8 Words for Obama’s Anti-Terrorism Fight: Might in the Sky, Helpless on the Ground

At 2 a.m. Damascus time on Sept. 23, 2014, America launched aerial strikes on 14 Islamic State targets in Syria, using almost all of its advanced weapons, including F-22s, Tomahawk cruise missiles, MQ-1 Predators, Super Hornet fighter planes, etc. Obama’s attack on the Islamic State inside Syria was just a matter of time, but it is surprising he is using such high-level weapons for this enemy.

Obama has multiple goals with this move.

One: This will demonstrate America’s military might and create a great impact. At the same time, it will show America’s anti-terrorism determination and change its weak image toward the Islamic State.

Two: In launching the aerial strikes against Raqqa, the home base for the Islamic State, America wants to use its surprising attacks to annihilate as much of the Islamic State’s strength as possible, maybe even behead the Islamic State, so that it can no longer brazenly call itself a country and bully the world.

Three: Testing new weapons and war strategies in Syria and attacking a terrorist organization undoubtedly suits America’s purpose. The main weapons being tested are the F-22s. Even though they are fifth generation and have been in commission since 2005, they have been so plagued with problems that even American pilots have refused to fly them, so they have not been employed. Using them this time is to test them and give them a chance to build a reputation. Meanwhile, America also wants to use combined aerial attacks to give an opportunity for all the advanced weapons to work together.

The results of the aerial strikes have not been formally announced, but with the precision bomb targeting, the Islamic State’s training grounds, command center, storage facilities and many pickup trucks and armored vehicles can be assumed to look vastly different or even destroyed by now. The AFP has reported that at least 120 Islamic State members have been killed. The aerial strikes are indeed powerful.

While America was attacking, the Islamic State released a 42-minute online video ridiculing the fact that America could only launch aerial strikes, and challenged Obama to come down to the ground and fight there.

It is pushing Obama’s buttons. Even though his decision to not send ground troops was doubted by all sides and seen as a sign of weakness to America’s allies and enemies, Obama was determined to not change his decision. America would only do aerial attacks and leave ground fights to its allies.

But in fact, what he counts as allies are mostly fictitious.

There is no one among America’s European allies who are willing to send ground troops. Among Arab countries, Egypt and Turkey have clearly said they will not send troops. Other countries have not expressed their positions yet. Obama thinks the only ones he could count on are the Iraqi government’s military and the Kurdish military. The facts have shown that the Iraqi government troops are no match for the Islamic State, and Kurdish fighters are not equipped enough and unwilling to fight the Islamic State to the death.

In the end, the only help on the ground in the anti-terrorism fight are the Iranian and Syrian governments. America has high hopes for Iran and Iran has expressed its intentions, but there are many obstacles. Iran’s condition for helping America: America needs to show more flexibility in its uranium-enrichment program. America has said it would not accept that. America’s alliance with Iran would bring discontent from Sunni-led Arab countries and Turkey, some of which might find a reason to back out of the Islamic State-fighting alliance. Israel is obviously unhappy. As for Syria, its government troops could fight the Islamic State, but Obama still sees its government as its enemy and has not stopped wanting to overthrow Assad. Obama is trying to support the moderate anti-government rebels, whose goal is to overthrow the current Syrian government. Why would they really bother fighting the Islamic State?

Viewed in this fashion, Obama’s anti-terrorism plans on the ground could be seen as neither here nor there and completely stuck: Might in the sky, helpless on the ground. If America does not send ground troops, this situation is unlikely to change.

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