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What an ISIS caliphate really means for American security
The Week's The Compass ^ | June 26, 2014 | Marc Ambinder

Posted on 06/27/2014 6:31:18 PM PDT by 2ndDivisionVet

Here is the most popular argument for why the U.S. should stay out of Iraq, once and for all:

What in the world are we doing over there in the first place? ISIS's advance is the fault of a weak Prime Minister, and the war they're fighting is really a war about religion, resource control, and respect, the same wars that festered for centuries, with little bearing on the safety of Americans in the region and posing no threat to the homeland. The most vital American interest: Iraq's oil supply. The second most vital: assuaging guilt, because we're kind of at fault for igniting the war in the first place, having invaded a sovereign country because the Middle East needed shaking up, and then having botched the aftermath, trying to impose an American-style democracy on people who have good reason to mistrust the West and whose religious values counter Western secularism as a rule. Oil and guilt are not solid reasons to intervene in a crisis.

Those who want to intervene in the wars between Sunni insurgents and the Iraqi government in Iraq really can't make the case that America's national security is directly threatened. War-weariness has reduced the strategic ambition of Americans and correspondingly, narrowed the scope of what constitutes a direct threat to our security. Perhaps it does not have to be an existential threat, but bad people doing bad things to other people over there does not a direct threat create. So when national security conservatives today use the same language and rhetoric that rallied public opinion 12 years ago to justify a massive, permanent American presence in the region, it falls flat. Here's what the Wall Street Journal editorial board has to say:

No one should underestimate the danger this presents to the stability of the region and to America's national and economic security. An extended civil war seems to be the best near-term possibility. More dangerous is ISIS's ambition to establish a Muslim caliphate in the heart of the Persian Gulf, which would mean a safe haven for Islamic terrorism that would surely target the U.S. The danger to Iraq's oil exports of three million barrels a day is already sending prices up and global equities down. [Wall Street Journal]

ISIS may have just won the lottery, in that, luckily for the group, those who call for U.S. military action against it are quite unpopular. ISIS's anti-American bluster is worth noting, as are its direct ties to lethal insurgents elsewhere. But surely the way to expedite the fermentation of the next wave of Sunni terrorism is for the U.S. to start fighting Sunnis.

Interestingly enough, the central tenet of President Obama's counter-terrorism policy is NOT to deny terrorists safe havens. Our counter-terrorism policy is mocked by critics as little more than a game of whack-a-mole. And they're right. A terrorist pops up here; so here is where you send the drone. Mole whacked.

But a "broader" counter-terrorism strategy would involve a lot more skin than Americans are willing to shed. We've denied al Qaeda a safe haven in Afghanistan. We've tried appeasing. We've tried waging war. We've tried policy shifts. We've even said mean things to Israel. And yet, terrorism endures. The folks who get paid to counter terrorists eventually settled on a less ambitious goal: work to reduce the likelihood that terrorists can obtain weapons of mass destruction, easily kill large numbers of Americans, or take governments hostage. The means: intelligence, limited air strikes, drone wars, and hardening the target here at home.

So yes, "core al Qaeda" was routed in Afghanistan, but terrorism endured, Pakistan degenerated into a civil war, and Obama's own non-secret-but-classified drone war against insurgents continues. The bad guys of tomorrow were in Pakistan. They are now in Yemen and the Sahel and Lebanon and Syria.

The "safe haven" argument is a policy designed to fight the world as it existed before September 11, 2001, when al Qaeda allegedly used the relative sanctuary provided by the Taliban in Afghanistan to plan, train, and launch that attack; when it was harder for terrorists to recruit and communicate worldwide; and when people inclined to immolate themselves in the name of God somehow found the threshold for doing so a little higher.

I say allegedly, because a lot of the planning for 9/11 took place in Indonesia. And in Germany. And much of the training took place here in the United States, at flight schools. Osama bin Laden took advantage of the safe haven provided by the Taliban, but his deputies were able to flee to other countries, and America has spent the past 12-off years pursuing them.

