ISIS apparently has been defeated in the town of Kobane, Syria to which it laid siege months ago. The Obama administration hopes that this defeat will discourage potential recruits from joining ISIS. According to a senior State Department spokesman, the lesson for those considering enlistment is:
You’re not going to be a part of something great, you’re not going to have a house, you’re not going to have a female slave. If you’re an 18 year old disaffected guy looking for adventure. . .what was glory and conquest is now hundreds of bodies in he the streets of Kobane.
This is a rare instance of sound foreign policy/defense thinking by the administration. The leftist theme of the Bush era — U.S. military intervention helps enemy recruiting — seemingly has been abandoned. You set back enemy recruiting by setting back the enemy on the battlefield. It has ever been thus.
But there’s a fallacy in Team Obama’s triumphalist thinking. We aren’t doing well enough against ISIS to expect its recruitment to suffer materially.
As the editors of the Washington Post contend, preventing the fall of one border hamlet, though a welcome development, should not be viewed as a turning point. ISIS still controls vast amounts of territory in Syria and Iraq. And in Syria, the Post points out, ISIS “faces little pressure from Western airstrikes and is growing stronger rather than weaker.”
If you join ISIS, you can still hope to have that home and the female slave.
According to the Post, 75 percent of our bombing missions in Syria were directed at relieving Kobane. In theory, this might mean that, with ISIS turned back there, our bombing campaign against ISIS in other areas of Syria will become far more robust.
In practice, we shouldn’t count on it. Kobane had received a large amount of media attention. Accordingly, Obama probably figured he needed to throw significant U.S. resources into that fight. In other parts of Syria, not so much.
Anyway, bombing won’t be enough to defeat ISIS in its Syrian strongholds. Foot soldiers are required.
The Kurds provided them in Kobane, but elsewhere we need the Syrian rebel force Obama has talked about training. Yet that training effort is proceeding at “a snail’s pace,” to use the Post’s description. CIA assistance to rebel groups has been so limited that many fighters have defected to more militant Sunni groups including al Qaeda and ISIS, according to the Post.
It’s almost as if Obama doesn’t really want to help Syrian rebels, lest he upset the clerics in Iran who are propping up the Assad regime. This, indeed, is the Post’s conclusion. The editors write:
Mr. Obama has convinced himself that it’s not possible or desirable to create a Syrian force that could defeat the regime of Bashar al-Assad. . . .The adminstration appears to believe that Iran’s cooperation in Syria will flow from a hoped-for deal on its nuclear program — and conversely, that no action can be taken in Syria that might upset Tehran before such a deal is struck.
But Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has strongly rejected cooperation with the United States on regional security. Nor will traditional U.S. allies, including Israel and Saudi Arabia, consent to a new Syrian order sponsored by Iran.
Obama, by contrast, seems prepared to consent to just about anything Iran wants — Israel, the Saudis, the lives of tens of thousands of Syrians, and the fight against ISIS be damned.