TIME Military

The U.S. Should Not Wage War Against ISIS Like Afghanistan and Iraq

Iraqi security forces and Shi'ite militias advance towards town of Amerli from their position in the Ajana
Some of the Iraqi security forces who helped free the town of Amerli over the weekend with help from U.S. air strikes Reuters

But those two campaigns offer clues on how it should be done

The U.S. waged two effective short-term wars following 9/11. Unfortunately, the nation then grafted them onto far more ambitious enterprises that not only drove their costs, in American blood and treasure, through the roof, but also sowed the seeds for failure.

That’s the key takeaway to keep in mind as President Obama weighs what to do about the rampage now being conducted by the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) in both of those nations.

Over the Labor Day weekend, U.S. airpower, combined with Iraqi help on the ground, broke a two-month ISIS siege of the village of Amerli in northern Iraq. The militants had been tightening a noose around the farming town, cutting off water, food and power, and residents had begun dying. Finally, beginning late Saturday, a handful of U.S. air strikes let Iraqi forces and militias break the siege.

While President Obama said the strikes would be “limited in their scope and duration,” their success offers a template, in miniature, for a broader U.S.-led campaign against the Islamist militant group.

It would mark a departure from recent U.S.-led wars. “No one is advocating unilateral invasion, occupation or nation-building,” Republican Senators John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina wrote in a weekend op-ed column in the New York Times, urging stepped-up U.S. military action against ISIS. “This should be more like Afghanistan in 2001, where limited numbers of advisers helped local forces, with airstrikes and military aid, to rout an extremist army.”

In Afghanistan, the U.S. waged a monthlong campaign that drove the Taliban from Kabul. It relied on U.S. airpower and special operators on the ground, working with local anti-Taliban forces. Then, the U.S. launched a 13-year effort, still under way, to build an Afghan government immune to the Taliban.

Many Taliban fled to Pakistan, where they continue to plot to retake power in Afghanistan once U.S. combat units pull out at the end of 2014. There’s an echo of that Taliban sanctuary in Pakistan in ISIS’s presence in Syria. Any beefed-up campaign against ISIS militants is going to have to attack their targets in both nations.

In Iraq, the U.S. military pushed Saddam Hussein from Baghdad less than three weeks after invading the country. But the U.S. soon became mired in an eight-year nation-building effort that failed to build a nation. In both Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S., despite its best intentions, helped install leaders who have done little to lead their countries to a better place.

And that exposes the futility of the so-called Pottery Barn rule. Retired Army general and then Secretary of State Colin Powell summed it up by saying the U.S. had responsibility for the nations it invaded: “If you break it, you own it.”

But war isn’t always about creating something better. Sometimes it’s simply about ridding the world of terrorists whose zealotry compels them to kill innocents.

For a warrior-diplomat renowned for his earlier guidelines on going to war — the so-called Powell doctrine required a clear and obtainable objective before the first bombs fell — the Pottery Barn rule proved daunting.

Actually, Pottery Barn doesn’t have such a rule. If a customer stumbles into a vase and sends it crashing to the floor, the company writes it off as a cost of doing business. It’s past time for the U.S. government to scrap its misinterpretation of the so-called rule.

War isn’t a positive experience for anyone, and all involved are ill served by pretending otherwise.

If the U.S. deems ISIS to be a threat to U.S. national security, the U.S. military, backed by presidential order and a congressional declaration, should wage unrelenting attacks against it. Instead of embracing Powell’s view, the nation would be better served thinking of war as 17th century English philosopher Thomas Hobbes viewed human life without government: “nasty, brutish and short.”

TIME Immigration

Obama Plugs ‘Immigration Rights’ in Labor Day Address

Barack Obama
President Barack Obama speaks at Laborfest 2014 at Henry Maier Festival Park in Milwaukee on Labor Day, Sept. 1, 2014 Charles Dharapak—AP

Off-the-cuff statement indicates Obama is laying the groundwork for unilateral executive action that could defer prosecutions for millions of illegal immigrants

Delivering a fiery address marking Labor Day in Milwaukee on Monday, President Barack Obama for the first time indicated his support for the rights of immigrants in the U.S.

