I predict that within the next few months President Obama will order United States military forces to return to Iraq for the purpose of eliminating the national security threat posed by ISIS. The only question in my mind is whether the US will once again form the tip of the spear or will the president be able to persuade other nations in the region to join us in removing ISIS from the chessboard. I fear the former scenario is most likely.
My prediction is based on the alarmingly rapid manner in which the bi-partisan call for US involvement has escalated over the past few months.
On January 12, 2014 the president dismisses ISIS as a “JV team.” Two weeks later, on January 19 he sends 300 “advisors” to the region to assess the threat. In an August 7 statement to the nation the president announces that the US will carry out “targeted” air strikes as part of a humanitarian effort to protect religious refugees persecuted by ISIS who were trapped on Mt. Sinjar. The refugees are spared but the bombing runs escalate. ISIS forces threatening US interests in Erbil are targeted. Then US bombers aide Kurdish forces in taking back a key dam in Mosul. On August 12 the president announces he is sending 130 more troops to northern Iraq to assess the situation on the ground. On August 14 the president announces that the air strikes will continue. On August 20 while addressing the execution of American journalist James Foley the president states that the US will be “relentless” against the Islamic State militants. On that same day Sec. of State John Kerry tweets that “ISIS must be destroyed.” On August 21 Sec. of Defense Chuck Hagel tells reporters that that the danger presented by ISIS is “Apocalyptic, beyond anything we’ve ever seen.” At the same gathering Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Martin Dempsey says that our open borders and immigration issues make ISIS and “immediate threat.” He further states that there is no way to defeat ISIS without taking out its command and control centers in Syria. Politicians from both sides of the aisle, appalled by the public execution of James Foley, are calling on the president take “appropriate action” to eliminate ISIS.
The White House continues to state publically that it will not be drawn into a comprehensive military altercation with ISIS. “American boots on the ground” is not an option; they say.
If that is the case…then what IS the strategy? No one that I’ve read believes that ISIS can be defeated by air power alone.
I believe that ISIS must be defeated and that the US must play a part in a worldwide coalition to achieve that goal. But my major concern is what happens next. What is our exit strategy? We have seen this movie before. The bad guys are eliminated only to have another band of bad actors take their place. We can’t just rush in and bloody the bully. We have to find a way to find a lasting worldwide diplomatic solution to bring peace to the region.
Unfortunately the drumbeat for war grows louder by the day...the exit strategy lost in all the noise.
I’m afraid we are about to go down the same rabbit hole that got us here in the first place.