National Security Desk / October 27, 2016

Exposing Your Military Strategy Is Not a Strategy

Some things are better left unsaid.

According to Defense Secretary Ash Carter, the battle for the Islamic State’s so-called capital city of Raqqa “starts in the next few weeks.” He elaborated, “It’s been long a part of our plan that the Mosul operation would kick off when it did. This was a plan that goes back many months now and that Raqqa would follow soon behind.”

The strategy itself isn’t a bad one. In Mosul, the coalition’s offensive — backed by U.S. military “advisors” — is a tough but necessary one, though the eventual outcome will be determined by our next president’s response in Iraq. We lost the country once; we can’t lose it again. Furthermore, two crucial attacks happening simultaneously could force ISIL to abandon Mosul and rally around its pre-eminent stronghold in Raqqa. And a fight there could significantly, perhaps even structurally, rupture its core.

As Ed Morrissey writes, “If ISIS believes that the coalition has enough resources for a siege and ground assault on ISIS’ last remaining significant city, they might be tempted to pull out of Mosul and dare the U.S. and its allies to try. At the very least, they will have to consider limiting losses at some point and shifting them back to their ‘capital’ rather than watch their strength bleed out hundreds of miles from where they could do some good.”

Good plan, right? Well, at least it was. If the Pentagon is wondering why the fight against the Islamic State hasn’t gone quite as smoothly or quickly as it had hoped, maybe one reason is because shouting your game plan from the rooftops isn’t a winning strategy. Yet that’s exactly what Obama’s military leadership has done repeatedly, primarily for Obama’s political gain — so he can be seen as tough. This week was no exception. Team Obama does a lot of talking, but some things are better left unsaid.

(Edited.)

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