On Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama authorized the deployment of 217 more troops to Iraq, as part of the fight against the Islamic State. As Secretary of Defense Ash Carter explained: “This will put Americans closer to the action.” Washington will also send Apache helicopters to Iraqi forces and pay $415 million in salaries for Kurdish troops and other “military needs” in the runup to retaking Mosul.
If you think this counts as getting tough in the fight against radical jihadis who have unsettled the Middle East and brought violence to the heart of Europe, you’re deluding yourself. Obama’s strategy for fighting the Islamic State is half-measures, at best: contributing U.S. military force at the margins of efforts by those most directly affected with loss of territory. The president prides himself on a minimalist approach, doing just about as much for Iraqi forces or the Syrian rebels as they could do for themselves. It amounts to an argument that he is preventing the moral hazard of other countries relying on the United States for their security. But that approach treats as costless two very important elements in fighting the Islamic State: confidence and time.
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