President Obama has improved upon his statement of the American objective regarding ISIS. He now says that he intends to “degrade and destroy” this barbaric outfit, not merely to convert it into a “manageable problem.”
However, Obama has not retracted, or even “walked back,” his statement about how to deal with ISIS. He has consistently taken the position that “what we’ve got to do is make sure that we are organizing the Arab world, the Middle East, the Muslim world, along with the international community to isolate this cancer.”
Unfortunately, if our ability to isolate, degrade, or destroy ISIS depends on “organizing the Arab world, the Middle East [and] the Muslim world,” we might as well throw in the towel. The futility of a coalition of Muslim states is obvious. It’s impossible, for example, to imagine a coalition that includes Iran and Saudi Arabia.
But the problem goes deeper than that. The Washington Post reports that although Kurdish pesh merga fighters joined with Shiite militias to expel ISIS from the town of Amerli, the Shiites would not let the Kurds into the town after it was captured. One of the pesh merga told the Post, “We fought for three months here, and now we have to fight these bastards. If this continues, we’ll have another war.”
Moreover, there are serious divisions even among Iraq’s Kurds:
The pesh merga forces — which are divided into two groups that report to the two major Kurdish parties — even suspect each other. Around Amerli, the pesh merga fighters complain that the best weapons from the U.S. government and Iran are going to Kurdish fighters associated with their rival party.
“We have not seen a single American bullet,” said Maj. Ahmed Mahmoud, the pesh merga commander near Amerli and Suleiman Beg.
Divisions apparently are even worse among Iraq’s Sunnis. According to Michael Rubin:
The real problem facing Iraq—and the reason why no amount of military reform or imposed political quotas will succeed—is that the Arab Sunni community is leaderless. . . .[T]here is hardly a tribe in Iraq whose leadership is uncontested.
Former President Saddam Hussein—and, indeed, almost every leader before him–promoted rivals to tribal sheikhs in order to better control the tribes. The result is often a mess.
If Obama wants to degrade and destroy ISIS, or even if he just wants to “manage” it, he should focus on what is doable and what America is good at — namely the use of military power. “Organizing the Middle East” is not doable, and certainly not by the naifs in the Obama administration.