The reason why the threat of an existential terrorist attack is lower today is not simply because the U.S. denied al Qaeda a safe haven. It is because the U.S. declared war against Islamic terrorism worldwide, developed an enormous intelligence apparatus to sniff it out, and today, because, even with all the bad stuff that comes with it, Americans are able to stomach that fight. If all the terrorists in the world found themselves attracted to a caliphate between Syria, Kurdistan and Iraq, they would make the country a ripe target for later, purposeful intervention by the United States. Right now, the threats to the U.S. are bluster. Keeping a response to an intelligence and special operations force surge to Iraq is a good way to make sure that, whatever happens — and really, there is no way of knowing what ISIS will look like in a month, or two — the U.S. will have its eyes and ears on a potential threat.

TOPICS: Culture/Society; Foreign Affairs; Government; Syria
KEYWORDS: iraq; isil; isis; obama

1 posted on 06/27/2014 6:31:18 PM PDT by 2ndDivisionVet
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To: 2ndDivisionVet

Ask Obama. He’s been mapping it out in his head for 20 years.

2 posted on 06/27/2014 6:31:59 PM PDT by Viennacon (Rebuke the Repuke!)
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To: 2ndDivisionVet

3 posted on 06/27/2014 6:33:19 PM PDT by dontreadthis
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To: 2ndDivisionVet

Fine, let ‘me become a nation state so we can put aside this limited foreign contingency crap and go all out.

4 posted on 06/27/2014 6:35:31 PM PDT by Ouchthatonehurt ("When you're going through hell, keep going." - Sir Winston Churchill)
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To: Viennacon

That’s what he was doing at that Indonesian madrassa?

5 posted on 06/27/2014 6:38:44 PM PDT by 2ndDivisionVet (The most dangerous man to any government is the man who is able to think things out for himself.)
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To: Viennacon

Best way to kill a Muslim is to let another Muslim do it. You avoid all the name calling and accusations of “racism”.

6 posted on 06/27/2014 6:42:01 PM PDT by Dallas59
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To: 2ndDivisionVet

Is Obama a candidate for their top job?

7 posted on 06/27/2014 6:43:42 PM PDT by GeronL (Vote for Conservatives not for Republicans)
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To: 2ndDivisionVet

It is not ISIS that threatens American security.

It is the muzzies who are already in the country that pose the biggest threat.

8 posted on 06/27/2014 6:44:01 PM PDT by 353FMG
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To: 2ndDivisionVet
With no US air support, the Iraqi army turned and ran.

Like the ARVN in Vietnam in 1975 after US air support had been cut off by Congress. But in 1972 when the ARVN had US air support, they stood up to the North Vietnamese Easter Offensive.

9 posted on 06/27/2014 6:47:19 PM PDT by MUDDOG
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To: 2ndDivisionVet

All part of Obama’s plan to destroy Israel first. Next the powers that colonized Africa. Finally the rest of the west.

10 posted on 06/27/2014 6:52:31 PM PDT by RedMDer (May we always be happy and may our enemies always know it. - Sarah Palin, 10-18-2010)
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To: 2ndDivisionVet

Nothing to see here, move along.

I am not convinced that ISIS isn’t a Turkish/Saudi/State-Department proxy. So, no, we’re not going to deny them safe haven, not a chance. We withdrew our support from Maliki and now an army of terrorists is headed straight at him, and his own army melts away in its path.

11 posted on 06/27/2014 7:00:17 PM PDT by marron
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Like the ARVN in Vietnam in 1975...

And we'll see the same thing in Afghanistan soon enough. It is sad, and tragic. Just like Vietnam how played out.

12 posted on 06/27/2014 7:06:57 PM PDT by Leaning Right (Why am I holding this lantern? I am looking for the next Reagan.)
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To: marron
I am not convinced that ISIS isn’t a Turkish/Saudi/State-Department proxy.

Concurring bump.It sure is shaping up like a proxy force for the Saudis.

13 posted on 06/27/2014 7:15:13 PM PDT by mac_truck ( Aide toi et dieu t aidera)
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To: 2ndDivisionVet


14 posted on 06/27/2014 7:23:58 PM PDT by petro45acp (It's a fabian do you boil a frog? How's that water feelin right about now?)
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To: Leaning Right
It's striking how US air support made the difference in turning back the North Vietnamese conventional invasion of South Vietnam in 1972 when most of the US ground troops had already been withdrawn, compared to the collapse in 1975 when there was no US air support.

I figure it'd be the same in Iraq and Afghanistan today, even more so.

So we could probably prop them up just with US air power (and foreign aid!). But whether it's worth it or not is another question.

