When ISIS arose and gobbled up territory, beheading some inhabitants and enslaving the rest, Obama began sending in small increments of troops to help our “moderate” allies fend them off. But the moderates are mostly impotent; they need the jihadists, whether they are fighting rival jihadists or Assad. Syria remains a multi-front conflict in which one “axis” of America’s enemies, Assad-Iran-Russia, is pitted against another cabal of America’s enemies, the Brotherhood and al-Qaeda factions; both sides flit between fighting against and attempting to co-opt ISIS, another U.S. enemy. The fighting may go on for years; the prize the winner gets is . . . Syria (if it’s the Russians, they’ll wish they were back in Afghanistan).
Degrading ISIS into irrelevance would not degrade anti-American jihadism in Syria into irrelevance. If sharia didn’t ban alcohol, I’d say the old wine would just appear in new bottles. It was, moreover, absurd for President Trump to declare victory just because ISIS has been stripped of 95 percent of the territory it once held. Caliphate aspirations notwithstanding, ISIS’s mistake was the attempt to be an open and notorious sovereign. It was always more effective as a terrorist underground, and it still has tens of thousands of operatives for that purpose.
If we stayed out of the way, America’s enemies would continue killing each other. That’s fine by me. I am not indifferent to collateral human suffering, but it is a staple of sharia-supremacist societies; we can no more prevent it in Syria than in Burkina Faso. And I am not indifferent to the challenge David rightly identifies: terrorists occupying safe havens from which they can plot against the West. But that is a global challenge, and we handle it elsewhere by vigilant intelligence-gathering and quick-strike capabilities. We should hit terrorist sanctuaries wherever we find them, but it is not necessary to have thousands of American troops on the ground everyplace such sanctuaries might take root.