Can President Obama save the Levant?

levantTo stand a chance of success, the strategy will need regional buy-in to attempt to shut down financial support and fighter recruitment that provide the Islamic State group with its strategic depth. To this end, the US tabled a UN Security Council resolution on September 8 that plans to demand countries “prevent and suppress” the recruitment and travel of foreign fighters by ensuring it is considered a serious criminal offence under domestic laws.–James Denselow writing for Al Jazeera

Can President Obama save the Levant from anarchy? It won’t be easy.

Whatever else may be true about conflict in the Levant, the idea that ISIS can be destroyed militarily is surely wrong. We should have learned this from experience in Viet Nam and Afghanistan. Support for ISIS will diminish only when its supporters see a better way to self-determination and a better life.

Whether one believes that the struggle is between classes, religious sects, or nation states, the situation is complex. Our friends today may be enemies tomorrow. General Petraeus got much credit for supporting the “Sunni awakening,” but how long did it last?

Mark Landler, writing for The New York Times, writes:

The murderous march of the militants across Syria and Iraq — its effort to establish a cross-border caliphate, mass killings, videotaped beheadings and ethnic cleansing — has upended the geopolitical landscape in the Middle East and turned ISIS into a nemesis for virtually every country in the region. Syria’s leader, Bashar al-Assad, whose government helped give ISIS a foothold in Syria, is now calling for the West to join his nation in a common battle against ISIS. Iran is backing Shiite militias to hold off the militants in Iraq. Officials from Iran and Saudi Arabia, Shiite and Sunni archrivals, met recently to discuss ISIS. It remains uncertain whether these strange partnerships will survive the immediate threat of the militants and lay the groundwork for a broader realignment.

ae quoteBuzz phrases–no amnesty, no new taxes, don’t kick the can down the road–may be effective propaganda but not good policy. “No boots on the ground,” already false, may suggest no bloody battles with casualties and prisoners, but is surely misleading. Limiting our options and informing enemies of the limitation can’t be wise.

I have no doubt that President Obama is careful and cautious. I am glad to read that the current plan has non-military elements. However, the plan surely reflects political pressure as much as careful foreign policy. As after 9-11, the public demands action, any action, thoughtful or not. This may be a time when it would be best to watch carefully, act judiciously, and bide our time.

© William Hungerford – September 2014




About whungerford

* Contributor at where we discuss the politics, economics, and events of the New New York 23rd Congressional District (Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Chemung, (Eastern) Ontario, Schuyler, Seneca, Steuben,Tioga, Tompkins, and Yates Counties) Please visit and comment on whatever strikes your fancy.
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4 Responses to Can President Obama save the Levant?

  1. BOB McGILL says:

    simple solution, secure our own borders, let them fight it out, then help Israel finish off whoever is left. ” Our friends today may be enemies tomorrow. ” but if we let them kill each other off, there will be fewer left to deal with.


  2. josephurban says:

    ISIS is not a government in any sense of the word. It is a band of radical, fundamentalist right wing thugs. Imposing their narrow religious views by force and brutality.The US should certainly help those who oppose ISIS with weapons and air power. This is a humanitarian effort rather than an expansion of US power. Quite different from the Vietnam civil war and the poorly planned Iraq invasion (which , after all, is the basis for unleashing these right wing forces in the first place). The US cannot stand by while thugs attempt to reimpose the 13th century patriarchal ideology on the women, men and children of the Middle East. We need to assist these people with air strikes and drones. But we should not put troops on the ground, that is the responsibility of the legitimate governments of the Middle East. The USA cannot “save” the Levant unless the leaders of these nations provide the bulk of the military force. But we can help.


  3. whungerford says:

    I support the non-military aspects of President Obama’s plan. The military aspect mostly addresses domestic political concerns.

    In Viet Nam and Afghanistan aircraft proved indecisive in a political struggle.


  4. whungerford says:

    This article as well as the references cited is very informative and interesting:


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