3 Reasons to NOT Fight ISIS


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President Obama has effectively declared war on the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, announcing that "we will degrade, and ultimately destroy, ISIS through a comprehensive and sustained counter-terrorism strategy."

But here are three reasons we should not be fighting ISIS in the Middle East.

1. ISIS isn't that powerful.  

War hawks such as Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) claim that "the threat ISIS poses cannot be overstated." That is itself an overstatement. The FBI and Homeland Security both say ISIS isn't a credible threat to the American homeland. The group may be great at using social media to exaggerate its power, but estimates of its troop strength range between 10,000 and 30,000 and most analysts talk about a core group of a few thousand fighters.

2. It's a regional conflict.

ISIS controls territory inside Iraq and Syria. But even President Obama concedes that ISIS does not currently pose a threat "beyond that region."

Iraq and Syria—and their neighbors, including Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and the Kurds—are the ones that must deal with this problem. Iraq's army has more than one-quarter of a million U.S.-trained troops, the Peshmerga almost as many. Iran's active forces number over half a million.

3. What counts as victory?

In announcing bombing runs and sending more American soliders to the Middle East, President Obama not only failed to call for congressional authorization, he neglected to discuss any sort of exit strategy. That's a prerequisite for any responsible war plan. As important, his definition of success—we will "ultimately destroy" ISIS—is a goal nobody has ever achieved against any terrorist group.

Let's be clear: The U.S. should do everything it can to defend its citizens and its interests.

But if the past dozen years have taught us anything—in Iraq and elsehwere—it's that war is more complicated than our leaders ever want to admit. And it's a lot easier to start wars than to win them—or even know when they're over.

About 2 minutes.

Written by Nick Gillespie and produced by Meredith Bragg. Camera by Todd Krainin and Amanda Winkler.

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Related reading: "Ending Evil vs. Defending the Country," by Jacob Sullum.