Paris, October 15, 2014 --Last Sunday, President Barack Obama’s National Security Advisor Susan Rice was questioned on NBC about the American administration’s war strategy concerning the Islamic State in Syria, the aggressive and messianic self-proclaimed New Islamic Caliphate. Does a strategy exist; she was initially asked, since there are, to put it mildly, doubters among the crowd. She firmly replied that there is indeed a strategy, stated by the president, which is to degrade and ultimately “destroy” ISIS (or ISIL, which is the acronym apparently preferred at the White House).
However, to destroy ISIS is not a strategy; it is an objective. The strategy is what gets the new international coalition (a doubtful quantity thus far) formed by the U.S. from here to there. She described the strategy as forming the coalition (already done by the United States, which has appointed itself the coalition’s leader, although it has not yet been made clear what the leader will do, beyond carrying out air strikes against ISIS.)
What she emphatically stated was what it will not do, which is to send ground forces to fight the war. This is not entirely true, since there has already been a certain deployment of auxiliaries and counselors, and U.S. attack helicopters reportedly have been in action near Baghdad.
Ms. Rice then stated that the ground war must be fought by Iraq. “It’s got to be the Iraqis,” she said. “This is their fight. This is their territory.” She added that even in the past, “when we had over 100,000 U.S. troops in Iraq, it still came down to whether the Iraqis were willing and able to fight for their own country.” This is a sensitive point, because when Iraq’s army initially clashed with the ISIS offensive a few weeks ago it spectacularly fell apart, its commanders prominent among those who fled the field.