Ben Rhodes: We won’t necessarily limit our airstrikes against ISIS to Iraq

posted at 5:21 pm on August 21, 2014 by Allahpundit

Skip to 1:00 for the key bit. Blake Hounshell calls this big news, which I suppose it is. A year ago at this time, Obama was getting ready to bomb Syria to weaken Assad; a year later, here’s his deputy National Security Advisor refusing to rule out bombing Syria to weaken Assad’s chief opposition. Droning jihadis in places we don’t have boots on the ground is SOP for Obama, though. How big this news is depends on what sort of air assets Rhodes imagines us using in Syria and what sort of ISIS targets Obama’s willing to engage. If all he means is droning jihadi terror camps, that’s no great shakes. Why would we hold off on doing that in Syria when we don’t hold off in Pakistan and Yemen, two nominal allies of the United States? If he means using more muscular — and manned — aircraft, though, and if he’s imagining bombing ISIS’s front lines, that’s more significant. (It would also kinda sorta make us Assad’s air force, wouldn’t it?) Rhodes explicitly frames cross-border attacks in terms of protecting Americans here, which makes me think they’ll limit them to terror camps for now. Either way, I wonder when O’s planning to have a little chat with the public about just how broad the new war against ISIS could get. This piece by Brian Fishman smartly argues that the disjunction between Obama’s rhetoric and the reality of what it’ll take to stop ISIS is so wide that public disillusionment is all but guaranteed:

No one has offered a plausible strategy to defeat ISIL that does not include a major U.S. commitment on the ground and the renewal of functional governance on both sides of the Iraqi-Syrian border. And no one will, because none exists. But that has not prevented a slew of hacks and wonks from suggesting grandiose policy goals without paying serious attention to the costs of implementation and the fragility of the U.S. political consensus for achieving those goals. Although ISIL has some characteristics of a state now, it still has the resilience of an ideologically motivated terrorist organization that will survive and perhaps even thrive in the face of setbacks. We must never again make the mistake that we made in 2008, which was to assume that we have destroyed a jihadist organization because we have pushed it out of former safe-havens and inhibited its ability to hold territory. Bombing ISIL will not destroy it. Giving the Kurds sniper rifles or artillery will not destroy it. A new prime minister in Iraq will not destroy it…

Advocating the defeat of ISIL over the short-term without acknowledging what will be necessary to achieve that end is a recipe for mission creep. Mission creep is a recipe for policy failure because the American people will not allow sustained investment in a policy they did not commit to originally.

This is the most important strategic lesson from Iraq: Don’t bullshit the American people into a war with shifting objectives (even if those goals are important) because they will not put up with that commitment long enough for those goals to be achieved. This is not a call for pacifism; it is a call for fighting to win, which requires sustained commitment, which requires forthrightness in our discourse about whether to choose war. We should only fight if we are fighting to win, and we will only win when we commit as a country—not 51 percent, or the viewers of one cable news station or another, or because one party or faction has managed to back a president into a political corner. The country must be ready to accept the sacrifices necessary to achieve grand political ends. Until then, any call to “defeat ISIL” that is not forthright about what that will require is actually an argument for expensive failure.

Ironically, the reason Obama wavered on bombing Assad after he gassed Syrians was precisely because he doubted the public’s appetite for any new military commitments. And the commitment involved in punching Assad in the face was, as Fishman notes, much, much smaller than the commitment that’ll be needed to defeat ISIS. What we’re apt to end up with, I think, is a commitment to punch ISIS in the face, not to win. We can hurt them; we can provide cover for the Kurdish and Iraqi armies; but obviously there’ll be no hammer and anvil strategy in Syria with American troops running over ISIS from one direction while Assad’s army runs over them from another. This’ll be a proxy war, with lots of American arms for the peshmerga and the Iraqis. Is that enough? 17,000 fighters and counting, guys. Get comfortable.

By the way, in case you missed it in headlines, ISIS apparently demanded a ransom of $132 million for James Foley. Obama, post-Bergdahl, wisely refused to pay the danegeld, no doubt knowing that terror groups are making big bank these days by extorting moronic European governments into paying huge sums for the return of prisoners. The next attack on America might well be funded by that euro-blackmail.


