media asks how it is possible that recently TWICE these misadventures have produced casualties — and for what?
It is a mess, the media nods. Yes, a debacle. Heads should roll.
However, the real picture of America’s engagements overseas is kept hidden. The successes — and there are many — are rarely reported. Some are not reported by choice. Others are reported but de-emphasized. Most reporting is only when something goes either very publicly right or terribly wrong.
The war we are fighting is one in the shadows. Our enemies fight us in the shadows too, secretly planning with terrorist cells, hidden training camps, covert financing, and illegal weaponry. These terrorists come in a dozen guises, but it’s all the same war — and it isn’t just about the Islamic State.
This war is about the world gradually sliding from an era of American global dominance — the uni-polar world that followed the fall of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War — into a multi-polar “world order” that brings uncertainties and new challenges. Maybe the term “world disorder” would be more accurate. In the last two decades, America has scaled back its involvement in the world. We hope to find a balance, a manageable level at which we can work with our allies — and even our rivals — to create a soft landing in this time of transition. We try to focus on what matters, putting America first, but we must bear in mind also that we remain the world’s preeminent superpower and that we have other commitments too, and these too are in our benefit.
Many Americans have worked tirelessly for years helping to build and maintain an integrated global political and economic system that allows Americans to prosper at home and be safe abroad. The world has benefited greatly from this era of American dominance. We hope that the vast successes of this era will continue into the next era as other great powers arise — China, above all. Yet in some ways, now we see a world turning against us, or at least away from us.
China is on the rise. Russia is resurgent not as a partner, but as a rival. It should be no wonder that we choose to refocus our energies on the home front — and, due to our quiet and often victorious engagements in many parts of the world, we can afford to do so.
This latest victory in Raqqa versus ISIS delivers on the promises of the Trump White House. This victory is in line with the wishes of the American people too — no matter which side of the aisle you may stand on. I know of no Democrats who bemoan the losses suffered by ISIS. This war is not partisan, it is American — and it is global. Yet we must continue our shift to a new foreign policy that minimizes losses, even as we continue our winning streak.
Despite the successes we have seen, we inherited a world on fire from the Obama Administration. As we refocus on the home front, we hope to build an America that is safer and more prosperous for all our citizens. We can be greater and better off than ever before.
Declaring victory is not the final goal. Rather, we should declare today that the successes so far have opened the door to a new and brighter future. There is a light at the end of the tunnel after all. It is lit by the dream of a better tomorrow for America and its allies.