“If you want something done right, do it yourself.”

This is a principle the Daesh (“IS,” “ISIS,” &c) understand, but we in the West have forgotten. Now, I should think there is a dispute between us on what “doing right” might consist of. Eliminating all the Christians, Yazidis, Shia and other non-Sunni Muslims in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Libya, and elsewhere, is not on our agenda; but it is on theirs. Our interest is restricted to eliminating the Daesh, with the complicating factor that we must also contain the Ayatollahs of Iran (ideally by removing them), and eliminating their proxies: Hezbollah, and for realpolitikal purposes, Hamas.

This is pure speculation on my part, but it seems that international, fanatic Sunni Islam is consolidating under the leadership of the Daesh on one side; and that international, fanatic Shia Islam has already consolidated under the patronage of Iran’s ayatollahs. One’s first instinct is let the two at each other, on the analogy of Hitler and Stalin. That this leaves too many million defenceless hostages to fate, may perhaps be seen. Beyond this, we soon discover that we have become hostages to fate ourselves, as our own enemies link (Russia and China come into this eventually), and the world descends into unimaginably destructive war.

It is useless to complain that the black-flag hordes who took Ramadi, while “Western-trained” Iraqi troops ran away (leaving yet another fortune in U.S.-supplied weapons) — are barbaric savages. It has been said before, and a time comes when something must be done about them. Bombing, it should be evident by now, cannot be the full answer. Nor does it make much sense, as in Yemen, to wink as the Saudi air force goes to work, with its comparative indifference to what we sometimes call “collateral damage.”

Note that, in the case of Iraq generally, and Ramadi as of this morning, the “proxy” on whom we depend is now our even-worse enemy, Iran.

Removing bad guys is a task that requires a variety of co-ordinated military methods. This naturally includes feet on the ground — the more against a millipedal opponent. To restrict efforts to the aerial (plus the occasional high-profile commando hit-job) is fey. To announce in advance that one’s efforts will be thus restricted is to intend failure.

Some years ago, as hack newspaper pundit, I supported allied intervention in Afghanistan, then Iraq. I would have supported it in Iran, too, had the offer been on the table. I’ve confessed before my regret that I did not spell my position out more candidly: in particular, my opposition to almost everything that came after the initial, rather impressive, invasions — except insofar as the plans involved keeping an allied military presence in theatre (a few discreet action-ready bases here and there). I was appalled by the ridiculous and profligate “nation-building” exercises under President Bush, and more by the “cut and run” that followed under Obama. All we needed were governments unambiguously on our side, and the means to sustain them.

My preference for Western intervention stands. For in the world as it actually works (apart from “theory”), peace requires order. There was, to my mind, a “sweet point,” soon after the American-led conquest of Iraq, when this object had been obtained. It had only to be maintained, thereafter. That is to say, not only had the Taliban been neutralized in Afghanistan, and Saddam’s Ba’ath in Iraq, but every other government in the region, including Iran’s and Gaddafi’s Libya, had become suddenly quite respectful of, and co-operative with, the United States of America.

Bush Dubya had, I think to start with, the right idea. One says, “If you do this, we will do that.” And then, if one is not obeyed, one does that, unfailingly. (Obama’s threats are pointless, because no one believes them.) This was easier when we had at least de facto governments in all capitals except Mogadishu. The instruction was: that they would suppress their terrorists, and conduct a government responsive to occasional Western requests. Or, we would do it for them. In superpowering terms, this was a modest instruction.

That it nevertheless smells of old-fashioned Imperialism, I allow. But gentle reader knows that I am old-fashioned. (You may call me a “neocon,” too; I have a thick skin.) Through the history of the world, civilized cultures have had to deal with uncivilized outliers at their frontiers, and it is best done quietly and ruthlessly. This is because every alternative is worse.

Publicity is not required. Indeed, it should be avoided, as much as possible. For people who live in bourgeois safety, far from the realities of conflict at those frontiers, have not the stomach for what is necessary. I don’t think most people could bear to watch open-heart surgery, either. Vietnam was lost, thanks to publicity, and ditto Afghanistan and Iraq. Even under the rah-rah conditions of press cheerleading through the World Wars, the problem of “too much information” frequently presented itself.

Let the histories be written, as accurately as possible, and with full access to the official records — after, and not during, the events. (That was the British way, and it worked.)

I had a little conversation once with the late admired American jurisprude, Robert Bork, just as the Bush administration was setting up logistically to “do Iraq.” He had been reading the New York Times, and was deeply pessimistic. He had no doubt that the U.S. military could perform its task, but could also see that the U.S. media were setting up, to “do another Vietnam.” He feared Bush did not realize how brief would be the American popular commitment to any foreign war; that, “He’d better get it over quickly.”

So let me blame Bush, for having made the presidency of Obama possible. We are in a position now where we have no stomach for the fight, nor any reasonable way to avoid it. We are not dealing with people we can negotiate with. Moreover, given our retreat, and the nature of the enemy since emerging, not even plausible threats will work. We will need once again Western leaders who — like Bush and Blair — make their threats stick.

All this must be admitted, too, as we look again at a regional situation that seriously threatens the peace of the whole world, in coming at least mentally to terms with it. For the stability we briefly created has been lost.

I do not see any practical alternative to doing the job ourselves. Our proxies in most regional states are useless. Either we do the job, or it is not done.