Escalations of airstrikes against ISIS targets are so common as to be virtually trivial at this point, but Pentagon officials are expressing growing disquiet about the latest calls for dramatic escalation of the war, saying they don’t believe the political leadership has learned the lessons of Iraq and Afghanistan.
They warn military gains quickly evaporate in the absence of political and diplomatic moves to sustain those gains, and see a similar expectation of a sweeping military victory without any real moves to sustain it coming up once again.
“We can kill a lot of them,” one senior military official noted, but with ISIS continuing to attract massive numbers of recruits and losing very few to anything but fighting, it’s not a long-term solution, and would just lead to a future war with a future ISIS.
Indeed the US already went through this once, killing massive numbers of al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) forces during the Iraqi occupation, only to see them rebuild rapidly amid sectarian tension in Iraq, expand into Syria, and become the huge ISIS caliphate they are today.
Officials don’t seem to have a good idea how to resolve the sources of ISIS recruitment, let alone much interest in doing so. Military action is the go-to political talking point, and a lot of officials see it as a cure-all, despite its checkered history. This means ultimately the Pentagon is likely to be dragged deeper and deeper into this war, repeating the mistakes of the past.