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The Glaring (Ir)Relevance of Ramadi

May 22, 2015 in Economics

By A. Trevor Thrall, Erik Goepner, Maxwell Pappas

A. Trevor Thrall, Erik Goepner, and Maxwell Pappas

What does the fall of Ramadi mean? Even as the Obama administration acknowledged that Ramadi was a setback, spokesman Josh Earnest shrugged it off, declaring that the administration won’t “light our hair on fire” every time there is a setback in Iraq. Meanwhile, hawkish critics of U.S. policy have jumped on the defeat to justify their call for a more robust response. The Pentagon first said Ramadi would be a significant loss, but then argued that it wasn’t. Senator John McCain, on the other hand, labeled the defeat an “abysmal failure.”

Rhetorical positioning aside, the fall of Ramadi is essentially irrelevant to the final outcome in Iraq. Though a city of moderate strategic value considering its proximity to Fallujah and Baghdad, Ramadi does not spell victory for ISIS anymore than Iraq’s retaking of Tikrit from the insurgents spelled defeat for ISIS (despite suggestions to the contrary from the Obama administration). The battle for Iraq will depend on the ability of the Iraqi government to mobilize enough effective fighting power to stop the ISIS expansion. Unfortunately for Iraq, despite over a decade of U.S. investment in training and equipment, Iraq’s military appears incapable of mustering consistent fighting effectiveness to deal a decisive blow to ISIS on the battlefield. The only sure way Iraq can hope to defeat ISIS is by encouraging greater external intervention in the form of airstrikes, weapons, and most importantly of all—ground troops.

Second, Ramadi is irrelevant because, absent a dramatic change after the 2016 elections, it will not change U.S. policy. The fall of Ramadi makes clear that limited U.S. airstrikes are not enough to do the job, but even more clear that Obama has no intention of sending enough military force to change, however briefly, the momentum on the ground. As Susan Rice told USA Today, “We are not going to own this battle as Americans and put combat forces back on the ground again,” she said. “That is not what we are about.” Iraq will get more weapons, more equipment, and a higher tempo training program, but these will not be enough.

Ramadi does not spell victory for ISIS anymore than Iraq’s retaking of Tikrit from the insurgents spelled defeat for ISIS.”

If the U.S. military had managed to transform the Iraqi military into an effective fighting force during eight years of …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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