Two months into the phony war we are fighting irresolutely against ISIS — or the phony war we are resolutely not fighting — we finally have a name for it. It is Operation Inherent Resolve. Robin Wright reflects on it for the Wall Street Journal’s Washington Wire:
The choice–”Operation Inherent Resolve”–has both a loneliness and a longness about it, and even a sadness. It reflects both the dashed hopes of the past and the distance anticipated before future gains. It doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence either. Indeed, it almost sounds despondent.
I’m not sure. It could be a subtle allusion to Wordsworth’s “Resolution and Independence.” You know: “My whole life I have lived in pleasant thought,/As if life’s business were a summer mood[.]”
President Obama has supervised a policy of strategic retreat from the world. Our willful abandonment of the gains we had secured in Iraq constituted one component of the retreat. The impressive gains secured by ISIS followed in due course. The gains of ISIS were inherent in Obama’s policy, precisely as President Bush predicted in July 2007 when he delivered prepared remarks defending the surge. Operation Inherent Retreat would be more like it.
In today’s Washington Post, Karen DeYoung and Liz Sly report on the progress of our efforts to stop ISIS by airstrikes in Kobane:
“Part of the dynamic we want to show is that these guys aren’t ten feet tall,” said a senior administration official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the motivation for target selection beyond purely military objectives. “A lot of their edge has been psychological.”
“They’re like a shark; if they’re not swimming, they’re sinking. That’s how they recruit foreign fighters and establish themselves as the vanguard of global jihad,” the official said.
The militant siege of Kobane, the official acknowledged, has become the subject of “acute media attention,” with news cameras just across the border in Turkey transmitting live images of combat. The United Nations last week warned of a “genocide” if the militants are allowed to take over. French President François Hollande — whose government is participating in coalition activities in Iraq but not in Syria — this week called on all nations to do their utmost to help save the town.
This week, the dominant image has been of U.S. airstrikes. “I don’t want to suggest that our military actions are driven by the simple fact that this is a town that can be seen by cameras,” the senior official said. “I do think it’s fair to say that we have an interest in blunting their momentum to show that they are not this inevitably advancing force that they have portrayed themselves as being.”
A senior Defense Department official acknowledged the town’s propaganda value to the Islamic State but insisted that “we are not dropping bombs on them to make them look weak. We are dropping bombs on them to make them weak.”
There were sharply differing assessments Wednesday of the effect of the airstrikes. “Right now, we believe it’s still being defended and still in their hands,” Kirby said of the Syrian Kurdish fighters in the town. But Kobane, he said, “could very well still fall.”
Other U.S. military officials, with access to real-time intelligence assessments, said the militants have continued to pour in resources and remain in control of a significant portion of the town.
DeYoung and Sly also quote Kurdish sources who say that the fighting in Kobane has turned the tide in their favor. They also note the “inherent” complications:
The intensified effort has put the United States in the curious position of bombing to defend a Kurdish faction aligned in opposition to its usual regional allies. The Kurdish YPG militia defending the town is affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, which in the past has waged a bloody insurgency against Turkey and is designated as a terrorist organization by both Turkey and the United States.
The group is also at odds with Washington’s long-standing Kurdish allies in Iraq and its Syrian affiliates, which accuse the Syrian Kurdish faction of working on behalf of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, a charge the group denies.
Kurdish officials say the YPG has been unofficially cooperating with the United States, delivering the coordinates of Islamic State positions to coalition officials in Iraqi Kurdistan’s capital, Irbil. Kirby, at the Pentagon, declined to comment on the reports.
Turkey has refused to allow supplies across the border to the YPG, a situation the Obama administration would like to reverse. …
The New York Post has an optimistic assessment of the fighting in Kobane here. I hope the Post has it right, and I have an open mind, but I doubt that victory is inherent in Operation Inherent Resolve, at least as conceived at present.