If President Obama’s no-boots-on-the-ground in Iraq is his final word, they’ll have to wear moccasins or some other comfortable footwear.
Bombing sans boots did not work in World War I, World War II and every other war from the Korean war to Vietnam to Iraq (I, II & III).
Bombing of North Vietnam without boots on the ground did not prevent a humiliating U.S. defeat.
And here the operative word is American. Iraqi boots have not prevented ISIS incursions 30 miles from Baghdad. Proper training of Iraqi commando units will take several more months.
There is an alternative to U.S. boots in Iraq to repel ISIS — and that is Arab boots, e.g., Jordanian, Saudi and Egyptian combat footwear. But these Arab countries also have a significant part of their religious public opinion in clandestine sympathy with ISIS.
So these friendly Arab countries limit their military assistance to aerial bombing and strafing.
The U.S. can still opt out of bombs and boots and leave the fighting to others. But the final outcome could be an unmitigated disaster for the U.S. and its European allies as ISIS gathers sympathy and support throughout the Middle East.
A sine qua non for ending what otherwise is a war without end is the old adage that the enemy of my enemy is my ally, however briefly that may turn out to be the case in Syria.
The regime of Bashar al Assad is clearly the lesser of several evils.
But there appears to be a mindset about assisting Syria’s anti-Assad, anti-ISIS fighters in the middle of the spectrum. This, for the time being, is in lieu of a more robust strategy.
Unfortunately, these pro-Western rebels are more interested in fighting the Assad regime than the far more lethal threat of ISIS.
Congress’ House vote of 273 to 150 — before taking two months off to campaign for November’s elections — showed deep misgivings in both parties about half measures’ chances of success.
There is an uneasy feeling among both Democrats and Republicans that they voted for a stop-gap measure that was tantamount to wider military authorization that would follow the November elections.
The vote did nothing to advance the destruction of the Islamist state of ISIS. U.S. policies in Iraq since the 2003 invasion, based on deliberate lies about Saddam’s Hussein’s alleged nuclear arsenal, have been an abysmal failure.
The dismantling of Saddam Hussein’s professional army was a tragic mistake. Highly professional Iraqi officers, dismissed by U.S. edicts, are now in the ranks of ISIS.
The new US-trained Iraqi army collapsed without a fight in northern Iraq, surrendering arms and equipment to ISIS.
Today, everyone seems to understand that a re-commitment to liberating Iraq from the forces of evil will take both treasure and time in a country that has proved time and again to be the graveyard of Washington’s good intentions.
The U.S. is also laboring under a drastic cutback in defense expenditures ordained by the Administration and Congress.
Sen. Joe Manchin III, D-W.Va. said, "We have been at war in that part of the world for the past 13 years" and "if money and military might could have made a difference, it would have done so by now."
In lieu of boots on the ground, friendly Arab nations — Saudi Arabia, UAE, Jordan, Bahrain — joined the U.S. bombing campaign against ISIS targets with their fighter bombers.
Qatar, mentioned as one of the participants in the aerial campaign, provided access for refueling to Al Udeid near Doha, the largest U.S. air base outside the U.S. which is also forward HQ for the U.S. Central Command.
This is a delicate juggling act for Qatar as it maintains good relations with all manner of Islamist extremists. And it has invested some $200 billion abroad, from department stores in London to automobile companies in Germany to coast-to-coast real estate in the U.S. and mines in Latin America. Qataris also enjoy the highest per capita income in the world (over $100,000) with a native population of some 300,000 and a foreign labor force of over 2 million.
It will take the U.S. several more months to complete the training of new Iraqi army units, hoping this will fill the current porous battlefield gaps that ISIS uses with impunity.
Meanwhile, the U.S.-led air campaign is costly with no guarantee of success.
The options are re-engagement in Iraq with boots on the ground — or disengagement and the spreading geopolitical malignancy of ISIS.