There are two sayings related to war that have always been core beliefs of mine: first, that you win a war by destroying the enemy’s will and/or ability to fight, whichever comes first and both if necessary; and second that you don’t win a war by dying for your country, you win a war by making the other guy die for his country.

The wars we fight today are against a small, nimble enemy who blends into the civilian population at will, and they know that engaging any army, especially the US Military, in open battle is not a scenario they can win. The war they fight is as much a war of propaganda as it is a war of bullets. We experienced how easily the public is duped by videos of things like kids being shot by snipers, and most importantly we saw how public opinion can be swayed by it. The brief conflict in Gaza between Israel and Palestinian terrorists shows how effective the terrorist’s propaganda efforts were at bringing millions of global citizens to their side of the argument. Many of the videos focus either on Israelis bombing public areas and causing civilian casualties, or on how Hamas and Hezbollah fire rockets at Israel from those same areas, like when they hide missile launchers in schools.

A meme that circulated poking fun at ISIS for being attacked by women.

A meme that circulated poking fun at ISIS for being attacked by women.

As we’ve cheered the Kurdish armies that were amongst the first to take the field against ISIS to check their rampage through Iraq and Syria, some of the propaganda images being passed around were highlighting entire companies of Kurdish Women, and there was more about a pilot from the UAE. In the US military, we see more and more women getting into or very close to combat roles – in the very least they are involved with the war effort, and participate in maintaining our ability to fight – just like Rosie the Riveter did during World War II. Chechen Islamists have pioneered the use of women as suicide bombers, and Boko Haram has used female suicide bombers in Nigeria too.

So, for example, where in Vietnam we heard of atrocities like one force or another marching into a village and killing all the men and sometimes boys of fighting age, what would that same thing gain ISIS in Kurdish territories? It seems we know the answer, they created an army of women who are fighting mad. The same thing would happen here in the United States if ISIS started killing our men and fighting age boys. In the case of the Islamic extremists, we see propaganda that leads one to believe they train children at a very young age to practice extremism and we routinely see pictures of “their kids” with rifles and Islamic State banners and flags. They surely see pictures of our kids with guns too, and use them in the same way. Competent American kids would be a force to be reckoned with on the battlefield – not just the ones who’ve turned 18, either. In the irregular armies of the Middle East, we surely battle kids on a regular basis.

In World War II, we won the propaganda war and we won the shooting war. In doing so, we had to do some dastardly deeds, like dropping two nuclear bombs on Japan and participating in what became the firebombing of Dresden. Massive civilian populations were killed and injured. Sure, weapons were not as precise then as they are now, but has war become more humane because our weapons are more precise? Ultimately, if our goal is to destroy a factory producing enemy munitions, it will be destroyed, no matter whether the workers are men, women, or children. We should acknowledge that our enemies want to do the same to us. To the extent that our women and children are active and potential participants in combat, we should understand that they are doing anything they can to remove our ability and will to fight, whether it’s financially, politically, or militarily. They hit us we everything they’ve got, as soon as they get it. We should be doing the same to them.

Kurdish propaganda meme about women fighters in Kobane, Syria.

Kurdish propaganda meme about women fighters in Kobane, Syria.

In America, many states allow for concealed carry of a handgun for defensive purposes. In some cases you need to demonstrate a need (like running a primarily cash business). Women and children of adult age are combatants now, and should be prepared to defend themselves.

Ultimately, as we think about how we prosecute the war with ISIS, Americans would do well to remember that removing the enemy’s will and ability to fight is out number one goal, and that our military (with the right rules of engagement) will be doing everything they can to minimize non-combatant casualties while achieving that goal as quickly as possible. Once our military is fully engaged, we can expect ISIS to ramp up the propaganda on both sides – images of them killing anyone they are lucky enough to capture in the most bizarre and imaginative ways possible, and staging videos and images of atrocities supposedly committed by US troops. FaceBook users have probably already had to scroll past some of the most gruesome images ever seen in public recently, and are getting numb to the visual propaganda. It’s not rational for us to expect that the war will process with no civilian casualties. Civilians are dying now. Americans should support the processing of the war effort with a sense of urgency and expediency. If we’re at war with ISIS, let’s all act like it.