Will Ground Troops Be Sent to Iraq to Fight ISIS?

Seems like it


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, "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 pro-war 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 America had a "unique capability to mobilize against" ISIS, because the world is threatened, needs help, and "calls on America," invoking his own brand of American exceptionalism. "There 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," the pesident aid.

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.

A version of this article originally appeared at the Future of Freedom Foundation.

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  1. 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?

    What if? Everyone knows damn well they aren’t up to the job. But by the time it’s demonstrated the election will be over.

    1. I would not count out the Kurds.

      1. The Peshmerga can fight, but I don’t think they are being supplied with the best weapons and training in sufficient amounts to matter.

      2. If Saddam Hussein could keep the Kurds under his iron rule, the more vicious and savage ISIS will definitely be able to conquer them. ISIS has a logistical chain that as far as I can tell is robust and hasn’t been seriously interrupted. As long as they have ammo and replacement fighters, ISIS will be able to fight the Kurds and eventually defeat them, especially since everyone else in the area wants the Kurds to win only pyrrhic victories, while weakening ISIS for the eventual counterattack by Arabs or Persians. In fact, the arabs are likely hoping that the Kurds will be defeated by ISIS.

        1. We should be arming the Kurds. Fuck Turkey and ISIS and all the Arabs and Iranians who don’t like the Kurds.

          1. You do realize that 20 years ago, Kurds were massacring Turks and even Kurds suspected of not being separatists, and I am talking not just killing grown men and women, but every body down to the babies?

            This is nothing the U.S. government should be getting involved in. There are *no* good guys.

  2. 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?

    Up to what job? The job is to go fight a totally unnecessary war and die in it if required for the purpose of supporting their masters access to perpetual war. Lots of money is to be made by the military industrial complex and their cronies, and perpetual war is needed to keep the sheep scared and under control.

    We have to arm today’s good guys so that tomorrow they can be the scary bad guys and the forever war can continue.

    1. Well, in the Kurds’ defense, the war certainly isn’t unnecessary for them. Or unavoidable.

      Whether we should get involved is another thing entirely.

  3. This shit will only end when people start telling their leaders to go fight their own fucking useless wars. You want to fight? Get your ass on the front lines and fight or STFU about it.

    I would love to see a constitutional amendment that anyone in Congress who votes to go into a war that is not the result of a direct attack against the USA, goes to the front lines and all of their children over 18 years of age go also. Same for any POTUS who either approves of said congressional action or who goes into something like this without congressional approval.

    1. I don’t like punishing kids for the sins of their fathers, but otherwise yes. The Spartans always had 2 kings. Whenever they went to battle, one of them was in the front rank of the phalanx. If they hadn’t been alpha badass motherfuckers, it probably would have given them some pause about going to war.

    2. Hypothetically, let’s say China attacks and invades Canada, and then begins to mass troops on our Northern border. Is it your contention that we should wait until after they have crossed the border and started killing Americans before we attack them? Is it your contention that the State shouldn’t have the power to muster the resources necessary for national defense until after the nation is under direct attack?

      1. Your hypothetical isn’t analogous to the current situation. It takes seriously tortured “logic” to declare I.S.I.S./I.S.I.L./I.S./whatever a threat to America itself. They are a “potential threat” in the same sense that anyone, anywhere who is armed & doesn’t like America is a “potential threat.”

        This same logic can be used to justify literally any military action, to label literally anyone a “terrorist.” In the years ahead, watch as it’s used to do so, since apparently nobody has the standing to challenge a rogue president.

        North Korea is a bigger actual threat to America. Why aren’t we invading them?

        1. Threat assessment: It’s a real thing. An armed Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is exponentially more dangerous and likely to attack the US than an armed Recep Tayyip Erdo?an.

          We haven’t attacked the DPRK in spite of them being a serious threat specifically because they have the world’s second largest metropolitan area containing roughly 25 million people, within range of about 50K artillery tubes and rocket launchers, and they mean to destroy it, and everyone in it.

          If you think that a few thousand very well funded, suicidal islamic fundamentalist terrorists are NOT a threat to the entire civilized world, you’re sadly naive. 9/11 was 19 guys plus a few support people. They literally changed the world as we know it. Imagine 9/11 times 2356. It is NOT outside the realm of possibilities, and just derping our way along and ignoring the threat would be pretty fucking irresponsible.

      2. Hypothetically ISIS isn’t massed on our Northern border.

        There is no way the US can come out of this with anything that can be pointed to that can even be mislabeled as a victory.

