TIME Military

Greasing the Skids of War: Rethinking the Carter Doctrine

Obama Speaks At Disabled Veterans Memorial Dedication
President Obama speaks Sunday at a new memorial in Washington dedicated to disabled veterans. Pool / Getty Images

After 34 years—and 14 conflicts around the Middle East—it's time to wean the U.S. off Persian Gulf oil

As the U.S.-led war in Syria enters its third week, Americans can be excused for believing their nation has been shooting up the Middle East forever.

But they’d be wrong. It’s only been going on, off and on, since 34 years ago. That’s when, shortly after the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan, President Jimmy Carter told Moscow—and anyone else who might be listening—that Washington was willing to go to war to keep the Persian Gulf’s petroleum tap open and fueling the U.S. economy.

“The region which is now threatened by Soviet troops in Afghanistan is of great strategic importance: it contains more than two-thirds of the world’s exportable oil,” Carter said in his final State of the Union address on Jan. 23, 1980.

“The Soviet effort to dominate Afghanistan has brought Soviet military forces to within 300 miles of the Indian Ocean and close to the Strait of Hormuz, a waterway through which most of the world’s oil must flow,” he continued. “Let our position be absolutely clear: an attempt by any outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf region will be regarded as an assault on the vital interests of the United States of America, and such an assault will be repelled by any means necessary, including military force.”

So here we are, a generation later: the Soviets are out of Afghanistan, and America is in.

And even though the fight in Afghanistan is the nation’s longest war—and gets longer every day—it’s only one of many Islamic hotspots the U.S. has struck since Carter put down his Middle East marker. Former Army officer Andrew Bacevich, now at Columbia University, rattled them off Sunday in a column in the Washington Post:

Iran (1980, 1987-1988), Libya (1981, 1986, 1989, 2011), Lebanon (1983), Kuwait (1991), Iraq (1991-2011, 2014-), Somalia (1992-1993, 2007-), Bosnia (1995), Saudi Arabia (1991, 1996), Afghanistan (1998, 2001-), Sudan (1998), Kosovo (1999), Yemen (2000, 2002-), Pakistan (2004-) and now Syria.

Bacevich writes:

As America’s efforts to ‘degrade and ultimately destroy’ Islamic State militants extend into Syria, Iraq War III has seamlessly morphed into Greater Middle East Battlefield XIV. That is, Syria has become at least the 14th country in the Islamic world that U.S. forces have invaded or occupied or bombed, and in which American soldiers have killed or been killed. And that’s just since 1980.

President Obama acknowledged the toll Sunday, when he spoke at the dedication of the new American Veterans Disabled for Life memorial near the Capitol. “Let’s never rush into war, because it is America’s sons and daughters who bear the scars of war for the rest of their lives,” he said at the memorial, which honors the nation’s 4 million disabled vets. “Let us only send them into harm’s way when it’s absolutely necessary.” Perhaps there was a whiff of hindsight in his words.

But it may be foresight to revisit Carter’s declaration. While the hunger for oil remains relentless, the U.S. is far more energy independent today than it was in 1980. That should allow the U.S. to ease its addiction to Persian Gulf oil, which too often has served to grease the skids of war.

“This July the United States replaced Saudi Arabia as the world’s No. 1 oil producer,” Arthur Herman of the Hudson Institute wrote last month in National Review, “and virtually every industry study indicates that the trend will continue through the next two decades and beyond.” Much of the U.S. gain is due to hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, a production method that now accounts for roughly a third of U.S. oil and gas production.

Adds Herman:

The Islamic State’s use of captured Iraqi oil wells to pay for its murderous atrocities is just the latest and most blatant example of the oil-into-terrorism dynamic that’s ruled the Middle East for decades—and all, ironically, under the protective umbrella of American arms. Just keeping the region’s shipping lanes, including the Strait of Hormuz, open to tanker traffic costs the Pentagon on average $50 billion a year—a service that earns us the undying enmity of populations in that region even as their governments take our protection for granted.

Actually, U.S. taxpayers have spent close to $10 trillion to keep oil flowing to the world from Persian Gulf, based on a 2010 analysis from Roger Stern, an economic geographer at Princeton University.

