Boots on the Ground: The Realities in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria -Center for Strategic and International Studies

As the US election cycle starts building, there will a great deal of debate about expanding the US military mission in the Middle East. Unfortunately, much of that debate will be “posturing”. Below, Anthony Cordesman (Center for Strategic and International Studies {CSIS, but not the same as Canada’s CSIS}) provides a lengthy and detailed discussion of the complexities involved with putting ‘boots on the ground’.

“The Obama administration and its strongest opponents in Congress may not have all that much in common, but one thing they do share is the constant misuse of the word “strategy.” Strategy does not consist of stating a broad policy goal and empty rhetoric. It consist of stating an actual plan with clearly defined goals, specific means to achieve, milestones for action, estimates of the necessary resources and their availability, estimates of cost-benefits and risks, and metrics to measure success. A sound bite that fits in Twitter or a fortune cookie is not a strategy.

Getting this wrong is particularly dangerous when one starts talking about the use of military force and mindlessly throwing around terms like “boots on the ground” with no actual definition of what is involved or what the term is intended to mean. Every American has to accept the fact that the coming presidential election means two years of vacuous partisan political posturing, but any form of war is serious and the stakes in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria are all too real.”