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Confronting ISIS After Obama

Posted January 21st, 2016 at 3:58 pm (UTC-4)
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The idea of sending a large American military force to push Islamic State (ISIS) militants out of its de facto capital in Raqqa, Syria and parts of Iraq has been firmly rejected President Barack Obama, whose ISIS strategy was dissected immediately after the mass shooting by ISIS sympathizers in San Bernardino, California.

But it remains a hot topic on the presidential campaign trail, with prescriptions like Texas Senator and Republican hopeful Ted Cruz’s idea of “carpet bombing” the group in both countries. Critics, among them former Secretary of State Robert Gates, have publicly shunned such policy statements as simplistic and even irresponsible. GOP frontrunner Donald Trump has said he “would bomb the hell out of those oil fields,” referring to ISIS controlled parts of Iraq.

On the Democratic side, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has sounded more hawkish than Obama, her former boss. Her closest rival, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, has been dismissed as thin on foreign policy for saying Muslim nations in the region must do the dirty work.

Experts widely agree that whoever wins the White House in November will not be able to avoid the ISIS problem. Right now, there is no way to accurately predict who that person will be. What we do know is that selling an answer to ISIS while campaigning and actually having to act on it as Commander in Chief are two very different things.

Veiled women walk past a billboard inscribed with a verse from Koran, urging women to wear a hijab in the northern province of Raqqa on Mar. 31, 2014.
Veiled women walk past a billboard inscribed with a verse from Koran, urging women to wear a hijab in Raqqa, Syria, the defacto capital of the Islamic State, Mar. 31, 2014. (Reuters)

10,000 Won’t Do It: The Mathematics of An American Deployment to Fight ISIL

Kevin Benson – War on the Rocks

 The conduct of war requires the expenditure of materiel.  Fuel, water, food, and ammunition are among many items consumed in the execution of operations.  Items expended and used require replacement.

Replacement requires transport over some distance from a warehouse in the United States to the point of need in the theater of war.  Some call this the “tooth to tail” ratio, but this is too simplistic. The mathematics of war encompasses all the work required to sequence and sustain the battles and engagements which are the result of a major campaign….

We cannot forage our way to Mosul and Raqqa. Fighting and defeating ISIL in Mosul and Raqqa is also not the end of the required action.  As [Max] Boot pointed out in his Policy Innovation Memorandum, a strategy to defeat ISIL requires the United States to “[p]repare now for nation building.”

A Conversation With Robert M. Gates

Former U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates – Council on Foreign Relations

The thing that I find disappointing, and I realize that politicians have to put spin on things and so on, but they do a disservice in not being honest with the American people that taking on a problem like ISIS and the extremism associated with ISIS is complex, it’s going to be hard, and it’s going to take a lot of time, and it’s going to take some sacrifice. And there are no easy solutions, and there certainly are no quick solutions….

Watch Gates’ appearance at CFR:

But I have the impression … reluctantly the administration has begun to embrace about more help to Sunni tribes that are prepared to resist ISIS, to the Kurds, getting more trainers in and at a lower level in the Iraqi security services, forward spotters and things like that, more special operators.

I think the military’s been recommending these kinds of things—which are an alternative to sort of a big massive ground force, that have the opportunity to enable those who are willing to resist ISIS.

Unifying the Struggle Against ISIS

 German Foreign Minister Frank Walter Steinmeier – Project Syndicate

We all know, of course, that terrorism cannot be defeated by bombs alone. But we also know that the threat posed by ISIS will not be overcome without military means, and that, unless ISIS is countered militarily, after a year there may well be nothing left on which to build a political solution for either Syria or Iraq…

As foreign policymakers, we must face up to reality, with all of its uncertainties, and take responsibility for both our actions and our inaction – even when there are no guarantees of success either way.

This makes it all the more important that we are certain of our bearings. We will not be able to counter ISIS and the threat posed by Islamist terrorism by pulling up the drawbridge; what we need is persistence and a political strategy that carefully integrates military, humanitarian, and diplomatic engagement.

U.S. Marines monitor military maneuvers in southern Jordan in this 2013 file photo. (AP)

U.S. Marines monitor military maneuvers in southern Jordan in this 2013 file photo. (AP)


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