Questions for U.S. Strategy Against ISIS

As President Obama unveils his strategy against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, critical questions remain unanswered:

  • Why is the U.S. strategy focused so extensively on military measures when the President himself has stated, and many experts agree, that overcoming the threat posed by ISIS is fundamentally a political problem that will require political solutions?
  • Why do we think limited military efforts will succeed now when more robust military measures over the past decade were unable to bring stability and security to Iraq? When will we learn, as former Defense Secretary Robert Gates said in 2008, that “we cannot kill or capture our way to victory” in the fight against terrorism and insurgency?
  • Why does the President says there will be no ‘boots on the ground’ when he has already sent hundreds of U.S. military advisers to Iraq? How will we avoid the slippery slope of deeper military involvement if American advisers are killed or kidnapped?
  • How do we ensure that the weapons we provide to local militias in Iraq and Syria are not used against us or our allies in the region? News reports indicate that some of the weapons recently recovered from ISIS fighters in Iraq were made in the U.S.
  • How is it possible to fight against the enemies of the Assad regime in Syria without helping that regime?

4 thoughts on “Questions for U.S. Strategy Against ISIS

  1. You are not the first to raise such concerns, However I think ISIS is a different animal from Iraq and Afghanistan. I will also note that the particularly brutal nature of those seeking to establish an Islamic state calls for forceful response. I give Obama credit for laying this out as an international, not unilateral, effort, with special attention to keeping the Arab Leage in the game. That much said, the Obama administration has not laid out an endgame plan. Certainly the development of an endgame plan is secondary only to the immediate need to protect the MIddle East from being overrun by ISIS, which I seriously doubt is open to negotiate.

  2. Whether or not a correlation can be drawn between ISIS, the Iraq of our failed military incursion (and the resulting political debacle), and/ or Afghanistan is irrelevant to a sound evaluation of future policies toward the region. There is no reason that a military incursion now will be anymore effective than it was in 2003. The discussion of such questions as these posed by David Cortright is essential to establishing a sound policy and a sustainable peace. Creating a nonviolent environment involves people not warheads.

  3. “Why is the U.S. strategy focused so extensively on military measures? I think the answer is the continuing mythology about war and US power. Since WWII, it is felt that the US has the power to win militarily almost anywhere – yet our record since WWII is that wars are not won – and we end up with many failures. Yet the mythology of war continues; as does US leadership in arms sales. So (with the analogy of alcoholics) “we need more and more of what is not working.”

  4. Remember also, that in an air war, special forces are required to “paint” targets… and are very much “on the ground”.

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