In comments over the weekend, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel conceded that he is going to have to “consider” the deployment of ground troops to Iraq, though he reiterated that they would not be “combat troops.”
The distinction is increasingly ill-defined, as there are in point of fact already some 3,000 US ground troops in Iraq, and some of them are already on the front lines in the Anbar Province in an “advisory” capacity.
What this new escalation short of combat troops would be, then, is totally unclear, and Hagel did not attempt to clarify the matter. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey, however, has been talking up the idea of combat troops as likely necessary at some point in the future.
So far that’s been a political no-go for the Obama Administration, though they continue to escalate the war to the point that the combat deployments seem not only conceivable, but virtually inevitable.
Obama reiterated his opposition to “sending ground troops to fight in Iraq” over the weekend as well, though his decision to deploy ground troops into combat zones and assurances that they are prepared to defend themselves make it largely a distinction without a difference.
That seems to be the defining feature of this war, as the administration continues to escalate heedlessly despite the strategy clearly failing, and simultaneously continues to move the bar for what US troops won’t ever be doing slightly further out, only to quickly change their minds and start doing that as well.
It’s only a few months ago, after all, that the administration was ruling out “boots on the ground” entirely, and several major deployments have ended that pretense. Now, the troops are just waiting to get into a shooting war, and it seems only a matter of time before the administration has to pick some new thing that they won’t ever do.