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Editorial: ISIS requires a real coalition

Over the weekend, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria executed a third westerner, British aid worker David Haines. The United States, the United Kingdom and our allies around the world are increasingly inclined to escalate action in the conflict. While the civil war is certainly, to a degree, a global concern, ISIS presents a substantial direct and long-term threat to nations in the region. We urge Middle Eastern and North African nations, particularly the Sunni-majority states of Saudi Arabia and Qatar, to contribute resources and combat troops to the effort.

On Aug. 8, President Obama became the fourth consecutive U.S. president to order airstrikes in Iraq. He has since ordered over 160. Since the beginning of the bombardment, many American politicians and military officers — including Gen. Ray Odierno as recently as Wednesday — have argued that this war cannot be won from the skies or with 1,600 military advisers. They have pointed out that ISIS is not like al-Qaeda but more strongly resembles a conventional land army of 30,000 to 50,000 incredibly well-funded soldiers looking to conquer and hold cities. The question the world then faces is who will supply the forces to combat this force on the ground in conjunction with U.S. air power.

We applaud Obama’s restraint in escalating American involvement in the region. The president ordered airstrikes as a humanitarian necessity after much hesitation and concern that the United States might be seen as a Shiite airforce. While Iraq has since established a new government under Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, the United States should not let itself be forced into further action because the Iraqi army and regional Sunni powers are reluctant to act.

There are undoubtedly further humanitarian reasons for dedicating American forces to this fight, but as U.S. intelligence has found no immediate threat to the homeland, this is also an opportunity to consider the long-term consequences of our intervention in a religious war. On Fox News Sunday, Gen. Michael Hayden said, “This is three to five years even if we are successful.” Given the timeline being discussed, the sensitivity of a religious civil war and the United States’ previous involvement in Iraq, the United States should continue to push for a broad coalition with ground forces provided by regional powers.

This country is constantly torn between calls for intervention and inaction because of our military superiority and criticism for overstepping. On Tuesday, Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testified before Congress that if the coalition failed he might recommend American ground forces in Iraq. But we should still give the coalition a chance to succeed.


Editorials are written by The Herald’s editorial page board, led by Alexander Kaplan ’15 and James Rattner ’15. Send comments to


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