There is a funny phrase in American English to describe a situation that is ludicrous or seriously out of the ordinary: "as screwed up as a tennis helmet" or, even funnier, "a football bat". While these expressions are colourful and quite à propos, there is an even better candidate for their replacement: "as screwed up as American military politics".
In general, the American military is always to be found where they are wanted the least, and never to be found where they are needed the most. The military, of course, can not be blamed for this by any sane man, as they go where they are ordered to go, as long as it isn't illegal, and sometimes even if it is.
An excellent example of the former can be seen in the Second Gulf War, which was started on the pretext of ABC weapons, that is, those that are atomic, biological, or chemical in nature. Of course, the true reason was to depose a leader who was hostile to the West---or was it? Perhaps the war was mercenary in nature, its object being Fun and Profit: exploitation of oil reserves. Without direct access to the minds of then-President Bush and then-Vice President Cheney, the underlying military agenda will never be known, but perhaps the most plausible hypothesis can be found in the First Gulf War, which ended without an exit plan. The lack of an exit plan universally causes one, and only one, resolution: dog eat dog. In Iraq, the top dog turned out to be Saddam Hussein, and in Afghanistan, it turned out to be the Taliban. Thus began yet another war, the Global War on Terror.
The latter is best seen in the Second World War. The United States was studiously neutral even as tens of thousands were burning in the Polish death camps, and even as hundreds of thousands of Russian soldiers honourably died in battle against the German enemy. In American popular consciousness, the Second World War was a misnomer: it was a European fight first and foremost, and it was no business of The Best Country In The World to interfere with the Eurotrash jockeying for position. In fact, American corporations traded with both sides (most notably, IBM with the German dyes giant IG Farben) and profited equally, until their dreams were shattered with the events of Pearl Harbour.
The war against Daesh (aka Isis, aka Isil) has been a lighter and softer repeat of, oddly enough, both scenarios against a backdrop that even Franz Kafka would be proud of. America supports the Iraqi government in the fight against Daesh. Of course, America does not like Daesh (who does?), but Saudi Arabia, otherwise allied with America, indirectly supports them. America does not like President Assad in Syria, or the theocracy in Iran, and actively opposes these regimes, yet both these countries are its allies in the fight against Daesh.
Some of its enemies, therefore, are now also its friends, and some of its enemies are fighting against yet another group of enemies, and even though America is fighting with Enemy One against Enemy Two, it does not want Enemy One to win. If Enemy Two is defeated, this could herald the birth of Enemies Three, Four, Five, and Six, who are even nastier. And this whole situation was started by a campaign to invade a foreign country to drive out terrorists who weren't there until the invasion actually began, and by yet another campaign to destroy ABC weapons that were never found and likely did not exist. Welcome to the Middle East.
No wonder, then, that the American political establishment does not want to get involved any more than absolutely necessary, and it evidently defines "absolutely necessary" as meaning targeted air strikes and no more. The problem is that coalition forces are depending on America to get the old dragon woken up as quickly as possible. America, for its part, doesn't even want to use the word "war", for fear of having to live up to its obligations, this despite the fact that the oil corporations have had to make their products so cheap as to stay barely afloat, just so they can compete with the terrorists, and also despite the fact that innocent Christians have been beheaded and burned alive, with promises of burning Rome to the ground. John Kerry has said that America is not at war, even though it involves kinetic military action. Those three words are diplomatic language for... guess what? WAR! So is he saying that "we're not at war, we're at war!"?
I look at him, and then I look at His Jordanian Majesty, King Abdullah II, and I know who I want as President. Hint: it's not John Kerry. King Abdullah happens to be a blue-eyed Englishman fond of quoting Clint Eastwood, and a Special Forces veteran with drop-dead good looks (no homo) and a big brain. He knows what goes on in war a lot better than some ivory-tower, Harvard-educated intellectual; what he said about the war on Daesh is that it is, for all intents and purposes, The Third World War. Not the third kinetic military action. THE. THIRD. WORLD. WAR. Jordan is a country beset by aggression on all sides: there is fighting in Iraq, there is fighting in Syria, there is fighting in Israel, and the only place where there isn't fighting is the Dead Sea. It has received more immigrants in percentage terms than America gets in a year, and all of these have been largely Christian political refugees from Syria.
When that Jordanian soldier was burned alive by Daesh, King Abdullah allegedly let loose with a profanity-filled tirade that would sour milk, and rightly so---there's even rumours that he personally led the Royal Jordanian Air Force into action from the seat of a gunship helicopter. What does Obama do? Cycles and plays golf, that's what. Nothing to see here.
I get it. I really do. But wait till Daesh starts a fifth column in America... there will be lots of soiled underwear and precious little to do. I just hope it won't be too little, too late.