Instead of criticizing President Barack Obama's lack of an effective national security policy as the terrorist threat of ISIS grows in Syria and Iraq, it might be helpful to imagine the speech President Ronald Reagan would have given in response to the videotaped beheading of James Foley.
There are many things a great power can do if it has leadership.
This fictional speech is an effort to describe a Reagan-like grand strategy, clarity of moral purpose and emphasis on effective actions. This is not a speech President Reagan could have delivered in the 1980s.
We set his speech at Naval Air Station Point Mugu, near the Reagan Ranch where he would be vacationing. This was also the site of his address to the nation after the Soviet Union shot down Korean Air Lines Flight 007 in 1983 with a U.S. congressman aboard.
President Reagan entered office when the Soviet Union was the great threat. He saw Moscow as the center of evil in the world. He was determined to defeat and not merely contain the Soviet Union.
Through moral persuasion, a powerful military buildup, a grand anti-communist coalition, and an intense focus on a series of economic, diplomatic and psychological strategies, Reagan defeated the Soviet empire and it disappeared.
This was one of the most extraordinary grand strategic achievements in history. It took enormous discipline and focus.
In that era, terrorism was always a secondary or even tertiary issue. President Reagan sought to contain and minimize terrorism with minimum diversion of attention, energy and resources from the great campaign to defeat the Soviet empire.
So, this speech is designed to illustrate an alternate U.S. approach and strategy toward this threat if Reagan were president in today's very different world.
Text of Reagan address
My fellow Americans:
We have all been saddened and outraged by the vicious videotape of ISIS terrorists beheading an American journalist. Our hearts go out to James Foley's family.
However, anger and sympathy are not solutions.
We, the American people, must come together in a righteous determination to defend freedom and civilization from barbarism, savagery and terrorism.
We must calmly, methodically and with the same grim determination we brought to winning World War II, implement strategies that eliminate the growing worldwide threat of radical Islamists prepared to kill us as individuals and our values as a civilization.
Some will suggest this exaggerates the threat from the Islamic State.
Let me remind them of some hard facts.
There are now an estimated 12,000 terrorists from over 50 countries in the ISIS-controlled parts of Iraq and Syria. Great Britain estimates more than 500 British citizens have joined ISIS. Our government estimates roughly 100 Americans are now engaged in enemy activities.
When we remember the death and destruction 19 terrorists achieved on 9/11, we have to take very seriously the threat from more than 12,000 terrorists.
The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey, has warned that ISIS "has an apocalyptic end of days strategic vision that will eventually have to be defeated."
He has expanded on the danger, saying their vision of a fundamentalist caliphate could "fundamentally alter the face of the Middle East and create a security environment that would certainly threaten us in many ways."
Furthermore, Gen. Dempsey has warned that ISIS cannot be defeated only in Iraq. He asserted, "Can they be defeated without addressing that part of the organization that resides in Syria? The answer is no."
In fact the very existence of terrorists from over 50 countries means that we must be thinking in terms of a global campaign to eradicate the virus of Islamic Extremism and the spirit of terrorism and barbarism that it is fostering. This is fully as grave a threat to our survival as was Nazism or communism. With appropriate strategies and consistent policies executed energetically we can defeat and eliminate the Islamic State and its various allied factions.
ISIS and its worldwide terrorist allies have become the focus of evil in the modern world.