He will say he did it

IS is losing the struggle. I heard a news story yesterday or the day before that it has lost the access to the oil that was providing all its funding, so now it’s just resorting to criminal activities, a much less reliable and safe way of operating. And the Atlantic has a piece by a guy who was the head of the Pentagon’s Middle East policy shop under Obama that says the war against them is being won. The only problem is, Trump will take the credit.

When President Obama turned the affairs of state over to President Trump on January 20th, the Islamic State was in full retreat across Iraq and Syria. This was no accident: In the fall of 2015, while I was serving as the head of the Pentagon’s Middle East policy shop, the Obama administration ramped up its campaign against the group—and began to see the effects of that escalation when Iraqi forces retook Ramadi in December of 2015.

Over the course of a very difficult summer of 2015—one in which both Ramadi in Iraq and Palmyra in Syria had fallen under the black flags of the Islamic State—civilian and military planners noticed an opportunity: For the first time since their campaign began in 2014, the U.S. and coalition forces surrounding the Islamic State were in a position to squeeze it from all directions.

So they did.

Primarily working with Iraqi and Syrian partners, the U.S. military and these local forces cut the main east-west lines of communication between Iraq and Syria. We got more aid to our Lebanese and Jordanian partners to help them defend their borders, and we re-started our initially ill-fated plan to train Syrians to fight the Islamic State, giving them specialized training and equipment. Oh, and we delivered an overwhelming amount of airpower in support of local forces fighting the Islamic State at a time when Iraqi forces trained by U.S. soldiers started re-entering the fight in replacement of previously ineffective units. These newly retrained units performed qualitatively better than the units they replaced, and the results on the ground bore that out.

One by one, cities and towns under the control of the Islamic State started falling. Because we were fighting with local partners, it was messier than if we had done it ourselves. The destruction to Ramadi and Fallujah, in particular, was breathtaking. And it took longer than it would have taken if U.S. forces had been in the lead. But it was also a lot less expensive, and only five U.S. servicemen were killed in the process —compared with almost 5,000 over the course of the earlier war in Iraq.

But perhaps more to the point, it was more of a local operation than a spasm of US imperialism.

But he says that:

And the success of the campaign was going to be more sustainable than that of our earlier efforts, we told ourselves, because Iraqis and Syrians were owning the fight—at tremendous human cost, I must add—and thus owning the victory.

Well yes. That does make a difference, I would think.

And Trump walks in at this late stage and he will say he did all of it.

But the fall of the Islamic State is going to happen, and it’s going to happen on this president’s watch. Like the American jobs he claims to have created that were announced long before he took office, Trump will take credit for the Islamic State’s defeat. It will be in his 2020 campaign speeches, and it will be a cudgel with which he beats the Democrats each time they (or John McCain) point out his incompetence on issues of national security.

And Americans need to be fine with that, because as much as many of us do not want this president to get the credit for the work of others, defeating the Islamic State is a national good that should be bigger than politics.

But it’s not just “politics” – or, defeating the Islamic State is also politics. It’s all “politics” in the sense of choosing between authoritarian bullying misogynist racist shits and the alternative. I don’t like seeing an authoritarian bullying misogynist racist shit take the credit for defeating other authoritarian bullying misogynist racist shits when he didn’t in fact do the work. I don’t like seeing an authoritarian bullying misogynist racist shit gaining credit and perhaps more of a veneer of success by taking credit for work he didn’t do.

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