Almost nine months after President Obama admitted that “we don’t have a strategy yet” to challenge the Islamic State — and just days after he said he still has “no complete Iraq strategy” — the non-strategy suddenly has a name: escalation.
According to reports in the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, the Obama administration is poised to send 400 to 500 additional troops to Iraq immediately, and to build a new U.S. military base in restive Anbar province to house them — and potentially many more.
These troops would not be limited to the officially narrow training
mission of the 3,100 U.S. troops already on the ground in Iraq. They
would still be considered trainers and advisers, but their mission,
according to the Times, would
be “to help Iraqi forces retake the city of Ramadi and repel
the Islamic State.”
The escalation isn’t exactly the massive deployment of ground
troops called for by some hawks in Congress and by neo-conservative
commentators, who continue to blame the rise of the Islamic State
on Obama’s earlier withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq — rather than
on George W. Bush’s initial invasion and occupation of the country,
which actually led to the creation of the group in 2004.
But the Journal still recognized
that “the new plan is a marked if modest expansion of the U.S.
military role in Iraq. It would expose American forces to greater
risk of being drawn into direct combat with Islamic State forces that
already control territory around likely sites for a planned U.S. training
A Series of Setbacks
The official reason is linked to the Islamic State’s recent
seizure of Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province and a key city only
70 or so miles from Baghdad. (As Business Insider so nicely
it, Ramadi is closer to Baghdad than New York is to East Hampton.)