Analysis

Obama’s Limited Response to Unlimited ISIS Ambitions
President Obama leaves the State Dining Room of the White House after announcing limited airstrikes on the ISIS. (Getty Images)
August 8, 2014
| Security
| Middle East and North Africa, The Americas
Summary
President Obama’s “targeted strikes” at the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria may be too little too late to stop the terrorist army that moved in this summer to fill the vacuum left after Obama pulled out U.S. troops in 2011, declaring Iraq a “stable and self-reliant” nation.

If the first U.S. airstrikes Friday are any indication, Obama appears content to hit only the most imminent tactical threats to Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, but not targets of strategic consequence such as ISIS leaders or mass troop concentrations. So far, this is a far more limited response than the type of focused action discussed in LIGNET on June 17 (Insurgent Forces Vulnerable to US Counterstrike in Iraq).

The White House seems to be more concerned about managing appearances than it is about using force decisively. The kind of small scale, piecemeal intervention the president promised may send insurgents the wrong message, conveying more weakness than strength.

On Thursday night, Obama announced that he was authorizing “targeted airstrikes” against ISIS insurgents threatening the Kurdish capital Erbil. He also announced a humanitarian relief effort to save up to 40,000 members of the minority Yazidi religious sect trapped on a mountain in northern Iraq. The president stressed that the American commitment is limited and the United States is not reengaging in the war in Iraq. However, the ISIS and others may disagree.

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