Boots on the Ground

While much of America sighs in relief, if  skepticism,  as the President continues to declare that no “boots” will be on the ground in our struggle with ISIL, it’s not that simple.

Keeping combat boots off the ground in Iraq and Syria will lengthen the fight, even assuming ISIL can be destroyed, as the president claims.

Why so? Because lack of on-the-scene combatants hinders destroying ISIL. It means that ISIL can shift its mode as well as its location of operations. It can hide, morph, or move. As we think we’ve destroyed it. Think: Whac-a-Mole.

It also means that American ships, planes and personnel must be at risk to carry out the operations. Navy aircraft and cruise missiles are launched from ships, which must operate in the Persian Gulf or Mediterranean Sea. In either puddle, they’re targets. That’s why the Navy sends self-defending carrier strike groups. Air Force aircraft (both bombers and drones) have to operate from somewhere. Turkey? Qatar? Kyrgyzstan? Kazakhstan? (What’s the common denominator of those countries?)

At risk longer. Carrier groups must patrol in potential hostile waters. Forward American air bases are surrounded by Moslem populations. As military operations lengthen, they tend to fall into routines. Hostile agents can detect and exploit those routines to plot action.

The cost—money, people, consumables, capital equipment—goes up the longer the operation. That gets into “ops tempo” and “logistics tails,” topics for other days.

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2 thoughts on “Boots on the Ground

  1. Wack a mole, if I recall, is that game where you hit one down and another pops up. This is what’s happening in Iraq and surrounding countries. I think we will end up with boots on the ground, maybe make headway for a while and then another “enemy” will pop up, and worse than the last in terms of brutality. On and on. Dr. Robert Thurman, a Buddhist scholar at Columbia Univ. spoke at U. of Richmond the other night. He said the days of winning wars are over. U.S. hasn’t won a war since 1945 and we won’t win another. And other countries can’t win wars either. The world has changed in many ways. Humans need to find new ways of getting along.

  2. I disagree. We “won” the 1990 Gulf and the 2003 Iraq War, but we failed to establish peace afterward.

    “Winning wars is hard; Winning peace is harder; winning people’s minds is almost impossible” (assuming a fundamental disagreement before).

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