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.