Sunday, August 31, 2014

No strategy

Obama recently revealed in a press conference that the US currently has no strategy to deal with IS / ISIS in Iraq and Syria.  While his opponents are making much of this I think stating that there is currently no strategy in place is pretty much the only reasonable thing to say.  What alternative would other people suggest?  Bomb Assad and help IS?  Bomb IS and help Assad?  Put enough troops on the ground to keep all groups apart and prevent any fighting?  All of them are ludicrous.  The IS situation is a disaster in the making for Western democracies and even worse for people living under their regime but there is no response that seems likely to actually help that I can see.

I will take Democrats over Republicans if I have to make a choice but even then I am no Obama booster.  He has done no end of awful things while in office but I think this decision is on the money even if the way he put it isn't necessarily politically astute.  I suspect he would have done slightly better with "Our strategy is to keep IS from expanding with minimal use of force and to use diplomacy to try to end conflict."  It would have been useless nonsense but it might have gotten him in less trouble.  There are times when military intervention is likely to produce a positive result - like kicking Iraq out of Kuwait, for example.  The best objectives are clear, simple ones that can be accomplished without fighting people who are supported by the local population.  No such thing is possible in Syria or Iraq at the moment and we all know it.

The US has a giant gun and their leaders seem disproportionately happy to use it to try to solve problems, even problems that are obviously not solvable with a giant gun.  This is one such case.  Even though I think that the horrors that are unfolding in IS territory and otherwise in Iraq and Syria are terrible and I wish we could fix them somehow sometimes walking in with a giant gun simply won't improve things.  Far better to admit that a problem is complicated, even impossible, than to wade in with a giant gun and open fire without being sure that doing so is truly the right answer.

Wait and See isn't a good rallying cry for the troops but if I had to follow a leader I would infinitely rather a leader who is willing to wait and see when that is the best course of action instead of charging off foolishly in a misguided attempt to look decisive and heroic.

1 comment:

  1. I'm currently reading a book called "Strategy: A History" and I'm right at the point where it's discussing changes in the US military view of strategy with regards to insurgents with references to Afghanistan and Iraq. I'm hoping that by the end of it I'll see the correct strategy for ISIS. :-)

    Note that Obama says "...yet" at the end. You mangled a 6-word quote! The Congressman who says Obama shouldn't have been surprised by events is misguided - the world is full of surprises. And once you're surprised, if there's no immediate risk, it seems wise to take your time before defining your strategy.

    And then, once you have one, why would you trumpet it? Some strategies are best left hidden. So maybe the strategy is to say there is no strategy...yet.