Trump’s Plan to Defeat Islamists Looks a Lot Like Obama’s

Donald Trump’s plan to “bomb the hell” out of the Islamic State has been wisely toned down by his generals.

American president Donald Trump speaks with his defense secretary, James Mattis, outside the Pentagon in Washington DC, January 27, 2017
American president Donald Trump speaks with his defense secretary, James Mattis, outside the Pentagon in Washington DC, January 27, 2017 (DoD/Jette Carr)

Remember Donald Trump’s secret plan to defeat the Islamic State?

During last year’s presidential campaign, the Republican said he knew how to defeat the caliphate. Indeed, he knew better than the generals.

Trump wouldn’t tell us what his plan was. That could tip off the enemy, he said.

In reality, he never had a plan. As soon as he was elected, Trump’s secret plan became a request to the Pentagon for an updated strategy.

Now the same generals who, according to Trump, didn’t know what they were doing have come back and recommended not to change the strategy.

Slogans don’t win wars

NBC News reports that the new plan calls for continued bombing of Islamic State targets in Iraq and Syria; increased support for local allies, predominantly the Iraqi army and Kurdish peshmerga; drying up the group’s sources of income; and stabilizing liberated areas.

Needless to say, this is a far cry from Trump’s (silly) promise to “bomb the hell” out of the Islamic State.

Tough-sounding slogans like that don’t win wars.

It’s not out of faintheartedness that Barack Obama refused to commit more Americans ground troops to the fight. It’s that he, and the military, felt the United States should play a supporting role, given what caused the Islamic State to take root in Iraq: poor central governance and sectarian grievances.

It is imperative that the Iraqi state as a whole — Shia, Sunni and Kurd — defeat the fanatics.

America has, after all, swept into Iraq with awesome force before to rid the country of evil only to find out it could not build a durable peace.

Success

The Obama strategy has been working.

The Islamic State is strapped for cash. It is barely able to export oil anymore and has been cut off from the international financial system.

That means it’s struggling to pay salaries, which goes some way to explaining why the influx of foreign fighters into Syria is down 90 percent, as Trump’s secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, announced this week.

Tillerson also said that 75 percent of the group’s online propaganda has been eliminated; another Obama-era success.

Islamic State territory has shrunk. A year ago, the group controlled swathes of central Iraq, including the cities of Fallujah and Ramadi. Now it has been reduced to that country’s northwestern desert.

The only major Iraqi city still partly in Islamic State hands is Mosul and it doesn’t look like that will last long either.

Why change a successful strategy?

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