        Intervening in a 1000 year old religious war with our military’s hands tied behind their backs isn’t a wise move.

        I’m old enough to have seen this war boner marketing campaign repeat itself time and time again. Various and sundry voices are popping up and selling this war. We are being sold a bill of goods by some group with enough power to make Obama do this. I cant possibly see him doing this without some intense pressure. Same as his desire to bomb Syria for no US advantage, now he wants to bomb Syria’s enemies for some unseen US advantage.

        He just wants to bomb somebody, somewhere.

        Why ?

        1. Intervening in a 1000 year old religious war? Hell, we’ve been involved in that war for as long as the United States has existed.

  4. In case the you aren’t sufficiently disgusted by unconstitutional wars and administration hypocrisy yet, I bring you New Republic.

    We Need to Begin Nation-Building in Syria Right Now
    If we want to avoid the mistakes we made in Iraq

    The president said he learned from the Libyan strikes in 2011 that military intervention that was not backed by a major effort to build a functional state afterward would lead to chaos and new threats to American interests. In the interview, Obama seemed to be imply that this was one reason he didn’t want to intervene in Syria: because he was not ready to commit to such a program for Syria.

    Well, the president has now committed to just such an intervention in Syria. Having done so, ensuring that the intervention turns out well?and does not create more problems than it solves?means that he is also going to have to commit to nation-building there.

    It is certainly understandable why Obama would be reluctant to admit this to the American people (although hopefully not to himself). After all, as he has endlessly reminded us, he believes that he was elected to get the U.S. out of long-term commitments in the Middle East and to focus on nation-building at home. Now is the time to rise above those campaign slogans and do what is in the nation’s long-term strategic interests.


    2. Yeah, I’m pretty sure nation building WAS the fucking mistake we made in Iraq.

      1. Actually, the mistake we made was in nation destroying, not nation building. We completely disbanded all existing military and police forces, and left a vacuum that we couldn’t possibly fill with the number of troops that were committed.

    3. The first 2 lines are hilarious.

    4. “Now is the time to rise above those campaign slogans and do what is in the nation’s long-term strategic interests.”

      According to the people who control ANY of our POTUS and administrations, any spending for WAR is in the best interest of their America. Period.

      The only caveat is to try and keep the American body count low so people here don’t get upset.

      Other than that, it’s all about the MIC and the contracts. If that sounds cynical….well, so be it. Money talks, BS walks.

  5. I suppose the 1700+ folks there now don’t count?!

    1. 1st ID HQ elements are en route now to replace their boots with approved “Made in America” athletic footwear as we speak.

      1. “I need you to scrape together every sick bay commando, permanent profile and other nonhackers in running shoes together by 1600 hours – at the flight line!”

  6. I agree with you Sheldon. What are we trying to do in Iraq and Syria? I was ok with a limited campaign to protect a very brave Kurdish resistance movement (see: Iraqi Red Army, for example) and to respond to Islamist thugs who were about to commit genocide against religious minorities in the North, but this seems like a huge escalation. Did you by any chance see Barbara lee’s statement in congress?

  7. many members of which may be disappointed in Obama’s pledge because combat experience is a valued r?sum? item

    WTF is this shit? I don’t know of a single member of the armed forces who wants to go to war because “combat experience is a valued r?sum? item.” And further more, valued for what, exactly? What a load of bullshit.

    1. Strange, because I know a LOT of members of the armed forces that have the mind-set that as long as there’s a war, they need to go. After 12+ years of war, if you don’t have at least one OEF or OIF combat deployment on your r?sum?, you’re not very likely to get promoted beyond E-6 or O-3.

    2. “valued for what, exactly? What a load of bullshit.”

      Promotions. Combat experience brings advancement in a military resume over non combat resumes.

  8. Serious question… why are ground troops like a magical talisman against being accused of starting or engaging in a war?

  9. Wrap it uip cheeser, lets do this.

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  12. I love all these constitutional scholars who proclaim this or that as unconstitutional….

    This is a very easy problem to solve. Use the Koch$$$ to bring a few cases before the SCOTUS. See that the cons there say. After all, we know that Thomas and friends are the ultimate patriots and constitutionalist.

    Problem solved.

    Until then STFU with this constitutional question. If we want to talk treason and unconstitutional, we could start with the 100’s of member of Congress who took oaths and yet are clearly trying to NOT do their duty. We have statements, writings and proof of that.

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