PLANNED PARENTHOOD AND THE LIBERATION OF A MODERN DACHAU

Godwin’s law states that in an argument, the first party to bring up Nazis as hyperbole loses the debate.  At the risk of losing before starting, I’m willing to go there and let the reader decide if the analogies I draw hold any merit.

Let me begin by stating I am not a social issues conservative.  What I mean by that is that my conservatism has been primarily driven by economic, fiscal, and monetary issues, the desire for a much smaller government, and unwavering support for the protections afforded us in our Constitution and Bill of Rights.

If homosexuals want to get married and be miserable like the rest of us, good on them.  If people want to identify as a different race, or gender, or species, or a stalk of celery, I don’t care, so long as I am not forced to pay anything to validate it nor punished for saying that I think those people are silly.  After all, as Jefferson said, “rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others.”  I have often said that we can bicker about social issues, but if we’re doing it in a bread line because the economy fell apart, it is of little consequence.  Prioritize, I told my socially conservative friends.

Then I watched the planned parenthood videos.  I was immediately reminded of my trip to Germany and the concentration camp at Dachau a few years ago.  As my wife and I explored downtown Munich, I remember spontaneously weeping at the sound of a street musician playing his violin in the Marienplatz, Mozart echoing through the stone archways and porticos.  I was overcome with emotion at the thought that such a culturally and technologically advanced society capable of producing such breathtaking beauty was equally capable of committing such vile acts of human depravity as the Holocaust.

I was then reminded of the HBO miniseries Band of Brothers that told of the liberation of a concentration camp in Bavaria by the 101st Airborne Division.  The Germans in the nearby towns claimed to know nothing of the camp even though the stench of death hung in the air; they weren’t Nazis, they exclaimed.  They had done nothing wrong, merely bystanders, innocent civilians.  It wasn’t until the American troops dragged them by the scruffs of their necks to the camp and forced them to clean up what they claimed they were oblivious to, did they blubberingly acknowledge the abject horror of what they, by their inaction, acquiescence, or complicity, had allowed to happen.  That “out of sight, out of mind” mentality had allowed them to ignore their conscience and separate themselves from their own humanity.

Never again?  The mainstream media has kept virtually silent on the issue or pushed a different narrative in an act of collusion that would make Nazi propagandist Josef Goebbels blush.  The callousness with which these purveyors of “health services” described the procedures by which they were killing unborn babies over wine and cheese was reminiscent of the sterile language used in the medical reports on file at the Holocaust museum.  Planned parenthood hired a PR firm to highlight the “good” they do.  How nice, mammograms and STD tests.  But that argument didn’t absolve Bayer (the German drugs firm) from their use of Jews as slave labor and their connections to the development of the gas used in gas chambers just so we could have faster-acting aspirin.  The ends do not justify the means.

Now we have Democrats in the Senate blocking a bill to defund planned parenthood while admitting that they had not seen the videos and were relying on second-hand (false) claims that the videos were doctored.  Roe v. Wade is the law of land here in America, we’re told.  Well, Nazi Germany had hundreds of laws and regulations on the books at all levels of government persecuting Jews and other “undesirables.”  History screams that just because it’s legal doesn’t make it right.

I shook as I watched the videos and wept just as I did in that square in Munich because I realized I was just as guilty as those townsfolk who denied the reality of what was going on.  Worse yet, I wept because I realized that we as Americans in 2015 have the same capacity for turning a blind eye to the systematic extermination of life…and that we’ve been doing it for much longer.

Perhaps those folks in Congress on record supporting this organization with your tax dollars should be grabbed by the scruff of their necks and forced to watch the video in front of everyone on the floor of the House and Senate, then vote.

That said, I am a realist.  I understand that abortions are going to happen regardless of what laws are on the books.  The difference here is who is complicit in them.  A patient and doctor acting alone must, in the end, answer to their respective gods for their actions.  But tax revenue forcibly taken by the government to pay for this makes unwilling accomplices of us all.  The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing.  The only question now is what will you do?

