Pentagon Official on ISIS Bombing Campaign: 'I would think in terms of years'


When President Obama first announced that he had authorized a new round of airstrikes in Iraq, he attempted to reassure the public that the attacks would not lead to another war.

"I know that many of you are rightly concerned about any American military action in Iraq," he said, "even limited strikes like these. I understand that." He offered a reminder that he ran for office in part to end the war in Iraq. And he said he would not let a new war begin. 

"As Commander-in-Chief, I will not allow the United States to be dragged into fighting another war in Iraq." American forces would play a support role only, "because there's no American military solution to the larger crisis in Iraq." 

So much for "limited strikes." The initial, narrowly targeted campaign, a "humanitarian" mission to save a small group of people trapped on a mountain in Iraq, according to that first speech, quickly turned into a larger bombing campaign against militants in Iraq and, as of last night, in Syria too. 

And Pentagon officials are saying that it's not going end any time soon. 

Via The Hill:

"Last night's strikes are the beginning of a credible and sustainable persistent campaign to degrade and ultimately destroy" ISIS, Army Lt. Gen. Bill Mayville told reporters.

"I would think of it in terms of years," he added about the length of the expected campaign against ISIS.

That sure didn't take long. 

Really, this isn't that surprising, considering that Obama has already suggested the strikes could be part of an extended military effort. But it is revealing. 

If you want to understand why Obama's foreign policy job approval ratings are falling, why people say they don't trust the executive branch, and why critics are suggesting that the Obama administration can't really be believed when officials promise that ground troops won't be part of the equation, then all you need to do is take a look at the difference between what's been promised regarding the military operation against ISIS and what's actually happened in a space of less than two months.

The initial justification for strikes—a supposedly limited, humanitarian mission to help a small group of desperate people on a single mountain—turned out almost immediately to be a pretext for a much larger effort to attack, degrade, and destroy ISIS militants in two different countries, an effort that is now projected to last years. All the while, the administration insists that it's not actually a "combat mission," as if dropping bombs and shooting missiles on hundreds of occasions, with the intention of doing it hundreds more times, is somehow not really combat. 

The implicit message of Obama's speech last month was that you could trust him, because he was war-weary too. The practical message of the last two months, however, is that Obama is taking the nation to war despite his campaign promises to the contrary, and that he can't be trusted at all. 

NEXT: Obama Announces Climate Change Executive Order

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  1. “there’s no American military solution to the larger crisis in Iraq.”

    With all due respect, please define “Iraq”, “larger crisis”, and “solution”.

    1. President Obama speaks in code to avoid ever having to be too specific.

      I think i know what is implied here

      – “the larger crisis in Iraq” means the longer term political reconciliation between Sunni and Shia groups and the status of the Kurds as an independent entity within a contiguous nation called “Iraq” or not. The real larger question is, “whose country is it, and can anyone run the whole place without it resulting in a perpetual civil war”?

      he’s suggesting the US military assets can not and will not here attempt to be part of that process… which the previous Iraq War was in many ways about.

      i.e. he’s saying that the current application of military force against ISIS is limited to schwacking these guys and neutralizing them as an independent force, such that other “interested parties” can continue with their…. uh, ‘negotiations’ (read: wrestle for political control) over the future status of both Iraq and Syria.

      He of course doesn’t speak in these clear terms, because he doesn’t want to ever be quoted and not have the option of re-interpreting himself as may be convenient at a later date.

  2. The implicit message of Obama’s speech last month was that you could trust him, because he was war-weary too.

    Hey, deploy as many times as he did, and you would be “war-weary”.

    And by “deploy” I mean golf and by “war-weary” I mean suffering from slight tendinitis in an elbow.

    1. Basic law this!

  3. Obama turns out to be a liar, who woulda thunk?

  4. “I would think of it in terms of years,” he added about the length of the expected campaign against ISIS.

    Could you hazard a guess as to the order of magnitude?

  5. Contrast (this is only 3 months ago):

  6. How about instead of years, the military measures by a different metric? Say for instance, deaths? So instead of “four years” you say, “55,000 ISIS guys dead.” I mean, the objective isn’t to putter around in Iraq until the politicians get tired of the war in four years. The objective is to kill ISIS guys. So how many guys is that? Figure out the number, then go kill that many guys. If it takes four years, so be it. But I would think a military would measure itself in how many guys were killed.

    1. Oh no, it’s like the war on drugs where we just build more prisons. In the Middle East we just drop more bombs as more jihadists come.

      There is no winning this war, just learning how to deal with them.

  7. Is it just me, or has the Pentagon been publicly contradicting the White House on this quite a bit?

    1. they got burned last time with ‘light footprint’ rumsfeld, and they Hegel isn’t a tough guy insisting on his dictums being the last word.

      they want options.

  8. This mission isn’t creeping, it’s out on a brisk jog.

  9. Bah. These guys aren’t really thinking outside the box.

    All of our geopolitical problems could be solved in an afternoon via thermonuclear weapons.

    Then you people could spend the rest of the evening blathering on about Kennedy [the VJ, not the martyred satyr] or how much you hate cops.

  10. a credible and sustainable persistent organic fair-trade artisinal campaign

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