“Hope is what gives us courage; hope is what gave soldiers courage to storm a beach,” Obama said, harkening back to his 2008 presidential campaign. “Hope is what gives young people the strength to march for women’s rights and workers’ rights and civil rights and voting rights and gay rights and immigration rights.”

It was the first time “immigration rights” had been included in the president’s familiar riff on civil principles, and the first time Obama has used the phrase outside the context of referring to “immigration-rights activists.”

The statement, seemingly delivered off the cuff, is the latest indication of Obama laying the groundwork for unilateral executive action that could defer prosecutions for millions who arrived in the United States illegally.

Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson is expected to give Obama recommendations for action by the end of the summer. Activists believe the President is preparing to extend the deferred action program to millions, but the timing of the actions is uncertain given November’s midterm elections.

Speaking to a boisterous union crowd Monday, Obama criticized congressional Republicans for blocking efforts to raise the minimum wage. “Not only is it not right,” Obama said, “it ain’t right.” “I’m not asking for the moon, I just want a good deal for American workers,” Obama said.

Obama also plugged union membership, which has steadily declined in recent decades, saying that if he was “busting my butt in the service industry” or was a police officer he would join a union to secure higher wages and job protections.

TIME White House

Biden Celebrates Labor Day With Call For ‘Fair Wage’

A job's about a lot more than a paycheck. It's about your dignity, it's about your place in the community, it's about who you are."

Vice President Joe Biden celebrated Labor Day with a call for a “fair wage” at a union rally for workers in Detroit on Monday.

“Folks, the middle class is in real trouble now,” Biden said to an enthusiastic crowd. “A job’s about a lot more than a paycheck. It’s about your dignity, it’s about your place in the community, it’s about who you are.”

Biden’s 20-minute speech employed a populist and personal tone as he took on everything from the estate tax to American corporations that have moved operations overseas.

Biden, who is known for his blue collar roots, referenced his family roots and his ties to labor.

“‘Joey, you’re labor from belt buckle to shoe sole,'” Biden said his uncle told him.

 

TIME 2016 Election

Rick Perry Disavows Tweet Calling Democratic D.A. a Drunk

Rick Perry Discusses Immigration And Border Crisis In Washington DC
Texas Governor Rick Perry delivers remarks about immigration at The Heritage Foundation August 21, 2014 in Washington, DC. Chip Somodevilla—Getty Images

'I do not condone the tweet and I have taken it down'

Texas Governor Rick Perry deleted an “unauthorized” tweet sent out from his official account on Sunday evening, that included a mocking image of a district attorney who is involved in a criminal indictment against the governor.

“I do not condone the tweet and I have taken it down,” Perry tweeted from his official account. The removed tweet included an image of Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg surrounded by beer bottles with a derisive comment about her drunk driving conviction in 2013.

Lehmberg refused to resign after the conviction, prompting Perry to withhold funding from her office until she stepped down. An indictment last month held that Perry’s maneuver might constitute a possible “abuse of power,” a charge the governor contests is based on a vague and outdated law.

TIME Iraq

Iraqi Forces Break ISIS Siege After U.S. Air Campaign

A woman and children react in a military helicopter after being evacuated by Iraqi forces from Amerli
A woman and children react in a military helicopter after being evacuated by Iraqi forces from Amerli, north of Baghdad, Aug. 29, 2014. Reuters

U.S. and allied aircraft staged humanitarian drops and targeted air strikes on Sunni militant groups

The Iraqi military announced Sunday it had broken a siege of the town of Amerli by forces of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, hours after the United States launched an air campaign to assist Iraqi civilians there.

Army spokesman Lt. Gen. Qassim al-Moussawi said Iraqi security forces and Shiite militiamen had liberated the Shiite Turkmen town on Sunday, the AP reported, bringing to an end a months-long siege by Sunni militants.

