Which pretty much sums up his domestic policies as well.


Zero to nowhere: Obama’s Syria-Iraq ‘policy’ leaves reality behind

If you want to understand how undirected American activities in Syria and Iraq are by a coherent policy, look at a map.  (Map 1 starts the parade with what ISIS’s position looked like approximately 2 months ago.)

The U.S. began our current operations by putting in advisers with Iraqi and Kurdish troops, in and near Baghdad and in the Kurdish-held area in northern Iraq.  We ramped up operations by deploying air assets and additional ground force and Special Forces advisers, in the same areas.  We initially conducted air strikes against ISIS in northern Iraq, to try to beat back ISIS advances near Kurdish and Iraqi national force positions there.  (Map 2)

Then came the “coalition” and the expansion of strikes to Syria.  (Map 3)  Although we and our coalition partners have attacked targets in the ISIS stronghold of the Euphrates corridor through eastern Syria (e.g., around Raqqa), we were informed in September that U.S. air strikes were concentrated further west, around Aleppo – where those strikes would have no effect on ISIS’s operational rear or its ability to hold territory or push for gains in Iraq.

Map 1.  Overview of ISIS control, early Sep 2014. (Map via BBC)

Subsequent comments from administration officials indicated that the purpose of the strikes around Aleppo was to inflict injury on “core al Qaeda,” in the guise of the suddenly significant “Khorasan group” (also rendered “Khorosan”), which had put advisers in Syria to assist third-party jihadi rebels.  It wasn’t clear how this related to anything else the public understood we were trying to do. (See an interesting treatment here, which among other things highlights the perils of heaving explosives into an ongoing 360-degree firefight.)

Map 2.  (Via BBC)

Now, U.S. air power is being used in the Kurdish enclave of Kobani, on the border of northern Syria and far from ISIS’s stronghold to the east.  (Map 4)  Kobani is even further from the Euphrates corridor in Iraq, west of Baghdad, where Iraqi national forces are on the ropes, near collapse and begging for air support.  Kobani is a considerable distance from the Kurdish stronghold of northern Iraq as well.  Holding Kobani has nothing to do with (a) defending Irbil (where there is now a concentration of U.S. personnel on the ground); (b) degrading ISIS’s operational rear in eastern Syria; or (c) defending Baghdad, where the fight for the city has begun.

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