National Security Desk / April 1, 2016

Obama’s Vietnam Model for Iraq

His administration needs some inherent resolve.

Seven years ago, Barack Obama probably never imagined that he’d still be commanding American forces in Iraq during the last year of his second term. He certainly had no intention to. One of the decisions the reluctant commander in chief faces today, however, is whether to send more troops to Iraq ahead of a push to retake the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul. For months, Obama has managed a stealth escalation in the country so as not to admit to having put “boots on the ground” there. No American troops were in Iraq thanks to Obama’s stubborn and disastrous withdrawal in 2011. Now there are 5,000.

Furthermore, the escalation is so bureaucratically top-heavy, our forces there are in danger of being bogged down in the face of a brutal and fast-acting enemy. The Daily Beast headline says it all: “21 Generals Lead [Islamic State] War the U.S. Denies Fighting.” The Obama administration has packed Baghdad full of top brass, just as the U.S. military did when it de-escalated World War II, Vietnam and the Cold War. Thus, Obama is trying to start a war while ending it. To fix this mushy and wasteful strategy, his administration needs some, shall we say, “inherent resolve.”

On a final note, his re-entry in Iraq is modeled after the Kennedy/Johnson slow escalation in Vietnam. The incremental approach allows the enemy to prepare and counter the fight. After all, Democrats like to use the word “quagmire.”

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