Can the United States Defeat ISIS?

One pressing issue facing the United States is the ISIS threat. What are the options available to the U.S., and is it possible for a coalition to defeat ISIS?

The rise of ISIS (the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria) has captured the attention of many in the United States and the world for the last several months. The debate continues about whether or not ISIS can be defeated solely by the coalition’s air power (supporting Iraqi and Kurdish forces) or if American ground troops must again be sent into Iraq.

According to Speaker of the House John Boehner, “At the end of the day, I think it’s gonna take more than air strikes to drive them outta there.”

More recently, Senator John McCain said that ground troops, or at least special forces, should be sent in to defeat ISIS because “they’re winning, and we’re not.”

Air power alone?

The current American strategy for dealing with ISIS is to rely on air power to strike vital military targets and to weaken the group enough that it will fall. This approach has a number of advantages:

  • It limits American involvement and the risk of another long, drawn-out and costly occupation in the Middle East.
  • It puts fewer Americans at risk, reducing the chances of casualties.

Many of these advantages have been debated recently. A recent study has revealed that the fight against ISIS has already cost the U.S. government nearly $1 billion! Various human rights groups have also claimed that these air strikes have started to claim civilian casualties. Another concern with limiting the campaign to air power is that the limited warfare now might create a worse mess when and if America has to send in ground troops later.

Recent reports reveal that weapons and supplies that were air-dropped into Iraq for Kurdish forces, actually landed in ISIS territory. ISIS released a video bragging about their possession of U.S. supplies and weapons that had been intended to be used against them.

The real question, however, may simply be: Is victory possible? Can the United States and its allies succeed against ISIS—either through air support or boots on the ground?Boots on the ground?

Some believe that the only realistic way to stop (and rollback) ISIS is to send American ground troops to Iraq. Despite these arguments, President Obama and his administration have repeatedly stated they do not intend to send in ground troops to fight against ISIS.

Retired Army Lt. Col. John Nagl (an expert on counterinsurgency military strategy) recently said that he believed it would require 15,000 to 20,000 U.S. ground troops in active combat to realistically have a chance to defeat ISIS.

But the reality of a drawn-out conflict and the likelihood of many American casualties make it very unlikely that will happen.

Still, despite the inevitable certainty of casualties, there are reasons that some believe ground troops should be used:

  • Air support is inadequate to defeat ISIS.
  • Air power isn’t dealing with the ISIS troops, just their structures.
  • Using ground troops would reduce Western reliance on Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria.
  • Ground troops would provide more support for an Iraqi military unable to defeat ISIS by themselves.

Is victory possible?

Political and military leaders are debating about the best way to approach the ISIS threat. The real question, however, may simply be: Is victory possible? Can the United States and its allies succeed against ISIS—either through air support or boots on the ground? This leads to the question of where God is in all of this, which Life, Hope & Truth has answered in the earlier post “The ISIS Threat: Where Is God?

As we explain in our article on the identity of the United States and Britain in prophecy, the United States has inherited the promises bestowed on Joseph’s son Manasseh. God has high national standards for the descendants of ancient Israel. He declares that when those standards are overwhelmingly broken on a national level, one of the consequences is military weakness and defeat (Deuteronomy 28:25).

One of the purposes of Life, Hope & Truth is to warn the modern nations of Israel of the consequences of their declining morality. The heart of this message is a call to national repentance (Ezekiel 33:7-11). Though nations rarely repent as a whole—individuals can! We continually urge our readers to examine their lives and repent of breaking the laws of God.

For more on the future of the United States, read:

Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class John Philip Wagner Jr., U.S. Navy/U.S. Department of Defense Current Photos/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

About the Author

Joshua Travers

Joshua Travers

Joshua Travers grew up and lives in Athens, Ohio. He graduated in 2016 with a bachelor’s degree in social studies and Spanish education from Ohio University. He also studied theology at Foundation Institute, Center for Biblical Education, in Allen, Texas and graduated with a certificate in biblical studies in May 2017.

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