Let’s not be fooled again. It makes no sense to promise to build a nation for a people who hate one another more than the marauding invaders raping and pillaging their cities. It is equally foolhardy to promise to degrade and destroy an organized, committed army using trainers and advisors or air power alone. Once and for all let’s recognize that training and advising is a service, not a strategy.
The defense experts (and apparently the editorial board of the Washington Post) love to play at war and shrewdly offer the advise/train model as a viable alternative to full-scale war or complete withdrawal. This mild, middle option that keeps war off the front pages is seductive in a society in which less than one percent of the population serve in the military. But in this case, such a plan puts our troops at risk and only serves to gloss over the underlying problems of a people that won’t police their own.
There is in fact no middle ground in combat or warfare. We either need to go to war with the Islamic State, employing overwhelming force and the full commitment of our citizens and our Congress, or we need to get out altogether and resort to a national strategy of offshore containment. The latter course is a respectable alternative; it is not retreat, withdrawal or isolationism.