Eisenhower’s Lament: On the Military-Industrial Complex

A Treatise on How the Military-Industrial Complex is Undercutting It’s Own Future, and How to Save it from Itself

In the waning days of his presidency in 1961, Dwight Eisenhower gave his farewell address to the nation.  In it, he warned of the potential for undue influence by the military-industrial complex, to be read as the “iron triangle” of the armaments industry, government (Congress and the executive bureaucracy), and the various interlocking interests that perpetuate its growth.  Contrary to popular belief, his speech was not meant to be a cudgel with which to browbeat an industry.  He acknowledged the need for a robust defense establishment in light of the threat of communism, stating that “our arms must be mighty and ready for instant action, such that no potential aggressor might be tempted to risk his own destruction.”  However, he did want to ensure that American security policy and strategy were driven by national interest and not by the profit margins of the arms merchants.

His prescience was uncanny, but his warning has gone unheeded.  Since his speech, the defense industry has grown in size, scope, and political clout.  As he noted then, “the solitary inventor, tinkering in his shop, has been overshadowed by task forces of scientists in laboratories and testing fields.”  This is even more true today.  The myriad small and diverse defense companies that in the past had provided everything from microchips to airplane parts to metal links for belt-fed ammunition have increasingly congealed under the umbrella of what is referred to as the “Big 6.”

These firms (Lockheed Martin, Boeing, General Dynamics, Raytheon, Northrop Grumman, BAE) collectively hold about 1/3 of all the defense contracts with the Pentagon.  Further, and rather adroitly, they have created a business model that spreads the work of these multi-billion dollar contracts across America and its many congressional districts to ensure maximum political leverage.

This is the main reason Congress continues to fund programs and platforms that the Pentagon has said it doesn’t want or need; no politician wants to be blamed for job losses in their district lest they lose their own.  As a result, we not only see national security policy subordinated to business interests, but we see the true enemies of free-market capitalism–monopoly and subsidy–take hold.

First, monopoly.  While there is still some competition between firms for contracts, it has been dramatically reduced over the past few decades with the mergers of many smaller firms into these larger companies.  As this trend continues, the bargaining power of the Pentagon diminishes further.  Whether or not the US government could or should consider breaking up these larger firms along the lines of “Ma Bell” to ensure best value for the taxpayer in a strategically important industry is beyond the scope of this post.  However, it should be noted that the Department of Defense (DOD) has objected to further mergers by these large corporations specifically because of the challenges further consolidation would pose.

Second, subsidy.  In the wake of 9/11, Congress has heaped largesse on DOD in an effort to keep America safe, irrespective of cost.  Politically, to question defense spending was to invite accusations of a lack of patriotism, or worse, catcalls of treason.  So the defense budget grew to outlandish proportions, which in turn accounted to a huge, taxpayer-funded subsidy to the military-industrial complex for new weapons, capabilities, and research.  Economics shows that when you subsidize anything, you invariably raise its price because you are lowering the cost to the consumer and thus increasing demand.  In this case, the consumer of the subsidy is the defense industry.  Because they now have an open checkbook from the Pentagon (the source of the increased demand), there is no incentive to keep development costs down.  Any and every idea can now be funded and explored with the cost of doing so foisted back onto the Pentagon, i.e., the American taxpayer.

This has caused a spike in the cost of platforms/services and a lack of budgetary discipline.  Look no further than the F-35 and Littoral Combat Ship.  As a result, we have the development of platforms and capabilities that are so costly that no entity EXCEPT the US government can afford them.  This means that international customers which are eager to purchase US weaponry (and the maintenance, service contracts, and logistics tails that go along with it) are priced out of the market.

A good example is NATO’s Strategic Air Capability.  Ten NATO countries “share” C-17 cargo aircraft because exorbitant costs preclude the countries from purchasing and operating them singularly.  Concurrently, the fact that the US subsidizes the defense of NATO countries through its extensive security umbrella exacerbates the problem by allowing NATO countries to shirk their commitment via NATO’s charter to spend 4% of their GDP on defense; they spend those “savings” on generous welfare and healthcare systems instead.  Whether this policy has created a situation contrary to its intent (a weaker and lazier Europe unable to defend itself against a resurgent Russia) and whether this outcome was by design are points for another debate.  Bottom line with arms sales, as with any other product, the lower the price, the larger your customer base.  Conversely, the higher the price, the smaller the customer base.

