San Bernardino and Paris Shootings the Latest Proof: Conventional War Does Nothing to Deter Terrorism

12/07/2015 04:31 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2016

Marcio Rubio is running a television commercial in which he says, "What happened in Paris could happen here." He seemed prescient in retrospect following the tragedy in San Bernardino last week.

Whether radical Islamists want to kill us "because we let women drive," as Rubio contends, or because of decades of nonstop political and military intervention in their countries is another story. Ultimately, one cannot solve this problem unless one understands what has caused it.

For the past fifteen years, the Unites States has tried to solve it with conventional warfare. It is accepted without question that, whatever else the intelligence community or other security apparatus are doing, waging conventional war on Al Qaeda, ISIS, the Taliban or other Islamic paramilitary groups in the region is a necessary and effective way of deterring Islamic terrorism in the United States.

After fifteen years, it's time to question that dubious assumption.

The answer has always been intuitive to me and I doubt I'm alone. Sending 140,000 soldiers to fight a conventional war in the Middle East does absolutely nothing to make it harder for two guys in Boston to bomb a foot race or a guy and his wife to shoot up a government building. How could it?

The rationale for invading Afghanistan in the first place was based on a theory that has never been seriously questioned by mainstream media: Al Qaeda was able to pull off 9/11 because Afghanistan was a "safe haven" for radical Islamists. Supposedly, the existence of paramilitary camps provided an environment where terrorists not only obtained military training, but became "radicalized," as if one had to go spend time in one of these camps to become sufficiently hateful of Western Civilization.

It was a convenient story for war hawks, but it's never jibed with reality. The Tsarnaev brothers didn't need to go to a camp to become "radicalized." Neither did Nidal Hasan, Neither did the Paris shooters or the Curtis Culwell Center shooters.

While some terrorists have traveled to the Middle East and spent time in paramilitary camps, common logic should tell you the hawks have the cause/effect relationship backwards. One does not leave the relative comfort of civilian life for the hardship of life in a guerilla camp to become radicalized. One does so because one has already become radicalized and seeks to act upon it.

But despite inescapable logic and all evidence to the contrary, politicians and the media continue to talk about the need for more conventional military intervention, whether ground troops, bombing runs or provision of arms to dubious "moderate" Islamists, as a way to fight terrorism. As long as the American public mindlessly nods its head and refuses to call them on it, they will continue. It's good for all sorts of connected interests who make a lot of money on war.

So, what should the United States government do about ISIS? Nothing. The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria poses absolutely no threat to the United States whatsoever, regardless of how many lone wolves they claim credit for after the fact.

If the United States were to really withdraw from the region - no ground troops, no air strikes, no arms sales, no covert ops - the Middle East would solve itself. Right now, regional powers like Turkey have no incentive to do anything about ISIS. They share ISIS's theocratic worldview and Western nations are providing enough containment to make ISIS tolerable.

Let's see how Turkey and Saudi Arabia like ISIS with no stop loss called the United States making sure things don't get too out of hand.

The hawks will say this risks "destabilization" of the region. After the lucid get off the floor and stop laughing, they will point out the obvious: intervention has made the Middle East the most politically unstable region in world history. It can't get any worse.

Even the oil angle is anachronistic. The "control the oil" motive was always based on faulty logic, but even if it weren't, Americans have no interests at stake there anymore. The U.S. is going to be exporting oil in 2016.

Leave the Middle East to the Middle Easterners. Turkey, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Iran are more than capable of crushing ISIS the minute they realize they're on their own. It may just serve as a lesson to them about how dangerous a truly Islamic state can be.

Most importantly, it would eliminate their opportunity to scapegoat America and the West for the inherent problems in their own socialist theocracies. Instead of Americans, Middle Easterners just might just start hating the right people.

If there is any legitimate concern about the safety of Israel, the president has the constitutional power to sign a mutual defense treaty and submit it to the Senate for ratification. It will never need to be invoked, or at least only once. That would cost a lot less than what we're doing now.

None of this happens without intense public pressure. As long as hawks like Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz and Hillary Clinton continue to be rewarded politically for continuing the wars, they will. It's time for the adults to enter the room.