Republican candidates for president make unrealistic promises of “crushing” ISIS, but a military action that would scatter it is entirely feasible.
During the last Republican debate, nearly every candidate promised, if elected, to defeat, crush, and destroy ISIS, though none offered any suggestion about how that might be accomplished. Perhaps this newfound bellicosity reflects the growing sentiment among the American people that the ISIS scourge should be confronted decisively even if “boots on the ground” are necessary.
If the United States goes back to the Middle East in force, how will it do so? Certainly no one hears any thoughts on the subject from the active military. Just the mention of a ground plan — or a Plan B, as it’s secretly termed inside the Pentagon — is a sure ticket to Diego Garcia. But as politicians will learn, the gods of war are a perfidious lot. In the end, what soldiers call “ground truth” will prevail over politics, hope, wishful thinking, and the punditry of Republican candidates. If ISIS continues to grow and prosper, and if (God forbid) it continues to kill Westerners in their homelands, then inevitably the call to respond decisively will become too shrill and demanding to ignore.
So, how might a ground campaign against ISIS be done? That depends. First, nothing will happen on the ground until our creeping air effort is completely discredited. The hope still remains inside the Pentagon that ISIS is more “brittle” than previously thought and that a few additional hundred tons of bombs will break the will of ISIS and allow the Syrian resistance and our Iraqi allies to finish the job. Second, no ground offensive will happen until the United States cobbles together a coalition that includes at least one Sunni Arab state and a few European states — perhaps France, and perhaps Great Britain — that feel increasingly threatened by ISIS. Nothing will happen on the ground unless Turkey agrees to provide sanctuary while the ground coalition assembles on its southern border. Third, none of this will happen on Obama’s watch unless ISIS succeeds in committing a huge and bloody atrocity against our homeland.