U.S. and allied aircraft conducted humanitarian airdrops to assist thousands of Shiite Turkmen who had been surrounded by ISIS militants for weeks and had been running low on food, water, and medical supplies, Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby said in a statement. American aircraft also launched three airstrikes against ISIS positions near the city.

“At the request of the Government of Iraq, the United States military today airdropped humanitarian aid to the town of Amerli, home to thousands of Shia Turkmen who have been cut off from receiving food, water, and medical supplies for two months by [ISIS],” Kirby said. ‘The United States Air Force delivered this aid alongside aircraft from Australia, France and the United Kingdom who also dropped much needed supplies.”

The U.S. airstrikes, though limited, had been a decisive factor in the breaking of the siege, The Washington Post reported, allowing Iraqi forces and militia to stage a coordinated assault on ISIS-held towns in the area. About 15,000 Shiite Turkmen residents of the town of Amerli had entrenched themselves to resist the march of ISIS forces across northern Iraq.

Saturday’s airdrops were the second U.S. humanitarian effort in Iraq, following deliveries of aid to ethnic Yazidis trapped near Mount Sinjar in northern Iraq in early August. That mission ended after a week of nightly drops and strikes allowed most of the trapped Iraqi refugees to escape to safety. President Barack Obama specifically authorized the effort to assist the people of Amirli, a White House official said Saturday.

“Two U.S. C-17s and two U.S. C-130s airdropped the supplies, delivering approximately 10,500 gallons of fresh drinking water and approximately 7,000 meals ready to eat,” U.S. Central Command said in a statement. The airstrikes destroyed three ISIS Humvees, one ISIS vehicle, one ISIS checkpoint and an ISIS tank, the statement said.

Separately, American forces carried out five airstrikes Saturday near the Mosul Dam, a critical piece of infrastructure recaptured from ISIS hands by Iraqi forces earlier this month, CENTCOM announced, bringing the total number of American strikes in Iraq to 118 since Aug. 8.

Obama is weighing expanding the American campaign against ISIS in Iraq and extending it into Syria following the killing of American journalist James Foley, but the president indicated Thursday a decision was not imminent. Secretary of State John Kerry is traveling to the region this week to build an international coalition to take on extremist group.

U.S. operations in Iraq are costing more than $7.5 million per day, Kirby told reporters Friday.

TIME Ukraine

U.S. Warns Against Ukraine Travel

People walk past a building damaged by shelling in Snizhne (Snezhnoye), Donetsk region
People walk past a building damaged by shelling in Snizhne, Donetsk region, Ukraine, Aug. 29, 2014. Maxim Shemetov—Reuters

Escalating conflict in the region prompted the new travel advisory for Americans

The U.S. State Department warned Americans Friday to avoid traveling to eastern Ukraine, in response to the ongoing conflict between Ukraine’s armed forces and Russia-backed separatists.

“The situation in Ukraine is unpredictable and could change quickly,” the statement said. “U.S. citizens throughout Ukraine should avoid large crowds and be prepared to remain indoors and shelter in place for extended periods of time should clashes occur in their vicinity.”

The announcement identified the eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, which have been plagued with violent outbreaks for months, as the key areas to avoid. U.S. citizens have been threatened and detained in the region, according to the release. It also advised Americans to “defer all travel to the Crimean Peninsula.”

The U.S. announcement comes as the conflict in Ukraine continues to escalate with each passing day. Up to 1,ooo Russian troops appeared to enter Ukraine on Friday, and the Ukrainian government responded by instituting a mandatory conscription.

TIME

Rand Paul: Bill Would Fire Hillary

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton pounds her fist as she testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Jan. 23, 2013, before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on the deadly September attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi. Pablo Martinez Monsivais—AP

In a speech Friday, the likely 2016 Presidential hopeful also took a jab at Barack Obama

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul is positioning himself as the GOP’s ace Clinton critic.

