Max Boot predictably wants to expand the goals of intervention in Iraq. Towards the end of his article, he is reduced to reciting every slogan he can think of:
The West’s goal should be rollback, not containment. In for a penny, in for a pound. If we’re going to bomb Isis, let’s do it right. Or, as Napoleon aptly advised, ‘If you set out to take Vienna, take Vienna.’
This is exactly the mentality that turns “limited” interventions into protracted, open-ended missions with ever-expanding goals, and this is how hawks seize on any use of force, no matter how small it may initially be, to push for a much larger commitment that almost no one would have seriously considered at the start. I don’t have much confidence that Obama won’t eventually succumb to demands to “do more” in Iraq, but it’s still worth pointing out how ridiculous these demands are. For one thing, the U.S. is supposedly not setting out to “take Vienna” in this instance, so it would be a huge escalation on the administration’s part to pursue a much more aggressive policy than the one it has publicly announced. This administration is capable of such a thing, as we know from the war in Libya, but that is no reason to repeat the mistake a second time. For another, it may not be possible to inflict such a defeat on ISIS, and it certainly isn’t possible to do it without a much larger commitment of U.S. forces.
The demand for “rollback, not containment” is a conscious repetition of Republican talking points from 1952. Insisting on “rollback, not containment” was wrong then, and it also happens to be wrong now for different reasons. Among other problems, a “rollback” policy directed against ISIS won’t be limited to Iraqi territory, but will eventually drag the U.S. into the civil war in Syria as well. Once the U.S. sets the probably illusory goal of defeating ISIS, it won’t be able to stop pursuing that goal as long as ISIS or any successor groups that survive it still exists. Even if one accepts that the current level of U.S. involvement in the conflict is appropriate, there is no justification for such the greatly expanded and more ambitious intervention that would very likely result from these demands for escalation.