In a major address to the nation last night, President Obama announced that the U.S. will escalate its military campaign against ISIS (also known as ISIL or the Islamic State). His plan seeks to "degrade" and ultimately "destroy" ISIS in a sustained air campaign that would include dropping more bombs on Iraq as well as possibly beginning strikes inside Syria.1
Let's all be really clear: President Obama is, in essence, proposing that we launch a new U.S. war in the Middle East. The White House has indicated that this strategy could take upward of three years to execute—meaning Obama would be handing the next president a new war after he brought Bush's Iraq war to a close.2 Roughly 1,600 U.S. troops and advisers have already been deployed to the region in recent weeks.3 Senior members of Congress are currently drafting legislation to authorize arming Syrian rebels.4
It was especially sobering to wake up to this news on September 11—an anniversary of so much pain and tragedy.
It's vital that we slow down and engage in a real, full-throated debate—including discussion of all the alternatives we have for confronting ISIS—rather than rushing headlong into another open-ended war in the Middle East.
There are tough questions we should be grappling with to avoid making the same mistakes again—questions like:
How is the U.S. prioritizing alternatives to military force, such as halting the flow of weapons to the region that end up in ISIS's hands and cutting off ISIS's financing so it can't keep waging war?
How might the use of U.S. military force undermine those alternative strategies?
What's the U.S.'s exit strategy? What does "defeating" ISIS look like? How will we know when to stop?
What are the potential unintended consequences?
We haven't heard these questions asked or answered by the president or Congress, and yet they must be deliberated. Using facts. In the open. With opportunities for all Americans to weigh in.
We know the costs are simply too high to get this wrong. We know it's up to us to ask these questions, and we know it's up to us to demand sound answers.
We'll begin by sharing MoveOn members' questions with Congress, the president, and the media.
But we won't stop there, because few if any decisions a country makes are as consequential as the decision to go to war. Again, we need a full, open, fact-based national discussion. If September 11 and the tragic decade that followed should've taught us anything—it's that we as a public must demand answers to hard questions before launching into war.
Thanks for all you do.
–Anna, Brian, Jo, Maria, and the rest of the team
P.S. In case you missed it, here's a link to the transcript of President Obama's remarks.
1. "Statement by the President on ISL," The White House, September 10, 2014
2. "Destroying ISIS May Take Years, U.S. Officials Say," The New York Times, September 7, 2014
3. "We Already Have Boots on the Ground in Iraq," The Huffington Post, September 11, 2014
4. "Obama Urgently Wants Congress to Vote on Arming Syrian Rebels," The Wire, September 10, 2014
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