Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The battle against the Islamic State is not ours to fight or win

By Bernard E. Trainor September 24, WashPost

The writer, a retired Marine lieutenant general, is co-author of “The Endgame: The Inside Story of the Struggle for Iraq, from George W. Bush to Barack Obama.”

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and his band of Islamic State zealots received international attention for their brutality and lightning sweep across Iraq, but the United States should know better than to respond with a clarion call to battle. We have already been burned trying to solve the Rubik’s cube of the Middle East. U.S. actions in the region should remain calculating, patient — and detached.

The Islamic State presents a problem to be managed, not a war to be won. Much of what it occupies in Syria and Iraq is useless desert. The situation is stabilizing, largely because of limited U.S. airstrikes, and the immediate crisis is over. The Iraqi Kurds have stiffened their defenses, and Shiites backed by Iran are defending Baghdad. Even Anbar Province’s Sunni tribes pose a problem for the interlopers.

The Islamic State blitzkrieg can be seen as the latest iteration of the struggle for ascendancy by radical Muslims, but at the core it is a local matter, and brutality is unfortunately part of the package. The U.S. role should be limited to helping Kurdish forces and the new Baghdad government better organize to keep the pressure on, with U.S. airstrikes contingent on their progress. The president’s attempt to form an international posse to assist makes sense, and the results have been reasonably encouraging. France and a fistful of Arab states are already actively engaged.

(More here.)

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