Stay the Course: Keeping US Troops out of the Fight against ISIS
President Obama recently gave an Oval office address to the nation in the aftermath of the tragic shooting by possible terrorists Tashfeen Malik and Syed Rizwan Farook in San Bernardino California. His main message: Stay the course. As some elements of the public cry for a deployment of US troops to eliminate the Islamic State, President Obama remained firm behind his present policy of eroding ISIS without the need of US military personnel on the ground. This undoubtedly comes as a surprise to many in a grieving nation eager to bring the Islamic State to justice for its crimes, especially as it shares its grief with victims in the Middle East and in Paris. Nevertheless, this is the correct policy to pursue. In a nation shocked by such horrific attacks over the past year, it is the President’s role to temper the nation’s thirst for retribution and remind it that current measures are working. He must also stress that the US will hold the guilty parties responsible, albeit through the existing methods that do not risk stepping into another quagmire in the Middle East.
The reason is two-fold. Public opinion itself is often volatile. After a horrific event such as this shooting, a swing in public preference is only natural and to be expected. Over the past year alone, a Pew Research Center poll shows support for deploying troops increased from 39 to 47% from October 2014 to February 2015, and it has likely increased again following these attacks in Paris and San Bernardino. However, the United States cannot afford another strategic blunder such its intervention in Iraq. Interventions are costly in time, blood, and treasure, the first two of which the American people will quickly lose the stomach to sacrifice as the intervention continues.
More importantly, the existing measures are working, with ISIS having lost 15-25% of its territory as of November. Moreover, US airstrikes alongside its host of allies account for the destruction of hundreds of ISIS oil tankers. These are the funds necessary for ISIS to survive and fund its operations, without which it will surely wither in the desert sun. The shocking attacks in Paris and California only re-emphasize the current US policy’s effectiveness, as a desperate ISIS must now rely on leaderless resistance attacks to target a western world it can no longer oppose militarily. Rather than a sign of strength, these efforts suggest a last-gasp effort from an organization that sees its foreign recruits dwindling, its revenues and territory disappearing, and the methodical extermination of its operatives via airstrikes. The US president is thus correct to maintain the present course. Rather than sending the order for the troops to load the ships, a far better plan is to scramble the bomber sorties for another day of hunting ISIS.