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Nation Building Isn’t Needed to Fight ISIS

September 10, 2014 in Economics

By Christopher A. Preble

Christopher A. Preble

In his speech to the American people tonight, President Obama aims to build support for a protracted military campaign against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). 

It doesn’t have to be a hard sell. A majority of Americans support a military response—though not U.S. troops on the ground. Very few are content with allowing ISIS to spread its influence with impunity, especially after the brutal killing of the American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff. The group has effectively declared itself an enemy of the United States, and there is growing support for action against the group before it even attempts an attack on the U.S. homeland (something that it appears only to be aspiring to, as opposed to actively planning for).

The president should focus upon a narrow mission, and resist calls for yet another quixotic crusade in the Middle East.”

But taking the fight to ISIS means going back into Iraq, a country in which now four successive U.S. presidents have taken the nation to war, and the American people are understandably anxious about being sucked backed into a seemingly open-ended conflict. Thus, two questions are particularly relevant: First, how large a response is justified? And, second, what end state is acceptable?

The bipartisan Beltway consensus offers up predictable answers to these questions: the response should be massive, and we should be seeking the complete eradication of ISIS as a military and political movement. Indeed, the harshest criticism comes from those who argue that the president isn’t doing nearly enough.

In his appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press” over the weekend, President Obama twice assured Americans that he was not contemplating U.S. boots on the ground. But some believe that the president should be preparing Americans for a major operation, one involving potentially many thousands of U.S. troops fighting in Iraq for an indeterminate period of time. Outspoken neoconservative Max Boot estimates that between 10,000 to 15,000 U.S. troops might ultimately be required in Iraq.

One should take such estimates with a large grain of salt. In 2003, Boot claimed that 60,000 to 75,000 U.S. troops could stabilize Iraq, disputing the higher number of 200,000 U.S. troops cited by military planners. A few years later, as Iraq descended into a brutal civil war that claimed over 400,000 lives, Boot was one of the most enthusiastic supporters of a larger U.S. presence there. …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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