Imagine if a slice of that had instead been invested to speed up U.S. energy independence. Wars would surely still unfold in the Middle East—as they will likely do so for generations—but it’d be bracing to watch them from the sidelines, for a change.

TIME Israel

Israeli Prime Minister: ISIS and Nuclear Iran Are ‘Twin Challenges’

Barack Obama Meets with PM Netanyahu of Israel
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel in the Oval Office of the White House on Oct. 1, 2014 in Washington, DC. Olivier Douliery—Corbis

"They all want to get rid of Israel on their way to the Great Satan"

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed support for President Barack Obama’s goal of defeating ISIS but said curbing Iran’s nuclear program is also top priority during a recent interview.

Netanyahu told CNN’s Fareed Zakaria in a segment airing Sunday that while ISIS is “growing by day,” its power lies not in its numbers, but in “the strength of terror and fear.” Natanyahu reaffirmed previous remarks to the United Nations that “Hamas is ISIS and ISIS is Hamas” and said that he would never negotiate with Hamas as long as it “remains committed to [Israel’s] destruction.”

In addition to combatting ISIS, Netanyahu said Israel and other moderate Arab states see Iran’s nuclear program as a “twin” challenge that goes hand-in-hand with stopping the spread of radical Islam.

“They all want to get rid of Israel on their way to the Great Satan,” he said. “We’re just the little Satan. The Great Satan is the United States.”

Netanyahu said the biggest security threat in the Middle East is not border disputes but “what lies on the other side,” saying that militant Islam is “walking into the cracks” of Middle Eastern states and citing Hamas and Hezbollah presence in Gaza and Lebanon, respectively, as examples.

The prime minister said that he trusts Obama “to do what is important for the United States” but that “the jury is out on all of us” to combat these threats.

“We’re going to be tested, all of us,” Netanyahu said. “Ultimately, it’s not what we intended to do, it’s what we end up doing, especially what we end up preventing.”

Netanyahu also reaffirmed his hope for a two-state solution with Israelis and Palestinians after a summer of violent conflict between the Israeli military and Hamas forces in Gaza that saw more than 2,000 Palestinians killed.

“I remain committed to a vision of peace, of two states for two peoples, two nation-states, one for the Palestinian people, one for the Jewish people living in mutual recognition with solid security arrangements on the ground to defend Israel, to keep the peace and to defend Israel in case the peace unravels,” he said.

TIME Middle East

Video Depicts ISIS Execution of British Aid Worker, Threatens American

Alan Henning was thought to have been abducted in Syria last December

Updated Saturday, Oct. 4

A video released Friday by the militant group Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) appears to show the execution of British aid worker Alan Henning. A man identified as Peter Edward Kassig, an American, is then threatened with a similar fate.

U.S. intelligence officials had not yet authenticated the video Friday evening, but it follows the pattern of other execution videos released by ISIS. “The brutal murder of Alan Henning by [ISIS] shows just how barbaric these terrorists are,” British Prime Minister David Cameron wrote on Twitter. “My thoughts are with his wife and their children.”

The White House also released a statement:

“The United States strongly condemns the brutal murder of United Kingdom citizen Alan Henning by the terrorist group ISIL. Mr. Henning worked to help improve the lives of the Syrian people and his death is a great loss for them, for his family and the people of the United Kingdom. Standing together with our UK friends and allies, we will work to bring the perpetrators of Alan’s murder – as well as the murders of Jim Foley, Steven Sotloff and David Haines – to justice. Standing together with a broad coalition of allies and partners, we will continue taking decisive action to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL.”

Henning, 47, was thought to have been abducted in Syria last December, shortly after crossing the border from Turkey in an aid convoy. Henning’s wife and family released the following statement Saturday morning:

Alan, my husband, and father of Lucy and Adam, was kidnapped in Syria in December last year. Last night we received news of his murder by ISIL. It is the news we hoped we would never hear. As a family we are devastated by the news of his death. There are few words to describe how we feel at this moment. Myself, Lucy and Adam, and all of Alan’s family and friends are numb with grief.