To be clear, this is not a treatise against the defense industry, merely a critique of its business model.  It is a large and successful portion of the US economy.  A wise man once said, “no one ever went broke selling arms; and they never will.”  It contributes to tens of thousands of jobs of all kinds, from machinists and welders, logisticians and mathematicians, software developers, engineers, contractors and scientists.  Many technological advancements have come out of this sector and will continue to do so.  The ends to which these advancements are used is a moral question, not an economic one.  To deny the economic reality that this sector is one of great importance to American national power, prestige, and protection going forward would be foolish.

But if it continues to focus its efforts on securing open-ended contracts from the Pentagon for grandiose platforms that will be obsolete by the time they are fielded rather than platforms and capabilities that can fit the budgets of the international market, it will gradually lose market share to competitors such as China, Russia, France, Britain, and Israel until the only customer it has will be the US government.  This begs the question, what then?  The military-industrial complex will be forced to dig its claws even deeper into the Pentagon to secure contracts and maintain profits because the international market will have dried up.  This will require even more money for the Pentagon resulting in more expensive gear and more debt in a self-perpetuating cycle of military Keynesianism.

What of its effects on US policy?  Industry currently benefits from the era of prolonged conflicts so it stands to reason it would do what it could to help government “go abroad in search of monsters to destroy.”  But what if public opinion were to suddenly shift against US adventurism?  It seems an unlikely event in the near term given the traditional anti-war party (Democrats) have one of their own in the White House prosecuting these wars.  But if Pentagon budgets were to dry up, we would see military aid budgets grow to help other nations prosecute their fights with the caveat that they spend the aid on gear from US defense contractors.  While this would involve other nations solving their own regional problems rather than the US policing the world, this is still US taxpayer money and we would invariably be subsidizing the national defense of other nations.  To quote James Madison, “I cannot undertake to lay my finger on that article of the Constitution which granted a right to Congress of expending, on objects of benevolence, the money of their constituents.”

Perhaps it is best summarized by Eisenhower’s own words:

“In holding scientific research and discovery in respect, as we should, we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become captive of a scientific-technological elite.  It is the task of statesmanship to mold, to balance, and to integrate these and other forces, new and old, within the principles of our democratic system–ever aiming toward the supreme goals of our free society.”

Awareness of the issue and the fortitude to tackle it are the best remedy to ensure that the animal spirits of the market do not co-opt and subsume one of the few legitimate writs of our federal government; that of national defense.

Liberty Xmas 2.0

How the Left Stole Freedom (adaptation of How the Grinch Stole Xmas by Dr. Seuss)

Most folks down in ‘Murica liked freedom a lot…
But the Left, who lived amongst them, for some reason, did not!
The Left hated freedom, no one really knows why.
Could be that collectivists don’t like the word “I.”

It could be their heads weren’t screwed on just right.
It could be, perhaps, that their shoes were too tight.
But I think that the most likely reason of all,
May have been that their brains were two sizes too small.

Whatever the reason, this much was true,
The Left schemed and plotted to take freedom from you.
Staring down from their towers of ivory elite,
They conjured up ways to keep you under their feet.

“Look at them down there, with their guns and their speech,
It makes us so mad that control’s out of reach.”
“We’ve got a plan,” the Left said with a sneer,
“We MUST find some way to stop freedom this year!”

They dispatched their minions, in the Senate and House,
An Army of Lawyers who would endlessly grouse.
“Guns are unsafe! Speech codes in our schools!
You can’t self-govern, you know-nothing fools!”

The Muricans listened to this hullabaloo
And began to believe that this nonsense was true.
“Perhaps we should listen to our friends on the Left,
After all, they speak with such intellectual heft.”

More degrees than thermometers, letters after their names
The Left seemed to have a leg up on the game.
“We’re the experts,” said the Left, “please do as we say.”
And slowly but surely, Muricans’ freedom decayed.

