Obama assembles Coalition of the Useless to fight ISIS

obama isisSpeaking at the closing of the NATO summit made another non-announcement about ISIS, the fundamentalist Islamic group rampaging through Iraq and Syria through the inaction of the Obama administration.

Speaking at the closing of the Nato summit in Wales, the US president said the grouping, which also included Germany and Canada, “stood ready to confront this terrorist threat with military, intelligence, law enforcement as well as diplomatic efforts”.

The 10 nations in the core coalition – first announced by Kerry – are the US, Britain, France, Germany, Canada, Australia, Turkey, Italy, Poland and Denmark. British sources did not share the phrase core coalition since the UK has been stressing this must not be seen as a western-led intervention but something that springs from Iraq and the wider Arab region, including Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Turkey and even Iran. There are even signs that Washington is willing to co-ordinate with the Iranians to ensure there is no inadvertent clash as they put the squeeze on Isis.

When compared to the 48 nations that contributed troops to the invasion of Iraq in 2003, this represents nothing short of an epic failure.

iraq coalition

2003 Iraq War coalition assembled by President Bush

Notably missing is any Arab country. Only one Muslim nation, Turkey, is represented and based on their pro-ISIS actions to date one presumes they signed on more to ensure they are in the loop on decisions and have some degree of veto over US actions.

This is not going down well on the left. The words had hardly left Obama’s mouth when the shills at Think Progress, led by the recent college graduate who mangles national security policy for them, were touting how snowflake-special this coalition is:

Conservatives have already begun to pan the announcement of the core coalition, drawing unfavorable comparisons to 2003. “10 countries,” tweet Richard Grenell, who served as a spokesman for the U.S. Mission to the United Nations throughout the Bush administration, “Thrown together. Bush had 48.” Brian Faughman, who works with the LIBRE Initiative, added, “Obama ‘coalition’ approach much narrower than Bush’s ‘go-it-alone.’” While there are clearly some overlaps between the two groups, including the United Kingdom, Australia, Italy, Denmark and Poland, the “core” group lined up against ISIS has a few advantages over those assembled in 2003.

In 2003, Germany and France were both strongly opposed to action in Iraq, depriving the U.S. of key support in Europe. Adding in those countries gives the group the support of two of the most militarily powerful states in Europe. Canada’s support adds to the cohesion among the most capable members of NATO and Ottawa’s support will also translate over into the G-7. Most strikingly, the group announced on Friday includes Turkey, which not only neighbors Iraq but serves as a Muslim-majority country that can be put forward as a defense against claims that the campaign against ISIS isn’t yet another Western invasion of a Muslim country.

So far, a number of countries named on Friday have already begun to take action against ISIS. “Some of them, including Britain, France and Canada, have already participated in humanitarian airdrops to Iraqi communities besieged by Islamic State forces and have delivered weapons to the Iraqi military or Kurdish fighters in northern Iraq,” the Washington Post notes. “Germany has said it will also supply weapons.” A U.S. official also pointed out that “certain countries bring specific expertise, like Britain and Australia in special operations, Jordan in intelligence, Turkey in border control and Saudi Arabia in financing.”.

Of course, this is nonsense. None of the “coalition” members have unique expertise in anything. Worse than that none of them have enough airframes to make a meaningful contribution to humanitarian issues. Absent troops sent in to actively advise and train Syrian, Peshmerga, and Iraqi units the special forces expertise of both Britain and Australia in superfluous. Turkey’s expertise in “border control” has to be a joke at the expense of the WaPo reporter as does Saudi Arabia’s — which along with Jordan has not joined the effort — in “financing.” France is along to protect its financial stake in the Iraqi oil fields.

Essentially, Obama is in much worse shape for the fight against ISIS than Bush was for the war against Iraq. Where, at least, the nations contributing troops in 2003 did something useful, even if not on a large scale, the coalition Obama has assembled is rather equal parts impotence and window dressing. He has replaced the Coalition of the Willing with the Coalition of the Useless.