Bloomberg has now reported that “President Barack Obama’s top military adviser said more U.S. troops may be needed in Iraq for a ‘long and difficult’ fight against Islamic State.”
Reading this, with great displeasure, the first American Defense and Foreign Policy expert I wanted to hear from is my #1 rated expert in the field, the Cato Institute’s Chris Preble. (Debbie and I are significant Cato Institute Benefactors).
Read Chris’ prompt response:
U.S. soldiers on the front line against ISIS?
Short answer: no. Long answer: no.
The ISIS threat, in general, has been overstated. The ISIS threat to the United States is completely disconnected from reality.
The absurdity is revealed when Hagel says at one point that it is an existential threat, and Dempsey says in other testimony that we shouldn’t get more deeply involved unless the Iraqis form a unity government.
If the threat were as grave as Hagel says, why should we care whether Sunnis are enfranchised or not? We wouldn’t. The fact that this is a serious consideration tells you a lot about the nature of the threat.
It also tells you a lot about the real problem, and where Dempsey gets it right. Unless Iraq’s political problems are solved, no amount of U.S. military force will make much difference. This was also true, by the way, of the surge. U.S. troops fought and died in the spring and summer of 2007, and violence declined (not just because of the surge, but that’s another story).
But the U.S. did not have then, and does not have now, the power to reshape Iraq’s broken politics.
Back to ISIS – they are already bumping up against some people who will actually stand and fight them. U.S. bombs and missiles might have slowed ISIS’s progress, and that is fine, but the idea of having U.S. troops fighting them is utterly absurd.
And, by the way, the people on the ground (even the good guys) aren’t entirely thrilled about the bombs, either.
“The Costs of War Project” by the Watson Institute for International Studies at Brown University was profiled by Reuters in an outstanding March 2013 essay by Daniel Trotta. Here are some frightening statistics from the Iraq war as outlined by the study:
- The war has killed at least 134,000 Iraqi civilians and may have contributed to the deaths of as many as four times that number.
- The U.S war in Iraq has cost $1.7 trillion with an additional $490 billion in benefits owed to war veterans, expenses that could grow to more than $6 trillion over the next four decades.
- A 2011 update of the original study showed that U.S. medical and disability claims for veterans after a decade of war totaled $33 billion. Two years later, that number had risen to $134.7 billion.
Mr. Trotta reports, “The report concluded the United States gained little from the war while Iraq was traumatized by it.”