“Aha!” said the Left. “Our vile plan is working!
We’ll regulate everything, from Bitcoin to twerking!”
“We know what is best, so obey your minders.
Liberty is outdated. Here, put on these blinders.”

So Muricans, young and old, would sit down to a feast.
But the Left had ensured oversight had increased.
Normally, they’d eat pudding and the rarest roast beast.
Which was something the Left couldn’t stand in the least!

So along came the Left and nanny state crew,
To take away sodium and sugar from food.
And worst of the lot was the one called Michelle
That turned the school lunchtime into a terrible hell.

Then the Left began to complain about wages
“How can the poor get through life’s early stages?”
Tugging at heartstrings, who needs the facts?
Question the motives? Invite the attacks.

Around all of Murica, the Left pulled the strings
Bringing order to chaos is how they saw things.
But soon came a backlash, this much was clear.
In November the Left caught a big foot in the rear.

“The Muricans should thank us, we’re helping them out.
Isn’t that what being Murican is all about?”
“Only if by choice,” said a voice from the hall.
The Left was caught stunned by the words of Rand Paul.

“The problem, you see, with your plotting and scheming,
Is that Liberty and Freedom have lost all their meaning.
The freedom to choose is our greatest achievement,
We won’t give it up for some minor appeasement.”

“But we’re keeping you safe!” said the Left with frustration.
“Surely we must manage and control this great nation.”
“You’ve got it all wrong,” said Rand with a smile.
“The answer has been there in your face all the while.”

“Leave people alone, let markets solve problems.
Too many rules on their backs will just hobble them.
There will always be troubles, this much is true,
But look at the stats; they’re made worse by you.”

And what happened then? Well, in Murica they say,
The Left’s small brains grew three sizes that day!!
They scaled back their helping, went back to their roots.
Devolving their power, they put away their jack boots.

“Hoozah and hooray!” the Muricans cheered,
Freedom was back, it had not disappeared!
The Left joined the rest for the holiday feast,
And Rand Paul himself went and served the roast beast!

Force Of Law

In the early 1960s, there was an interesting experiment on obedience to authority that measured the willingness of participants to obey an authority figure who instructed them to perform acts conflicting with their personal conscience.  It was known as the Milgram experiment, and was conducted in concert with the trial of Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann to determine whether his defense, and that of many of his German compatriots, could be considered legitimate; that they were all just following orders.

In the experiment, participants were asked to administer progressively stronger electric shocks to a “learner” in a separate room at the behest of an authority figure when the learner answered questions incorrectly.  Even after the learner was screaming in pain, complaining of a heart condition, and begging for the experiment to stop, participants were urged to complete the experiment by the authority figure.  The learner was an actor and there were no real electric shocks, but the participant was unaware of this.

The conclusions of the experiment were astounding.  Milgram wrote, ” The extreme willingness of adults to go to almost any lengths on the command of an authority constitutes the chief finding of the study.  Stark authority was pitted against the participants’ strongest moral imperatives against hurting others, and, with the participants’ ears ringing with the screams of the victims, authority won more often than not.  Ordinary people, simply doing their jobs without any particular hostility on their part, can become agents in a terrible destructive process.  Moreover, even when the destructive effects of their work become patently clear, and they are asked to carry out actions incompatible with fundamental standards of morality, relatively few people have the resources needed to resist authority.”

Fast forward to today.  A seemingly ordinary man wakes in the morning, puts on a badge, and arms himself as if headed for war.  He then forcibly enters another man’s home, shoots the family dog, destroys property, injures or kills the inhabitants, traumatizes children, and then goes home to his own family for a hot supper and a good night’s sleep.

Or how about the government bureaucrat who threatens to take away a man’s livelihood and his ability to provide for his family because that person did not fill out some binder full of useless paperwork, obtain the proper license, or pay the proper fees.  Perhaps he compels a business owner to provide a service to another citizen that is contrary to that business owner’s religious beliefs.

What of the tax man who exacts his pound of flesh every year and reserves the right to hang you upside-down and shake the change from your pockets if he does not believe you have paid your “fair share?” Worse yet, what if he does it depending on your political persuasion?

