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Here's What the U.S. Can Do About Iraq

Author: Max Boot, Jeane J. Kirkpatrick Senior Fellow for National Security Studies
June 18, 2014
Los Angeles Times


There are no good options in Iraq right now. But some are worse than others. Three of the worst, unfortunately, are also the most popularly debated in Washington today: launch U.S. airstrikes without U.S. boots on the ground; work with Iran to fight ISIS, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria; and/or break up Iraq into separate Shiite, Sunni Arab and Kurdish states. All three options are alluring, but their appeal is fool's gold.

Start with the idea of hitting ISIS with U.S. drones, sea-launched Tomahawk cruise missiles and, possibly, manned bombers. This is the easiest policy, but it is also the least likely to succeed. It recalls nothing so much as Operation Desert Fox, four days of bombing of Saddam Hussein's Iraq in 1998 that accomplished pretty much nothing.

The effective employment of air power, especially against non-state targets such as ISIS that don't have tanks, uniformed troop formations or infrastructure to hit, requires reliable eyes on the ground to direct airstrikes and an army capable of exploiting the airstrikes. Both conditions were met in Afghanistan in the fall of 2001, which is why a few hundred special operations soldiers and CIA officers were able to work with the Northern Alliance to overthrow the Taliban.

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