Susan Rice on ISIS: There's a difference between a war and a counterterrorism operation, you know

Via Breitbart, another dim attempt by the White House to keep this new Iraq intervention in Americans’ rhetorical comfort zone. “Wars” are long, involve vast numbers of fighters on both sides, and absorb much blood and treasure; our “victories” in war lately tend to be unsatisfying and ephemeral too. “Counterterrorism,” though, is lightning fast, typically involves a small number of military assets, and is usually decisive. (It also conveniently doesn’t require a new AUMF.) The Bin Laden raid is the supreme example. By the White House’s own reckoning, rolling back ISIS will take three years at least, already involves a thousand U.S. troops on the ground in Iraq and lots of U.S. airpower, and requires a coalition of many nations, both regionally and in the west, to implement. According to the CIA, ISIS itself has somewhere between 20,000 and 31,500 jihadi guerrillas in the field. Which model, war or counterterrorism, seems to you a better fit for that situation?

Rice said, “I don’t know whether you want to call it a war or sustained counterterrorism campaign. I think, frankly, this is a counterterrorism operation that will take time. It will be sustained. We will not have American combat forces on the ground fighting as we did in Iraq and Afghanistan which is what I think the American people think of when they think of a war. So I think this is very different from that. But nonetheless, we’ll be dealing with the significant threat to this region, to American personnel in the region and potentially also to Europe and the United States. And we’ll be doing it with partners. We’ll not be fighting ourselves on the ground but using American air power as we have been over the last several weeks as necessary.”

So there you go. It’s no longer “war” unless American troops are on the ground and actually engaged in combat. By that logic, I guess, bombing Iran’s enrichment facilities would be counterterrorism, not war. (Or does that count as war because Iran is a nation-state, which, er, ISIS also claims to be?) The Bin Laden raid was an operation involving ground troops so I don’t know where that leaves its status — war, counterterror, or, to split the difference, a battle in the war on terror, maybe? Good point here by Gabe Malor too:

A friend e-mailed me yesterday about this post to note that, if the White House insists on still treating ISIS as an Al Qaeda affiliate even though it isn’t one, it means Obama looked the other way for months and months while “Al Qaeda” took over eastern Syria and then western Iraq. If that’s what Hopenchange-style “counterterrorism” looks like, I’ll take “war” any day.

I’ll leave you with this, which has nothing to do with ISIS but serves as a nice reminder of what “smart power” looks like in other realms of foreign policy these days: “The Germans sought more time and consultation with other EU member states, frustrating [Susan] Rice to the point that she lost her cool and reportedly launched into a profanity-filled lecture that featured a rare diplomatic appearance of the word ‘motherf***er.’ Germany’s national security advisor, Christoph Heusgen, was so angered that he told an American confidante it was the worst meeting of his professional life.”