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The “Limited” Intervention That Will Take Years

The administration has set down restrictions on what it would be willing to do in Iraq and Syria, and then cast those restrictions aside within days or weeks.

The ever-expanding war on ISIS will likely be with us for quite a while:

Air strikes launched by the US and Arab allies against Islamists in Syria were the “beginnings of a sustained campaign” that could last years [bold mine-DL], the Pentagon said on Tuesday.

When airstrikes began in Iraq six weeks ago, the administration initially said that a “sustained campaign” is exactly what the U.S. was not starting. That seemed hard to believe at the time, and that’s because it was plainly untrue. Interventionists always understate the costs and duration of the military action they’re proposing at the beginning to reduce resistance, and only once the action has begun do they start to acknowledge that the original claims weren’t true. In the weeks that followed, the president and other U.S. officials have gradually conceded that the expanding mission could take several years, but it’s important to remember that this policy was originally sold as a brief, limited, and defensive use of force. Now it will be–by the administration’s own admission–prolonged, open-ended, and offensive in nature.

Every step along the way, the administration has set down restrictions on what it would be willing to do, and it then cast those restrictions aside within days or weeks of imposing them. The administration is currently saying that there won’t be American forces on the ground engaged in combat, but as we should know by now every statement like this is entirely provisional and can be revoked at any time. Furthermore, because the administration persists in the lie that the 2001 AUMF covers this military action, it is very doubtful that the president will seek Congressional authorization for this war even if the war involves U.S. ground forces. I very much hope that Obama doesn’t yield yet again to the pressures in favor of escalation, but there is no reason to think that he will be able to resist them indefinitely.