On Wednesday night President Obama gave a national speech during prime time concerning his upcoming actions in dealing with the terrorist group ISIS. We will use additional air strikes in the area to include Syria. We also will send additional troops to train the Iraqi forces and the rebels fighting in Syria, but there will be no United States combat troops. I have enough combat experience and the study of war to know that air strikes will not defeat an enemy. World War II, Korea, and Vietnam support that premise. In addition, air strikes are most effective when they are controlled from the ground by troops in the area. Look what a handful of specially trained Americans did in Afghanistan when they decimated large enemy forces.
The President spoke about “a broad coalition” of countries that will support the new strategy with air and ground forces. They have yet to be named. I suspect that there is much arm twisting in an effort to get as much support as possible from friendly countries. The biggest problem will be convincing them that we are serious and will follow through with credible actions. Our history over the past six years does not create a lot of confidence in what is said. What will make this more difficult is that we want others to use their ground troops while we watch and supervise. That is truly leading from behind.
We can be assured that ISIS forces will surround themselves with civilians much like the Hamas did in Gaza when it fired its missiles against Israel. Their media will stress the killing of any civilians as an attack on innocents and not ISIS. That ploy plays very well in western presses since it is expected that no innocent civilians should ever be victims when two forces are fighting. That thinking is unreal and totally without rational thinking. No country in history has ever gone to the extremes that we have in an effort to eliminate the harming of innocent civilians. Our enemies are aware of this and take full advantage of it by using civilians as barriers against attack.
The actual presentation by the president was really very good and for those who generally do not pay close attention they will not see the contradictions between what he says and what he does. His actions or lack of actions has caused many of the difficulties that we face today. We have left stay behind forces in all of the countries that we have freed and they have been used to stabilize that country and a positive example of our commitment against potential aggressors. He seems to be of the opinion that if one ignores bad news, it will improve over time. Unfortunately, the exact opposite is usually the case. Bad news becomes worse with time and it then costs much more in time, money, and reputation.
The President boasts about his actions to end wars, but he fails to recognize that our problems in Iraq were contributed by the fact that we did not leave a stay behind force and he plans to do the same in Afghanistan. The next couple of weeks will indicate if our friends believe that we are serious and what contributions they are willing to muster in support. Our actions during that time will be closely observed by both friends and especially enemies. Each will act accordingly.
Donald Myers is a retired Marine Colonel and regular contributor to THE CHESAPEAKE TODAY. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org