There is an eerie sameness with events almost 60 years ago in the president's announcement that he was doubling the size of U. S. troops needed to advise Iraqi regulars on how to halt the fanatical ISIS (of ISIL) forces from eventually overrunning Iraq.
If the pattern were to follow history we could expect that the 3,000 "advisers" - up from 1,500 in just a few months - is just the beginning of what ultimately may be needed to quell the onslaught despite assurances from the president and his men that there is no "mission creep" in this latest announcement.
For those of us old enough to remember, American involvement in Vietnam began in essentially the same way. Dwight Eisenhower's handful of "advisers" amounted to thousands by the time his predecessor, John F. Kennedy, was assassinated in 1963. When Lyndon Johnson left office there were in excess of 500,000 U.S. forces in South Vietnam.
I remember vividly standing in the Oval Office with a small number of colleagues while Johnson chewed us out for reporting that the troop commitment was about to exceed that magic number. The president's anger was palpable despite the fact all we had done was quote the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee John Stennis of Mississippi. Johnson did not take lightly having his toes stepped on even by a senior member of his own party.
So it is difficult to believe Barack Obama's insistence that this latest "boots on the ground" return to the turmoil we left only recently after a decade of conflict does not portend anything more than an effort to provide non-combat support to Iraqi forces we obviously hadn't trained well enough before we left. It is particularly hard to swallow since most every expert one talks to agrees that the air attacks on the ISIS hordes is not enough to stop them.
That seems especially the case since the number of sorties being flown by U.S. jets is well below their capacity, even with the expansion of the attacks into Syria. The significant success of a recent air disruption of an ISIS leadership conference outside of Mosul not withstanding there is probably a zero chance of thwarting the establishment of a Caliphate without throwing a sizable U.S. or allied ground force with all that entails into the fray.
That, of course, requires a significant financial and emotional commitment from Americans already weary of the Middle East and its religiously motivated and seemingly never ending threats to world peace. It would be easy to predict that if a draft still existed, the rebellions of the 60s and 70s would be in full sway once again.
But then what are we to do? Obama's indecisiveness over this and pressing domestic issues which led to his party's sizable defeat in the Midterms has left us little choice but to prevent the lives lost and the money expended during the years when we probably shouldn't have been there from being among the worst examples of waste in our history - a parallel to Vietnam. This time, there truly is a major threat to U.S. security by an expanding group of head choppers whose goals and philosophy have no real religious foundation as they would have you believe but are rooted in sociopathic and near demonic concepts. These are bad dudes.
This, it seems to me, makes "mission creep" utterly necessary. Either we stop this terrorist mass now or risk the spread of fanaticism far beyond anything we've seen in recent history with our own way of life, already disrupted in a dozen ways by 9-11, threatened even more severely.
Is the response necessary to meet the challenge in the next two years? Congress now fully in Republican control come January appears, at first blush anyway, likely to approve the money for the 1,600 new "advisers." Whether further support for more down the road will be forthcoming is one's guess. Mine would be yes if the signs point to absolute need as expected.
Whether Obama is really a six year president or one determined to serve out the next two years of his term as a leader who history will respect remains a major question. At the risk of being accused of hysteria our long term survival may depend on his handling of matters overseas.