When Valerie Jarrett told Barack Obama he’d have to cut a few hours out of his fiftieth luxury vacation and do something in Iraq, lest he go down in history as the President who lounged at poolside while genocide went down, his initial statements insisted it would be a matter of launching a few quick airstrikes against ISIS… even as everyone in the defense establishment was muttering about long-term commitments and a lack of easy solutions. On Saturday, Obama came off the back nine to give another press conference and finally admit that the situation in Iraq would be a “long-term” project.
Thus far, pinprick air strikes have managed to destroy one artillery battery and three armored vehicles, all of which ISIS seized from Iraqi forces. Earlier air strikes from the Iraqi government and/or the Turks are said to have killed a good number of ISIS fighters None of that has stopped from continuing their advance into Kurdistan, or practicing their quaint custom of slaughtering infidels, in some cases by burying Yazidi women and children alive.
No doubt there’s heavier air action coming against the Islamic State, but targeted bombing from safe altitudes isn’t going to dislodge an entrenched enemy, especially when he’s mixed in with civilian captives in conquered territory. It would take some very energetic bombing merely to create a safe corridor for the 50,000 Yazidis stranded on Mount Sinjar to evacuate to Irbil… and what long-term good is that going to do, if ISIS keeps advancing on Irbil?
If Obama had taken the 3AM phone call from Iraq when ISIS first advanced on Mosul, serious air power might have stopped them from overrunning the city. Their initial invasion force was relatively small, and would have been vulnerable when on the move. Once they took Mosul, they became a problem that could not be solved with low-risk precision air strikes and drone attacks. The Iraqi military folded like a house of cards; the more serious Kurdish units turned out to be too small and poorly-equipped to hold the Islamic State at bay, as Obama was clearly hoping.
Maybe heavy-duty American air power can multiply Kurdish and Iraqi forces enough to keep Kurdish territory intact, but that’s a big maybe, especially since everyone in the world is getting the clear message that when your back is against the wall, counting on Barack Obama for help is suicidal. That’s going to have a serious impact on the morale of fighting forces pitted against an insanely savage enemy that not only laughs at the Geneva Conventions, but regards “Hellraiser” as an instructional video for prisoner management. And there’s no way any conceivable air campaign would actually roll the Islamic State back, especially given that we’re not about to engage in carpet-bombing tactics that would inflict horrific damage on the captive population.
Meanwhile, ISIS continues a remarkably effective online propaganda campaign and recruiting drive by posting a photo of someone holding up a smartphone image of their black terror flag right outside the White House:
This would be a great time for Vladimir Putin to pull the trigger on his Ukraine invasion and send the 20,000 troops he’s massed across the border, wouldn’t it?
I don’t know what the smartest U.S. play would be right now. I know what it was six months ago, and two years ago: the opposite of what Obama actually did. (Meanwhile, we’re treated to the utterly pathetic spectacle of Obama suddenly attempting to claim that he wanted to leave troops in Iraq but the local government wouldn’t let him – as if nobody remembers a damn word Obama said in 2011 or 2012.) We’re getting into “sum of all fears” territory. There’s no easy way to undo the damage from Obama’s mistakes. If we’re lucky, there might be a hard way.