Friday, September 5, 2014

President Obama Vows to Double Down on ISIS

The Pentagon has confirmed that an additional 350 U.S. soldiers will be deployed to Iraq in response to the ISIS crisis. This will bring the troop count to more than 1,000  as President Obama appears to be doubling down against the Islamic State of Syria and Iraq (alternately known as both ISIS and ISIL).
 Reeling from the global effect of a second video released by ISIS which appeared to show American journalist Steven Sotloff being beheaded by an ISIS recruit and a furry of backlash around a Thursday comment by the President that "there was no strategy for ISIS" , Obama came out on Wednesday with some tough talk and new moves aimed at ISIS.  He  reviled the killing of journalists Steven Sotloff and James Foley  and said the U.S. would not forget the “terrible crime against these two fine young men” and—despite the threats from from ISIS— U.S. forces would continue to fight the “barbaric and ultimately empty vision” the group represents. 

Those who make the mistake of harming Americans will learn that we will not forget ... that our reach is long and that justice will be served. Our reach is long and justice will be served” "Our objective is clear. That is to degrade and destroy (ISIS) so it's no longer a threat," he said. "We can accomplish that. It's going to take some time, it's going to take some effort."  - Barack Obama

It appears ISIS has struck a nerve within the commander - in - chief whom some opponents have charged with being "soft" on foreign conflicts. Whether the message Obama delivered to ISIS from a news conference in Estonia was intended as a threat or a promise   

The Guardian reports: 
Intentionally or not, Obama has effectively responded to Isis by signaling an intensification of the latest US war in Iraq. Obama has now launched 124 airstrikes against Isis since 8 August, while swearing not to introduce “combat boots on the ground”. The new deployment brings US troops protecting the Baghdad embassy alone up to 820, the Pentagon said – a number that apparently does not include hundreds of special operations “advisers” bolstering the Iraqi military in Baghdad and Kurdish Peshmerga militia in Irbil. Should Isis attempt to attack the embassy, those troops would likely perform combat functions. Rear Admiral John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary, said the State Department’s “critical mission” would now receive “a more robust and sustainable security presence”. 

The possibility of a lengthy  military engagement in Iraq  is becoming more imminent  for U.S. forces. Critics  say Obama’s decision to bomb Iraq and re-deploy troops is a prelude to mission creep”. Critics also remind the public that it was the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq and broader U.S. foreign policy that created the conditions for ISIS to rise in the region. They warn that further military escalation in either Iraq or Syria is a mistake that plays right into the hands of jihadist groups like ISIS. 

However the brutality and accumulative victories by ISIS in Iraq garnered widening  support  from both Republican and Democrat lawmakers as well as large sections of the population for heightened and continued U.S. military action against the group. Many on Capitol Hill are urging Obama to expand the fight in Iraq and Syria dramatically—suggesting  airstrikes inside Syria and sending additional weapons to other factions on the ground who are engaged in the fight against ISIS. New polling reveal shifting currents in the GOP — with concern about U.S. engagement in not just Iraq and Syria but the world rising sharply over the past year and party members increasingly alarmed at the Obama administration’s policies. 

According to a Pew Research Center poll released the week of  8/24/14, 46 percent of Republicans said the United States does “too little” to help solve global problems — a 28-point increase from the previous poll, last November. The percentage of Republicans who believe the U.S. does “too much” abroad has dropped from 52 percent to 37 percent. 

When looking in-depth at how ISIS evolved into the force they are today, its easy to see how the U.S. unintentionally laid the groundwork for the organization's rise to the threat it is today. Yes the  U.S. has can be accredited with inadvertently aiding what has turned out to be one of it's most dangerous arch enemies in history.  

As Tom Engelhardt, editor of the online magazine TomDispatch.comexplains. 
Though the militants of ISIS would undoubtedly be horrified to think so, they are the spawn of Washington.  Thirteen years of regional war, occupation, and intervention played a major role in clearing the ground for them.  They may be our worst nightmare (thus far), but they are also our legacy — and not just because so many of their leaders came from the Iraqi army we disbanded, had their beliefs and skills honed in the prisons we set up (Camp Bucca seems to have been the West Point of Iraqi extremism), and gained experience facing U.S. counterterror operations in the “surge” years of the occupation.  In fact, just about everything done in the war on terror has facilitated their rise.  After all, we dismantled the Iraqi army and rebuilt one that would flee at the first signs of ISIS’s fighters, abandoning vast stores of Washington’s weaponry to them. We essentially destroyed the Iraqi state, while fostering a Shia leader who would oppress enough Sunnis in enough ways to create a situation in which ISIS would be welcomed or tolerated throughout significant areas of the country. 
Engelhardt warns that Obama should not let the public beheadings instigate a hasty  escalation by the U.S.  He says such a move would be a foolish, and an anticipated mistake.  
Don’t consider its taunting video of James Foley’s execution the irrational act of madmen blindly calling down the destructive force of the planet’s last superpower on themselves.  Quite the opposite.  Behind it lay rational calculation.  ISIS’s leaders surely understood that American air power would hurt them, but they knew as well that, as in an Asian martial artin which the force of an assailant is used against him, Washington’s full-scale involvement would also infuse their movement with greater power.  (This was Osama bin Laden’s most original insight.) It would give ISIS the ultimate enemy, which means the ultimate street cred in its world.  It would bring with it the memories of all those past interventions, all those snuff videos and horrifying images.  It would help inflame and so attract more members and fighters.  It would give the ultimate raison d’ĂȘtre to a minority religious movement that might otherwise prove less than cohesive and, in the long run, quite vulnerable.  It would give that movement global bragging rights into the distant future. 
If ISIS is baiting the U.S. to enter a "dog" into this fight, the U.S. doesn't really have any option but to take that bait. It's going to be a fight that will require collaborative ally commitmentand ground force deployment beyond the advisory role. It's also a fight that is going take time to win. It's almost like al Quada all over gain with the exception of this time the adversary is  merciless ruthless, highly organized, well funded and armed to the teeth. 

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