Let Someone Else Defeat ISIS

by Jonah Shepp

Doug Bandow wants us to stand back and let regional actors take care of the Islamic State, which threatens them much more directly than it threatens us:

Rather than turn ISIL into a military priority and take America into war against the group, Washington should organize an Islamic coalition against the Islamic State.  Even Gen. Dempsey called for a regional effort to “squeeze ISIS from multiple directions,” but that actually requires Washington to do less militarily.  ISIL’s rise has set in motion the very forces necessary for its defeat. Rather than hinder creation of a coalition by taking charge militarily, Washington should encourage it by stepping back.  The U.S. already has gone to war twice in Iraq. There’s no reason to believe that the third time will be the charm.

And indeed, that seems to be (NYT) what the administration is trying to do, although Syria is not on its list of potential coalition members:

As Mr. Obama considered new strikes, the White House began its diplomatic campaign to enlist allies and neighbors in the region to increase their support for Syria’s moderate opposition and, in some cases, to provide support for possible American military operations. The countries likely to be enlisted include Australia, Britain, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates, officials said.

The officials, who asked not to be named discussing sensitive internal deliberations, said they expected that Britain and Australia would be willing to join the United States in an air campaign. The officials said they also wanted help from Turkey, which has military bases that could be used to support an effort in Syria.

Bobby Ghosh argues that the recent airstrikes in Libya by Egypt and the UAE open the door to such a regional alliance, and were perhaps intended to do so:

If the UAE and Egypt can collaborate to can bomb Islamists in Tripoli, then the Sunni nations can do likewise in IS strongholds in Raqqa and Mosul. Of course, they might hesitate, especially before doing anything that helps Syria’s dictator, Bashar al-Assad. But the taboo on intervention has been lifted. Political space is beginning to open up for just such a coalition. IS’s barbaric treatment of fellow Muslims has been greeted with alarm and revulsion in Sunni Arab nations. Saudi Arabia’s Grand Mufti declared IS Islam’s greatest enemy. The highest spiritual authority in Egypt has issued a similar denunciation.

Meanwhile, the UK continues to play hard to get:

Britain, like Australia, has taken part in humanitarian operations on Mount Sinjar as well as deploying Tornado fast jets and a spy plane to gather operational and tactical-level intelligence. But David Cameron, who has said that Britain and its European allies will provide equipment to Kurdish forces fighting Isis, has played down the possibility of air strikes and has categorically ruled out any use of ground troops. “Britain is not going to get involved in another war in Iraq,” he told BBC1′s Breakfast programme last week. “We are not going to be putting boots on the ground. We are not going to be sending in the British army.”

Here’s a little thought experiment: what about Israel? If Netanyahu claims that Hamas and ISIS are indistinguishable, why is he only at war with the lesser of the two? Everyone talks about how Maliki and Assad don’t have the military strength to effectively combat the Islamic State, but Bibi does. And Israel is already technically at war with both Syria and Iraq, so there’s nothing stopping the Israelis from dropping bombs on either country (they have attacked both in the past when they believed their existential security demanded it). Israeli strikes on the “caliphate” would also confound the emerging conspiracy theory that ISIS is an American-funded project to advance the global Zionist agenda, and wreak havoc on the talking points of Israel’s greatest enemies. Just imagine how Iran would react to the news that an Israeli operation had saved thousands of Shiites from persecution.

I know it’s not going to happen, for a number of reasons, but would it really be a bad idea? If someone has to do it, and if we’re clearly committed to paying for it, and if we’ve already paid for Israel’s military supremacy, wouldn’t it make sense to ask them to take on some regional leadership here and participate in getting rid of this threat?