How are these seemingly normal people able to compel fellow citizens to act contrary to their religious beliefs, commit acts of aggravated assault, destroy private property, and extort money from their fellow Americans and not feel the slightest remorse for their actions?  Force of law.

Why do these laws, these simple words on paper, hold such sway?  By putting on that badge or donning that halo of misbegotten righteousness, an ordinary person is transformed from fellow citizen into an overseer with a false sense of superiority.  After all, they represent “government” and are acting on behalf of it.  And since government is the “will of the people,” that person believes they have the authority to do whatever they just did, no matter how heinous, in its name.  They also have the ability to absolve themselves of any personal responsibility for the negative ramifications thereof.

And there’s the rub.  Authority of government stems from legislation and that legislation itself allows for this exemption from morality.  It essentially institutionalizes the steamrolling of the individual by the collective.  The law becomes a validation of force, providing the enforcer with the veneer of legitimacy to do any and all manner of violence and coercion in its name; in essence, to do bad things that good people wouldn’t normally do.  And it matters not what the law is, only that it is the law.  After all, they are just doing their jobs; they are just following orders.

So what does it mean?  What lesson should we glean from these insights?  First off, the law should be a shield, not a sword.  Our Founders designed a Constitution (the shortest in use today) that’s elegant simplicity was the root of its genius.  The rules therein are few and basic and set the conditions for a government that can protect its citizens from force and fraud and to enforce contracts—and that’s pretty much it.  The Founders understood the nature of man (that he lusts for power and will blindly pledge fealty to authority to get a bit for himself) and they also understood the nature of power (that it corrupts absolutely).  Additionally, history has shown that combining these two natural phenomena had led to more bloodshed than any other cause and would continue to do so if left unchecked.

Is it becoming clear now why the Constitution was designed to make it very difficult to enshrine things into law?  President Calvin Coolidge said it was better to kill bad bills than to pass good ones, and the above is exactly why.  Because the more laws, the less justice.

Unfortunately, our Constitution has gradually been lost to the people, and as legal scholar Michael Stokes Paulsen states, “rendered unintelligible by the high priests (to be read as lawyers and judges) using language that corrupts the plain-spoken words of a document intended to be accessible to all, and to belong to all, by adding a veneer of pseudo-sophisticated legalese.  This serves to distance the people from their Constitution by rendering it inaccessible to common understanding.  Thus corrupted, the words of the Constitution, our fundamental charter of rights and of government, have become the exclusive province of an elite cabal of high priests.”

Most laws today criminalize many actions that don’t involve any harm to other people or property, but rather are offenses against “the state.”  As the statutes pile up, it becomes harder to keep track of what exactly is illegal and to ensure those enforcing this byzantine legal code are doing it properly.  This leads to arbitrary enforcement, abuse of power, alienation of the governed, contempt for, and finally, violence toward, the state.

Laws should be few and well thought out, and our system is designed for just that purpose.  This means we should be wary of those politicians clamoring to “get something done.”  Greet with skepticism Congressmen who insist they must hurry up and pass a bill so they can know what’s in it.  Push back against Senators who change the rules because Republicans are being obstructionist and standing in the way of progress.  And certainly, call out a President that states that if Congress won’t act, he will.  Because what begins as government doing things FOR you becomes government doing things TO you.

A Policy Prescription For Dealing With The Islamic State

In a recent article in Foreign Policy magazine, Harvard Professor Stephen Walt outlines a somewhat controversial policy of strategic disengagement from the Middle East, arguing that every time we meddle in the region, we tend to make it worse.  For the most part, I happen to agree.  I’ve often summed up our predicament there and potential course of action as “damned if we do, damned if we don’t, so we might as well not, because that costs America the least.”  This also seemed like a good time to follow up on my June piece on the situation in “Syraq” in light of developments over the past couple of months.

As the President works on his golf game, the permanent speculation machine here in Washington has been in overdrive, with flapping heads of all flavors outlining how awful ISIS is and just how many bombs we should be dropping.  Should we use airstrikes on IS targets encroaching into Kurdish territory or just airstrikes to prevent genocide?  Are airstrikes in Syria ok now because there’s really no border with Iraq anymore?  Do the hundreds of Americans sent back to Iraq in recent weeks really count against our “no boots on the ground” policy and are we at risk of mission creep?

