There is a lot of meat in Brian Fishman’s post at War Is Boring, “Don’t BS the American People About Iraq, Syria, and ISIL”. I recommend you read it in full. This post isn’t a critique of his but it’s not an affirmation of it, either. It falls into the cateogry of riffing on the theme that he’s begun.
I completely agree with him that President Obama’s objectives in are not to roll back ISIL or to take the first steps in a lengthy campaign to do so but what are his objectives? I can only speculate and my speculations would be:
- To fend off political charges that he’s not doing anything.
- To protect our consulate in Erbil and other U. S. assets in Iraq.
- To protect Iraqi civilians.
I’ve been criticized for suggesting the first objective with some characterizing it as a “charge” or an accusation. I see it as the commensensical observation that Barack Obama is a politician and politicians always act with political objectives in mind. I think that believing otherwise is hopelessly naive.
Should we engage in a long-term campaign with “boots on the ground” and the full support of the American people to oppose ISIL? While I certainly agree with this:
We should only fight if we are fighting to win, and we will only win when we commit as a country—not 51 percent, or the viewers of one cable news station or another, or because one party or faction has managed to back a president into a political corner. The country must be ready to accept the sacrifices necessary to achieve grand political ends. Until then, any call to “defeat ISIL” that is not forthright about what that will require is actually an argument for expensive failure.
but I remain skeptical that the kind of commitment he’s looking for will ever be forthcoming in modern America in which the news, the message is uncontrolled. For every image of an enemy atrocity there will be an equally (or even more) horrifying image of an American atrocity. It is not possible to maintain resolve in the face of lack of control over information.
But what happens then? Successful intervention may have become impossible but non-intervention requires steeling ourselves to the nightly parade of beheadings, murders, rapes, and maimings that we can be quite certain will come. Not intervening requires a particular sort of political courage that we simply don’t elect presidents to have any more.