During his State of the Union speech on last Tuesday, one of the few proposals he made that I could approve of was his push for an Authorization of Military Force against ISIS. It’s a proposal that is long overdue. However, it unsurprisingly appears like we should not get our hopes up too much. On this past Thursday, the administration held a classified briefing with members of the Senate’s Armed Services Committee, and many of them were not pleased. Per an article at Defense News, [mc_name name=’Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’G000359′ ] offered some of the strongest criticism of the administrations plans:
“Literally, this does make Pickett’s Charge look like a good idea,” [mc_name name=’Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’G000359′ ], R-S.C., said after leaving a closed-door Armed Services Committee briefing. “The idea of degrading and destroying ISIL with this strategy is an illusion.”
“The problem does not lie with the [US] military. It lies with the political leadership,” Graham said of the Obama administration. “This is militarily immoral what we’re doing. We’re about to train people for certain death.
“The idea that we’re going to get people to fight [the Islamic State] only, given the fact that most of them want to rid the country of Assad and [IS] is absurd,” he said. “Number two, if you don’t support these people, if they don’t have an air force, they don’t have capability, these are going to be light-infantry people at best. If I’m Assad, I would take the first recruits we send and kill them in the cradle.”
He also doubts the number of recruits for the train-and-equip program will be enough to counter Islamic State fighters and Assad’s forces.
“The numbers that you would need to a serious change of momentum? Years away,” Graham said. “The concept is fatally flawed. The concept of training an army that would be slaughtered by two enemies … is militarily unsound.
“The inability of this administration to understand that Assad is not going to sit on the sidelines and watch us build up an army that can beat ISIL and then turn on him without doing something at a critical moment is beyond absurd,” said Graham, a potential 2016 GOP presidential candidate.
If the Obama administration’s ideas about training Syrian Rebels sound familiar, it’s because they are almost the same thing they’ve been trying for the last couple of years. It’s worked about as well as you’d think it would, because as we know, ISIS just might have taken some of those anti-tank weapons and small arms like the M16 we were sending those “moderate” rebels and using them for their purposes. Remember, the difference between ISIS and other Islamist groups, including so-called “moderate” ones, is over strategy, not the end goal.
We can add the concerns here the news reported yesterday that the United States’ airstrikes have allowed the Kurdish pershmerga to reclaim not even one percent of the territory taken over by ISIS. Maybe it has, as the Pentagon is asserting, stalled ISIS’s momentum, but being able to take back only about 270 square miles of the roughly 30,000 that the Islamic State controls after five months is not a promising start to our efforts in the region. I’m not an expert on military strategy, but short of actually putting American troops on the ground, I don’t know if there is a way to effectively counter ISIS without directly enabling other groups of radical Islamists. Since President Obama has continually shown that he is unwilling to fight in Iraq anymore than the bare minimum that he absolutely must do, I doubt we’ll see anything like that while he’s President.