By Sal Bommarito
The war against ISIS is a losing proposition according to Sen. John McCain (R-AZ). On Sunday, the senator said the terrorists were winning because the U.S. is not fighting the type of war that is necessary to ensure victory. ISIS is gaining ground, as Iraqi soldiers are incapable of fighting toe-to-toe with the insurgents. In short, the bombing has not been, and will not be, sufficient to “degrade” ISIS.
President Obama, John Kerry and Donna Rice must be reading fictional accounts of the fighting. They are the only ones unable to see the writing on the wall. Public announcements have been made by the administration indicating some level of comfort with the situation in Iraq. The fact is Iraqi troops are no more capable of providing ground support and security than during any time in the past decade. ISIS is cutting through Iraqi opposition as they dodge periodic bombing sorties by the allies.
Over the weekend, General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, indicated that U.S. troops were not yet required, but they would probably be needed eventually. Gen. Dempsey is a good soldier trying to provide cover for his commander-in-chief, but he was unwilling to deceive Americans about the conditions on the ground. The generals know the real story: the war is a disaster because ISIS forces are facing ineffective opposition as they speed toward Baghdad.
Kobani, a large Syrian city that abuts the Turkish border is about to fall because the Turks refuse to enter the fray. This is curious since Turkey will likely be the next target of ISIS forces that will amass at the border after the city is taken. Yet, Turkey has other axes to grind. For one, it refuses to allow Turkish Kurds to fight with Syrian Kurds against the insurgents. The Turks are concerned that the Kurds will use the moment to turn on Turkey in their fight for independence. Two, Turkey wants President Assad to step down. Never mind that ISIS is growing stronger every day. The problems that will arise from ISIS will dwarf the gripes that Turkey has with Assad. It’s too bad American diplomats cannot convince Turkey’s President Erdogan that this is the case.
In the meantime, “moderate rebels” in Syria are not interested in participating in the U.S. coalition. They want to get past ISIS and resume their attacks on Assad. To assume this group of fighters is ever going to be a dependable source of ground support to assist in operations prior to and after bombing campaigns is folly.
Airstrikes are only one part of an effective strategy to defeat ISIS. Currently, the U.S. is dropping expensive munitions and taking out trucks and small groups of the enemy. The return on investment of this strategy is unacceptable. U.S. planes need direction from the ground to identify high quality targets such as supply areas, large groups of fighters, command and control positions and the like. And, airstrikes are ineffective in areas that are populated by civilians. The U.S. is not going to bomb cities where ISIS is hiding and storing weapons.
What a terrible state of affairs. Our country is the greatest military force in the world. Yet, we are unable to protect Iraq because our battle plan is misguided. Wars have always been won on the ground, with the exception of Japan. Since the U.S. is not going to nuke any other country, the lessons of past battles should encourage the president to change his strategy and focus on ground operations.