During this ordeal we have relied heavily on the support of many people. That support from the Government, FCO and GMP has been there from the start and has meant that we were able to get through the most awful of times. We always knew that Alan was in the most dangerous of situations but we hoped that he would return home to us. That is not to be.

On behalf of the entire family, I want to thank everyone who campaigned for Alan’s release, who held vigils to pray for his safe return, and who condemned those who took him. Your efforts were a great support to us, and we take comfort in knowing how many people stood beside us in hoping for the best.

Alan was a decent, caring human being. His interest was in the welfare of others. He will be remembered for this and we as a family are extremely proud of him and what he achieved and the people he helped.

We now need time to come to terms with our loss. We would therefore be grateful if our privacy could be respected at this time.

The video is similar to three earlier execution videos released by ISIS since Aug. 19, which showed the beheadings of American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, and most recently of British aid worker David Haines.

Kassig, a former Army Ranger who deployed to Iraq in 2007, spoke with TIME in January 2013 about his humanitarian work and beginning an aid group called Special Emergency Response and Assistance.

“I started SERA because I felt that we could fill a niche as an organization that had not been filled. There are a lot of other wonderful organizations out there but we feel that by working directly with the people who are in need at a grassroots level allows for us to establish an invaluable personal relationship that not only allows us to effectively distribute material goods but also allows for an opportunity for an increased level of cooperation and an exchange of ideas between people from diverse backgrounds and experiences and that this enhances our ability to accurately meet needs. The personal connection is key.”

Kassig’s family released this video statement Saturday morning:

TIME Pentagon

The Pentagon Doesn’t Know What to Call Its Operation Against ISIS

Lt. General William Mayville Jr. Briefs The Media At Pentagon On Recent Strikes Against ISIL In Syria
Lt. Gen. William C. Mayville Jr. speaks about the Syrian bombing campaign September 23, 2014 in Washington, D.C. Mark Wilson—Getty Images

Operation Inherent Resolve was deemed “just kind of bleh” by one military officer

After two months of military operations against or related to the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS), the Pentagon still doesn’t known what, exactly, to call the mission.

Top military brass is still trying to find a fitting name for the operation as classified Pentagon PowerPoint slides tentatively call “Operations in Iraq and Syria,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

Officials rejected the latest name nomination, “Operation Inherent Resolve.”

“It is just kind of bleh,” said one officer.

The ISIS mission name search is in keeping with an operations nicknaming tradition extending back in the U.S. to World War II. The 1989 invasion of Panama added another layer to the military mission naming question after officials realized the propaganda value of a name; that mission was called “Operation Blue Spoon” until it was renamed “Operation Just Cause.”

[WSJ]

TIME Australia

Australia Will Commit Troops and Jets to Iraq, PM Says

Tony Abbott
Prime Minister Tony Abbott of Australia addresses the 69th session of the United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters, Thursday, Sept. 25, 2014. Jason DeCrow—AP

There will be 200 special forces troops deployed alongside 8 fighter jets

Australia will put troops on the ground in Iraq and assist in airstrikes to help fight ISIS (also known as ISIL) — the first time the nation has committed itself militarily in Iraq, the Sydney Morning Herald reports.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said in a televised news conference that 200 Special Forces troops will be deployed to “advise and assist” the Iraqi army as it seeks to scorch out the terrorist group. Meanwhile, up to eight of the nation’s Super Hornet fighters will be flown in for airstrikes, the Herald reports.

“I have to warn that this deployment to Iraq could be quite lengthy, certainly months rather than weeks,” Abbott said. “I want to reassure the Australian people that it will be as long as it needs to be, but as short as it possibly can be.”

Until now, Australian aircraft have flown into Iraq to contribute humanitarian aid, as well as distribute arms to Iraqi forces, Reuters reports. Abbott said that the mission should not be understood as a “war” — since the forces will be fighting an insurgency and not a state government — but as an expansion of Australia’s humanitarian mission, the Herald says.

