Two Critical Passages

Here are two passages from a released preview of the president’s imminent speech (stay tuned for live coverage):

So tonight, with a new Iraqi government in place, and following consultations with allies abroad and Congress at home, I can announce that America will lead a broad coalition to roll back this terrorist threat. Our objective is clear: we will degrade, and ultimately destroy, ISIL through a comprehensive and sustained counter-terrorism strategy.

Ultimately destroy.” Softened but still clearly putting the US on the hook if ISIS endures, as it surely will. And notice the thin reed of a “new Iraqi government” – with still critical posts to be filled, no real unity among the various sects and factions, and an army that dissolves into sectarianism or total capitulation when ISIS attacks. Then this:

I want the American people to understand how this effort will be different from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It will not involve American combat troops fighting on foreign soil. This counter-terrorism campaign will be waged through a steady, relentless effort to take out ISIL wherever they exist using our air power and our support for partner forces on the ground. This strategy of taking out terrorists who threaten us, while supporting partners on the front lines, is one that we have successfully pursued in Yemen and Somalia for years.

“Partner forces” on the ground? I sure hope he names them – and how many troops they will bring to bear. That’s a pretty important factor right there, isn’t it?

Here’s one thing the American people also need to understand. Anything we do over there will win us no friends and make us infinitely more enemies than we now have. Let’s have no illusions about that. We cannot “win” in Iraq; we cannot destroy sectarian or Salafist militias from the air; we can only lose to a greater or lesser extent. Before we jump into any new war, we should ask: Are we prepared to lose indefinitely – and keep creating as many terrorists as we kill? Are we really ready for a forever war across the world? Because we’re just re-starting one in earnest – in the vortex of what’s left of Iraq and Syria.