Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The Obama Doctrine

According to the Weekly Standard, the Obama doctrine for ISIS has 3 components;

1.  An air campaign to soften targets on the ground and support Iraqi Army forces

2. An intensified effort to train, advise or equip the Iraqi military, Kurdish fighters and possibly members of Sunni tribes

3. And, finally, the “toughest and most politically controversial phase of the operation — destroying the terrorist army in its sanctuary inside Syria.  Which… might not be completed until the next administration. Indeed, some Pentagon planners envision a military campaign lasting at least 36 month

The premise is "The White House is counting on an effort by American, Iraqi and Gulf Arab officials to persuade Sunni tribesman in western Iraq, now aligned with ISIS, to break their ties after chafing under the harsh Shariah law the group has imposed." Weekly Standard

There are more airstrikes going on then is being reported on most of the news outlets.  There are reports of over 500 strikes by US Navy F-18s.  What are they targeting?  The US is going after logistic hubs and supply lines (Wall Street Journal).

Obama is loathe to send in ground troops (both for political as well as practical reasons).  Air strikes have on supply lines and logistic hubs has a limited shelf-life.  Eventually the enemy relocates, shifts supply lines and they continue to operate.  A light, guerrilla force like ISIS is not as encumbered by its supply lines as say a conventional army.  They can re-equip on the fly.  Once struck, there is nothing that says a light force can't go back to an old logistics hub or even build underground facilities.  That's why ground troops are still relevant in this day and age of unmanned aerial drones.

Equip the Iraqi military, Kurds (Peshmerga) and Sunnis means putting at least some ground troops into Iraq (special forces, most likely Green Berets).  Even acting only as "advisors", the presence of any ground troops has the potential for escalation.  Military Assistance Command-Vietnam (MAC-V) was created for exactly the same reasons and eventually lead to the US going into a full-scale war in Vietnam.  There is a very real potential for the US to end-up in a war with Syria or others in the region over this doctrine.

The third and final objective is the one fraught with the most uncertainty.  First, we are going to try to destroy an entity in one sovereign nation by going after it in another.  In effect, we are sending Iraqis in to fight the Syrians.  Can you say "colonialism"?

Another challenge, how can a Western/Christian power like the US expect  Sunni Muslims to be persuaded by our goals?  Had the US not invaded Iraq in the first place, it is reasonable to assume the situation in Iraq would not exist.  A Sunni fighter might ask "What makes the US think it understands us any better now than it did 11 years ago?"  Meanwhile, should Russia amp things up in Ukraine or start making a move towards Estonia, will the Obama administration be able to keep its focus on ISIS?

Obama's strategy cannot be realized in the time he has left in office and that plays right into the hands of ISIS.  They are already on the ground and can easily wait out the time left for the Obama administration.  Worse, ISIS can now control things politically here in the US.  For example, as long as they continue to be newsworthy it will be a major factor in deciding who becomes the next President.  Should it look like the US is starting to gain advantage, all ISIS has to do is make some kind of attack on the homeland.  Chaos and panic will ensue.

From Obama's first admission that he did not have a strategy for Iraq the other week, it took his team almost 10 days to come up with this mess of a doctrine.

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