Every ISIS victory will be perceived as an American defeat

Charles Krauthammer is exactly right that Kobani’s fall would represent a “tremendous strategic and symbolic victory” for the terrorist group. In concrete terms that means new recruits and new prestige — all of which translate into greater capacity to take and hold territory in the Middle East and greater capacity to strike into Europe and the United States. Let’s not forget that the Islamic State’s proven ability to recruit British and American citizens is based in large part on its success in the field. After all, there’s nothing all that distinctive about its jihadist message. So far, it just wins.

The Pentagon understands this, and it also understands that it simply can’t do the job from the air — not just because air strikes alone tend to be generally ineffective without ground forces to direct the attacks and exploit success, but also because they know very well that they’ve not been allocated sufficient resources to inflict truly significant harm on a large, geographically dispersed, highly mobile, and well-concealed terrorist force.

No wonder Rear Admiral Kirby is expressing obvious frustration.