As Obama Broadens Iraq Goals, Escalation Seems Inevitable

Congressional Hawks Push to Dramatically Increase Air War

President Obama’s goals in Iraq continue to grow every time he gives a speech, and the shifting sands are giving hawks more ammo in their constant push to escalate the new US war as much and as quickly as possible.

Obama’s goals have gone from protecting Irbil to protecting Irbil and Baghdad, and now to prevent the creation of an Islamic caliphate in Iraqi territory, as well as keeping all “strategic” sites in the nation from ISIS control. That’s a big shift, in only about 72 hours since he announced the war.

Retired Gen. Carter Ham today insisted that the latest US goals are going to be “very difficult” to pull off with only the 108 warplanes involved in the air campaign, and will likely require troops on the ground.

President Obama has insisted that ground troops aren’t being considered, but the credibility of that claim is very much in doubt, given the 2,000 US Marines already stationed just offshore, and the Air Force analysts saying 15,000 ground troops will be needed just the support the current air war, which the administration insists will be a “long campaign.”

Congressional hawks were on board with the new war, of course, but are already chomping at the bit for dramatic escalations, insisting that the current goals are likewise insufficient and that an enormous war against ISIS should be undertaken.

Sen. John McCain (R – AZ) and others were also pushing to expand the war immediately into neighboring Syria to attack ISIS targets there. Given the US support for rebel factions in Syria, attacking the largest such rebel faction, ISIS, inside Syria would be a major mixed message, but one McCain and many others in Congress seem comfortable with so long as escalation is the result.

The administration laid the groundwork for this precipitous escalation months ago, when it started sending military assets into the region in anticipation of “evacuating the embassy.” Now, despite all protestation to the contrary, fear of mission creep seems very well founded, and the mission is not just creeping into a bigger one, it is exploding at an alarming rate.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.