Editorial: Clear strategy needed in Syria


As previously supported by The Daily Iowan Editorial Board, an authorization of force is needed to combat the forces of ISIS. The killings of innocent civilians and American hostages have since prompted Congress to move forward to approve training and the equipment for opposition forces in Syria. The United States’ current plan is to train and arm more than 15,000 troops on the ground to combat ISIS.

The problem is that the plan still hasn’t been put into action. Only a few hundred Syrian rebels are set to begin U.S. training, according to Reuters. Though this number is eventually expected to grow, time is ticking. The violence of ISIS continues to be a threat, and with each passing day, the group grows larger in size and becomes more capable of terrorist acts that threaten the United States domestically and abroad.

While Congress as a whole approves arming and training opposition forces, there still is a level of uncertainty as to how the escalating situation should be handled.

The amount of money that the Obama administration has requested to handle the operation is $1.1 billion, no small sum. And there are some in the White House who believe that 15,000 troops is too small of a number to carry out such an ambitious mission with many goals in mind.

There is difficulty in trusting Syrian rebels to carry out tasks with unquestioned loyalty to the United States. A strong feeling among the rebel leaders is that the key to defeating ISIS is to first take on government leaders, specifically President Bashar al-Assad. Simply put, many in Syria see the Assad’s regime as a greater threat to the country than ISIS.

President Obama has made his reluctance to significantly invest in Syria known. Training forces in Syria to fight ISIS is a way to avoid putting American boots on the ground, but Obama would still have to answer to any future attacks and conflicts with Assad, if they should arise. It would put the president in a tough predicament to protect the troops with American forces, further increasing the U.S. presence there. It’s also unclear whether the president is willing to use air support to accomplish the mission as he authorized in Libya in 2011.

Regardless of one’s opinion on the strategy to take, it’s important that no half-measures are taken. Before U.S. training is complete in the countries of Jordan, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar, Obama needs to be a final, conclusive decision to determine just how much we are to fund the rebels, how many troops it will take to carry out our goals, and what steps will be taken if worst comes to worst.

Murphy’s law, “anything that can go wrong will go wrong,” can be applied here. The final call made by the president must factor in potential flaws in the measures to be taken. The imminent national security threat from ISIS looms too large to face it without extraordinary precaution.

But precautions must not halt swift, decisive action.

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