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09 August 2014

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I struggle to envision an operational theory that would suggest to US decision-makers that this course of action is the best to follow.

Obama must feel sufficiently constrained by personal beliefs (esp prior opposition to the Iraq War) or domestic political considerations to on the one hand allow bombing missions but then to keep them on such a miniscule scale. One would think that if the White House truly believed its own rhetoric about genocide in the making it would pursue something larger. Are three airstrikes an appropriate response to genocide in the era of "never again"? Especially given Obama & Kerry's blessing of Israel's much stronger response to a much smaller threat.

Or perhaps there are some logistical constraints? Does not the fact that the sorties are being launched from Gulf-based carriers instead of from Incirlik or Batman suggest that the Turks are not playing ball yet?

I certainly hope the limited response isn't the result of underestimating ISIS. That mentality should have been buried in 2012.

It seems that a much, much heavier and sudden campaign would be much more decisive than a slow increase from a tiny start point. Not especially for the weight of bombs themselves, as their effectiveness as mobile artillery would seem to be blunted by well-dispersed enemy that isn't so reliant on big, bulky equipment. Rather, the effect would be, as you say, the psychological power a massive US intervention would have on ally and foe alike. The Peshmerga would have their resolve stiffened knowing that whatever happened before, the US is a game-changer. Likewise, the non-true-believers among ISIS (especially recent conscripts) will have their enthusiasm dimmed by the aura of US power. This psychological punch is thrown away by using such limited and halfhearted strikes. I would think the 2001 air-land offensive in Afghanistan would be a model (though our 2011 Cyrenaica experience should temper this).

Perhaps the intel from the KRG suggested that there was no time to prepare a larger air-ground campaign, that Irbil's fall was imminent without something, anything.

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