He also said he’d pay a ransom for a reporter’s life, which, as a better journalist noted elsewhere today, is a surefire way to encourage more kidnappings and beheadings.
This is, of course, a variation on the ol’ chickenhawk argument vintage 2003 and it’s stupid for all of the reasons the chickenhawk argument was always stupid. But say this much for Document Dan: You haven’t heard much of this quasi-logic from the left since January 2009. He may be consistently silly, but he’s consistent. (Meanwhile, over at MSNBC, professional liberal and Iraq dove Ed Schultz wants “round-the-clock airstrikes” against ISIS so that we can “cut their g******ed head off.”) Never mind all that, though. Answer me this: What’s the strategic argument for not hitting ISIS at this point? I understand the broad anti-interventionist argument that nothing good ever came from America meddling in Iraq, but that argument imagines that U.S. intervention necessarily makes things worse. What would be worse than ISIS? The strategic argument, I guess, is that we’re inviting “blowback” by bombing them but in that case explain to me why ISIS would refrain from attacking the U.S. if we held off. They hate America already for backing comparatively moderate Middle Eastern regimes like Iraq’s and Jordan’s (not to mention Israel’s). They’d boost their prestige regionally by showing they could pull off a big attack on U.S. soil that’s eluded Al Qaeda for years. There was never going to be a peace treaty with a group that’s devoted explicitly to ethnic and religious cleansing.
If the argument is that it’s not our fight and that regional powers should handle this, okay, but I’m not sure that’s feasible at this point even if those powers were willing. ISIS might have them outgunned:
ISIS, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, has been making a “tactical withdrawal” in recent days in the face of withering U.S. airstrikes from areas around Erbil in northern Iraq and from the major dam just north of Mosul it controlled for two nail-biting weeks, according to military officials monitoring their movements.
“These guys aren’t just bugging out, they’re tactically withdrawing. Very professional, well trained, motivated and equipped. They operate like a state with a military,” said one official who tracks ISIS closely. “These aren’t the same guys we fought in OIF (Operation Iraqi Freedom) who would just scatter when you dropped a bomb near them.”…
“They’re incredible fighters. ISIS teams in many places use special operations TTPs,” said the second official, who has considerable combat experience, using the military term for “tactics, techniques and procedures.”
A regional diplomat told the Guardian, “The Islamic State is now the most capable military power in the Middle East outside Israel.” Maybe Turkey, Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Iran can cobble together some motley multinational, multisectarian arrangement to push that back. (To some degree, that arrangement already exists.) Or maybe not. How lucky do you feel? And how long are you willing to wait?
The best argument for staying out of it, I think, is that ISIS will keep Iran preoccupied and vice versa. A long war of attrition between those two would be good for American interests, if catastrophic for everyone in Iraq and Syria, although you’d better recalculate your monthly gas budget post haste. And you’d also better allow for the possibility that ISIS and Iran reach some sort of detente. Iran’s played nice with Sunni jihadis before; if ISIS agreed not to threaten the Shiite enclaves in Syria and Iraq, Iran might be willing to leave them unmolested in the Sunni areas while they consolidate power. Then you’ll have a Sunni terror state and a Shiite terror state side by side. Is that better than just a Shiite terror state alone, with a giant power vacuum among nearby Sunnis? You tell me.