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Hugh Hewitt Book Club

The War, The Defense Budget, and The Approaching Munich Moment

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First, my Monday Washington Examiner column concerns this week’s crucial votes on the 2016 Defense budget.

My pal Kurt Schlichter is also writing about the DoD today at, but –and I hesitate to say this– he is wrong.  I don’t think we have the time to postpone defense spending even if it will be handled by Obama-era appointees (though new Defense Secretary Ash Carter appears a whole lot more Harold Brown-like than he does Chuck Hagel 2.0).

Three books have arrived on ISIS in the past week, and I have thus far read 1.125 of them.

Inside ISIS: The Brutal Rise of a Terrorist Army is a front-line account of Benjamin Hall’s back-and-forths across the Turkey-Syria border in recent years, interspersed with accounts of the rise of the Islamic State after the withdrawal of the United States from the region in 2011.  As Hall makes clear, the Islamic State has its origins in al Qaeda but has clearly evolved into a much deadlier, more brutal variant of even that deadly, brutal terrorist organization. I hope to have Hall on the program today from his London base.

ISIS: The State of Terror by Jessica Stern and J.M. Berger is both more comprehensive than Hall’s account and considerably more ideological, and at least in the early going seems determined to assign ISIS to George W. Bush’s watch even as the narrative’s integrity is driving the reader to the same conclusion –the tragedy was America’s withdrawal from the region– and I am not yet to the book’s prescriptive phase.

ISIS Exposed by Eric Stakelbeck is the most recent to arrive and will be read in turn –when the enemy is new and largely unknown, it seems common sense to read everything for the facts and truths common to all of them and tuck those away as the most reliable information on which to develop opinions– but I expect more of the same as I have garnered from the first one-and-a-quarter books: The Islamic State is rich, growing fast, likely to over-match all but the Iranian Guard led Shia militia’s, and the remains of Assad’s Army plus Hezbollah and, crucially, metastasizing rapidly to places like Libya, Tunisia and Algeria though perhaps only in words to Nigeria and elsewhere though as the reading makes clear, the words are very important.

Ass to this mix the thrusting ambitions of Tehran in Damascus, Baghdad, and Sana and Putin’s thrusts in Ukraine and expected grabs elsewhere and the PRC’s continued expansion of its blue-water navy and its aggressive construction of artificial islands and new ports and the picture you get is one that will not allow us to wait for the turning out of the ideological blinkered, wildly incompetent “strategists” of the Obama era.  We have to spend now, hope that the pros inside the Pentagon do their best to get the money where it is needed most.  It is a sort of mid-’30s strategy pursued by Churchill and his allies against the conservative ostriches on the front bench then.  I’ll try and get Schlichter as well as the ISIS experts on the show this week and suspect they will come around, especially as the president and his team of geniuses play another few losing rounds in Switzerland with the mullahs.  If and when our Munich moment arrives –and pray there is a point where Kerry realizes he risks the remains of his tattered reputation and the election of Hillary by a craven collapse before Khamenei– we will need Congress to react not just with renewed and tougher sanctions but with the sort of DoD appropriations the wasting of which will not be possible and the necessity of which is already obvious.



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