What else can one possibly take away from this Noah Rothman exegesis of Peggy Noonan’s and Charles Krauthammer’s cases for expanding the new Iraq war to Syria? Here’s the crux of the argument:
The mission Krauthammer describes does not appear to require a significant American ground force, though it would be one which would only be effective in Iraq. The Islamic State’s stronghold in Syria will require an entirely different strategy, one far more robust and which may require putting American service personnel in harm’s way. But rolling back the Islamic State in Iraq is an acceptable short-term goal, and the American people should be informed that this is the mission in which their military is presently engaged. Those opposed to going to war to rid the world of ISIS worry that achieving that objective will require more commitment than most are willing to admit. And it is possible that the American national interests at stake in this region, while appreciable, are not threatened to the degree that would merit a return of tens of thousands of American troops to Iraq. At least, not yet.
These are worthwhile debates to have, and Americans need to have an honest discussion about this threat. It is a discussion that must be led by their president. It seems, however, that some conservatives are beginning to observe that those who object to a military solution to the Islamic State threat rest their argument on the claim that it heralds a new occupation of Iraq. This is a straw man argument. The vast majority of Americans of every political stripe do not want to reoccupy that country, and this is not on the table. Destroying ISIS, however, is.
Right, because we all remember what happened the last time right-wing hawks sold the American public on a war that they alleged would have no long-term consequences. After the past decade, I suppose I shouldn’t be all that surprised that the cheerleaders for this new war are demanding that their opponents make a probative case against intervention, while the neo-neocons’ contention that a light-touch war with no “significant” ground force is presented as obviously true. (By the by, how many soldiers constitute “significant”? 1,000? 10,000? 100,000? No one wants to say…) For more of the same, see Elliott Abrams here. Brian Fishman wishes advocates of an all-out, two-front war on ISIS would stop bullshitting the public already about what that would entail:
No one has offered a plausible strategy to defeat ISIL that does not include a major U.S. commitment on the ground and the renewal of functional governance on both sides of the Iraqi-Syrian border. And no one will, because none exists.