Add California Assemblyman Katcho Achadjian to the long list of politicians who complain that we are not doing enough about atrocities committed by the Islamic State and other groups, without making a single helpful suggestion about what else we should do. (“Genocide and terrorism have gone unanswered for far too long,” March 30.)
Mr. Achadjian’s only suggestion is that Democrats and Republicans “craft a bipartisan, united strategy.” Assuming that is possible, Mr. Achadjian has no suggestion about what that policy should be or how it should differ from President Barack Obama’s current strategy to slowly degrade and destroy without commitment of American forces beyond minor strategic assistance plus bombing.
Mr. Achadjian’s Viewpoint appeared in The Tribune on the same day Tom Friedman wrote in The New York Times, “What do you do when the necessary is impossible, but the impossible is impossible to ignore — and your key allies are also impossible?”
Mr. Friedman points out that the defeat of IS in Iraq will not solve the problem as long as Sunnis and Shias refuse to cooperate. The conflict will continue, at the expense of civilians. The same can be said about defeat of IS in Syria.
The Obama policy at least is based on the truth that we cannot solve the IS crisis. I assume we could send an army to defeat IS, but IS warriors would merge into the population and then reappear unless we occupy the territory for years to come. We would be there until Sunnis and Shia learn to live together at peace, which they have refused to do for the past 1,300 years.
Right now, the IS territory we would have to occupy long term includes Iraq, Syria and Libya. Expansion of IS into other territory is likely in the future, perhaps into Yemen, perhaps even Saudi Arabia.
Those who are anxious to send troops forget that we defeated the Soviet Union with patience. They forget that the Soviet Union, like Rome 2,000 years ago, imploded from going broke, in part because of its war in Afghanistan.
To defeat IS and other radicals and to follow that with occupation to sustain our victory would do the same to us. We need to stay strong to balance against China, while we help the world endure the scourge of terrorism.
The Obama policy, perhaps with some tweaks, is the wise policy. Maybe we can provide more strategic help. People urge the president to provide stronger arms to the Kurds who have effectively fought against IS, but Obama has resisted so as not to alienate the Turks who provide bases for our air operations and other cooperation. Perhaps we should send 25,000 troops to provide safe zones in Syria so that refugees do not have to leave, though that sounds like mission creep.
We should demand more of our leaders and potential leaders than merely to complain and criticize without offering any constructive alternative.
Andy Greensfelder, a retired attorney, volunteers with the San Luis Obispo Legal Assistance Foundation. He regularly debates with David Holmes, another retired attorney, about current issues on The Dave Congalton Show on 920 KVEC radio.