Speaking to the conservative Americans for Prosperity conference in Dallas Friday, the Republican 2016 hopeful escalated his verbal assault on former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s fitness for service, arguing that even her husband, former President Bill Clinton, would have fired her for her handling of the Benghazi attacks.

Launching on an extended attack of Clinton’s record, Paul said Clinton had repeatedly minimized the threat to the U.S. consulate in Benghazi before the September 11, 2012 attack and didn’t act on calls to increase security at the diplomatic facility. Comparing it to the 42nd president’s handling of the Black Hawk Down incident in Somalia, Paul said “If Hillary Clinton worked for Bill Clinton she probably would have been fired.”

It was hardly Paul’s first volley at Clinton. In a Wall Street Journal op-ed this week the non-interventionist lawmaker said the nation was “lucky” that Clinton’s push for President Barack Obama to arm Syrian rebels went unheeded. “Mrs. Clinton was also eager to shoot first in Syria before asking some important questions,” he said. Paul has also used the Clintons’ treatment of Monica Lewinsky to argue that Democrats are engaging in “hypocrisy” when they suggest Republicans for waging a “war on women.”

Paul is betting that he can distinguish himself from a crowded Republican field by proving he has the capacity and the will to take the fight to the powerful Clinton clan, a tactic that reliably draws loud cheers of support from Republican audiences.

Paul also criticized President Barack Obama’s statement Thursday that he has yet to develop a strategy for American military airstrikes in Syria.

“If the president has no strategy, maybe it’s time for a new president,” Paul said.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Indiana Gov. Mike Pence addressed the gathering on Friday, with Texas Sen. Ted Cruz slated to speak on Saturday.

TIME U.S.

Shut Up Already About Obama’s Tan Suit! Let’s Talk Substance Over Style

President Obama Makes Statement In The Briefing Room Of White House
U.S. President Barack Obama makes a statement at the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House August 28, 2014 in Washington, DC. Alex Wong—Getty Images

Suitgate is giving the president a taste of what it's like to live in a woman's world. But what good does that do anyone?

Female politicians have been criticized for what they wear since they first began running for office. Hair too long, skirt too short, too much or too little makeup: any and all of it can derail an interview and focus attention on style over substance. It almost doesn’t matter what you say if you don’t look good doing it, the television adage goes.

Welcome to the women’s world, President Obama. Isn’t it fun? The tempest over the President wearing a tan summer suit on Thursday has virtually overshadowed the important messages he delivered on hostilities in Ukraine and Iraq. As a woman, I’m kind of glad to see a man held to the same crazy standards that we are. But that doesn’t make the standards any less ridiculous, male or female.

This President seems particularly prone to sartorial bullying. Obama has been criticized far more than other recent Presidents; I had to really think hard for similar sturm und drang for George Bushes 1 & 2 or Bill Clinton and came up with virtually nothing (unless you count Clinton making the G7 leaders get dressed up as cowboys, but that seemed more like him having some fun at their expense than an actual fashion misstep). But Obama has drawn ire for his lack of an American flag pin during the primaries that fed conspiracy theories that he wasn’t really American; his mom jeans; and just last week, his lack of tie while addressing the crisis in Iraq from Martha’s Vineyard, where he was vacationing.

What we wear has no impact on what we’re saying, so why does it matter so much? Hillary Clinton has been drawing scrutiny and headlines since velvet headband in her her 60 Minutes interview with Bill in 1992. Sarah Palin got savaged for her big hair, heavy makeup and “porn-star looks.” Condoleeza Rice was accused of going too sexy when she wore black leather knee high boots as Secretary of State. Just last year, the New York Times marked the historic number of women in the 113th Congress by doing a fashion profile of their purses. And these are the things we remember: their hair, their pedicures, their heads photoshopped onto a woman in a bikini, not so much their policies or platforms. Because style is always easier to digest than substance.

