This blog is a necessary and logical follow-up to “Obama the realist and strategist” posted at this site on September 9, 2014. Central to the latter screed were two key points; i.e. the president has taken a realistic view of what we alone can/cannot accomplish vis a vis ISIS, that analysis leading to the conclusion that a coalition of forces against this fanatical Muslim group will be needed. (1)
Since the publication of the aforementioned 9-9-14 blog, Mr. Obama has gone on national tv to share with us his multi-phased plan for dealing with ISIS. We turn now to that strategy’s specifics and how we are faring so far.
+ The president and Secretary of State John Kerry have done an admirable job of assembling an array of nations that have publicly committed to standing with us against ISIS. Prominent members of this group include France, England, Denmark, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar. Each one of those nations has already taken an active military role in concert with us. Others have pledged their monetary support.
+ The air campaign mounted by our coalition has been effective in diminishing ISIS’ momentum such that it is no longer moving in large numbers, sweeping across mile after mile of Syria and Iraq as conquerors. At the least, this represents an important degree of success that accrues to the president’s plan. (2)
+ While it is probably too early to render a final judgment, we have yet to see Iraq’s new government become a unifying force for secular good and stand up an army capable of not just defending the country, but pushing ISIS all the way back into Syria. These are critical parts of Obama’s plan and their realization is key to a favorable outcome.
+ As noted above, a number of nations are now engaged in the air war against ISIS. What remains is a commitment of ground forces from those countries who face the gravest and most imminent threat from ISIS (think Turkey, Iraq and Jordan). In the president’s view, they must be the sources for the boots on the ground that will eventually be needed.
We are still in the earliest stages of what will surely be a long and costly war of attrition. It is already known with a high degree of certainty that the air campaign cannot, by itself, bomb ISIS into submission. It is going to require boots on the ground. The suspicion held by your blogger is that so long as the air war keeps ISIS off-balance and thus unable to mount serious threats to neighboring countries like Turkey, Jordan and Iraq, they will not take the fight to the enemy on the battlefield. That situation must change because you cannot win wars from a defensive posture. At the best available time, you must be proactive and go on the attack.
Finally, and what is seen here as the biggest problem, is the way we talk about the endgame with ISIS; i.e. “defeat and destroy”. The use of this kind of language only serves to generate a false sense of optimism. The harsh reality is that you cannot destroy an ideology, especially one that is held with fanatical zeal. You can succeed in driving it underground but sooner or later, it will resurface. Examples of this throughout history abound: We beat Hitler’s Germany to a pulp by the end of World War II, yet we still have Neo-Nazis. The South lost the Civil War but racism remains with us.
ISIS is a dedicated foe Hellbent on bringing death and destruction to our shores. As suggested in the 9-9 blog, they will not come in the form of an army with long lines of troops, but rather as individuals and/or sleeper cells. Like the Israelis, we will have to learn to be on high alert; vigilant and prompt in reporting suspicious activity. That is our coming new reality if it isn’t here already and we just haven’t caught on yet.
1. If you want a better grasp of who were are dealing, with check out Alistair Crooke’s excellent “You Can’t Understand ISIS if You Don’t Know the History of Wahhabism in Saudi Arabia.” The link to this source is shown below. If you read it, you will have no trouble understanding why the vast majority of the 9-11 highjackers came from Saudi Arabia.
2. Under no circumstances should present conditions be interpreted to mean that the coalition has checkmated ISIS.