“It is an essentially humanitarian mission, yes, it is a combat deployment but it is an essentially humanitarian mission to protect the people of Iraq and ultimately the people of Australia from the murderous rage of the ISIL death cult,” said Abbott, reports The Herald.

Though it was anticipated that Australia would join the U.S.-led effort bombing campaign against Islamic State targets Iraq, it was less expected that Australia would commit to putting troops on the ground, Reuters said.

Australia officials have joined with other Western governments in expressing heightened alarm at the number of their citizens who have gone to Iraq and Syria to join ISIS, as well as at evidence that some of those people have since returned home — battle-hardened and indoctrinated.

Reuters reports that 160 Australians are believed to be fighting in the Middle East, 20 of whom have come back to Australia, according to Australian official estimates.

TIME World

Leon Panetta: How the White House Misplayed Iraqi Troop Talks

U.S. Defense Secretary Panetta Visits Afghanistan
U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta speaks to the troops during a visit to Kandahar Airfield on Dec. 13, 2013 in Kandahar, Afghanistan. Getty Images

Leon Panetta served as the director of the Central Intelligence Agency from 2009 to 2011, and as secretary of defense from 2011 to 2013.

As U.S. forces return to Iraq to counter the surging al-Qaeda splinter group Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria, President Obama’s former Secretary of Defense and CIA chief recalls the White House debates that led to America’s departure from the country. His new book, with Jim Newton, Worthy Fights: A Memoir of Leadership in War and Peace, from which this article is adapted, will be published on Oct. 7.

Through the fall of 2011, the main question facing the American military in Iraq was what our role would be now that combat operations were over. When President Obama announced the end of our combat mission in August 2010, he acknowledged that we would maintain troops for a while. Now that the deadline was upon us, however, it was clear to me—and many others—that withdrawing all our forces would endanger the fragile stability then barely holding Iraq together.

Privately, the various leadership factions in Iraq all confided that they wanted some U.S. forces to remain as a bulwark against sectarian violence. But none was willing to take that position publicly, and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki concluded that any Status of Forces Agreement, which would give legal protection to those forces, would have to be submitted to the Iraqi parliament for approval. That made reaching agreement very difficult given the internal politics of Iraq, but representatives of the Defense and State departments, with scrutiny from the White House, tried to reach a deal.

We had leverage. We could, for instance, have threatened to withdraw reconstruction aid to Iraq if al-Maliki would not support some sort of continued U.S. military presence. My fear, as I voiced to the President and others, was that if the country split apart or slid back into the violence that we’d seen in the years immediately following the U.S. invasion, it could become a new haven for terrorists to plot attacks against the U.S. Iraq’s stability was not only in Iraq’s interest but also in ours. I privately and publicly advocated for a residual force that could provide training and security for Iraq’s military.

Under Secretary of Defense Michèle Flournoy did her best to press that position, which reflected not just my views but also those of the military commanders in the region and the Joint Chiefs. But the President’s team at the White House pushed back, and the differences occasionally became heated. Flournoy argued our case, and those on our side viewed the White House as so eager to rid itself of Iraq that it was willing to withdraw rather than lock in arrangements that would preserve our influence and interests.

We debated with al-Maliki even as we debated among ourselves, with time running out. The clock wound down in December, and Deputy Secretary of Defense Ash Carter continued to argue our case, extending the deadline for the Iraqis to act, hoping that we might pull out a last-minute agreement and recognizing that once our forces left, it would be essentially impossible for them to turn around and return. To my frustration, the White House coordinated the negotiations but never really led them. Officials there seemed content to endorse an agreement if State and Defense could reach one, but without the President’s active advocacy, al-Maliki was allowed to slip away. The deal never materialized. To this day, I believe that a small U.S. troop presence in Iraq could have effectively advised the Iraqi military on how to deal with al-Qaeda’s resurgence and the sectarian violence that has engulfed the country.

Over the following two and a half years, the situation in Iraq slowly deteriorated. Al-Maliki was responsible, as he exacerbated the deep sectarian issues polarizing his country. Meanwhile, with the conflict in Syria raging, an al-Qaeda offshoot—ISIS, or the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria—gained strength. Using Syria as its base, it began to move into Iraq in 2014, grabbing power in towns and villages across Iraq’s north, including Mosul and Tall ‘Afar. These were strategically important cities that U.S. forces had fought and died to secure.

