YES, IT CAN BE DONE: Killing Our Way to Victory Against Islamist Terrorists

Written by Paul Hair on March 8, 2015

I was still in the Army Reserve in 2011 when I wrote a column assessing that we could kill our way to victory against Islamic terrorists, and while many national leaders rejected such an idea as ridiculous at that time, an increasing amount of people are beginning to realize this is the only way to win in war.

I wrote, “Afghanistan: Yes, We Can Kill Our Way to Victory,” in 2011 for Andrew Breitbart’s Big Peace website. The assessment was tailored to Afghanistan but it could apply to any fight against Islamic terrorism—or warfare in general. I’d alter some things about it today but the overall argument stands.

Suggesting the U.S. could win by killing its enemies was not a popular assessment in 2011, and it was risky for me to make it since I was part of the Army Reserve and thus much less free to speak honestly than I can today. Like today, civilian and military leaders viewed the idea of killing enemies until they surrendered as a crude and outdated notion; one that failed to recognize the so-called nuances of modern warfare. They recognized that killing was part of the fight but the emphasis was on winning hearts and minds. Few military and intelligence veterans dared challenge them on this.

Today, our civilian and military leaders have become even more fanatical with insisting the U.S. cannot kill its way to victory over Islamic terrorism. But opposition to them from security professionals seems to be increasing.

The Hill published, “There is a military solution for everything,” in September 2014, and the Daily Caller published “The Fundamental Rules Of Engagement Vs. How We Fight Now” and “Countering Violent Extremism Really Does Involve Killing Terrorists” in October 2014 and March 2015 respectively. A military or national security veteran wrote each of these pieces.

But perhaps the most interesting challenge to the official notion that we cannot kill our way to victory came from former Defense Intelligence Agency director Michael Flynn in February 2015. The Daily Beast recorded Flynn ripping the current strategy for dealing with Islamic terrorism. “‘We must engage the violent Islamists wherever they are, drive them from their safe havens and kill them,’ he said. ‘There can be no quarter and no accommodation.’”

The reason this is so notable is that Flynn sounded much different in 2010 when he wrote, “Fixing Intel,” which the Center for a New American Security published. He hasn’t necessarily renounced anything he wrote in 2010 but Flynn definitely emphasizes killing enemies much more in the Daily Beast article than he did in “Fixing Intel” where he wrote things such as, “The second inescapable truth asserts that merely killing insurgents usually serves to multiply enemies rather than subtract them.”

I’m not the only person who realized long ago that killing our way to victory is the only successful strategy to use in warfare. In fact, some of those I’ve cited above may have advocated for killing our way to victory for a long time as well. Regardless, it’s good to see an increasing amount of people willing to express this truth publicly. It’s good the assessment I made in 2011 no longer seems ridiculous to an increasing amount of military and intelligence veterans.

Still, even as more people realize that killing our way to victory is the correct strategy to use against the Islamic War on the West, it will be difficult to get our military and civilian leadership to implement it. The Obama administration certainly isn’t going to bring about this change and there is no guarantee the next presidential administration will either.

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Paul Hair
Paul Hair is an author and national security/intelligence expert. He writes fiction and nonfiction under his own name and as a ghostwriter. He provides his national security and intelligence insight as a freelance consultant. Connect with him at Contact him at if you are interested in his professional services.