The New York Times reports: The Obama administration is debating a more robust intervention in Syria, including possible American airstrikes, in a significant escalation of its weeks-long military assault on the Islamic extremist group that has destabilized neighboring Iraq and killed an American journalist, officials said Friday.
While President Obama has long resisted being drawn into Syria’s bloody civil war, officials said recent advances by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria had made clear that it represents a threat to the interests of the United States and its allies. The beheading of James Foley, the American journalist, has contributed to what officials called a “new context” for a challenge that has long divided the president’s team.
Officials said the options include speeding up and intensifying limited American efforts to train and arm moderate Syrian rebel forces that have been fighting both ISIS as well as the government of President Bashar al-Assad. Another option would be to bolster other partners on the ground to take on ISIS, including the Syrian Kurds.
But American officials said they would also take a look at airstrikes by fighter jets and bombers as well as potentially sending Special Operations forces into Syria, like those who tried to rescue Mr. Foley and other hostages on a mission in July. One possibility officials have discussed for Iraq that could be translated to Syria would be a series of unmanned drone strikes targeting ISIS leaders, much like those conducted in Yemen, Somalia and Pakistan.
Whether Mr. Obama would actually authorize a new strategy remained unclear and aides said he has not yet been presented with recommendations. The president has long expressed skepticism that more assertive action by the United States, including arming Syrian rebels as urged in 2011 by Hillary Rodham Clinton, then the secretary of state, would change the course of the civil war there. But he sent out a top adviser on Friday to publicly hint at the possibility a day after the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said ISIS could not be defeated without going after it in Syria.
“If you come after Americans, we’re going to come after you, wherever you are,” Benjamin J. Rhodes, the president’s deputy national security adviser, told reporters in Martha’s Vineyard, where Mr. Obama is on a much-interrupted vacation. “We’re actively considering what’s going to be necessary to deal with that threat and we’re not going to be restricted by borders.” [Continue reading…]
This report quotes Stephen Miles, advocacy director of Win Without War, saying: “We’ve seen this movie before and we know how it ends.”
Is that right?
Let’s refresh everyone’s memory: the last time a militant group seized control of large portions of two states and created a de facto state of its own… the last time would be?
Oh! It’s never happened before.
Whatever movie Miles is referring to was a work of fiction because despite the fact that we have witnessed 13 years of uninterrupted war, the current situation in the Middle East bears little resemblance to the chapters of air war, invasions, occupations, and insurgencies that came before.
No doubt ISIS has its own strategic thinkers and they study history carefully, gleaning whatever useful lessons they can find from Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia, and Mali. But when the Pentagon says that we are witnessing something new, this isn’t just fear-mongering hype — this really is something new and the government officials who are now trying to come up with a response seem to be struggling more to catch up with the present than to be guilty of their much more common practice: overstating the magnitude of whatever happens to have been dubbed the global threat du jour.