The other night, Fox News host Bill O’Reilly displayed why, even though he’s the King of Cable News and commands a big audience, he’ll never be much of a thought leader in policy circles. To counter the threat from the Islamic State terrorist organization, O’Reilly proposed a “mercenary army — elite fighters who would be well paid, well trained to defeat terrorists all over the world,” said O’Reilly. The idea, from what we can tell, would be to re-create a Special Forces unit without the personnel of a Special Forces unit. Instead:
*The fighters in the O’Reilly Mercenary Army would be recruited by the United States;
*They’d be trained by Special Forces under “strict discipline”;
*They’d number 25,000;
*They’d be English speakers;
*They’d be well compensated.
By any cable-news standard, the idea is a smash hit. O’Reilly yesterday appeared on the excellent “CBS This Morning” and, in an insane departure from that show’s standard, the three hosts — Norah O’Donnell, Charlie Rose and Gayle King — appeared to take the mercenary force somewhat seriously. Check it out right here. Not only did the show listen for minutes to O’Reilly preach his insane idea, they actually posted a graphic of its key points. Here is that graphic:
The Fox News host, a marvelous media entrepreneur, managed to elide his proposal for a mercenary force with his latest book, “Killing Patton: The Strange Death of World War II’s Most Audacious General.” He said, “If Patton were the head of the joint chiefs of staff, believe me — this war would be fought in a different way.”
Last night, Fox News’s Charles Krauthammer came on O’Reilly’s show and blasted the proposal. The guest was at his blunt best, ripping the notion of a mercenary force as a bunch of “desperados.” He said O’Reilly’s idea would cost an unwieldy $2.5 billion; he said the force would attract the “marginalized” from all corners of the world; he tilted at the motivations of the two would-be opponents: “On the one hand, you can have ISIS people who believe in something. On the other hand, you have people who are there just for the money. Who do you think wins?”
Yet Krauthammer hit hardest with his point about the fact that a mercenary force would still be staffed by people, quite often Americans. When they died in battle, Krauthammer suggested, it wouldn’t matter whether they were mercenaries or soldiers or Marines: “This doesn’t solve the problem because there are still going to be Americans who are going to die,” said Krauthammer, who went on to make a point that should resonate with the audience on any Fox News program. “Even if it’s a contractor, not a member of the U.S. Army, it still hurts as much. And it still demoralizes us. I’ll give you an example. In Benghazi, two of the four who died were contractors….Did we mourn them any less than we did the two who weren’t?”
O’Reilly: “I think it’s more palpable, though, to the American people. The losses are terrible, but the losses are inevitable.”
For O’Reilly, the great thing about this idea is that Krauthammer is right on every last point, and this force won’t ever get any consideration, meaning that O’Reilly can attribute all the evil that spills out of Syria and Iraq in the coming months to the unwillingness of folks to take his idea seriously.