Not long ago the names ISIS and ISIL were added to our glossary of horror. We were first informed of them through the lenses of photojournalists. We were appalled by the genocidal intentions of this group as it sought to eliminate a small ancient Christian sect who had resided in what is today’s Iraq for thousands of years. At that time America came to the rescue by providing humanitarian assistance in the form of food and water drops to the isolated and surrounded victims. We were than introduced to the competent Kurdish fighters who were trying to protect their oil installations and their major cities from an ISIL onslaught. At that time we were informed that we were offering strategic support and arms to help the Kurdish succeed. We were then jolted by the barbaric terror of this group as we witnessed the beheading of an American journalist. At this time we felt it necessary to prop up the Iraqi forces and start to bomb ISIL positions within Iraq. We were then treated to another horrific display of the beheading of yet another American, this time an aid worker. America responded with more purposeful bombing within Iraq. Finally, with the beheading of a British journalist and increased pressure from the hawks on both sides of the aisle, America started to bomb targets within Syria.
Throughout this period the President has assured us that there would be no American “boots on the ground”. He stated clearly on several occasions that while the defeat and destruction of ISIL would require “boots on the ground” to compliment the bombing efforts, those boots would have to come from other countries, preferably Arab countries. So far, however, while the coalition has grown to over 40 nations, only Iraqi and Kurdish boots are touching the ground. The other coalition partners are providing funds, training sites and bombing runs in Iraq, but no “boots on the ground”. Throughout this gradual increase in American engagement we have been educated and informed about the nature and composition of ISIL. We have been informed that there are many American and European members of ISIL with valid passports who could easily return to their homes and carry out an act of terror. It seems, than, that the clear inference is that we must defeat them over there before they come and attack us over here. If that is the case, why are we hesitating to go after them with all of the resources necessary to defeat them quickly and completely? Just imagine if this scenario had presented itself during the Bush/Cheney era of interventionism.
The answer is quite simple, politics. While the GOP is pushing, the Democrats are resisting. Right now the Iraq debacle is still associated with Bush and the GOP. The moment Obama introduces ground troops to this mess is the moment it becomes Obama’s and the Democrats’ mess. Certainly he does not want to do that before the midterms. But what about after the midterms? I think the answer is in the polls. In an NBC/Wall Street Journal Poll quoted by Chris Matthews on Hardball this past Monday, 72% of respondents expect America to introduce ground troops into Iraq, while a plurality of 42% approve of that introduction. If we drill down into these numbers it becomes clear that the majority of the affirmative responses come from Republicans, while a small minority of Democrats support such action. The GOP appetite for a new war appears to be growing once again. There seems to be a purposeful and carefully crafted information campaign that is designed to make the case for the introduction of American forces to fight ISIL. It is the steady drip, drip of bad news mixed with American exceptionalism and nationalism that is moving us in that direction. Will the President feel the need to act after the midterms? Is there logic to the argument that if we don’t stop them over there, we will have to fight them over here? Should America get bogged down again in a war that should be fought by the residents of the neighborhood? Are the Democrats willing to allow the GOP to push them into a war so that they can erase their blunders of the past? There is still time to limit our engagement and insist that Sunni and Shia come together to fight their common enemy. In the meantime we need to invest in tightening our own security at home as much as possible to prevent an attack. No matter how tempting it is and how much we feel that no other nation can do what we can, we must not allow ourselves to get sucked into another endless, costly and ultimately senseless ground war. Mr. President, no must mean no!