On top of this, the White House has labeled the murder of reporter James Foley “terrorism,” which I’m worried sets a dangerous precedent.  If every heinous act on Earth has the potential to be codified as such, that wide berth allows the US to justify military intervention pretty much anywhere.  How can his brutal murder be quickly and definitively classified as terrorism, but the murder of an American ambassador and assault on the consulate in Benghazi Libya remain ambiguous for so long?  We’ve heard this song before and it’s time to shoot these trial balloons down once and for all.

A recent statement by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (CJCS) Dempsey made mention that he believed it was possible to contain ISIS, although not in perpetuity.  I believe a strategy of containment may be the answer.  I can hear the neo-conservatives howling now, claiming such a policy is foolhardy, naive, unworkable, cowardly, etc.  But mostly they won’t like it because it will result in fewer of those neat black and white videos of trucks getting hit by missiles that we like to watch so much.

I reread George Kennan’s famous “Long Telegram” which outlined the strategy of containment of communism that was USG policy for over 40 years until the collapse of the Soviet Union, and noticed some parallels to the waging of jihad and the formation of this Islamic State.  Kennan states:

“As long as remnants of capitalism were officially recognized as existing in Russia, it was possible to place on them, as an internal element, part of the blame for the maintenance of a dictatorial form of society. But as these remnants were liquidated, little by little, this justification fell away, and when it was indicated officially that they had been finally destroyed, it disappeared altogether. And this fact created one of the most basic of the compulsions which came to act upon the Soviet regime: since capitalism no longer existed in Russia and since it could not be admitted that there could be serious or widespread opposition to the Kremlin springing spontaneously from the liberated masses under its authority (or be an effective scapegoat for the failures of communism), it became necessary to justify the retention of the dictatorship by stressing the menace of capitalism abroad.”

In short, the reasoning the communist leaders used to explain why communism wasn’t working was because there were still internal pockets of capitalism preventing the communist utopia from emerging.  Once those internal pockets were gone, capitalism abroad became the bogeyman on which to blame the failures of collectivist policies.  Kennan states further that Russia was “an impotent nation capable of exporting its enthusiasms and of radiating the strange charm of its primitive political vitality, but unable to back up those articles of export by the real evidences of material power and prosperity.”

Bottom line, Kennan (along with Soviet leaders) realized that the theory of communism was more attractive than the practice, so in order to survive, communism had to continuously expand.  By hindering that expansion through containment, the Soviets were forced to implement the policies they espoused, the result proved unworkable, and the USSR ultimately collapsed.  Kennan noted that “Soviet power bears within it the seeds of its own decay, and that the sprouting of these seeds is well advanced.”

I would posit that the same applies to this purported caliphate and the Islamic utopia it promises.  The idea of revolutionary jihad is appealing to young angst-riddled men with no prospects and no future in either their traditional Muslim homelands or as transplants in the Western world.  Islam was born out the miserable existence that most people in 7th century Arabia had to endure and its message was a welcome respite from the cruelty and injustice that was rampant during that time.

But much like communism, an Islamic state is wholly unworkable in practice mainly because no agreement exists on which form of Islam is the “right” one.  To use a Western aphorism, campaigning (as in waging a military campaign) is very different from governing.  The idea of expanding this caliphate through the glory of jihad is much more appealing to a young militant than say, the proper administration of services under a functioning civil society.  I doubt many of the militants that have traveled to Syria or Iraq have any idea how to ensure drinking water stays clean and flowing or how to make sure garbage doesn’t pile up on the streets.  In fact, we know conclusively that they would fail terribly at these basic tasks.

Look no further than the Anbar Awakening in 2006-7 when the Sunni population rose up against Al-Qaeda in Iraq in response to increasingly brutal tactics by the extremists.  General Petraeus’ surge, while helpful in the stabilization effort, was not nearly as important as the Sunni tribes coming together to reclaim their own future.  More recently, observe the cornucopia of incompetence that was the hallmark of the Muslim Brotherhood’s short reign in Egypt.  It seems the best argument against governance by militant Islamists is letting them try it for a while to show their prospective constituency (and the rest of the world) just how inept they are at it.

