In his highly anticipated Wednesday night speech, President Obama was light on details, but long on ambition for his open-ended war on ISIS, which is now expanding from Iraq into neighboring Syria.
The speech focused on hyping the danger of ISIS, which Obama insisted had “no vision” and has to be destroyed, while laying out a war he says will follow the strategy of the Yemen and Somalia air wars, except dramatically bigger.
Yemen and Somalia have seen intermittent US airstrikes that have not actually accomplished anything on the ground. The main resemblances the ISIS war is expected to have are the open-ended duration and lack of an endgame strategy.
While he publicly hasn’t confirmed the plans yet, expanding the war from Iraq into neighboring Syria also seems a foregone conclusion at some point, as officials have been downplaying the idea that they could stop ISIS in one country without stopping them planet-wide.
A global war with no strategy for victory and no end in sight certainly wasn’t what the American public were presented with when the campaign began, but White House officials continue to deny that “mission creep” is occurring.
Mission creep has long been a very slow process of escalating the goals of a war, but the administration still hasn’t made it clear that what they’ve set out so far is the totality of the war’s goals, and perhaps more disconcertingly, it’s escalated at a pace far beyond any reasonable definition of “creep.”
The White House tried to pass off the expansion of the war into Anbar as protecting the Baghdad Airport, on the notion that if the Haditha Dam was destroyed it might conceivably threaten the airport, just under 200 miles downstream and not actually built along the shoreline.
But wiping out ISIS in multiple countries and putting something more pro-US in its place is a far broader goal than “keeping the embassy safe” or some other platitude about why the new war was launched, and the scariest part is we aren’t even sure that’s where it’ll finish off, with Obama liable to tack on new goals in the days, weeks, months, and even years to come.