President Obama Wednesday announced that the U.S. is deploying up to 300 military personnel to Cameroon for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance operations against the militant Boko Haram terrorist group. In making the announcement the White House emphasized that personnel would not take part in combat operations and would be armed only for self-defense.
So, what’s the point in sending soldiers somewhere unless they’re going to fight? Sure, “intelligence,” “surveillance” and “reconnaissance” might make a difference in helping the multi-national coalition that’s fighting the al Qaeda/ISIS affiliate….
But does it not mark yet another lack of resolve in defeating the terrorists? Is it not a half-hearted (or perhaps 1/99th-hearted) effort?
Not that there aren’t “political realities” that need to be considered in such engagements. For example, the deployment of too many troops could alienate the local Muslim population and lead to increased Boko Haram recruitment. Or the increased U.S. presence could lead to Boko Haram seeking even closer ties with any number of Middle Eastern Islamists. Or, and more likely, both.
True enough, but the coalition fighting Boko Haram seems to be losing ground, and the Americans are arriving on the scene like a penknife-armed cowboy rushing into a shootout. Why even bother?
Which begs the question of why America of late jump into most of the world’s conflicts with limited resolve? Sure, we’ve had our moments, such as the 1983 Invasion of Grenada, 1989 Invasion of Panama, Desert Storm (until the coalition “objective” was met) the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan (until the terrorists grew hard to find), and the initial attack of Gulf War II. But that resolve proves so limited in other cases. Think of Beirut in 1983 when Reagan pulled out after the Marine barracks truck bombing. Somalia in 1993, when Clinton pulled out after the Blackhawks were downed. And the Middle East in general.
Here are a couple of answers that we know of: The Vietnam complex, in which our presidents are exceptionally wary of losing U.S. boys in foreign wars, and numerous pesky political realities. Such realities can include the lack of any U.S. political or economic interests, a lack of a well-defined and easily identifiable enemy, lack of local conflict area support, lack of friendly logistical support, concerns about costs, fears of escalating a conflict, and fears of antagonizing either nearby friends or enemies (if not both), among others.
And granted, these political realities most definitely need to be considered. But if you’re going to fight, you generally can’t just throw one punch. Nope, when you take on the bully you keep punching until he’s down and then you tap him a few more times to make sure that he’s received the message loud and clear that “you don’t f—k with me!”
Other than Grenada and Panama, America really hasn’t done that since it took on Japan and Germany in World War II. And the rest of the world knows it.
Those American boys going to Cameroon…sure, they’ll do some good. But the bully will undoubtedly remain standing and still cause lots of trouble going forward. Those American boys staying in Afghanistan until 2017, as announced yesterday by Obama? Yes, they’ll do some good too, but that Taliban bully ain’t going anywhere.
ISIS, al Qaeda, and any number of other Islamic groups that America is scrapping with? Same thing. In fact, all those soldiers might as well be walking around with targets on their backs, as the “insurgents,” or whatever their moniker-of-the-day is, know that if they’re patient and slowly pick off a few Americans here or there, the politicians back in the American homeland will eventually lose resolve and bring the boys home.
Bottom line is if we’re going to fight, we need to actually fight–kick the living snot out of the bad guys and put them on (or under) the ground as quickly as possible. If the political realities force a limited resolve in this regard, then why should we even bother? But if such realities allow for the fight, but complicate a continued presence, then why not quickly take out the bully and, if warranted, let those countries and/or citizens causing the political reality(ies) clean up the mess.
And if the politicians back home are worried about a black eye or loss of teeth (i.e, loss of American lives), well then we’d best stay home and not even contemplate a fight…let someone else deal with the bully.
So, what do you think–should U.S. soldiers even bother taking on the Boko Haram bully with such limited resolve? Hash-It-Out!