Surprising no one at all, the drumbeat for escalation in Iraq continues. Here’s Fred Kaplan:
With his speech on Wednesday condemning ISIS in newly stark, determined language, President Obama now needs to step up his military campaign in equally dramatic fashion.
That does not—and should not—mean sending American ground troops or taking steps that give even the whiff of an American-led war.
Still, Obama described ISIS—the al-Qaida offshoot that now calls itself the Islamic State—in ways that demand further action and will later seem bizarre if they’re followed by merely more of the same.
This is a very familiar argument, but it’s also a very strange one. It is the standard logic of all demands for escalating involvement in a foreign conflict: “you have declared X to be horrible, therefore you must now do more to defeat X.” If we stop to think for a moment, we’ll realize that there is no need for the U.S. to escalate in Iraq, and there are many good reasons not to do this. For one thing, an increased U.S. military effort will inevitably encourage additional demands for further escalation, and that will sooner or later result in sending in more U.S. ground forces. (The idea that there wouldn’t be any “boots on the ground” as part of this mission has already been shown to be a convenient fiction.) As for giving a “whiff” of an American-led war, that has already happened.
The core of Kaplan’s argument is that the president has indulged in some grandiose rhetoric about something genuinely horrible, and so now there is an excuse to increase the U.S. military commitment. Otherwise, the rhetoric will seem “bizarre.” Maybe it will, but how does that justify escalating a military campaign? It doesn’t, and there’s no way that it could.
Here’s Kaplan again:
But the president of the United States can’t talk like this and then do nothing additional to “extract the cancer.”
Yes, of course he could do just that, but by the strange rules of our foreign policy debate he isn’t going to be allowed to do this without coming under constant criticism. If we look again at what Obama said, he was saying that there needed to be a “common effort” from regional governments and peoples to “extract this cancer.” And so there should be, since they are the ones that have by far the most at stake in the conflict. That doesn’t imply that the U.S. needs to take on a larger military role or expand the goals of the current mission. Indeed, the more that the U.S. does for them, the easier it will be for regional governments to avoid bearing the burdens for the region’s security.
The U.S. isn’t required to intensify its supposedly “limited” military campaign because Obama happened to use particularly strong language in a public statement, and it is foolish to insist that the U.S. escalate in Iraq for this or any other reason.