Ross Douthat looks at Professor Ditherton Wiggleroom’s mess of an IS/Caliphate strategy and concludes:
The trouble with containment is that it would leave the Islamic State in control of a great deal of territory (with more beheading videos, no doubt) for months and years to come. Hence the administration’s pivot to Syria; hence the strategic dream palace that is our arm-the-rebels strategy.
The cold reality, though, is that defeating ISIS outright in Syria will take something more substantial than dropping a few bombs in support of a few U.S.-trained moderates. Either the American military will have to intervene in force (including with substantial ground troops) or we’ll have to ally, in a very un-American display of machtpolitik, with Bashar al-Assad. Both options may have supporters within the Republican Party. Many hawks seem ready to send in ground forces, and John McCain has explicitly argued that we should be willing to go to war with both Assad and the Islamists at once. From Rand Paul, meanwhile, you hear what sounds like a version of the ally-with-Assad approach, albeit couched in somewhat ambiguous terms.
Read the whole thing.
Pretty much everybody has lost their minds on this one. The President wants to put together a Coalition of the Willing, consisting of some very bad actors who will probably turn out to be just as bad as the current crop of bad actors. Parts of the GOP have gone from insisting that we should never arm Islamists in Syria to demanding that we arm Islamists in Syria. We’ve gone from wanting Iran to giving up its nukes to giving away all of our leverage in getting them to do so, and possibly giving them Iraq, to boot. And Assad is now our best frenemy, even though we’ll almost certainly be arming his actual enemies. The only good to come out of this mess is a growing axis between the Gulf States and Egypt, which might prove capable of thwarting IS/Caliphate and Iran — except that we seem determined to ignore the new alliance when we aren’t working actively against it.
This, at long last, is the Middle East tar baby Osama bin Laden hoped we’d get ourselves stuck to.
And since we seem to be stuck in a ’70s timewarp, only worse, who wants to join me for a four martini lunch?