FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Will American Ground Troops Be Sent to Fight ISIS?

With the United States dropping bombs on yet another Muslim country, we might benefit from a close look at President Obama’s anti–Islamic State strategy.

Obama and his spokespeople are always quick to make two points: first, that no American ground forces will be sent into combat against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), and second, that the United States will merely be part, albeit a leading part, of a broad coalition of Arab and NATO countries.

The Obama administration’s emphasis on these points strongly suggests that Americans would not support a war against ISIS fought solely by the United States with American ground troops as part of the effort.

In his speech at MacDill Air Force base on September 17, Obama said,

As your Commander-in-Chief, I will not commit you and the rest of our Armed Forces to fighting another ground war in Iraq. After a decade of massive ground deployments, it is more effective to use our unique capabilities in support of partners on the ground so they can secure their own countries’ futures. And that’s the only solution that will succeed over the long term.

Although Obama was at an air force base, he was probably talking more to the general public than to the assembled troops, many members of which may be disappointed in Obama’s pledge because combat experience is a valued résumé item.

He went on:

We’ll use our air power. We will train and equip our partners. We will advise them and we will assist them. We will lead a broad coalition of countries who have a stake in this fight. Because this is not simply America versus [ISIS]—this is the people of the region fighting against [ISIS].

Obama keeps saying that this is not just an American fight and that ground troops will not be necessary. Yet he also insists that ISIS threatens Americans in the United States. That naturally raises this question: what if the local ground troops that Obama counts on—the Iraqi and Kurdish armies and the alleged moderate Syrian rebels—aren’t up to the job? Many prowar commentators think they are not, and no one thinks air power alone can defeat ISIS.

The typical administration response is that they will be up to the job, so that event need not be planned for. When Joint Chiefs Chairman Martin Dempsey told the Senate that in such an event he would recommend the dispatch of American ground troops, all hell broke loose because he had departed from the script.

The administration’s evasion of this important question is ominous. Even a confused policy embodies a logic. If Obama (despite the evidence) declares ISIS a significant domestic threat, and if the Iraqi, Kurdish, and Syrian forces fail, won’t he be pushed by the logic of his policy to send in American ground forces? After scaring Americans about ISIS and investing so much political capital, who can imagine him calling off the airstrikes and withdrawing?

As for Obama’s emphasis on coalition building, let’s not be fooled. This is a U.S.-led operation, and that is how the inhabitants of the bombed territories will see it. ISIS recruitment will soar.

But even if other coalition members shouldered most of the burden, why should Americans feel any better about the operation? The objection to a new U.S. war in the Middle East should not be that America would go it alone. Rather, it’s that America cannot police the world without doing a variety of harms. Bringing a posse of nations along doesn’t change that.

Obama tips his hand about who will bear the burden when he rhapsodizes about American exceptionalism. At MacDill he said,

[I]t is America that has the unique capability to mobilize against an organization like [ISIS].…

[W]hen the world is threatened, when the world needs help, it calls on America.…

[T]here just aren’t a lot of other folks who can perform in the same ways—in fact, there are none. And there are some things only we can do. There are some capabilities only we have.

In declaring war against the ISIS insurgency (with no congressional declaration), Obama has set the country on a course of intervention in two Muslim civil wars. It can’t turn out well.

Sheldon Richman is vice president and editor at The Future of Freedom Foundation in Fairfax, Va. (www.fff.org).

 

More articles by:

Sheldon Richman, author of Coming to Palestine, keeps the blog Free Association and is a senior fellow and chair of the trustees of the Center for a Stateless Society, and a contributing editor at Antiwar.com.  He is also the Executive Editor of The Libertarian Institute.

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
Weekend Edition
January 17, 2020
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: No Woman, No Cry
Kathleen Wallace
Hijacking the Struggles of Others, Elizabeth Warren Style
Robert Hunziker
The Rumbling Methane Enigma
Frank Joyce
Will the Constitution Fail Again?
Andrew Levine
Biden Daze
Pete Dolack
Claims that the ‘NAFTA 2’ Agreement is Better are a Macabre Joke
Vijay Prashad
Not an Inch: Indian Students Stand Against the Far Right
Ramzy Baroud
Sealed Off and Forgotten: What You Should Know about Israel’s ‘Firing Zones’ in the West Bank
Norman Solomon
Not Bernie, Us. Not Warren, Us. Their Clash Underscores the Need for Grassroots Wisdom
Ted Rall
America’s Long History of Meddling in Russia
David Rosen
The Irregulators vs. FCC: the Trial Begins
Jennifer Matsui
The Krown
Joseph Natoli
Resolutions and Obstacles/2020
Sarah Anderson
War Profiteering is Real
James McFadden
The Business Party Syndicate
Ajamu Baraka
Trump Prosecutors Make Move to Ensure that Embassy Protectors are Convicted
David Swanson
CNN is Trash
Rev. William Alberts
Finally a Christian Call for Trump’s Removal
Dave Lindorff
The ERA Just Got Ratified by Virginia, the Needed 38th State!
W. T. Whitney
Mexico Takes Action on Coup in Bolivia and on CELAC
Steve Early
How General Strike Rhetoric Became a Reality in Seattle 
Jessicah Pierre
Learning From King’s Last Campaign
Mark Dickman
Saint Greta and the Dragon
Jared Bernstein - Dean Baker
Reducing the Health Care Tax
Clark T. Scott
Uniting “Progressives” Instead of Democrats
Nilofar Suhrawardy
Trump & Johnson: What a Contrast, Image-wise!
Ron Jacobs
Abusing America’s Children—Free Market Policy
George Wuerthner
Mills Are Being Closed by National Economic Trends, Not Environmental Regulations
Basav Sen
Nearly All Americans Want Off of Fossil Fuels
Mark Ashwill
Playing Geopolitical Whack-a-Mole: The Viet Nam Flag Issue Revisited
Jesse Jackson
New Hope for One of America’s Poorest Communities
Binoy Kampmark
Harry and Meghan Exit: The Royal Family Propaganda Machine
Ralph Nader
Trump: Making America Dread Again!
Rob Okun
A Call to Men to join Women’s March
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
We All Need to Be Tree Huggers Now
Tom Stephens
The New York Times’ Delusions of Empire
Jill Richardson
Why Do We Have School Lunch Debt at All?
Julian Rose
Fake-Green Zero Carbon Fraud
Louis Proyect
The Best Films of 2019
Graham Peebles
Education: Expanding Purpose
Matthew Stevenson
Across the Balkans: Into Kosovo
Colin Todhunter
Gone Fishing? No Fish but Plenty of Pesticides and a Public Health Crisis
Julian Vigo
Can New Tech Replace In-Class Learning?
Wim Laven
Message to Trump Supporters: Sorry
Gaither Stewart
The Bench: the Life of Things
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail