The Obama administration’s wobbly foreign policy is often and rightly criticized, but in authorizing military action against the ruthless Sunni jihadists surging through Iraq the president did what had to be done.
It would have been irresponsible to not respond forcefully as the insurgents gained territory at a rapid pace — while also demonstrating unbridled brutality.
American jets yesterday delivered two air strikes on Islamist militants outside the Kurdish regional capital of Irbil, where the United States maintains a consulate and considerable personnel. The operations are being directed by Central Command at Tampa’s MacDill Air Force Base, and are being supported by MacDill’s 6th Air Mobility Wing refueling tankers.
The developments in Iraq gave special significance to the Change of Command Ceremony on Friday morning at MacDill. Retiring Col. Scott DeThomas, who’s done a superb job during his two years here, turned over the leadership of the mobility wing and the base command to Col. Daniel H. Tulley.
The event underscored the critical role MacDill plays in the nation’s defense.
The jets targeted artillery being used by Islamic State extremists against Kurdish forces defending Irbil, the Pentagon reported.
Rear Adm. John F. Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary, said the American military intends to continue targeting the militants “when they threaten our personnel and facilities.”
Obama authorized the strikes in a bid to derail the powerful Islamic State offensive in northern Iraq, a military campaign that threatens the country’s existence.
Importantly, he also ordered American aircraft to drop food and water to besieged Iraqi civilians fleeing the insurgents as they sweep, virtually unimpeded, into parts of Iraq that are of critical strategic importance.
American bombs struck Islamic State positions in Makhmour, roughly 35 miles southwest of Irbil.
A senior administration official said the president’s air strike authorization was “narrow,” but he cited various contingencies, such as threats to personnel, that would trigger the military action.
Obama was careful to promise that there would be no American boots on the ground, as the phrase goes. The last U. S. troops had withdrawn from Iraq in 2011.
Obama pledged, “I will not allow the United States to be dragged into fighting another war in Iraq.”
Americans surely have no stomach for another long engagement in Iraq, and most no longer have any illusions about Iraq blossoming into a peaceful democracy, as the Bush administration once thought possible.
But Obama also contributed to the current situation by being too eager to abandon a nation with deep and bitter divisions.
Ordinary jihadists are bad enough, but these are especially ruthless. They warn enemies that they must convert to their particular branch of the Sunni faith or face death.
There are reports that men who resist are executed; their wives then are captured to serve the needs of unmarried militants. Christians, in particular, are singled out for persecution.
The possibility of genocide is real.
Americans may not want boots on the ground, but the nation shouldn’t stand on the sidelines and let mass murderers overwhelm the country.
Obama was right to order the initial air attacks. Now he should empower our military commanders to continue strategic air strikes until the jihadists are on the run.