President Obama met with the anti-ISIS coalition’s defense ministers at Andrews Air Force Base this week. Afterward, he said the 21 member states agreed that they’re going to defeat ISIS. It sounded great. But it was a fairy tale.
The only thing the 21-nation coalition agreed on was that nobody is sending combat forces to defeat ISIS. Some are helping the U.S. bombing campaign. Some are offering humanitarian assistance. But none are willing to stand up against ISIS, except the Kurdish Peshmerga, who were not even invited to the conference.
The Kurds are the only ones in the entire region willing to fight ISIS, but they’re the only ones in the region we’re not arming. Go figure.
The Kurds are fighting to defend their homeland, but they are seriously outgunned. ISIS has state-of-the-art American equipment it picked up off the battlefield in June, when the Iraqi army abandoned it and fled. The Kurds have been promised U.S. equipment for a decade, but it never got delivered because it was supposed to be a pass-through from the Iraqi Army. The U.S. sent it; the Kurds never got it.
The Turks, whom we are wooing hard, aren’t taking action against ISIS. They are using this opportunity to bomb the Kurds, while we look the other way. If we don’t give the Kurds the means to defend themselves, we could become a willing bystander to genocide on a mass scale.
President Obama’s plan to “degrade and defeat ISIS” is barely a month old, but it has already failed. Even his top military advisers say ground forces are needed to defeat ISIS, and none of the coalition members are willing to send ground forces.
The bombing campaign has helped, sort of, but the Sunni ISIS forces have now advanced east to the suburbs of Shiite-controlled Baghdad, and north to the Kurdish region. The corrupt and incompetent Iraqi army is fleeing, once again. The as-yet unformed moderate Syrian rebel army is a long way off, and in all likelihood a fantasy. ISIS is just outside of Baghdad, and moving north to the Kurdish region. The president and his advisers keep saying this will take a long time to win, but time is running out.
Let’s face reality. The old Iraq no longer exists. The old Syria no longer exists. All the king’s horses and all the king’s men can’t put Humpty Dumpty together again.
ISIS now controls much of Sunni Iraq and Syria. What remains of the old Iraq is the Shiite/Baghdad area. Their government has far better relations with Iran than with us, and the Iraqi military is working closely with Iranian forces and their Shiite militias.
The Obama plan, now named Inherent Resolve, isn’t working. Time for a new plan.
First, the Kurds deserve to survive. They are wildly pro-American. They are a democracy. They have equal rights for women. They are the only ones in the region willing to accept Christian, Sunni and religious minority refugees. They are economically self-sufficient with considerable oil wealth. They don’t want American combat forces. They are willing to fight ISIS on their own. They even have a women’s brigade fighting on the front lines. But they need modern weapons.
Second, it’s time we explain, in the strongest possible terms to everyone in the region, that they have to stand up to ISIS themselves. No more hiding behind American forces. We will help with airstrikes and intelligence, but we will NOT send in combat forces to defend them. For over a decade they’ve been willing to hold our coats while we’ve done the bulk of the fighting. Those days are over.
Ten years ago we didn’t have a lot of options. We needed Arab oil. We had to kill terrorists “over there” so they couldn’t come “over here.” We had to be involved in the internecine Middle East civil wars. But things have changed in the last few years. With our new discoveries and technologies, we now have the ability to be self-sufficient in oil and natural gas, and even to become energy exporters. We also have new data mining systems to find and track terrorists. Ten years ago we needed the Middle East more than it needed us. Now the situation is reversed.
What a needless tragedy. The Iraq War may have been a mistake, but the surge had it won by 2008. All we had to do was leave some residual forces in Iraq to keep its politicians on course. But according to his own Cabinet officers, Obama was so eager to end the Iraq War, at any cost, that he was willing to end it by losing it; and, of course, to blame Bush.
Admittedly, there is plenty of blame to go around. We now know Bush shouldn’t have gone in, and Obama shouldn’t have gone out. But we are where we are. Operation Inherent Resolve was a failure before it really got started.
The question is, what does President Obama plan to do next, and when does he plan to tell the American people about it? Maybe after the November election?
Kathleen Troia "K.T." McFarland is a Fox News National Security Analyst and host of FoxNews.com's "DefCon 3." She served in national security posts in the Nixon, Ford and Reagan administrations