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Reflections on War

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Commentary Magazine @Commentary

Is War Under a Reluctant Commander-in-Chief Worth the Risk?

I have for a while advocated inserting American tactical air controllers (TACs) into the front lines in Iraq as part of a broader politico-military strategy to fight ISIS. But I have to admit that Bing West, a Marine combat veteran and writer who has spent a good part of the last decade embedded with the Marines in Iraq and Afghanistan, makes a good point in explaining and defending the reluctance of senior American generals, including the likely next Commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. Robert Neller, to support such a move.

West points out that inserting TACs increases risk and only makes sense as part of a broader commitment to destroy ISIS. Only the commander-in-chief, he continues, “can orchestrate the political, military and strategic components to wage a resolute war.” But President Obama has “declined to do so.” He has not shown the kind of commitment that President George W. Bush showed to win in Iraq, which in ferocious battles such as those fought in Fallujah in 2004 required a willingness to mete out significant destruction and run the risk of suffering significant casualties.


Commentary Magazine @Commentary

How Restraint Leads to War

President Obama argues that his nuclear agreement with Iran means “every pathway to a nuclear weapon is cut off.” He says, moreover, that it sets the stage to “incentivize them to behave differently in the region, to be less aggressive, less hostile, more cooperative, to operate the way we expect nations in the international community to behave.” It will be “a lot easier,” he predicts, “to check Iran’s nefarious activities, to push back against the other areas where they operate contrary to our interests or our allies’ interests if they don’t have the bomb.”The approach is a signature feature of Obama’s foreign policy. He has counted on diplomacy in a whole host of other areas to reduce tensions and preempt military conflict. And this approach has failed him repeatedly.

He reset relations with Russia—and Moscow annexed Crimea and invaded eastern Ukraine. He launched a strategic partnership with China—and Beijing occupied and built military installations on disputed islands in the East and South China Seas. He extended an open hand to the Muslim world—and radical Islam erupted. Will the agreement with Iran be the next Obama initiative to invite more violence rather than less.

To judge by statements from the United States and Iran, and by the details of the deal itself, the answer is yes. In July, Secretary of State John Kerry told Congress that “if Iran fails to comply with the terms of our agreement, our intel community, our Energy Department, which is responsible for nuclear weaponry, are absolutely clear that we will quickly know it and we will be able to respond accordingly with every option available to us today.”


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