Per the New York Times, it’s leading-from-behind time again:
American officials have made it clear they do not want the airstrikes to get ahead of the ground action against ISIS, which they said would take time to mass. “This isn’t going to be ‘shock and awe’ with hundreds of airstrikes,” one official said, referring to the initial attack on Baghdad at the opening of the Iraq war in March 2003. “We don’t want this to look like an American war.”
And we’re carefully considering a request to hit the Islamic State in the border area:
Specifically, senior Iraqi and Kurdish officials asked the United States as recently as this weekend to take action along the Iraqi-Syrian border to deprive ISIS of the safe havens it enjoys in that area.
“The Iraqis have asked for assistance in the border regions, and that’s something we’re looking at,” one State Department official said.
And the plan to destroy the Islamic State isn’t really a plan to destroy the Islamic State:
The president’s chief of staff, Denis McDonough, provided the most current definition of White House thinking on Sunday during an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” Using an alternative acronym for the extremist group, he said that “success looks like an ISIL that no longer threatens our friends in the region, no longer threatens the United States, an ISIL that can’t accumulate followers or threaten Muslims in Syria, Iraq or otherwise.”
That definition falls short of the classic understanding of what it means to destroy an opposing force. But the administration is betting that it has tailored the goals to appeal to the coalition of oftentimes reluctant partners it is trying to assemble, many of whom are deeply suspicious of each other.
Tellingly, there are no plans, as of now, to increase the number of American attack planes in the region. The aircraft carrier Carl Vinson is scheduled to relieve the carrier George H. W. Bush in the Persian Gulf next month; if the Pentagon changed its plans and kept two carriers in the gulf, it could double carrier-based firepower over Iraq and Syria. But for now, there is no plan to do so, officials said. Nor are there any plans to increase American ground-based strike aircraft at facilities around the region, in hopes that Persian Gulf and European allies would make up the difference.