Monday, September 29, 2014

President Obama Didn't Build That

I'd like to again note that the only reason President Obama can contemplate taking on ISIL in Iraq without using US ground forces is that under President Bush, a coalition of the very forces we will count on to be a ground force we can support from the air was built from 2003 to 2008.

This is the ideal situation for defeating ISIL in Iraq, no doubt, as General Dempsey stated:

If you're suggesting that I might, at some point, recommend that we need a large ground force to counter ISIL, the answer to that is also absolutely.

But it doesn't have to be Americans. In fact, ideally, for the kind of issues we're confronting there, the ideal force -- in fact, the only truly effective force that will actually be able to reject ISIL from within its own population, is a force comprised of Iraqis and Kurds and moderate Syrian opposition.

President Bush built that force. Despite our lack of attention under President Obama and despite walking away from Iraq in 2011, we still judge 26 of 50 Iraqi brigades cohesive and professional enough to work with; the Kurds are still friendly despite lack of recent support; and even Sunni Arabs in Iraq appear to be willing to trust us again after we walked away and let Maliki under Iranian influence undercut and wreck the Awakening of Iraq's Sunni Arabs.

And for those on the right, stop complaining that our first impulse isn't to send American combat brigades. If we are to defeat jihadis around the world, we must rely on others to do the fighting. We simply can't send our combat forces to every place where jihadis skulk about and kill. We can't.

And if we had to, that would pretty much say the war has gone pretty badly, now wouldn't it? If we had no local allies to fight jihadis, that would say that jihadis had defeated all those locals.

While rightly noting that President Obama's decision to abandon Iraq contributed a lot to the ISIL problem, at least be happy that because of George W. Bush (and even Democrats who temporarily approved of the invasion, occupation, and democratization of Iraq before BDS kicked in), we have Iraqi troops who can fight the jihadis with our support.

Remember, it really is ideal if jihadis are a police and cultural problem as they are in Western Europe, America, Australia, and other parts of the West and even within much of the Moslem world (with more of an emphasis on the cultural problem part that exports jihadis and jihadi ideology).

If it is larger than that, it is good if we can support allies who fight them--like we help France in Africa.

And it is good if local governments can fight them with our help.

Sometimes we have to support those locals with direct American military power. It can be special forces, or air power, or the CIA and contractors--or even American combat brigades, in the worst cases.

Iraq, because of our actions in the past decade, is not a worst case. Once a supporter of terrorism, Iraq is a victim of it and can fight back. Iraq should have been a much smaller problem than it is now, but it is a problem achievable by something less than the commitment of American combat brigades.

I'll also note that this is the first time I've seen our people say that the war on ISIL is an Iraq-first strategy, which is what I've advocated:

I'd like to also reiterate that the campaign against ISIL will be a persistent and sustained campaign, and it will take time. As I said last week, this is not an Iraq -- this is an Iraq first strategy. But it's not an Iraq only one.

Now let's hope that it is an Assad-last strategy, too.

Because some of the people on the ground in Syria have a problem with being given the task of fighting ISIL instead of Assad:

The U.S. is struggling to counter anger among the Syrian opposition, where many believe that the air campaign against extremists in the country is only helping President Bashar Assad and that Washington is coordinating with Damascus, despite American insistence it backs the rebel cause.

Clearly, they lack the ability to appreciate nuance.

Sadly, President Obama also didn't build a resistance to Assad strong enough to preempt the rise of ISIL which gained street cred by being effective in fighting Assad.

UPDATE: Perhaps there is hope that Assad is merely lower on the to-defeat list:

The United States is focusing its efforts on defeating Islamic State militants wreaking havoc in Iraq and Syria but has not changed its position that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad must go, the U.S. envoy to the United Nations said on Tuesday.

If we're serious, this can work. In time.