Destroy the ‘Islamic State’
Posted on August 25, 2014
By John R. Bolton:
The recent military successes of the Islamic State, also known as ISIS and ISIL, and the ongoing disintegration of Iraq’s “central” government have created a strategic crisis for the United States. Barack Obama’s belated, narrow authorization to use military force against the Islamic State does not constitute a coherent response, let alone a comprehensive one. The president seems curiously inactive, even as American influence in the region collapses and, not coincidentally, his political-approval ratings suffer. From the outset of the Islamic State’s campaign, his policies have been haphazard and confused, especially the halting, timid decision to intervene militarily. And, based on his record as president, there is no reason to believe a strategic vision of the Middle East’s future will ultimately emerge from his administration.
Approving U.S. military force against the Islamic State on August 7, Obama stressed two limited goals: protecting U.S. civilian and military personnel in Irbil, the Kurdish capital, which the Islamic State was rapidly nearing; and aiding refugees who had fled as the group advanced into Iraq from Syria. These are legitimate objectives, but they are far too constrained even in humanitarian terms, let alone against the serious regional and global strategic threats the Islamic State poses. The approximately 40,000 Yazidis were clearly in dire straits, but their plight had been preceded months earlier by the even greater number of fleeing Christian families. Obama stood by while the Islamic State butchered its way around Iraq.
Although the initial U.S. air strikes provided the refugees breathing space, the Islamic State still basically has the initiative. Ironically, Obama the multilateralist has not yet followed George H. W. Bush’s roadmap after the first Persian Gulf War in assembling an international coalition to achieve his humanitarian objectives. In April 1991, Kurdish refugees fled Saddam Hussein’s repression, and Bush persuaded the U.N. Security Council to adopt Resolution 688, declaring the refugee flows a threat to international peace and security. He then launched Operation Provide Comfort, later supplemented by aid to the Shiites in southern Iraq.
Today’s ongoing tragedy would have been entirely avoidable had Obama not withdrawn U.S. forces from Iraq in 2011. By so doing, he eliminated a considerable element of U.S. leverage in Baghdad, one that had significantly limited Iran’s ability to expand its influence inside Iraq. With substantial U.S. forces still present, Iraq’s various ethnic and confessional groups were more likely to make progress knitting together a sustainable national government and to lessen their profound, longstanding mistrust, which existed well before the Islamic State erupted from Syria.
We must now decide on U.S. strategic objectives in light of the dramatic, albeit still-tenuous, territorial gains by the Islamic State; the unfolding disarray in Iraq’s government; the grinding conflict in Syria; and the looming threats to stability in Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey. This will require some unpleasant choices, as well as recognition of the obvious reality that many policy options are simply unavailable until Obama leaves office in 2017.
America’s basic objective is clear: We must seek to destroy the Islamic State. It is simply not enough to block the group’s threat to the Kurds or other vulnerable minorities in the region. The risks of even a relatively small “state” (or “caliphate,” as they proclaim it) are chilling. Leaving the Islamic State in place and in control only of its current turf in Iraq and Syria (including northern-Iraqi hydrocarbon deposits and associated infrastructure) would make it viable economically and a fearsome refuge for terrorists of all sorts. Just as Afghanistan’s Taliban gave al-Qaeda a base of operations to launch terrorist attacks culminating in 9/11, a similar result could follow if the Islamic State successfully erased and then redrew existing boundaries.
Read more at National Reviewhttp://counterjihadreport.com/2014/08/25/destroy-the-islamic-state/