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Kasich and the War on ISIS

John Kasich wants to send U.S. ground forces into combat against ISIS:

In a sign of his rising interest in a potential 2016 presidential bid, Ohio Gov. John R. Kasich (R) said Tuesday he is studying up on foreign policy and beginning to outline his worldview, which includes support for sending U.S. ground forces to fight the Islamic State.

This doesn’t exactly come as a surprise. While Kasich was occasionally skeptical of certain military interventions during his time in the House, he spent the years after his career in Congress backing the Bush administration’s foreign policy. Since he was elected governor in Ohio, he has had less to say about these issues, but what little he did say showed him to be a predictable hawk. I assumed that Kasich would have nothing to offer advocates of restraint, and unfortunately that was a safe assumption.

Despite his support for sending Americans into yet another ground war in the region, Kasich tries to get away from the implications of his own position:

It is probably something that can be addressed without an extended affair and without nation-building or any of that.

This suffers from all the usual flaws of hawkish policy arguments. It assumes a best-case scenario as the most likely outcome, minimizes the likely costs, dismisses the possibility of unintended and unexpected consequences, and refuses to consider seriously that a war can change and expand beyond anything that its supporters originally imagined. Kasich’s position is essentially that the U.S. should escalate its involvement in the war, including possibly putting troops into Syria, but he wants us to believe that somehow the war won’t turn into an “extended affair” and won’t involve “nation-building” because it would be politically radioactive to admit that this is where his preferred policy will most likely take us. This position is in some respects worse than a forthright demand for a prolonged commitment of U.S. forces, since it puts the U.S. in a position of making such a commitment while deceiving the public that the war will be a short and cheap one. This is more or less exactly the con that advocates of the invasion of Iraq used in 2002-03, and Kasich is just updating their arguments for a new war.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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