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Obama gonna shoot off some firecrackers for distraction…

Aplombed on August 21, 2014 at 5:25 PM

So, does Obama have to send Assad and I’m sorry letter. Does he get to like him on Facebook again.

Oil Can on August 21, 2014 at 5:29 PM

This whole thing is on Ben Rhodes’ shoulders. He’s a moron.

Drawing on personal ties and a philosophical kinship with Mr. Obama that go back to the 2008 campaign, Mr. Rhodes helped prod his boss to take a more activist policy toward Egypt and Libya when those countries erupted in 2011.

Now that influence is being put to the test again on the issue of Syria, where the president has so far resisted more than modest American involvement.

Two years ago, when protesters thronged Tahrir Square in Cairo, Mr. Rhodes urged Mr. Obama to withdraw three decades of American support for President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt. A few months later, Mr. Rhodes was among those agitating for the president to back a NATO military intervention in Libya to head off a slaughter by Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi.
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/16/world/middleeast/benjamin-rhodes-obamas-voice-helps-shape-policy.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

This guy has about as much foreign policy experience as Obama. Listening to what he has to say now is insane.

Patriot Vet on August 21, 2014 at 5:31 PM

Our new best buddy al-Assad is cool with that

DarkCurrent on August 21, 2014 at 5:32 PM

Assad has been angling for and now has the right and cons advocating for just what he wants – for the rebels to be left unsupported and for his army to be free to attack civilians with impunity.
 
verbaluce on September 11, 2013 at 2:25 PM

rogerb on August 21, 2014 at 5:33 PM

Its about time the US got the other side to thinking.

If 0bama does it, or not, they now have to look over their shoulder.

Well, after the first time any way. Until then, nobody will think he has the juevos.

cozmo on August 21, 2014 at 5:36 PM

Nincompoops. If they don’t intend to get Congressional authorization to bomb ISIS in Syria, then why are they announcing it at all? Just hit them and let them try to figure out what’s happening to them.

forest on August 21, 2014 at 5:36 PM

Our new best buddy al-Assad is cool with that

DarkCurrent on August 21, 2014 at 5:32 PM

Barack Obama, C-in-C, Syrian Air Force…

JohnGalt23 on August 21, 2014 at 5:37 PM

Maybe we can drop some sarin on them too. I’m actually okay with that. In the spirit of cold bastardom, that is.

And hey, borders? Really? Since when do borders matter?

Finally, let’s say that in 2008 instead of Obama, we elected a potato. Is there any doubt that our foreign policy at this point would not be any worse?

BKeyser on August 21, 2014 at 5:38 PM

OT: DHS says law required release of 154 immigrants with murder convictions. http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2014/aug/21/dhs-law-release-154-immigrants-murder-convictions/

anotherJoe on August 21, 2014 at 5:41 PM

Let God sort them out.

UnstChem on August 21, 2014 at 5:51 PM

Well, after the first time any way. Until then, nobody will think he has the juevos.

cozmo on August 21, 2014 at 5:36 PM

He doesn’t.

Laura Castellano on August 21, 2014 at 5:55 PM

Heads up, Detroit!

ExpressoBold on August 21, 2014 at 5:56 PM

Yeah yeah yeah. Barry is really teed off now.

Playing golf AGAIN: Obama tees off for second time in 24 hours since he solemnly pledged justice for beheaded journalist James Foley

Great photo captions in that article. Daily Mail is really takin’ it to him.
Best one:

Fixing his swing, not the Middle East: Obama fiddled with a digital golf assistant on the course Thursday while Foley’s family mourned and Marines prepared for deployment

Brat on August 21, 2014 at 5:57 PM

Rhodes is not only one of the architects of Obama’s disastrous “Arab Spring” policies, he is the principle author of the false “talking points” on Benghazi the Administration pushed to avoid responsibility. He also wrote Obama’s fawning “let me kiss the rump of Islam” speech in Cairo in 2009.

He’s no foreign policy expert, he’s a freakin’ speechwriter. His total experience before Obama was speechwriter for Lee Hamilton, the odious former Democratic Representative who was wrong on everything, too.

Any policy with Ben Rhodes’ fingerprints on it is designed for PR, not US national interests, and is bound to fail.

Adjoran on August 21, 2014 at 5:58 PM

… fiddled with a digital golf assistant …

Brat on August 21, 2014 at 5:57 PM

.
Seems familiar: fiddle… Rome… Nero… burn….

