16 Sep

On Iraq and ISIS, who’s fighting on our side this time?

To approach a foreign challenge, presidents often have a choice between two entrances. To approach Iraq, presidents have a choice between two Bushes.

Wednesday night, explaining his strategy for dealing with the Islamic State, President Obama picked the right Bush.

But the question is who’s there with him.

When Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, George H.W. Bush assembled a huge coalition, and then devised a strategy. Invading Iraq in 2003, George W. Bush started with his strategy, and looked around for a coalition.

Obama has the right plan; the United States will provide equipment and air support, while troops on the ground will be local, supplied by what he calls “a broad coalition.” That makes sense; Middle East countries have more to fear from Isis than we do, and Middle Eastern troops should have more local credibility.

What was missing Wednesday was a clear sense of who would be in the coalition. Tactical bombing is in support of ground troops; Americans are entitled to know what troops their bombers will be supporting.

There will be Iraqis and Kurds. Will there be Turks? Saudis? Iranians? Bombing can degrade Isis; only boots on the ground can destroy it.

We know Iraq can be a dense wilderness. We need to find the right Bush.

NOTE: This commentary appeared on KGW-TV, 9/13/14

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