In his appearances this weekend on BBC and on CNN’s State of the Union, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair stressed the need to deploy ground troops in the West’s military campaign to drive ISIS (or ISIL if you prefer) from Iraq and/or Syria. Blair was adamant that air strikes alone could not defeat the ISIS insurgents, “You certainly need to fight groups like ISIS on the ground.” These words will not be received well by those of the political left, who have adopted a drive-by mentality to war over the past few decades, deluding themselves into believing airstrikes alone can defeat ISIS, or any other opponent.
It is likely that President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry understand this and despite outward rhetoric are already formulating their ground strategy. The United States has sent some 1,200 troops to Iraq, insisting they are not combat troops but only “military advisers” aimed at training Iraqi and Kurdish forces. Having secured funds from Congress, the US will also begin training and arming Syrian rebel groups to fight both ISIS and the Assad regime.
For an Administration swept into power amongst a strong anti-war sentiment, any responsible action of leadership comes with particular political consequences. Born out of the ashes of the Vietnam experience, the modern Democratic Party and its left-leaning base is strongly opposed to any use of American military force, seeing it as a tool for “imperialism” has exercised much political capital in portraying themselves as “protectors” of the same military personnel they once spat on at parades. During the tenure of George W Bush, this alleged concern for troop welfare was used as the precept to undermine United States efforts to secure Iraq following the ouster of Baathist leader Saddam Hussein. Led by far-left groups Code Pink, A.N.S.W.E.R. and others, heavily funded and influenced by pro-Islamic forces, protest marches and the outrageous “Camp Casey” strategy was embarked upon, which heavily influenced US public opinion against the war. The left-wing press did its part by providing nightly updated US casualty counts which curiously disappeared in January of 2009.
While this strategy was successful in sweeping Obama and Democrats into office, it has enabled ISIS and other radical forces to rise in the Middle East and created a situation that Obama and his team can no longer ignore. Images of beheaded journalists and little Chaldean girls have forced Obama’s hand, as failure to act now would damage he and his party further with conservative and moderate voters already viewing him as weak and indecisive.
Thus, the Administration will begin with airstrikes and the obligatory “no boots on the ground” rhetoric designed to appease the left-wing base. A base that thoroughly under the delusion that such a strategy alone is sufficient to achieve victory. For liberals, this is a placebo tonic they have become quite fond of. It comes, as they see it, with little risk and one in which they can further delude themselves in that “no civilian” targets will be harmed. This is foolish thinking, of course, but this is the essence of left-wing thought. If one does not see it, it does not happen. It is a “safe” war, freeing themselves from its devastating realities and sacrifice.
Forever underestimating the cleverness of our Islamist foes, they imagine that a few properly timed and delivered airstrikes will send them scurrying to the hills, never to be heard from again. It is with the same naiveté that they roundly cheered former President Bill Clinton, and his air strategy against the growing danger of al-Qaeda in the late 1990’s. It also reveals another the left’s faith in technology as a panacea for all, assuming our superiority in this area is enough to overcome a determined and brutal enemy.
Such thinking omits the lessons of history. A lesson that Adolph Hitler learned the hard way, when he accepted Hermann Goering’s arguments that his “famed” Luftwaffe alone could take care of the British forces holed up in Dunkirk. Goering was unable to stop the exodus of troops from the beach that day, troops that later return to the European theater after D-Day and help to undo the thousand-year Reich.
Airstrikes can be a very effective weapon when utilized properly. Like the ancient catapults, they can soften up military strongholds in preparation for an assault by ground forces. Contrary to the drive-by mentality of the modern political left, they cannot be used to win a war and they will not be the undoing of ISIS. One hopes this is understood by Mr. Obama and the current rhetoric is simply to appease and prepare his left-wing base for the use of ground troops all reasonable adults understand is coming. As Tony Blair notes, “all our experience tells us that unless you are willing to fight (ISIS) on the ground, you can contain them, but you cannot defeat them.”
Commentary by Paul M Winters
Editor in Chief, Dignitas News Service