By Sal Bommarito
In my previous posts, I’ve been critical of the U.S. mission to degrade ISIS. The vast majority of commentators and I do not believe that the terrorists can be defeated without effective ground support.
Some of my American readers object to any U.S. battle plan that would put Americans in jeopardy on the ground. They insist that another extended war in the Middle East is unacceptable. I agree. The thought of more American bloodshed in the Middle East makes me ill. But what are the other choices?
Without U.S. foot soldiers to clean up after bombing sorties, the future is bleak for the coalition. ISIS will continue to grow more powerful. It will recruit new fighters from around the world based on its successes, steal more oil from nations that cede valuable territory to it, threaten other neighboring countries and create havoc by exporting “lone wolf” terrorism to America and other western nations.
President Obama has three choices. One, he can continue to bomb and hope U.S. munitions kill more ISIS insurgents than it recruits. Two, he can hope that Saudi Arabia, Iran and/or Turkey engage ISIS with great enthusiasm and ground forces. Three, he can threaten to end the air power war and let Arab nations decide their own destiny.
The most intriguing and frightening scenario is if the U.S. pulls back and the major Arab powers do not respond to ISIS. How will ISIS react as it continues to grow and fill its coffers with black market sales of commandeered oil?
The simplest ISIS strategy would be to defeat Iraq and/or Syria and form a new Islamic state; these countries will be helpless without continuing U.S. support. Is ISIS capable of forming a new government atop the ashes of this brutal civil war? Would the international community recognize the new state out of fear? If ISIS prolongs its tactics of killing and beheading all but the most fundamental Sunnis and exporting terrorism to other countries, why would Shiite, Christian or any peaceful nations accept the new government?
Finally, ISIS could keep marching outward from Iraq and Syria into Jordan, Iran and Turkey. Surely, these nations would respond aggressively. The question is why they have not done so to this point. But, will they be able to repel the persistent ISIS fighters? Who can predict the outcome of such a horrendous conflict? And, will the U.S. stand by and allow ISIS to occupy more nations?
Seems to me that the use of ground forces against ISIS may be inevitable if the alternative is a massive conflict involving every Arab country in the Middle East.