By Sal Bommarito
For months, Softball Politics has been critical of the manner in which President Obama has prosecuted the war with ISIS. I found an opportunity to consider an alternative viewpoint in the interest of presenting a balanced mosaic of the Middle East problems.
I had a short, but substantive, conversation with an individual who is very well informed about Middle East politics. My foil is a renowned political commentator who has unfettered access to many sources of information on global issues.
To summarize our encounter, let’s just say that his views were completely the opposite of mine relating to the America’s response to the ISIS threat. Frankly, the conversation was one-sided because Jack (an assumed name) is a killer debater.
My latest theses is that the U.S. has responded ineffectively to ISIS- President Obama has “blundered” along with Arab countries by not stopping ISIS in its tracks with a combination of bombs and ground force, the latter being necessary to root out insurgents and provide bombing control. As an aside, the press has reported that many American bombing sorties are unsuccessful and return with most of their munitions having been unable to identify ISIS targets.
By not addressing the ISIS situation more forcefully, the U.S. has enabled the insurgents to become a worldwide phenom that is being admired and emulated in both Arab and western countries. Additionally, ISIS’s celebrity and success in “repelling” America, the most powerful military force in the world, has been used in propaganda and to recruit new fighters. In a nutshell, ISIS has been given time to become a very dangerous threat to the global community.
Jack totally disagreed with my perspectives. He is supportive of the president’s efforts and restraint relating to ISIS. Not taking the bait and becoming engaged in a new nation-building project is, in Jack’s opinion, noteworthy.
He said the U.S. has failed miserably in every occupation dating back to the Vietnam War. I should point out that I agree with many of Jack’s observations, but I never suggested that the U.S. occupy Iraq and Syria, as it did in Iraq and Afghanistan for a decade. Rather, I believe annihilation of the ISIS interlopers should be a top priority. What happens after ISIS is defeated is another important topic.
Jack proceeded to lambaste my perspectives that ISIS is fortifying its positions among the population, and this is why bombing missions have been so ineffective- the U.S. is unsurprisingly concerned with collateral damage. He said that Arabs should deal directly with ISIS, and that the ISIS conflict was a political situation inspired by the U.S. invasion of Iraq ten or so years ago. [The last item is a ubiquitous ploy by many liberals to foist Obama’s incompetence on the policies of George Bush.]
Jack’s principal contention, and I am putting words in his mouth, is that the U.S. will be responsible for defending any and all land recaptured from ISIS. In other words, a ground assault is the precursor to occupation and nation building.
I tried unsuccessfully to argue that Iraq and Syria represented a two-stage problem. The first is the elimination of ISIS. It needs to be defeated and exposed as an unproductive rebel uprising that will never have any political traction. After its defeat, the second stage would kick in. In Iraq, it is the negotiation of a power sharing arrangement between Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds. In Syria, it is the determination of the fate of the brutal tyrant Bashar al-Assad. These situations will, for sure, evolve into brutal civil wars in both countries. Most importantly, the U.S. must depart before these internal struggles begin.
Many other nuances of Middle East politics came up in my brief repartee with Jack, in which we would have likely found agreement. I suspect that the major issue for both of us is the performance of Obama and the U.S. military. Jack is definitely an Obama apologist, and you know where I stand.
I would relish an opportunity to continue my debate with Jack, but he is probably too busy to contend with my “neocon” leanings. Another meeting would surely result in another flogging , but I believe I am correct that ISIS is a growing threat that needs to be dealt with immediately by increasing U.S. military actions.