The news from Iraq bothered me to no end. In my view, the ISIS offensive in 2014 greatly increases the risk that Iraq will become al-Qaeda’s next safe haven. That is exactly what it had in Afghanistan pre-9/11. After all we have done to decimate al-Qaeda’s senior leadership and its core, those efforts will be for naught if we allow it to rebuild a base of operations in the Middle East.

From Worthy Fights, by Leon Panetta and Jim Newton, to be published on October 7, 2014 by The Penguin Press, a member of Penguin Group (USA) LLC. Copyright © 2014 by Leon Panetta.

Leon Panetta served as the director of the Central Intelligence Agency from 2009 to 2011, and as secretary of defense from 2011 to 2013. He was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1977 to 1993, the director of the Office of Management and Budget from 1993 to 1994, and President Clinton’s chief of staff from 1994 to 1997. He is the founder of the Panetta Institute for Public Policy, and has served as professor of public policy at his alma mater, Santa Clara University.

Jim Newton is an editor at large of the Los Angeles Times, where he has worked for twenty-five years as a reporter, an editor, a bureau chief, and a columnist. He is the author of two critically acclaimed biographies, Justice for All and Eisenhower.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: October 1

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. More face time, less screen time: To survive adolescence, kids need to put down their phones and practice interacting with each other.

By Cory Turner at National Public Radio

2. History texts may perpetuate stereotypes and deepen ethnic divides. The History Project is fighting bias with facts.

By the creators of the History Project

3. “Controlling wheat brings power.” Islamic State has carefully targeted farms and mills to tighten their grip in Iraq.

By Maggie Fick in Reuters

4. Because of innovative provisions in the $17 billion settlement facing Bank of America for its role in the housing crisis, families could get genuine much-needed relief.

By Ellen Seidman at the Urban Institute

5. The nation’s largest pension fund just pulled out of hedge funds, choosing transparency and accountability instead.

By Dean Baker at Al Jazeera America

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Syria

The U.S. Challenge of Turning Syria’s Ragtag Rebels into a Fighting Force

Free Syrian Army
A Free Syrian Army member is seen in Azaz, Syria on June 27, 2014. Hasan Ozkal—Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

It won't be easy to arm and train moderate rebel groups like the Free Syrian Army to fight ISIS

In April, when videos began appearing online of bearded Syrian fighters firing anti-tank missiles and chanting “God is great”, there were questions about how they had obtained the U.S.-made weapons but few answers. The U.S. government does not comment on details of what weapons they have provided or to whom.

Many of the fighters in the videos were from the Hazem Movement, a large and moderate faction of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), which controls strategic parts of the battlefield in Syria as it fights Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Damascus.

While the source of the weapons remains unclear, the Hazem Movement has long sought U.S. involvement in the Syrian conflict. But they were also the first to come out against the U.S.-led airstrikes on Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) in the country. “No Syrian was consulted in these strikes,” Khalid Saleh, secretary general for the Hazem Movement, said last week.

The reason is that, like many rebels in Syria, the Hazem Movement remains focused on deposing Assad, not fighting ISIS.

American efforts, on the other hand, are aimed at degrading ISIS’s infrastructure and capabilities. Crucially, the U.S. has ruled out putting any of its own troops on the ground in Syria. Instead, the plan is to arm and train moderate rebels there. On Friday, 20 rebel commanders—including those who oversee the FSA—signed a pact in Turkey to work together to defeat ISIS. In many locations, these fighters are taking on both the regime and rival militants.

But turning the anti-Assad militias that make up the FSA into an effective anti-ISIS fighting force will be a challenge, according to Kenneth M. Pollack, a former CIA analyst and specialist in the Middle Eastern affairs at the Brookings Institution. “The first problem is the FSA as it exists, is an extremely fractious group, with a dozen, maybe even a hundred little groups of people,” he says. “That’s not an ideal force.”

