I’m a bit surprised by Anne-Marie Slaughter’s New York Times op-ed. In it she urges the president not only to use military force in Iraq against the ISIS terrorists but to expand hat use into Syria:
President Obama should be asking the same question in Iraq and Syria. What course of action will be best, in the short and the long term, for the Iraqi and Syrian people? What course of action will be most likely to stop the violence and misery they experience on a daily basis? What course of action will give them the best chance of peace, prosperity and a decent government?
The answer to those questions may well involve the use of force on a limited but immediate basis, in both countries. Enough force to remind all parties that we can, from the air, see and retaliate against not only Al Qaeda members, whom our drones track for months, but also any individuals guilty of mass atrocities and crimes against humanity. Enough force to compel governments and rebels alike to the negotiating table. And enough force to create a breathing space in which decent leaders can begin to consolidate power.
Here is the part that puzzles me:
This is not merely a humanitarian calculation. It is a strategic calculation. One that, if the president had been prepared to make it two years ago, could have stopped the carnage spreading today in Syria and in Iraq.
I don’t know that anyone has been urging action against both the Assad regime and the rebels. My recollection is that they’ve been urging us to support “moderate rebels” against the regime as though the various groups were completely discrete and there were a litmus test for distinguishing between the moderates and immoderates.
On the other hand if our main priority had been preventing the rise of radical Islamist militants like ISIS we’d’ve supported the Assad regime.
As is not entirely surprising, the editors of the New York Times sound a similar note:
If Mr. Obama decides to take military action, he must make it clear that it would not be done to support Mr. Maliki’s government, but to disrupt the militants’ momentum while the Iraqi Army regroups.
In the meantime, the administration has to develop better intelligence on the militants’ movements. It plans to provide more weapons to the Iraqi Army, even though major units disintegrated as the militants swept through northern Iraq. American officials say there are still capable Iraqi units to build on, but that seems a risky bet.
Whatever action Mr. Obama takes, it must be grounded in a larger political strategy that considers the full spectrum of sectarian dangers that are roiling the region. On Monday night, militants reached Baquba, about 40 miles north of Baghdad, before being turned back. In a horrific show of sectarian reprisal, 44 Sunni prisoners held in a Baquba police station, controlled by the Shiite-led government, were killed by the police as the Sunni militants attacked the station.