After President Obama’s we-will-degrade-and-destroy-ISIS speech, the scholars at Brookings who have some expertise on the Mideast started a group email chain of their reactions and made an edited version of it public. My purpose here is just to pass along this link and commend it to your attention.
The comments in it are mostly smart and substantive. Having spent the aftermath of the speech channel-surfing for reaction and hearing mostly bloviation, I very much appreciated the quality of the Brookings exchange. Of course, there’s a reason that a TV set is nicknamed an “idiot box.”
There’s no one in the Brookings group with whom I particularly agreed. And many of them start out with the credibility problem of having favored the original disastrous blunder, the invasion of Iraq. And I would like to have heard from at least one dove. But these are smart, serious people whose experience combines knowledge of the Mideast, of military matters, of inner-White House politics, of speechwriting. I felt smarter after reading it.
They seemed mostly to agree that the talk of ISIS as a threat to the U.S. homeland is mostly hype, but most of them seemed to think it was necessary hype.
Martin Indyk makes a good point in the Brookings thread that the Achilles heel of ISIS is that they actually hold territory, and quite a bit of it. He emphasized that this gave them a problem of having to decide whether to use their resources to perpetuate their military campaign or to feed and govern the people in their territory. The other piece of that argument that occurs to me, which Indyk didn’t emphasize, is that if the Obama-led coalition wants to go after ISIS, they know where it lives, unlike, for example, Al Qaida.