Tuesday, November 17, 2015

coalition of the willing?

"Do something!" That's the ritual response to problems, now seen as the necessary response to the Paris attacks. Presidential candidates are rushing to outbid their rivals with the toughest proposal. And the President took a grilling from the press over his reluctance to send in a large contingent of ground troops.

Gerald Seib of the Wall Street Journal, a serious and respected journalist in my view, wants a large western military force to go after ISIL. But as he ticks off the options, it's evident that they contain more sure problems than likelihood of success.
there are several possible paths:
A force organized and helped by NATO, consisting of troops from the region aided by Western air power, intelligence and advisers. The problem is that this option would smack of Western colonialism, and would exclude Russia, which can and should be part of the solution in Syria.
A force organized under U.N. auspices. That would provide a politically acceptable international cover, and show a united international and not merely Western stand against Islamic State. But U.N. politics are always tricky.
An ad hoc international “coalition of the willing,” much like the one formed by President George W. Bush to fight Iraq. It could be formed by U.S., French and even Russian leadership, drawing in all concerned nations and providing funding and a support system for local forces.
Sure, but...  Doug Ollivant, who has a lot of experience in Iraq, points out:
At the same time, the United States and Iraq find themselves confronting a dilemma. Policymakers in both countries insist that more must be done against ISIL. And yet there is no appetite in either U.S. or Iraqi politics (outside some very small pockets) for the deployment of U.S. troops, and plans that propose such do not pass the political feasibility test. While a U.S. audience will be very familiar with its own “war fatigue,” they may not be aware that years of U.S. occupation have made national sovereignty a very touchy subject in Iraqi politics. Even the recent joint U.S./Kurdish commando raid on Hawija was quickly condemned by factions both supportive and critical of the current Iraqi government. If the actions of a mere 30 U.S. commandos cross a political threshold, we can only imagine the political response to a larger contingent. Deployment of U.S. troops has no constituency in either the United States or Iraq — and it appears that any military benefit such a deployment might provide in the short term would be more than outweighed by its political costs over the long term. Looking back on our experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan, one might think this is a lesson people should have learned by now.
And as Eugene Robinson notes in the Post, the west has been much better at creating power vacuums in the Middle East than at filling them.

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