Tuesday, September 02, 2014

The World Sets a Red Line Again?

John Kerry blows the trumpet to summon the world to action over the Islamic State in Iraq:

Extremists are defeated only when responsible nations and their peoples unite to oppose them.

Pardon me for being cynical about this administration. But is Kerry saying that unless the world unites nothing will be done to defeat the Islamic State? Must the world set and enforce the red line or nobody does?

And this is rich:

Coalition building is hard work, but it is the best way to tackle a common enemy. When Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1990, the first President George Bush and Secretary of State James A. Baker III did not act alone or in haste. They methodically assembled a coalition of countries whose concerted action brought a quick victory.

Two things should be mentioned about that coalition building effort.

One, then-Senator John Kerry voted against the Persian Gulf War (as did all but 10 of his Democratic colleagues in the Senate version of the resolution) that he lauds today as the Gold Standard of going to war (he can hide behind the fact that the enacted declaration of war ended up being the House version which was passed in the Senate by unanimous consent without a roll call vote).

Two, ISIL swept into northern Iraq in early June 2014 (I'll be charitable and not count ISIL jihadis sweeping into western Iraq in January 2014, which should have prompted our intervention).

It is now early September--three months later--and we've launched 100+ air strikes and have several hundred advisors on the ground.

By comparison, in the "methodical" response to Saddam's invasion of Kuwait in early August 1990, our Operation Desert Shield to defend Saudi Arabia began in less than a week.

By early September 1990, we had 700 combat aircraft in the region afloat and on land.

By early November 1990, 3 months after Saddam's invasion, we announced that we would send a second Army corps--VII heavy corps from Germany--to reinforce XVIII Airborne Corps (82nd Airborne, 101st Airmobile, and 24th Infantry (mechanized) divisions) and our Marines already on the ground.

If my memory serves me, we also announced we'd double our Marine contingent to two divisions.

The reaction in 1990, in the same time frame as our small reaction to ISIL this year, is described by Kerry as not acting in haste and being methodical.

Seven months after Saddam's invasion of Kuwait, we had smashed Saddam's military and won the war.

And if you count our response to ISIL from January 2014 (sorry, I know I said I wouldn't) and compare it to the Persian Gulf War, I think we had our victory parade in New York in less time than it has taken us to launch 100+ air strikes and dispatch hundreds of advisors.

Okay, I exaggerate. It took 10 months from Saddam's invasion to get to our victory parade.

What words would you use to describe our current reaction if in 1990 we avoided haste and were methodical? Surely, you would struggle between "glacial" and "insignificant" as the proper description of our speed of reaction.

We'll see where we are in early November 2014 (or early April 2015 if you want to be charitable to the president). ISIL is much smaller than Saddam's military, so I don't rule out that we might achieve something decisive in a similar time frame.

Although I can guarantee we won't have the parade.

You'd think that world-embracing President Obama could do far better than either Bush president in gathering allies for a coalition to fight threats from Iraq. But we'll see.