The current situation in the Middle East right now, in particular Iraq and Syria, is increasingly dire. Now, with the news that an American journalist was executed, America is once again at a crossroads with Iraq. The question then becomes; will Obama do the right thing?
The correct course of action differs on whom you ask but our choices are clear. Remain vigilant in our air strikes and continue to supply Iraqi and Kurdish forces with the supplies and logistics they need, or an extreme change in our current road of action.
On one end, we can take a step back with our military presence. This seems highly unlikely. America does not negotiate with terrorists and pulling out and letting the Islamic State continue to grow seems like an option that no one is willing to consider. On the other end of the spectrum we can up the ante and get more involved into a continually deteriorating situation. Also unlikely but not as much, but it would be the correct course of action.
So if the United States did ramp up offences in Iraq, how exactly would that look?
For one, we can continue with air strikes, but with more firepower. The United States has been selectively choosing its targets. America can become more indiscriminate if it wanted to. This, however, will only be a fleeting change. Today’s enemy is different, not a traditional fighting force. We can send them back into their holes so we can let a decent society grow again, but they will be there, waiting to come out and spoil whatever peace has been seeded.
Another option is limited ground support, meaning Special Forces. This seems the more likely path since it’s one that the President feels comfortable doing, especially after the success of Operation Neptune Spear. This will have limited troops on the ground and get rid of some High Value Targets, but it wouldn’t come without risk. There is no question that our Special Forces community is the best in the world, but even they carry so much luck. If we throw in all of our Operators in at the same time, it could have the effect of ridding one of America’s strongest arrows in her quiver if the situation disintegrated.
The third, and arguably, best option is to reestablish ground forces in Iraq. While our air power will push the enemy into their holes, ground forces will be able to smoke them out and put finality to the problem that the world so much desires. It would even be easy for the President to authorize. He could label it as an Iraqi operation with Americans providing supportive forces. Current to the Wars Act, he wouldn’t even need Congressional approval. He would just have to inform them within twenty-four hours of the attack. But will he?
The situation and the way to deal with it are clear. The go ahead, however, is politically muddy. The country is still war weary from its two previous engagements and the President ran on a platform of getting troops out of Iraq. Putting forces back in would be a watershed moment in his administration and legacy. It would admit fault that he created a vacuum by pulling American forces out too soon from Iraq and it would bring on a political firestorm from his supports that elected him. Men are stubborn creatures and the President is no different. Could he admit wrong and go against one of his cornerstone promises? No one but him knows. But if he does decide to act, it would be the toughest decision in his presidency and quiet possibly, the greatest. History remembers those who make the tough decisions when the world says otherwise.
All we can do now is wait.