Sunday, April 24, 2016

The Inherent Fallacy of Believing We Can Beat the Islamic State Without U.S. Ground Troops

From Kori Schake, at Foreign Policy, "No one — not Obama, Clinton, Trump, or Cruz — will dare to admit the obvious: We’re going to need to put boots on the ground in Iraq and Syria":
On Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama authorized the deployment of 217 more troops to Iraq, as part of the fight against the Islamic State. As Secretary of Defense Ash Carter explained: “This will put Americans closer to the action.” Washington will also send Apache helicopters to Iraqi forces and pay $415 million in salaries for Kurdish troops and other “military needs” in the runup to retaking Mosul.

If you think this counts as getting tough in the fight against radical jihadis who have unsettled the Middle East and brought violence to the heart of Europe, you’re deluding yourself. Obama’s strategy for fighting the Islamic State is half-measures, at best: contributing U.S. military force at the margins of efforts by those most directly affected with loss of territory. The president prides himself on a minimalist approach, doing just about as much for Iraqi forces or the Syrian rebels as they could do for themselves. It amounts to an argument that he is preventing the moral hazard of other countries relying on the United States for their security. But that approach treats as costless two very important elements in fighting the Islamic State: confidence and time.

One of the emptiest canards in warfare is “there is no military solution.” Unless you fight to complete extermination, war always involves convincing your adversary to stop fighting. That is, to cede their political goals rather than continue using military force to attain them. Usually, that requires doing some fighting. Of course, adversaries tend not to give up if they think they’re winning or could win — which is why soldiers like the Powell Doctrine of committing large forces in order to demonstrate your political will to win.

It’s also why Obama’s incremental commitment of small numbers of troops — 300 advisors here, a specialized targeting team there — is so ineffective. It conveys the limits of Washington’s willingness to fight. The Islamic State, Bashar al-Assad, Vladimir Putin, and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei all understand those limits and are acting accordingly. America’s allies get the message now, too, especially after the president wrote off Iraq and fought the war in Afghanistan halfheartedly. They will not step forward and commit the ground troops necessitated by Obama’s approach because they lack the confidence that Washington will see this difficult fight through...
A great piece.

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