We’ve already seen signs of these militants alienating the local population, declaring cigarettes “haram,” or forbidden, and burning them all in the town square.  Anyone who’s been to the region immediately recognizes the prevalence of smoking and it’s place in the daily life of many Arabs.  Granted, this is one anecdote, but a telling one that suggests giving ISIS enough rope to hang themselves with may just be the best option in this scenario.  The solution to this mess ultimately lies with the Syrians and the Iraqis and the rest of the Arabs, not us.  To quote Lawrence of Arabia, “Better to let them do it imperfectly than do it perfectly yourself, for it is their country, their war, and your time is short.”

BOXING THEM IN

From a geostrategic perspective, the West could declare that if ISIS wants its own state or caliphate, it’s territorial limitations are these.  First, have Turkey (a NATO member) reinforce the Kurdistan Regional Government and secure its traditional borders with the rest of Iraq.  Erdogan has plenty of political capital after his recent election to the presidency, he could use this opportunity to address the Kurdish question once and for all.  This would obviously be the first step in getting to an independent Kurdistan, which current USG policy does not support.

Second, delist the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) as a terrorist organization.  Its enmity with Turkey that got it on that list in the first place has subsided greatly.  Delisting them would allow the West to have fighters it could support in place to hold the line against any IS encroachments after Turkey withdraws.  The alternative to this approach is unfolding now, with US forces again doing all the heavy lifting and drawing the ire of the radical Islamists.  Should attacks by IS forces occur on the Turks while they are supporting the Kurds, Turkey could invoke article 5 of the NATO charter stating that an attack on one is an attack on all.

To the southwest, do not encroach on Jordan.  Jordan has a peace treaty with Israel, is designated a Major Non-Nato Ally, and has provided invaluable support to the US and her interests for many years now.  While far from perfect, the Hashemite Kingdom has met its numerous regional challenges with grit and determination and truly values its burgeoning relationship with the West.  If US interests are threatened there, it will respond to defend them.

As for Saudi Arabia to the south, they have the capability to defend themselves and now is their chance to practice.  The Kingdom, by virtue of government policy and/or turning a blind eye to the actions of its citizens, has had a hand in funding the teaching of fundamentalist Wahhabism and supporting these jihadists in Syria, so it seems only fair that it deals with the consequences of those actions now that they have come to their doorstep.

That leaves all of Syria and Iraq minus Kurdistan as a potential Islamic State.  By allowing that pot to keep simmering, Assad (and by virtue of association, Iran and Russia) must continue to bleed resources.  If they have to spend their blood and treasure to assist him in maintaining power in Syria, it is an outcome that few US strategists will lament.  In Iraq, as the Sunni horde marches on the Shi’a south, Iran will have to intervene (it already has advisors in Baghdad) to prevent annihilation of their coreligionists on its western flank, another resource drain they can ill afford.  Additionally, if the government in Baghdad can’t control the territory of Iraq, one must wonder why they are in charge in the first place.

It is also convenient to have all these jihadists pouring into one location.  America is proficient at state-on-state warfare, where as counterinsurgency is not her strong suit.  In Afghanistan, it took 3 weeks to oust the Taliban decisively and convincingly, but the Afghans were flummoxed as to why we were still mired down after a decade.  The answer is because when we fight our way, concentrated force on concentrated force, we win.  When we face an insurgency, our tools are no longer as useful.

It might be to our military and strategic benefit to have these jihadists congeal into a state, complete with logistics chains, training centers, command posts, communications nodes, distribution centers, administrative hubs, and other conveniently concentrated military targets to make it easier (not to mention more cost effective) to stomp them into oblivion should they pose a real and serious threat to the US homeland.

Perhaps America need not be the tip of the spear this go around.  Perhaps we approach this as the conductor of an orchestra—directing the music, but not stepping into the pit with the band.  At the end of the day, you can’t defeat an ideology with a bomb, you have to defeat it by either pointing out the fallibility of that ideology and/or offering a better alternative.