There is an idea being pushed right now that the US needs to send many more troops into Syria and Iraq to get them before they get us. Who exactly “them” should entail is more than a bit confusing. ISIS would surely make the cut and their primary enemy, Assad would probably get included as well. But Al Qaeda might have to be a game-time decision, as the official position on them varies from time-to-time.
In any case, it’s clear that there would be a great many things to shoot at for prospective American infantry in the region. American ground troops could certainly liberate Mosul and what’s left of Raqqa from the Islamic State. And with enough manpower applied, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria would cease to exist in its current form. This should not be disputed. However, it must also be said that this would not end the risk of terrorism. After all, groups with a similar ideology have arisen in numerous places from Nigeria to Somalia to Afghanistan. Unseating Al-Baghdadi from power in Syria and Iraq might be a compelling accomplishment for a politician, but it’s difficult to see how it would achieve much in terms of the broader war on terror. If one’s goal is to stamp out these terrorist groups and ground troops are necessary to do so in Syria and Iraq, doesn’t it follow that they would be needed elsewhere also? That is, if we accept the premise of Sen. John McCain that America has to “fight them over there” before they come here, don’t we need to have a fully inclusive definition of “there”?
There is a new article at Antiwar.com today by Andrew Bacevich that considers this question at length. If America is “serious” about the war on terror and we’ve concluded that military force is indeed the only option, then its politicians should be honest about what that would entail. What are all the countries that America would have to invade? How long would the troops have to be there? How would the American people pay for it? And if that war ever was won, what would American society look like on the other side?
These are all important questions. And before we rush to find a military solution after the next sensational terror attack, we should consider all the negative implications of such a policy, both at home and abroad. The future contemplated in Bacevich’s analysis seems realistic but incredibly bleak. And once you do that thought experiment, it’s pretty clear that just about anything is better than pursuing another world war. Here’s the piece: