In the last week or so, several very important things have been going on that I haven't been talking about.
The most important is the President declaring war on a terrorist group. Ignoring the fact that declaring war on them is a huge boon to their recruiting efforts, and ignoring (for the moment) that I think Obama's approach to doing so is pretty good, this is still a big mistake.
First, I disbelieve Obama's fundamental assumption that ISIL (or ISIS) is a threat to the US. It's possible that it's a threat to US interests. It certainly threatens to destabilize the region. And that instability might push oil prices up.
But does that justify going to war? Even if it's "only" an air war?
We've been providing lots of materiel to various regional powers (primarily Israel and the Saudis, but many others as well) for years. That's a large part of why the US' trade imbalance isn't more severe; the US' biggest export is weaponry.
So, let them own the fight. It's their region, they can pay for it themselves. If they want to buy more weapons, great.
But the US has spent way too much of the last forty years being the world's police force. Too much money and too many brave young men and women have been sacrificed. The people we're "helping" generally don't like us being there. The insurgents get a recruiting bonanza out of it.
In the end, I don't at all believe that it advances US interests. It keeps the cost of oil down, but there are plenty of less-expensive ways to do that. And the price at the pump needs to go up anyway; the ludicrous national highway tax is absurdly too low. Letting the price rise will encourage more use of footpower, pedal power, and public transportation, all of which are beneficial to all of society.
And this idea that they're a direct threat to the US? That's approaching the level of farce. Maybe they have some agents with some interest in attacking the US. For sure, they'd be able to hurt some people, but unless they have a way to manufacture WMDs in the US (because they aren't going to import them), then they're a matter for the police to deal with. Without the SWAT approach, even.
And for them building a real state? That's basically impossible with their current, nihilist (kill everyone) strategy. The only way they'd be able to do that is to get the support of the populace. And they've shown zero inclination to even work in that direction.
Getting back to Obama's strategy, I have to say that I like his slow and careful approach that gets buy-in from allies. If we're going to go to war anyway, then that's infinitely preferable to Bush's cowboy (or maybe a better term would be "X-games") approach. But the approach still doesn't justify the end.