1) Further to 1) at this post, the same two Canadians urge people to get real:
Kobani: A Metaphor For the Contradictions Facing The West
Questioned as to why the IS assault was not being stopped, Admiral John Kirby [Pentagon spokesman] responded, “Airstrikes alone, are not going to . . . to save the town of Kobani.” However, the bravery and tenacity of its Kurdish fighters, combined with airstrikes have permitted it to hang on. It also proves that the IS is not omnipotent in the face of spirited resistance. Quite the contrary…
The Obama plan, for which airstrikes are only the opening act, is seemingly unable to find regional actors to provide the ground forces on which the very success of his plan to degrade and destroy the IS rests. If Turkey with a 400 kilometer long border–now occupied by the IS–will not act, despite the recommendations of its own high command, there is little likelihood that other, smaller regional Arab nations will.
Whether Kobani falls or not it presents a series of contradictions for everyone–whichever camp they belong to…
Of all the nations contributing to the coalition, most will not fly over Syria; the niceties of international law rooted in the Westphalian notion of states’ rights standing in the way of any responsibility to protect (R2P). Under international law, Syria has not explicitly granted permission for coalition airstrikes against the IS but to seek that authority, would politically for some nations, be seen as siding with or abetting that regime.
…Airpower alone will not stop the IS without fierce resistance on the ground. And in not attacking the IS in its entirety, meaning both in Syria and in Iraq, by coordinated air and ground offensives, an incoherent piecemeal effect will be the result. The Kurds [in Iraq, one assumes] can hold, but are not large enough or well enough equipped to defeat the IS alone. The Iraqi Army seems to exist in name only. The longer we wait, the more difficult the task of destroying the IS will be.
Hope cannot supplant the glaringly obvious and despite US and western reluctance to intervene with ground forces, only with some western troops committed, will regional partners be enticed join us. If we insist on none of our boots on the ground, why would regional partners volunteer?
As in Gulf War One, aims limited to recapturing territory and destroying ISIS strongholds should be the limit of our military aspirations. We should not be drawn into reconstruction or the reconstitution of government and civil society by military means. Regional actors can do that and deal with wider issues like Syria’s Assad after we’re gone.
If not, the goal of all this, the rapid destruction of the IS, will somehow be forgotten, as are the people we are trying to protect; bogged down in a lengthy air campaign and the interminable search for willing partners…
George Petrolekas is on the Board of Directors of the CDA Institute and co-author of the 2013 and 2014 Strategic Outlook for Canada [more here]. Mr. Petrolekas served with NATO, and in Bosnia, Afghanistan and Cyprus and as an advisor to senior NATO commanders.
2) Fareed Zakaria of the Washington Post also injects considerable realism–but does not want to inject those boots:
Obama needs to dial back his Syria strategy
From the start, President Obama’s Syria policy has foundered because of a gap between words and deeds. And he’s done it again. Having declared that the aim of U.S. policy is to “degrade and ultimately destroy” the Islamic State, Obama now finds himself pressured to escalate military action in Syria. This is a path destined for failure. In fact, the administration should abandon its lofty rhetoric and make clear that it is focused on a strategy against the Islamic State that is actually achievable: containment.
…The central reality is that Washington has no serious local partners on the ground. It is important to understand that the Free Syrian Army doesn’t actually exist [see "Syria: Why Help Rebels? ..."]…
The political solution, presumably, is some kind of power-sharing arrangement in those two capitals. But this is not something that the United States can engineer in Syria. It tried in Iraq, but despite 170,000 troops, tens of billions of dollars and David Petraeus’s skillful leadership, the deals Petraeus brokered started unraveling within months of his departure, well before American troops had left. This is not a part of the world where power-sharing and pluralism have worked — with the exception of Lebanon, and that happened after a bloody 15-year civil war in which one out of every 20 people in the country was slaughtered [and included decades of Syrian occupation!].
The only strategy against the Islamic State that has any chance of working is containment — bolstering the neighbors (who are threatened far more than the United States) that are willing to fight militarily and politically…
The Obama administration is pursuing many elements of this strategy. It should be forthright about its objectives and abandon its grander rhetoric, which is setting itself up for escalation and failure.
It seems to me though that his containment has a pretty shaky basis–what neighbours are really willing to fight? Except probably Shia Iran (more here) and that will only terrify the Sunni Arabs. So in the end Mr Zakaria’s realism is pretty thin gruel. I wrote earlier:
Implicit in all discussion of what to do is that the actually existing states of Syria and Iraq will, Inshallah, be maintained with their current borders. But can anyone explain just how that outcome is to be achieved?..
At least Mr Zakaria appears to have abandoned the notion of reconstitution of the two states in any near term. As have the authors at 1) above.
Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Defence & Foreign Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds