20 September, 2014

Obama knows he can't really 'defeat' ISIS. Americans need to wake up to that reality, too. - The Week

Obama knows he can't really 'defeat' ISIS. Americans need to wake up to that reality, too. - The Week:

Obama's doctrine for managing threats is driven by covert action and
intelligence; on his watch, the number of soldiers deployed to fight has
shrunk relative to the intelligence resources deployed to detect and
diminish the threat. Because we are appalled at the inhumanity of ISIS,
we might all want to turn into Geraldo Riveras and blast those idiots
back to the Stone Age, but the reality is that Obama knows he cannot do
that; he cannot "defeat" ISIS. But he can manage the threat in a way
that accepts the reality of a very complex world that is always throwing
surprises in his way.

We are not fighting ISIS because ISIS is plotting an imminent attack
on the U.S. We are fighting ISIS because (a) the U.S. does not want Iran
to fight and defeat ISIS alone; (b) the Saudis recognize that ISIS
poses an existential threat to them if not checked soon; (c) Obama
believes the U.S. has a residual responsibility to try to help stabilize
Iraq if Iraq asks for the help, which it now is; (d) ISIS, well-funded
and well-armed, has threatened the United States directly, and there is
no reason to think that they won't try to find some way to directly
attack American interests down the road: (e) an ISIS unchecked could
throw the entire region into complete chaos; (f) Syria seems to welcome
the help, and in any case, the administration has signaled that airstrikes in Syria will be a very modest part of this campaign; and (g) the relative risk to American assets, people, and authority is low.

Here's the best advice Obama is getting from critics: Focus on political change in the region with as much, if not more, fervor than you're prosecuting a counterterrorism campaign. Statecraft, not warcraft.