Obama’s “we-don’t-have-a-strategy” gaffe was so egregious as to distract attention from the fact that he does indeed have a strategy, which has blown up in his face. His strategy is accommodation with Iran at all costs. As I wrote earlier this month, our ISIS problem derives from our Iran problem: Bashar Assad’s ethnic cleansing, which has displaced 4 million Syrians internally and driven 3 million out of the country, was possible because of Iranian backing. The refugee flood in Iraq and Syria gives ISIS an unlimited pool of recruits. Iraqi Sunni support for ISIS, including the participation of some of Saddam Hussein’s best officers, is a response to Iran’s de facto takeover of Iraq.
Now we have analysts as diverse as Karen Elliott House and Angelo Codevilla proposing that the Saudis should use their considerable air force to degrade ISIS. Unless the U.S. commits its own forces in depth, the Saudis never will do so (unless they are defending their own territory, which ISIS is not stupid enough to attack). It is a sad day when America’s appetite for a fight is so weak that we count on the Saudi monarchy to do our dirty work for us. Codevilla writes:
Day after day after day, hundreds of Saudi (and Jordanian) fighters, directed by American AWACS radar planes, could systematically destroy the Islamic State—literally anything of value to military or even to civil life. It is essential to keep in mind that the Islamic State exists in a desert region which offers no place to hide and where clear skies permit constant, pitiless bombing and strafing. These militaries do not have the excessive aversions to collateral damage that Americans have imposed upon themselves.
That is entirely correct: in that region, air power could drastically weaken ISIS, if not quite eradicate it. It certainly could contain its advances (as fewer than 100 American sorties already have in northern Iraq). But the underlying problem will remain: Iran’s depredations have triggered an economic and demographic catastrophe in the region, and that catastrophe has created the snowball effect we call ISIS.
It may be entirely academic to argue that America should bomb not only ISIS, but also Iran’s nuclear facilities and the bases of its Revolutionary Guards. No Republican candidate I know is willing to argue this in advance of elections. Nonetheless, I repeat what I wrote Aug. 12: “The region’s security will hinge on the ultimate reckoning with Iran.”
On Canada’s Sun TV earlier today, commentator Ezra Levant asked me what Obama will do now. My guess is: very little. The reported Egyptian-UAE attack on Libyan Islamists is a harbinger of the future. Other countries in the region will take matters into their own hands in despair at American paralysis. Russia and China will play much bigger roles. And the new Thirty Year War will grind on indefinitely.