The first obstacle is how to figure out which individuals to trust with military hardware, to ensure that weaponry doesn’t fall into the wrong hands. “The FSA is a porous organization and it has been deeply infiltrated by all manner of extremists and even intelligence influence from the regime itself,” said Pollack. “You need to go through this process to get rid of these bad actors. You got to promote the guys who are loyal, who are apolitical.”

Then there are the internal divisions within the FSA. The Mujahedeen Army, a moderate group which claims to have received some weapons from the U.S., and which shortly after its formation in January declared war on ISIS, says it has been successful at pushing ISIS fighters out of the countryside west of the Syrian city of Aleppo. “We are the group that can be relied on to head the fighting against ISIS,” said a spokesperson who would not give his real name, due to the sensitivity of the issue. The U.S. has not confirmed putting weapons in the hands of these fighters.

The Hazem Movement makes similar claims about its success against ISIS—claims which are disputed by the Mujahedeen Army. “They are very good with their rhetoric, however they are not the fighters that have been tested in battle or on front lines,” the spokesperson adds. “[The U.S.] needs to have operatives on the ground to assess these factions.”

To complicate matters for the U.S. and its allies, many FSA factions are loathed by Syrian citizens — and supporting groups that lack popular support could hurt the anti-ISIS effort. After three years of civil war inside the country, some of the groups have come to be seem more interested in self preservation than in the goals of the initial uprising against the Assad regime in 2011.

“Self-interest and localism are pretty rampant,” says Aymenn al-Tamimi, an expert on Syrian and Iraqi militants at the Philadelphia-based Middle East Forum. Many military groups and leaders control their own little patches of the warzone and may be hard-pressed to give that up to join a larger force under a single higher command. “Even if it is a stretch of a frontline that’s a quarter-mile long, that’s [their] turf,” says Pollack.

There is also a risk that Western support, instead of unifying moderate rebels, might in fact serve to further divide the FSA units. As the weapons and training begin to trickle to these rebel groups, some are bound to get more than others while many will get nothing at all. “There is a risk here of actually increasing factionalism,” says al-Tamimi, who also highlights the divergent aims of the various rebel groups. “The main divide is—do rebels want some kind of Islamic state or not?” he adds.

TIME Military

The War Against ISIS: Operation Fingers Crossed

Airstrikes in Syria
A KC-135 Stratotanker begins a mission refueling U.S. warplanes attacking Syria. Senior Airman Matthew Bruch / U.S. Central Command

History offers a checkered record on its chances of success

For more than a week, U.S. and allied warplanes have bombed targets inside Syria every day. While that may seem an awful lot like war to those being pounded, it hardly feels that way to most Americans. When U.S. troops are in combat, on the ground, they’re generally accompanied by reporters, who in recent conflicts have been able to fill TV screens and the Internet with up-close scenes of the action.

But when the U.S. elects to conduct an air war, Americans generally witness the action from airborne targeting cameras, or social-media posts from the ground. Both of those, of course, have their own problems: footage released by the Pentagon has been edited—scrubbed, if you prefer—and represents only a tiny fraction of what was recorded. The provenance and, indeed, the authenticity of cell phone videos allegedly capturing what is happening on the ground gives a similarly incomplete, and often suspect, picture of what’s happening.

The U.S. military’s assault against targets belonging to two groups of Islamic militants inside Syria has become almost background noise for most Americans. Granted, the airmen involved are at risk, but the nation generally seems to focus on war—and holds its breath—only when U.S. ground troops are involved in combat.

For Americans, that’s a double-edged sword. For sure, it cuts down on the risk to U.S. military personnel. But it also makes accomplishing President Obama’s declared mission—the destruction of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria and the Khorasan Group—tougher to achieve.

That’s why Pentagon officials have made clear that the aerial campaign is open-ended and likely to be lengthy. Inflicting real pain on the jihadists is going to require ground troops, and U.S. officials say they’re more than a year away from training the first batch of 5,000 to take on an ISIS force estimated at 30,000.

