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Tuesday, October 7, 2014

A Common Sense Strategy on ISIS

Should the US commit "ground troops" to defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham (ISIS)?  Or should we continue the current, limited policy of backing up the Kurds, conducting air strikes, and advising the Iraqi security forces? 

ISIS is entrenched in Iraq, and still carrying on an agressive fight against the Iraqi state.  It overran an Iraqi Army base in Anbar this week.   Iraq has three divisions in that province, but it continues to lose ground.

So, we are reaching a decision point.  Only a stronger commitment will be decisive.  Only the US can do this.  So, should we?

If we look at ISIS as a terrorist group bent on attacking the West, perhaps we should.  If ISIS consolidates, it could launch attacks against western cities.  That wouldn't be good.

But if we look at ISIS as a manifestation of the Sunni/Shia regional war, then maybe we shouldn't.  ISIS wants to kill Iraqi Shia.   It has the support of Sunni Arabs in the areas it controls, or it never would have gotten this far.  The only other regional power commiting ground troops to stoping ISIS is Iran.   Turkey won't.  Saudi Arabia won't.   That's telling.

Last week VP Joe Biden told an audience that Turkey and the United Arab Emirates had been supporting ISIS against Bashar Assad in Syria.  Just so.  He had to apologize for saying what everyone believes is true. 

To destroy ISIS, we have to side with Iran, Shia-controlled Iraq, and implicitly, Assad-controlled Syria.  Do we want to do that?  

Senators McCain and Graham want to square this circle.   Destroy ISIS by overthrowing Assad, they say.   Does this argument make sense to anyone?

Here's what we should do:  As long as ISIS remains committed to holding territory and fighting all enemies--Alawites, Kurds, Shia Arab, Persians, etc--it poses no direct threat to the West.  We should provide the limited support we currently are, mindful that only the Iraqi security forces and the Kurdish peshmerga have a real interest in eliminating this problem.  Go get' em boys!  Commiting ground forces will put us in another bloody fight with Iraqi Sunni Arabs, for no good reason.

Buchanan probably is right: this is another thirty years war we need to stay out of.  See his strong column here: can_america_fight_a_thirty_years_war

We need to think strategically about this problem.  It really isn't about terrorism.
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