Analysis: Is U.S. Policy on Fighting ISIS Already Changing?


President Barack Obama and Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
President Barack Obama and Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
A week ago, President Obama stood before the American people and promised that the expanding fight against the Islamic State — a vicious Sunni militant group known as ISIS or ISIL that is terrorizing parts of Iraq and Syria — would not mean a commitment of American ground troops. “As I have said before, these American forces will not have a combat mission,” he said.

On Tuesday, Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, had a very different message when he testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee. “If we reach the point where I believe our advisers should accompany Iraqi troops on attacks against specific ISIL targets, I’ll recommend that to the president,” he said, citing a potential attempt to retake the strategic important Iraqi city of Mosul as an example.

There is no way to read this other than as a reversal from the firm commitment Mr. Obama made not to immerse the country in another endless ground war in the Middle East.

Even though General Dempsey’s remarks were conditional, the Obama administration has turned on a dime in record time and opened the door to deeper, more costly American involvement even before the strategy is fully sketched out. And this is happening without Congress ever giving Mr. Obama the authority to wage war.

It’s impossible to believe that General Dempsey was speaking just for himself, though administration officials said his remarks were not cleared by the White House. His initial comments were contained in written testimony, so they would have gone through a review process, at least by Pentagon officials, and scrubbed in advance for errors and misstatements.

He reinforced his position under questioning by members of the Senate committee. American forces in Iraq “are not participating in direct combat. There is no intention for them to do so,” he said, but “I’ve mentioned, though, that if I found that circumstance evolving, I would, of course, change my recommendation.”

So what changed in the last week? Has there been some new intelligence assessment about the Islamic State’s strengths that requires an urgent shift in policy? Has the administration run into difficulty persuading Arab countries and others to join its mission, which cannot succeed without their support? Or was General Dempsey leaving his options open to a ground war, as military leaders like to do, despite what Mr. Obama has promised?

These possibilities are highly disturbing, and they certainly do not provide any basis for considering a move toward a ground war.

White House officials insisted after General Dempsey’s testimony that there is no change in Mr. Obama’s policy. The best proof of that would be for Mr. Obama to reassert his pledge and stick to it.

If there is any lesson to be taken from recent military conflicts, it is how easily the country can slip into an intractable war, with consequences that cannot be fully foreseen, and the fight against the Islamic State is more complicated and multidimensional than most.

The international coalition that Mr. Obama says is crucial to his plan is just being formed. While there have been positive steps toward a new government in Iraq, the positions of defense and interiors ministers remain unfilled as politicians continue to fight for power. Meanwhile, American-led training of forces in Iraq and Syria (the so-called moderate opposition) that are supposed to be central to the military campaign will take months, and congressional approval of the $500 million that Mr. Obama has requested for training and equipping Syrian rebels is far from certain.

The alarming uncertainty that General Dempsey has injected into the still evolving military strategy makes it even more important that Congress carry out its constitutional duty and debate and vote on the new mission in Iraq and Syria.

NY Times



24 responses to “Analysis: Is U.S. Policy on Fighting ISIS Already Changing?”

  1. MekensehParty Avatar

    Congress agreed, article over

    1. 5thDrawer Avatar

      Obama was trying to get them all on the phone before a 2-month break for some agreement, but the wives and kids are making plans and packing for the extended vacations, and they don’t answer. :-)) I think it’s good if Dempsey runs the air-show for a while. One man in charge who knows the scene with a ‘general directive’ … ‘Go Get Em’.
      No more Mr. Nice Guy. Stop the fighting one way or another.
      Supply the Kurds with ‘one-line’ cell phones. ‘Allo Obama-man … new co-ordinate’.

      1. MekensehParty Avatar

        I thought I read somewhere that congress agreed on that yesterday. I guess I’m wrong as I cant find the article today.
        They’ll probably sign it before the recess and if they don’t… well who cares.

          1. MekensehParty Avatar

            good one
            but this time the sheriff is sending the posse ahead and managing the whole thing from the town’s saloon.

        1. The real lebanese Avatar
          The real lebanese

          I actually read today that they’re going to vote on it tomorrow. Media is a mess these days.

          1. Comtessat di Alba Avatar
            Comtessat di Alba

            Obama becomes the 4rth President in a row to go on Prime time TV and announce Irak bombings..this is going on for 25 years.


          2. The real lebanese Avatar
            The real lebanese

            Thats not what we’re talking about. We’re talking about the US congress and when they will decide to arm the certain groups of the Syrian rebels, if at all.

          3. Comtessa di Alba Avatar
            Comtessa di Alba

            I write what i want go cry to mommy..
            America serial Iraq bombing..remember MadMcCain singing bomb bomb bomb Iraq ?

          4. $89733098 Avatar

            U idiot! He was singing bomb bomb IRAN!


            Daft mare never stops lying while “activisting” b4 “shop” heads off.

          5. Hind Abyad Avatar

            Sorry, my medication wore off and I could not hear clearly.

          6. $89733098 Avatar

            Lol u funny bitch

          7. Countessa di Alba Avatar
            Countessa di Alba

            Who cares narrow minded desperada, do something useful while waiting for clients.
            McCain symbolizes forever Bombing Iraq (since 25 yrs) not Iran..huhh.. Zios- Salafi are so Ignorant.
            PS. You zio lapdog Comtessa below is no me.

          8. $89733098 Avatar

            Daft mare I fingered myself while thinking of u. Was that useful?

          9. Hind Abyad Avatar

            After taking some pills, I totally deny writing the above.

          10. 5thDrawer Avatar

            That’s true. The next article, which we can’t comment on, it notes the Scotland debacle … and tries to show there’s dissention in ‘Western minds’ … but there’s no dissension in the desire to keep Democracy as a method.
            People need to think ‘together’. And they know that.

        2. $89733098 Avatar

          “Well who cares”?

          Obviously decent people care which excludes YOU!

        3. 5thDrawer Avatar

          Seems they did.

      2. $89733098 Avatar

        Interesting how when I originally asked yalibnan why they were not posting articles about peaceful protesters in Iraq being massacred by Maliki your response was “this is a news site about Lebanon blah blah”. But as soon as Sunnis go on the offensive u jump up and down. Sorry but I have to call u out on ur hypocrisy.

      3. 5thDrawer Avatar

        I’m jumping for the Kurds … And I said that a month ago … wow … they ARE listening to me …. check telephone conversations on BBC with the defending Kurds. 🙂

  2. $89733098 Avatar

    5th I imagine u to b very similar to this.

    1. Hind Abyad Avatar


      1. 5thDrawer Avatar

        the fake knows the words ….

    2. 5thDrawer Avatar

      Always liked the guy … actually have him on tape I don’t think I can play any more … and a record of Bob Newhart too. :-))))
      Comedians who poke at our human idiosyncrasies are more valuable than politicians – and smart enough to not get into it. 😉

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *