Can The Coalition Defeat ISIS With Or Without U.S. Ground Support?

By Sal Bommarito

Fact: U.S. military leaders are strongly in favor of a boots on the ground strategy for Iraq and Syria. The president continues to be totally against the use of U.S. ground forces in the ISIS conflict.

Fact: Airstrikes are most effective in open expanses, like the desert. In highly populated areas, airstrikes will result in significant collateral damage, and many innocent civilians will lose their lives.

Fact: Most experts are highly critical of the ability of the Iraqi army to provide ground support. They were ineffective during the U.S. occupation of Iraq, and many deserted when confronted by ISIS earlier this year.

Fact: The “moderate” Syrian rebels are not ready for prime time. Exacerbating the situation is that it is impossible to predict whether they will remain loyal to the U.S. if ISIS is defeated. There is a strong chance that the arms the U.S. plans to give to this group may be used against America in the aftermath of the ISIS war.

There have been many reports that the U.S. will not be able to soundly defeat ISIS using only airpower. In this regard, Robert Gates, former Secretary of Defense said “[The U.S.] is not going to be successful against ISIS from the air, or strictly depending upon Iraqi or [Kurdish soldiers].”

Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman, Gen. Martin Dempsey said that if current battle plans do not work out “[he] would go back to the president and [recommend] the use of U.S. ground forces.”

There are other generals who are suggesting more aggressive action on the part of the president. They include Gen. John Allen, Gen. Lloyd Austin and Gen. Jack Kean.

Obama’s response to the suggestion that ground troops are needed was that the U.S. should “use [its] unique capabilities in supporting our partners on the ground so they can secure their own country’s future.” This may be based upon his experiences that massive ground forces did not inhibit insurgency in either Iraq or in Afghanistan over the past decade. The U. S. occupation of Iraq “gave birth to [ISIS].” In Afghanistan, more than a decade of occupation “has failed to destroy Al Qaeda or the Taliban.”

Who should the American people support, Obama or his generals? Many say the generals are the experts in warfare, and their recommendations should carry a lot of weight. But, what if Obama and the generals are both correct? If so, the U.S. will not unable to completely destroy ISIS from the air, and the deployment of troops will not change that outcome.

These contingencies create a grave dilemma for the U.S. Basically there may be no way to destroy ISIS. So, what the hell is the U.S. doing in Iraq and Syria? And, why hasn’t the president made all these issues clear to his constituencies?

Maybe the mission is faulty. Or maybe, the president has not been 100% truthful to America because of political an/or legacy concerns. Perhaps the mission should be to kill as many ISIS fighters from the air, exclusively. Then let the natives deal with the problem of nation building and security after the bombing sorties end.

Questions and the risks relating to the current plan to eliminate ISIS are growing every day, yet the administration has done little to allay our concerns.

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