This is the second post in our series on the Syrian Crisis.
|A Russian Mi-28 helicopter patrols the area around Hmeimym airbase in Latakia province, Syria [Sergei Chirikov/EPA]|
V. Introduce ground troops and launch a full-scale war: Loren Thompson was Deputy Director of the Security Studies Program at Georgetown University and taught graduate-level courses in strategy, technology and media affairs. He also taught at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. Loren lists the following drawbacks of placing boots on the ground:
1. It will give the terrorists easy targets. ISIS operatives are working hard to find American targets they can strike, but there aren’t many suitable sites within reach. Deploying U.S. troops nearby would make their task much easier.
2. It will provide captives for influencing U.S. policy. ISIS has proven adept at manipulating public opinion through the use of social media. Beheadings and immolations of hostages have been especially effective at terrifying target populations, while recruiting new jihadists to the cause. If the U.S. persists in sending troops to isolated locations where they could be ambushed and captured, it is obvious they will be used as pawns to undermine American resolve.
3. It will take the pressure off local forces to perform….. If American forces take a leading role in the battle against ISIS, that will take the pressure off indigenous groups to fight tenaciously in defense of their homelands. Sending U.S. troops might get the job done quicker, but what Washington really needs is to build up local military forces so they can keep the peace after ISIS is gone.
4. It will lead to taking sides in civil wars. ISIS has managed to hold territory in Syria and Iraq because they are failed states, wracked by civil war. Dictators in both countries have periodically resorted to brutal repression of their populations, and it is only the waning of their power that allowed ISIS to take root. But with so many ethnic and religious factions now pursuing wildly divergent goals, it is inevitable that any U.S. ground presence will run afoul of local rivalries.
5. It will become a force of occupation. The U.S. military had largely wiped out an earlier incarnation of the group that originated in Anbar province before withdrawing, but the group was able to rebuild in what is often referred to by outsiders as the “vacuum” that followed America’s presence. President Obama argues convincingly that if U.S. troops lead the fight to defeat ISIS, then some new group of extremists will likely again rise up after the Americans are gone. His solution of building up local governments and militaries so they can control their territories is messy and frustrating, but the alternative is U.S. troops staying forever — which would begin to look like the return of colonialism.
This option would most likely draw the U.S. into a long and protracted war.