“I don’t see the political strategy, at least a realistic one, in Syria,” Senator Chris Murphy, D-Conn., told CNN Sunday. “That begs the question, how long are we going to be there and is there any end? There’s just no appetite in the American public for an open-ended military conflict in Syria.”

Todd Harrison of the independent Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments estimates that the cost of the U.S. war against ISIS is approaching $1 billion, and could end up costing $6 billion annually for an aggressive, sustained bombing campaign. While significant, that’s far less than the roughly $150 billion the U.S. spent during the peak years of the Afghan (2011) and Iraq (2008) wars.

At best, the daily bombing will likely only freeze ISIS’s grip on eastern Syria. “Combined with our ongoing efforts in Iraq, these strikes will continue to deny [ISIS] freedom of movement and challenge its ability to plan, direct, and sustain its operations,” Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Friday. In western Iraq, reinvigorated Iraqi army and peshmerga forces are more likely to regain ground lost to ISIS over the past year.

Such campaigns have a mixed history. When the U.S. and its allies forced Iraqi forces out of Kuwait in 1991 in Operation Desert Storm, it took a 43-day aerial bombardment before ground forces swept in to finish the job.

The 1999 NATO-led air campaign to drive Serbs out of Kosovo in the Balkans, Operation Allied Force, required 28,000 high-explosive munitions. It cost an estimated $3 billion and killed nearly 500 civilians. The 78-day barrage did highlight airpower’s ability change the reality on the ground.

But both of those examples pitted the U.S. and its allies against organized state militaries commanded by dictators: Saddam Hussein in Iraq, and Slobodan Milosevic in Serbia. As heads of state responsible for far more than battlefields, they were subject to pressures the zealously-driven ISIS is unlikely to feel.

The air war that most closely parallels what the U.S. is now conducting against ISIS is Operation Unified Protector, the U.S.-led seven-month effort over Libya in 2011. Launched by the U.S., with NATO eventually assuming a larger role, it began as a humanitarian effort to protect Libyan rebels from Muammar Gaddafi’s army. While air strikes played a critical role in Gaddafi’s ouster and eventual killing, the country has since been wracked by conflict among its warring factions.

Two years ago, terrorists took advantage of the chaos to attack U.S. diplomatic outposts in Benghazi, killing Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans. “Where you’ve got states that are failing or in the midst of civil war, these kinds of organizations thrive,” Obama told CBS’ 60 Minutes Sunday night, referring to ISIS. But he just as surely could have been speaking of Libya, where the war he launched more than three years ago initially was hailed as a victory for U.S. leadership. Two months ago, the U.S. shuttered its embassy in the Libyan capital of Tripoli and evacuated its diplomats.

“The fate of that country has been largely absent from discussions about the new war,” the New York Times warned Sunday, “which is certain to last longer and unleash a wider array of consequences.”

The Pentagon, thus far, has declined to name that new war.

TIME conflict

3 More Countries Join the Coalition Against ISIS

Parliament debates military action against ISIS at the House of Commons, London on Sept. 26, 2014.
Parliament debates military action against ISIS at the House of Commons, London on Sept. 26, 2014. PA Wire/Press Association Images/Reuters

British Parliament did not vote on whether to allow strikes in Syria as well

The United Kingdom became the latest country to join the U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) on Friday, after the British parliament voted decisively to allow air combat missions to bomb the militant group in Iraq.

“This is going to be a long campaign—weeks and probably months—to push [ISIS] back and to see it defeated in Iraq,” U.K. Defense Secretary Michael Fallon said, according to the Guardian.

Belgium and Denmark also joined the growing coalition, which includes France and Australia, along with Arab allies like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

While British support in Iraq bolsters American efforts, the U.K. has not voted on taking the additional step of joining air strikes against ISIS in Syria, which some leaders argue would be an infringement on its sovereignty. Nonetheless, Prime Minister David Cameron suggested that he supports U.S. strikes there, regardless of whether the U.K. joins.

“[ISIS] needs to be destroyed in Syria as well as Iraq,” he said. “We support the action the U.S. and five Arab states are taking. I believe there is a strong case for us to do more, but I did not want to bring a motion to the House today which I could not get consensus on.”

[The Guardian]

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