I was listening to an interview with Susan Rice today, and I have to say that I was happy to hear her clearly state the Administration's reasoning for declaring that there would not be 'boots on the ground'. In short, she made the argument that unless Iraq, or a group in Syria was ready to step up to fill the vacuum, any ground offensive would lead to an open-ended commitment. Here's what she said:
What I'm saying and what President Obama has been very clear in saying is that we are prepared to do what it takes to degrade and defeat ISIL. But that can only be accomplished if and in fact we have effective partners on the ground. So there are limits, Steve, to what we and others can do from the air. We can do a fair bit. We've already demonstrated that with over 150 strikes in the last several weeks. But a sustainable campaign where ISIL is pushed out of territory that is Iraqi territory will require Iraqis on the ground to do that and sustain it. You saw after ten years of Americans inside of Iraq doing brave and great work that if once we leave, and eventually any foreign force is going to have to leave, if the host government itself is not prepared to sustain the gains and hold the ground and govern in an inclusive fashion, it's inherently vulnerable. So rather than repeating that experience, we have learned from the past, and the president's view is this is not a role for American combat forces to hold and maintain ground. That's got to be the Iraqis, and if they do it, they can, in fact, take back this territory.
This is the mistake that we made in Vietnam as well. I sincerely wonder if the Obama administration can hold this line. Unfortunately, I've been hearing him criticized for so explicitly making this case, but if there is a foreign policy lesson that the US needs to learn, it is this one.