Nov. 17, 2014
Doug Bandow
Forbes

In 2009 President Barack Obama received the Nobel Peace Prize before doing much of anything. Since then he has initiated two wars, first in Libya and now in Iraq and Syria, and escalated another, in Afghanistan. Alas, he has demonstrated that it is bad to start wars unnecessarily, but even worse to wage wars foolishly.

The administration appears to have lost its collective mind. The president has added ground forces to the battle in Iraq and the military has suggested introducing thousands more. His officials reportedly have decided to focus on overthrowing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the name of fighting the Islamic State.

It is hard to know which of these ideas is worse.

The U.S. has been back at war in the Middle East for more than two months. The results have not been pretty.

The administration claims to have created a vast coalition of 60 nations, roughly 30 percent of the world’s countries. Alas, as in the past the celebrated gaggle assembled by Washington turned out to be mostly a PR stunt. The U.S. accounts for about 770 of the roughly 900 strikes on Iraq and Syria. The Arab states have done little in the air and nothing afoot. Only Iran, which Washington fears almost as much as ISIL, has put boots on the ground.

Most flagrantly AWOL is Turkey, which has tolerated radical fighters transiting through and even operating on its territory. Many of the Islamic State’s combatants came from Turkey and ISIL has targeted Turkish territory for its caliphate. Yet Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan only cares about the ouster of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, once a close friend. And Erdogan expects the U.S. do the job for him.

Nor has the administration’s scattershot bombing campaign had much effect. Iraq’s Baghdad has not fallen. That was never likely, however. Kurdistan’s Irbil remains in danger. Syria’s Kobani is unconquered but in ruins, and thousands of its residents have fled.

The Islamic State quickly adjusted its tactics to minimize the vulnerability of its forces. By one count U.S. strikes have killed 464 Islamic State personnel and 57 fighters for Jabhat al-Nusra, an al-Qaeda affiliate. However, the estimated number of ISIL fighters trebled to as many as 30,000 just a couple weeks into Obama’s war.

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