Here are some links on the President’s IS speech, all written before the speech, because I suppose we’ll see how much has really changed in the last few hours.
It’s tough to see how one degrades and destroys IS without ground-action, as well as coalitions of people who trust our leadership and strategy enough with their interests, as we pursue our interests in the manner laid out in the above link.
First, let us bring in four brief (not all encompassing) but important lessons learned from the last foray into Iraq (and Afghanistan).
- We didn’t pressure Turkey enough to allow use of their territory/airspace.
- We didn’t go after Iran for killing our troops and Iraqi civilians.
- We didn’t surge soon enough.
- We needed more troops during almost every major initiative.
So, questions for the President about our defense would start with:
Click through for more.
Michael Totten: Iraq’s Kurdish Firewall:
‘I doubt the Kurds will get sucked into a war with Iraq’s Shia population, but it’s possible. What’s more striking about this and other recent developments is that Iraq’s Kurds are frequently fighting outside their autonomous region in the northern three provinces.
They’re doing it defensively—they have no interest in conquering and annexing Arab parts of the country—but they’re doing it nevertheless.’
The Kurds have a thankless task, and given the giant mess the Shia coalitions have made of the government and military (also with plenty of Iranian control), the disenfranchised Sunnis which have been supporting IS in some cases and don’t appear ready to have another Anbar awakening and surge, and given the continued Civil War between IS as part of rebel groups against the Assad regime in Syria, I’m not sure Iraq and Syria have anything resembling viable governments and the will to form, fight and die for anything resembling viable governments under current borders and conditions.
Can anyone defeat IS at the moment?
The Saudis, UAE, and even European partners must see a larger strategy for their own interests in order to buy-in, having been given many reasons to doubt Obama’s words, commitments and leadership.
At the moment, I choose to see a humanitarian idealist President, reluctantly dragged to this point, and generally not committed to any overarching strategy using force because the use of force and boots on the ground don’t line up with his own ideological commitments and worldview, despite much evidence to the contrary.
Feel free to highlight my ignorance.
Addition: I’m profoundly not looking forward to the prospect of war, and IS is more of an upgraded Al Qaeda threat at the moment rather than some looming titan. This means thousands of jihadis flocking to the area, as well as some from our shores with American passports. They have a large platform now.
To the libertarian folks interested in peace, I’d suggest to think of all the State security apparatus like the Department Of Homeland Security that have grown up since 9/11, and the possibility of what would happen should another attack occur on our soil. It looks as though attacking and containing IS now is a good deal better than a possibly neurotic ever-expanding bureuacracy hamstrung by silly rules and the low probabilities but high consequences of another terrorist attack.
Ally yourselves with the more pro-peace Left and you tend to get all the impulses Statism and progressive utopianism create, but you’ll still have to go to war at times, but not even have politicians be able to tell much truth about why. This will be defending a lot you don’t believe in (like legalized pot leads to State revenue and more bureaucracy and questionable incentives). A big, rotting hulk of a thing. An indebted, illiberal mess with horrible incentives.
Ally yourselves with those who are more pro-war on the Right and you tend to get a strong defense but many incentives leading to more Statism and supporting institutions that also interfere with individual liberty, like the Department Of Homeland Security and a lot of the waste in military procurement and constant defense build-up, sometimes without much direction. Many incentives are off right-now, but the actual common defense logic compels much of this forward. There are genuine threats, and freedom costs lives and sacrifice, whether for trade-routes, for limited government etc.
These are hard choices.
Battling against Islamism and such militants is going to take awhile, whatever form it takes.
I’m all ears to alternatives in order to do so, and logic to explain those possible alternatives that shows a pretty good understanding of our challenges.
Walter Russell Mead on the logic that has led Obama to this point:
‘So America’s Middle East policy is in a mess, and the last thing President Obama wanted to do was to launch a new war in the Middle East on the anniversary of 9/11. He didn’t say it in so many words, but he didn’t need to: it’s clear to everyone that we are where we are because his chosen policies did not work. His diagnosis was off, and his prescriptions failed. The patient got sicker under his care, and the problem is going to be harder, more painful, more expensive to treat than it could have been.’
It seems our President might be happier amongst a group of assorted pro-peace activists and sometime radicals in about 1968 or 1972 or so…somewhere between a meeting hall scattered with leaflets and the faculty lounge.