ExpressoBold on August 21, 2014 at 5:59 PM

I seem to remember the Lefties were always screaming about widening the war.

Don’t hear it now.

formwiz on August 21, 2014 at 5:59 PM

Droning jihadis in places we don’t have boots on the ground is SOP for Obama, though.

I would hope it would be more than a few of pathetic drone attacks. I read that ISIS is just now gearing up to take a last remaining Syrian government air base in a largely ISIS control region of the country. The story mentioned ISIS had previously taken two other government military bases.

A president worth his salt would level and then make the rubble bounce at those ISIS held bases if they were populated and being used. Hitting them like that, where they least expect it and where they congregate is large numbers should be a priority. Make them retreat or regroup after losing their logistical supply lines and then try to catch when they expose their positions/locations when they do retreat and hit them hard again. We did it to the Iraqi’s in the Persian Gulf War, but this time we should not let up until there is no more movement on the ground.

Dusty on August 21, 2014 at 6:01 PM

.
Seems familiar: fiddle… Rome… Nero… burn….

ExpressoBold on August 21, 2014 at 5:59 PM

Yes indeedy. The caption writer was definitely alluding to that.

Brat on August 21, 2014 at 6:05 PM

Droning jihadis in places we don’t have boots on the ground is SOP for Obama, though.

Can’t drone an army.

Dolce Far Niente on August 21, 2014 at 6:17 PM

“They are an imminent threat to every interest we have, whether it’s in Iraq or anywhere else,” Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told reporters at the Pentagon.

Remember the good old days when leftist morons taking that word out of context meant the Bush admin lied us into a war for oil?

Good times…

xblade on August 21, 2014 at 6:18 PM

Assad is kicking butt.

Syria’s state news agency SANA quoted an unnamed military official as saying that “large numbers of terrorists were wiped out” near the air base. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the death toll among Islamic State fighters is at least 11 and possibly as many as “tens.”

Beirut-based Al-Mayadeen TV said more than 150 members of the Islamic State were killed in an ambush near the air base. Al-Manar, a network run by the Lebanese Hezbollah, which is a close ally of the Syrian government, gave a similar number.

The Raqqa Media Center, an activist collective, reported fierce clashes around the facility accompanied by government airstrikes. It said a prominent Islamic State media activist known as Abu Moussa, who appeared in a recent Vice News documentary about the group, was among those killed. It said that another media activist, Abu Abdullah al-Ansari, was also killed.

Schadenfreude on August 21, 2014 at 6:26 PM

Recall when Hillary said “we can work with Assad” and Kerry and his mom, Mrs. Heinz, had dinner with the Assads…shortly before obama wanted to kill Assad, well, just remove him?

Schadenfreude on August 21, 2014 at 6:27 PM

Just set up No-Lunatic Zones throughout the “caliphate” and keep dropping Allah’s hellfire from the heavens.

John the Libertarian on August 21, 2014 at 6:32 PM

I seem to remember the Lefties were always screaming about widening the war.

Don’t hear it now.

formwiz on August 21, 2014 at 5:59 PM

Admit it, you just miss Cindy Sheehan’s mug plastered on the 6:00 news every day.

//

antipc on August 21, 2014 at 6:33 PM

Obama will be known as the worst President in the history of the United States.

albill on August 21, 2014 at 6:45 PM

Obama will be known as the worst President in the history of the United States.

albill on August 21, 2014 at 6:45 PM

There’s no “will be” to it. He has that title safely sewed up by now.

307wolverine on August 21, 2014 at 7:19 PM

Obama will be known as the worst President in the history of the United States.
albill on August 21, 2014 at 6:45 PM
That’s his legacy ironically…

sorrowen on August 21, 2014 at 7:50 PM

We need to send ISIL $132Million in munitions shot from our special forces.

KenInIL on August 21, 2014 at 8:09 PM

Going to expand the bombing to Cambodia…. Laos…. no, wait, Syria!

Barack Obama has his very own Vietnam.

ajacksonian on August 21, 2014 at 8:28 PM

“We don’t rule anything out when it comes to the protection of Americans.”

Except ground troops. We totally rule that out.

Rusty Nail on August 21, 2014 at 8:48 PM