Friday, August 29, 2014

No Strategy for Dealing with ISIS

In a press conference yesterday President Obama announced that he doesn't have a strategy yet for dealing with ISIS in Syria, and a lot of people are wondering why that is. The military, after all, spends countless hours working up detailed plans for every contingency. Surely they had a plan for dealing with ISIS long before anyone in the public ever heard of the group since our intelligence services have known about them for at least a year. For the president to sound as if ISIS just came along and now we have to come up with a strategy to address the threat they pose does little to bolster confidence in his leadership.

We can be assured that Mr. Obama would have no trouble coming up with a strategy for dealing with, say, John Boehner and the Republicans. I'm reasonably confident that he already has a strategy for dealing with the Republicans if they win the Senate in November, so why is it so hard to come up with a strategy for dealing with an army which everyone in the region despises and which has no air force.

Perhaps Mr. Obama's hectic schedule of sundry vacations, fundraisers, golf games and whatnot has made it difficult for him to sit down and actually pick one of those contingency plans to execute. Okay, but as the President eases himself into semi-retirement we can hope he soon comes up with a plan to neutralize the threat because it won't be long before these savages are doing to Americans here what they're doing to non-Sunnis in Iraq and Syria.

Robert Tracinski at The Federalist writes:
It has become obvious that the group that calls itself ISIS or just the Islamic State is the most serious terrorist threat to the United States since 9/11, and allowing its formation is the biggest mistake of President Obama’s administration.

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel recently called ISIS “a force and a dimension that the world has never seen before.” It is not just a terrorist group distinguished by its brutality and fanaticism. It is not just a group that has demonstrated its interest in killing Americans. Worst of all, this is a group filled with an unprecedented number of jihadists from Europe, and even a few from America—Western passport-holders who will almost certainly make their way back home. According to the group’s own threats, ISIS members or sympathizers are already here.

So it cannot be allowed to exist, not without courting the risk of another 9/11. But no one in the administration seems to have figured out what will be required to make that happen.

I don’t just mean the size of the effort, though that’s part of it. While it would be nice to rely on local proxies like the Kurds, it’s becoming clear that there is no one on the ground in Iraq and Syria who can defeat them. Eradicating ISIS—not just suppressing them or stopping their advance, which is all we’ve done so far—will require a much larger effort. I’m pretty certain it will require American boots on the ground.

I’m sorry if that makes you nervous or breaks a campaign pledge or means you have to turn your back on your dad’s anti-war rhetoric. Don’t want another 9/11? Then you’ve got to get serious about ISIS. Suck it up.

As Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey has been telling everyone, taking down ISIS will also require intervening in Syria. And that’s the real problem, the one issue that no one seems to have thought through. If all we do is go after ISIS, we are acting as shock troops for Bashar al-Assad (By eliminating his biggest threat and allowing him to focus his fire on the more moderate rebel groups).

If it seems like a disaster that we’re being drawn into a wider war in the Middle East, the irony is that this is a consequence of the Obama administration’s attempt to withdraw from the region and leave it to its own devices. It turns out that we can’t do that. Aside from the strategic importance of the region’s oil, the Middle East is the center and homeland of Islamic jihadism, which sees us (correctly) as its antipode and seeks to do us harm. This is a threat that we can’t allow to grow, which is what 9/11 taught us.
The days when we could retreat behind two big oceans and hide our heads in the sand are over. The Islamists simply won't allow us that option. They want to kill us and we're only making it easier for them by refusing to get involved now while they're still acquiring their strength.

Meanwhile, if the president is entertaining ideas for an immediate tactic while he mulls over a long-term strategy at his next fundraiser perhaps he might consider putting enough air assets into place in both Iraq and in bases near Syria so that every time an ISIS member peeks out a window he beholds a missile hurtling at several hundred miles per hour directly toward his Adam's apple.

No thanks or remuneration from the White House for this suggestion are necessary.