by Rick Cohen, Win Without War

Whether it is called ISIS, ISIL, or simply IS, the Islamic State is clearly one of the more barbaric terrorist groups ever to appear on the international scene. Its grisly murder of two American journalists in a videotaped beheading prompted President Obama to elevate ISIL from his characterization of the terrorists as a “J.V. team” to a “cancer” that must be “degraded and destroyed.” Not long ago, Obama dismissed as a “fantasy” that providing military aid to the Free Syrian Army, an army of “an opposition made up of former doctors, farmers, pharmacists, and so forth” would render them ableto fight both ISIS and the Assad regime; now the president has reversed his position and is calling to arm the remnants of the moderate opposition.


Dancing past his recent proclamations, President Obama gave a primetime speech to the nation calling for going after ISIL and other terrorist organizations wherever they might be, including the possibility of bombing ISIL in Syria. Citing the collaboration of other nations, including Albania and the Maldives (sounding like a revival of President Bush’s “Coalition of the Willing”), President Obama promised no U.S. combat troops would be engaged in fighting on the ground in Iraq or Syria, just in the air. Essentially, the antiwar president announced—vaguely, to be sure—the commencement of an open-ended war against ISIL that most observers suggest would be one heck of a very long campaign.

Why did the president reverse ground so quickly? He has been pretty steadfast in his reluctance to take military action until the recent 150 or so bombing sorties that U.S. forces have carried out against ISIL in Iraq. With the bravado of pronouncing the one-day-old new Iraq administration of Haider al-Abadi (which skeptics don’t think merits the president’s confidence) a major improvement over that of his predecessor, Nouri al-Maliki, and implying that Saudi Arabia (which always talks and never acts) and Turkey would be putting “boots on the ground” against ISIL, President Obama responded to the increasing war fervor in the U.S. and promised action…

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