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Tuesday, August 2, 2016

A New American War -- Libya

Remember August 1, 2016.  It's the day that the USA started military action in Libya.  American planes bombed ISIS targets in the coastal city of Sirte.  The attack was coordinated with ground forces allied with the Libyan "government".  According to reports, a great many ISIS fighters were killed.

That's the news, but let's take a moment to think about what it means.

1.  This is the start of ongoing fighting in Libya by US forces.  Our planes attacked in coordination with the ground forces.  That makes rather clear that this is the start of a longer term collaboration.  Simply put, we now have a new front (Libya) in the war on terrorism.

2.  This new fighting has not been authorized by Congress.  In fact, there is no Congressional authority for the fight against ISIS.  President Obama made that clear when he submitted an Authorization for the Use of Military Force for passage by Congress two years ago.  It never passed; neither house of Congress even brought it up for a vote.  Nevertheless, the fighting continues.  The Administration says that it has the authority to continue with the fight under the terms of the anti-terrorism AUMF passed after 9-11, but there are two problems with that view:  a) ISIS did not exist until some ten years after the passage of the first AUMF; Congress obviously was not authorizing the use of force against ISIS; and b) if the first AUMF authorized the fight against ISIS, then why did Obama propose a second one?

3.  ISIS is still gaining strength.  In between terror attacks in Europe and here at home, Obama keeps saying things like "ISIS is contained" or "we are winning the fight".  The problem with those claims, however, is that they are not true.  ISIS has now gotten so strong in Libya that the US forces are getting involved in battling them there.  That is a sign of ISIS strength, not weakness.

4.  There still does not seem to be any coherent strategy by Obama to defeat ISIS.  In Iraq, we have seen the biggest gains against the terrorists with the recapture of some cities.  Still, ISIS holds Mosul, the second largest city in Iraq.  Even worse, Iran has forces in Iraq that are nearly twenty times larger than the USA has.  If we succeed in driving ISIS from Iraq, it may be just to leave Iraq as a vassal of Iran.  That will do little to end terrorism.  It will just shift the principal actors.

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