Our ideas about war have mostly been patterned after WW1 and WW2, where states sent their armies to war against other states, eventually somebody won, peace agreements were signed, and the soldiers all came home and got real jobs.
That isn't the way war is anymore.
What we see now are numerous smaller wars of "insurgency", where semi-organized ideological well-armed rebel groups grab their guns and leap into their pickup trucks
, traveling back and forth across their home territories, killing their enemies as they go, uprooting families, destroying people's ability to raise crops or run a business. Chechnya, Mali, Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Yemen, Libya, Syria, eastern Ukraine, the Sudan. Nobody seems to win or lose wars like these, or at least not for long; there is often nobody to sign a peace treaty with and nobody would respect it if one could be negotiated. In these wars, success isn't "winning". Success seems to be just "not losing" for just long enough to exhaust the opposition and then take back some of the territory lost in the last offensive.
Its the kind of war where apparently some additional air support can give one side a crucial edge.
This appears to be Obama's strategy for dealing with ISIS. From Juan Cole: Obama's ISIL Actions are Defensive, Despite Rhetoric of going on Offense
Obama hinted in his speech that he wants to help Baghdad and Erbil take back towns from ISIL just as Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, the president of Yemen, took back Zinjibar. And just as AQAP hasn’t disappeared in Yemen, Obama expects ISIL to be around for a while. In essence, the Yemen policy has de facto yielded a sort of containment with regard to AQAP, though how successful it will be in the long run can be questioned.
What if Obama is a sharper reader of the Middle East than his critics give him credit for? He knows ISIL is likely not going away, just as, after 13 years, the Taliban have not. US military action may even prolong the lifetime of these groups (that is one argument about AQAP) even as it keeps them from taking more territory.
Don’t listen to his expansive four-stage program or his retooled, stage-managed John Wayne rhetoric. Look at his metaphors. He is telling those who have ears to hear that he is pulling a Yemen in Iraq and Syria. He knows very well what that implies. It is a sort of desultory, staccato containment from the air with a variety of grassroots and governmental forces joining in. Yemen is widely regarded as a failure, but perhaps it is only not a success. And perhaps that is all Obama can realistically hope for.I don't know if Obama will be right or not, but certainly landing American troops likely wouldn't work any better (see: Mogadishu
Steve at No More Mister Nice Blog
Obama's job is not to try to rid the world of evil. Obama's job is to protect America and U.S. interests. With regard to ISIS, that means curtailing the group's ability to be a threat to our country and our interests. If Cole is right, and if something like this gets Obama's actual job done, I'd prefer that to a bloodlust-satisfying full-on quagmire of a war that inflames our enemies and inspires ISIS's current enemies in the Arab/Muslim world to rally around the group.