Up until recently, men seemed relatively immune to this kind of fluffy criticism. Granted, male politicians rarely venture beyond dull grey suits. Obama once told Vanity Fair in 2012 that he only wore grey and blue suits. But when they do break this unspoken rule, as Obama did on Thursday, do they deserve the kind of evisceration that he got? “The Audacity of Taupe,” tweeted Jared Keller, a programming director at startup MicNews. “Yes we tan!” read another headline. Wall Street Journal economic-policy reporter Damian Paletta tweeted, “I’m sorry but you can’t declare war in a suit like that.” Never mind that the President just announced he had no strategy for the conflict in Iraq and Syria.

Sometimes a boring uniform can be helpful: It creates unanimity and a reassuring predictability. It’s why the military has uniforms. But America isn’t a militarized state. And verging outside the norm shouldn’t detract from important work. Women have learned this the hard way: conform or die, politically. And even a pro like Clinton can still draw criticism after 30 years in the public spotlight when, in the midst of international crises, she didn’t wear makeup or have time to cut her hair. It’s dispiriting to see the same level of scrutiny now being applied to men. I wish the great equalizer would be to leave all comments about appearances off the table.

Jay Newton-Small is TIME’s congressional correspondent and she’s working on a book about women in politics.

TIME Pictures of the Week

Pictures of the Week: Aug. 22 – Aug.29

From Michael Brown’s funeral and a cease fire in Gaza, to swarms of locusts in Madagascar and the US Open Tennis Championships, TIME presents the best pictures of the week.

TIME fashion

In Defense of Barack Obama’s Tan Suit

President Obama Makes Statement In The Briefing Room Of White House
No matter what anyone says, this is not an image worthy of controversy. Alex Wong—Getty Images

Just because the President wore a suit that wasn't a shade of gray or blue doesn't mean you should have a problem with it

Let’s make this much clear: there is nothing wrong, wild or crazy about a tan suit. This may come as a shock to those who expressed outrage at President Obama’s choice of attire yesterday, but not all suits come in a shade of gray or navy. In fact, as colors outside of those two go, tan is rather plain and simple. As for the suit itself, the lapels are in their typical three-inch range, it’s not tailored any better than his other suits (at least from the navel up) and the American flag pin is in its usual location. The tan suit is just another suit that happens to be a slightly different color than the ones he normally wears. It was, in no way, a fashion statement.

Here is a brief list of fashion choices that would have been “bold” or “wack-ass” that the President could have made yesterday:

  1. T-shirt with suit and sleeves rolled up (aka the “Miami Vice“).
  2. Whatever Austin Mahone was wearing at the VMAs.
  3. Crocs.

But the President did not wear any of those things. Nor did he wear a three-piece suit, a seersucker suit or a white suit. Hell, he didn’t even opt for the Reagan mullet suit (business on the top, lounging on the bottom).

Perhaps the only curious thing about Obama’s suit selection was its timing. Not the fact that he wore it during the summer time (that’s when you should be wearing a tan suit, if at any time), but that he wore it while discussing crucial issues of foreign policy with the press. It was a somber occasion, and there’s apparently a certain expectation of precisely how the President’s attire should match the mood.

It’s tough to argue with that point. When discussing serious matters, there’s no reason not to be dressed accordingly. (Though one could hardly be forgiven for wondering why those criticizing Obama for discussing serious matters in improper attire are focused on that attire rather than the issues they’ve deemed so serious.) The larger problem lies in the expectations that Obama had previously created. In this 2012 Vanity Fair profile, Michael Lewis quotes Obama saying the following: “You’ll see I wear only gray or blue suits… I’m trying to pare down decisions. I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing. Because I have too many other decisions to make.”

So for the last six years, that’s pretty much all we’ve seen him in. Gray or blue, charcoal or navy, day after day after day until seeing him out of that particular uniform (other than athletic attire) became tantamount to seeing a performer out of costume.

The irony is that the President is often criticized for being bland, even in his fashion choices. To be frank, after yesterday’s outcry, who can blame him? Next time you or anyone asks the Commander-in-Chief for a little personality or originality, don’t be surprised if this is cited as a reason for declining that request.

The choice in tie, on the other hand, that’s a little more difficult to defend…

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