Mounting concern about the President’s ISIS strategy, or lack thereof

Two months after the United States Air Force began its attack on territories controlled by ISIS, criticism of the Obama Administration’s strategy toward the organization continues to mount. Or to be more precise, American critics of the Administration increasingly charge that it lacks a coherent strategy.

As columnist Tim Mak put it in The Daily Beast on November 13, the President is yet to answer three key questions: Where is the legal justification for the war? Will American troops fight? And who are they really battling?

The heightened concern was stoked on Wednesday when CNN reported that the president had commissioned a review of the ISIS strategy, a sign of discomfort with the approach that had been taken thus far. When Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel was subsequently asked by members of Congress whether there was or would be a shift, his answer, as characterized by Mak, was to avoid the question “by responding in the present tense.” As Mak pointed out, Secretary Hagel told the Congressional committee, “There is no change in the strategy. There is no change, and there is no different direction.”

The problem with the lack of a change, according to Max Boot, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, is that the minimal airstrikes launched thus far — 632 in number as of November 14 — do not appear to have significantly degraded the organization’s capability or hold on the country. Mr. Boot, whose foreign policy formulations tend to inform the positions of the American right, published an opinion article in The Washington Post calling for a lifting of the prohibition of US troops on the ground, the deployment of the Joint Special Operations Command on the battlefield, an intensified effort to mobilize Sunni tribes, the imposition of a no-fly zone in Syria, and finally, advance preparation of a “nation-building” plan to follow the eventual defeat of ISIS. It would seem likely that such an agenda will be adopted by a critical mass of Republican senators and congresspeople, newly empowered by the commanding majority of seats they won in last week’s midterm elections.

Missing from Mr. Boot’s proposed plan, and still largely absent from the American political discussion, is a “soft power” strategy against ISIS to accompany the military campaign.

The above is a translation of Joseph Braude’s Arabic-language broadcast for Monday, November 16, Letter from New York, airing nationally in Morocco on MED Radio

Speak Your Mind