I wasn’t aware that Max Boot was still in the game (and writing for Time Magazine no less) until Zandardad emailed me Boot’s article this morning asking for my opinion.
Guess what Max Boot wants?
Back in 2007–08, when al-Qaeda in Iraq, ISIS’s precursor, was pushed out of the Sunni-dominated northwest of Iraq, it was by Sunni tribal fighters working in conjunction with American troops. To inflict serious setbacks on ISIS today will require resurrecting that successful coalition rather than flatly refusing, as Obama has done, to put any “boots on the ground.”
It is in America’s interest to send as few troops as possible into harm’s way and to get our allies to do as much of the fighting as possible. But sending only 3,000 troops and essentially prohibiting them from leaving base, as Obama has done, is a recipe for ineffectiveness. If we’re going to have any impact on the fight against ISIS, we need to take off our self-imposed shackles.
It’s hard to know now what commitment may be necessary, which is why it’s vital not to pass an Authorization for the Use of Military Force that would prohibit “enduring offensive ground combat operations.” It is folly to tell ISIS in advance that it has nothing to fear from the best ground troops on the planet.
Credible estimates of how many troops we should send range from 10,000 to 25,000. Just as important as the troop numbers are the rules of engagement under which they operate. It is imperative that U.S. advisers and joint tactical air controllers be able to operate on the front lines with the local troops they support. This was the formula that made possible the rapid overthrow of the Taliban in Afghanistan in the fall of 2001.
“But Zandar,” you may ask, “isn’t Max Boot one of the leading voices that pushed for all-out ground war in Iraq while writing op-eds for the NY Times and helped paved the way for the decade plus and trillion plus we spent there? Why is he still writing articles for Time Magazine, and why is he advocating the same, open-ended Permawar strategy from 2002?”
Good questions. The answer of course is neocons can’t be discredited, just the wars they want the rest of us to fight. And it’s always the rest of us who pay the price. This time won’t be any different either, is my guess.