Just How Long Can the U.S. Contemplate Its Response to ISIS?

by Jim Geraghty

It’s easy to understand why a man elected president because of his opposition to the Iraq War would be extremely hesitant to commit military forces to help save the Iraqi government.

It’s a perfectly fair question as to whether U.S. military force could be decisive in the fight against ISIS, or whether that action would be delaying the inevitable, or whether any government headed by Maliki is destined to fall apart eventually.

But Obama began by saying . . . 

Over the last several days, we’ve seen significant gains made by ISIL, a terrorist organization that operates in both Iraq and in Syria. In the face of a terrorist offensive, Iraqi security forces have proven unable to defend a number of cities, which has allowed the terrorists to overrun a part of Iraq’s territory. And this poses a danger to Iraq and its people, and given the nature of these terrorists, it could pose a threat eventually to American interests as well.

and then he also said . . . 

We will not be sending U.S. troops back into combat in Iraq, but I have asked my national security team to prepare a range of other options that could help support Iraq’s security forces. And I’ll be reviewing those options in the days ahead . . . We’ll be monitoring the situation in Iraq very carefully over the next several days.

At one point, Obama openly acknowledged the difference in speed between the events in Iraq and the decision-making of his administration:

. . . although events on the ground in Iraq have been happening very quickly, our ability to plan — whether it’s military action or work with the Iraqi government on some of these political issues — is going to take several days. So people should not anticipate that this is something that is going to happen overnight.

Isn’t the president worried that by the time he resolves how to react to the situation as it existed on, say, Saturday, it will change, and/or worsen? Doesn’t the president and his team need to speed up their OODA loop (“Observe, Orient, Decide, and Act”) if they want to have an impact on the situation?

Or is the slow, deliberate pace the point?