15 posted on 06/27/2014 7:26:14 PM PDT by MUDDOG
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The So. Vietnamese often stood and fought against overwhelming odds against the NVA but they had limited ammunition, a dwindling air force (due to SAM missiles imported into the South), some poor leadership (all around), and the feeling of betrayal by America re air support which would have destroyed No. Vietnam and PAVN concentrations in the South.

Ford could have changed world history in just a few days, and saved millions of lives, but he was a political coward and others paid for it. In fact, we are still paying for it today.

We never took out Saddam in 1991 when we had a chance. Never took out Qaddafi when we had a chance. Never took out the Sudanese fanatics (killed a milk plant, though), when we had a chance.

Let Bin Laden and some of his people escape from Bora Bora and didn’t use available air power and armor in Mogadischu (Blackhawk Down) when we had them on station.

Cowardice is our major flaw. A complete lack of political and military leadership today could destroy us.

16 posted on 06/27/2014 7:32:33 PM PDT by MadMax, the Grinning Reaper
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To: MadMax, the Grinning Reaper

Well said.

17 posted on 06/27/2014 7:43:19 PM PDT by MUDDOG
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It really is remarkable how Iraq/Afghanistan mirrors the Vietnam experience. Rules of engagement, hearts-and-minds, etc.

Now here's where I'll probably catch some flak. Obama is in Ford's old role. Both inherited a bad situation, with no good options and a public against any further investment of blood and treasure. Like Ford, all Obama can do is disengage as best as possible.

And Bush II is in LBJ's old role. Vietnam is all on LBJ. Iraq/Afghanistan is all on Bush II.

I will now retreat to my bunker.

18 posted on 06/27/2014 7:57:15 PM PDT by Leaning Right (Why am I holding this lantern? I am looking for the next Reagan.)
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To: Leaning Right
It's always interesting to draw historical parallels.

Obama has far more freedom of action than Ford did. Ford's hands were tied to a much greater extent than Obama's. Obama is still doing what he wants, while Ford was constrained by Congress (back when Congress could constrain a President!).

Bush II is like LBJ and Nixon put together -- like LBJ, Bush II put US ground troops in there, and like Nixon, Bush II wound it down.

I'd also put more responsibility on JFK for Vietnam.

19 posted on 06/27/2014 8:11:56 PM PDT by MUDDOG
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Bush II is like LBJ and Nixon put together

I like that analogy. But unlike many FReepers, I still put all the blame on Bush II. His failure to destroy radical islam has put all of Western civilization at risk.

Look, LBJ really had no historical lessons to draw on. Korea was the closest match, and there we at least fought to a draw.

But Bush II had all of Vietnam's lessons in front of him. He knew what not to do. But he took crazy chances anyway. He repeated LBJ's mistakes. Yep, I know Bush II is a decent man, a patriot, etc., etc. But his blunders will eventually effect most of the world. Radical islam is on the march, stronger now than before Bush II took office.

After 9/11, we needed an FDR, a man who understood what "unconditional surrender" really meant. Instead in Bush we got an LBJ.

Back to my bunker.

20 posted on 06/27/2014 8:33:12 PM PDT by Leaning Right (Why am I holding this lantern? I am looking for the next Reagan.)
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To: Leaning Right
LBJ did have the example of Eisenhower to draw on, who kept Vietnam at arm's length and was very wary of putting US ground forces in there. JFK was the bad example who messed things up in Vietnam, with his "bear any burden" BS, his escalation of US involvement, and his overthrow of Diem.

I do agree that Bush II bears full responsibility for Iraq. IMO we were better off with Saddam in there. I never bought the WMD pretext for invading Iraq, and I don't think the Bush administration believed it either; it was an excuse.

21 posted on 06/27/2014 8:47:37 PM PDT by MUDDOG
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To: 2ndDivisionVet; blueyon; KitJ; T Minus Four; xzins; CMS; The Sailor; ab01; txradioguy; ...

Active Duty ping.

22 posted on 06/27/2014 8:57:51 PM PDT by Jet Jaguar (Resist in place.)
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To: 2ndDivisionVet; F15Eagle

Ping to F-15 Eagle, and thanks 2nd Division Vet for posting.

23 posted on 06/28/2014 4:24:58 AM PDT by SkyPilot
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