The Fall of Ramadi Was Avoidable

The seizure of Ramadi on Sunday leaves President Obama’s strategy against the Islamic State in ruins not only in Iraq but also throughout the Muslim world. It means that the Iraqi security forces will almost certainly not be able to recapture Mosul this year and, therefore, that the Islamic State will retain its largest city in Iraq. Worse, it gives the group momentum again in Iraq even as it gains ground in Syria and expands in the Sinai, Yemen, Afghanistan and elsewhere. This defeat was avoidable. Neither the Islamic State nor any other al-Qaeda offshoot has ever taken a major urban area actively defended by the United States in partnership with local forces. This is what happens when a policy of half-measures, restrictions and posturing meets a skillful and determined enemy on the battlefield. If the president does not change course soon, he will find that his legacy is not peace with Iran and ending wars, but rather the establishment of a terrorist state with the resources to conduct devastating attacks against the United States and a region-engulfing sectarian war.