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Former Navy SEAL Lt. Commander Leif Babin Speaks to JINSA's New York Cabinet

Lieutenant Commander Leif Babin addresses the JINSA New York CabinetLieutenant Commander Leif Babin addresses the JINSA New York CabinetOn February 1, the JINSA New York Cabinet hosted Leif Babin, who recently left active duty with the U.S. Navy SEALs.

Babin spent 13 years on active duty with the U.S. Navy, including nine years in SEAL Teams. He deployed three times to Iraq (2004, 2006, 2009-10) and supported forces deployed to Afghanistan and elsewhere.

In his talk, Babin emphasized that he believes JINSA’s mission today is more important than at any time in the organization’s history. “In order to deter Iran and a resurgent militant Islam bolstered through democratic elections of the so-called Arab Spring, maintain peace and prevent future potentially catastrophic war, it is imperative that the U.S. and Israel stand together in solidarity and strength,” he said.

Babin saw firsthand the nature of our enemies and what it takes to defeat them. In 2006, his SEAL Task Unit played a key role in what was later called “The Battle of Ramadi” in western Iraq. When almost no one thought they could win, U.S. forces smashed the insurgency there and enabled Ramadi's complete transformation from total war zone to stability and a recovering economy.

When Babin deployed to Ramadi, a city with a population of nearly half a million, a second time in 2009, he personally observed the tremendous change - peace and stability had broken out everywhere. Shops, markets, schools and hospitals were open. Many of the former insurgents had joined the Iraqi police when it became apparent the insurgency had lost. Though a modicum of violence remained, it was only a tiny fraction of what it had been just three years earlier.

In Babin's eyes as well as many of troops who had been in the thick of the fighting in Iraq, the war had been won.

What did winning mean? If you asked senior military commanders and politicians, Babin said, they talked about how Iraq must be developed into a democracy with a strong central government wielding a technologically advanced military capable of partnering with the U.S. in the War on Terror.

In his view, this was a utopian fantasy and was never achievable. But if you asked the tactical level leaders - the company commanders, platoon sergeants, SEAL platoon and task unit commanders - winning simply meant smashing the insurgency and lowering the level of violence to a point where Iraqi security forces could by themselves maintain a relative, sustainable peace, Babin said. And that was achieved. Since the U.S. presence in Iraq only emboldened Iran, Babin advocated that we pull U.S. forces from Iraq and shift those precious resources to Afghanistan.

After a decade of war, many think the American public is tired of the conflict in Afghanistan. “I believe most Americans,” said Lt. Cmdr. Babin, “are simply tired of not winning the war in Afghanistan.” Some question whether we can win. “We absolutely can win, as was proved in Iraq,” he said. “And we must.”

What does losing in Afghanistan mean for the United States, Israel and the world? The Soviet Union did not acknowledge a “defeat” in Afghanistan. But the withdrawal of Soviet troops in 1989 rallied thousands to the cause of jihad, gave birth to al Qaeda and emboldened international Islamist terrorists that quickly turned their sights on the west. Why should we anticipate that an American withdrawal amid failure to establish security would provoke a different response?

Having invested so much blood and treasure thus far, achieving victory in Afghanistan is crucial to preventing future and potentially even greater and more costly wars there and elsewhere. “The world, and most especially Iran, is watching very closely,” Babin said.

Babin and many of those he has served with see that our enemies now doubt the resolve of U.S. leaders to use force against them. “It is imperative that American leaders recognize that the only hope of preventing future, potentially much more devastating and costly wars is to deter our enemies through solidarity and strength. A strong United States, in close alliance with a strong Israel, is imperative for the peace and stability of the world,” he concluded.

JINSA New York Cabinet was formed to explore issues affecting both American and Israeli security. New York Cabinet members are invited to briefings on security and defense issues four to six times a year. For more information on becoming a member of JINSA's New York Cabinet, please contact Yola Johnston, JINSA’s Managing Director, at or (202) 667-3900.

Click here to read about Bret Stephens addressing the Los Angeles Cabinet

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