Thomas L. Friedman, a New York Times columnist since 1648, agrees with the rest of the world that ISIS is "detestable" and "needs to be eradicated". One day. For the time being however, Friedman thinks ISIS is just too darn useful.
Instead of fighting it, the US should use it to force Assad into a two-front war!
The way Friedman sees it, the US goal in Syria is to pressure Assad into a "power-sharing" deal with rebels "gathered" in Idlib province. As the brilliant strategist that he is, Tom explains that to achieve this goal, the US could carve out a no-fly 'safe zone' in Syria, or supply anti-aircraft missiles to rebels.
But there is more that the US could do, namely:
What else? We could simply back off fighting territorial ISIS in Syria and make it entirely a problem for Iran, Russia, Hezbollah and Assad. After all, they’re the ones overextended in Syria, not us. Make them fight a two-front war — the moderate rebels on one side and ISIS on the other.
If we defeat territorial ISIS in Syria now, we will only reduce the pressure on Assad, Iran, Russia and Hezbollah and enable them to devote all their resources to crushing the last moderate rebels in Idlib, not sharing power with them.
Hmm, isn't that exactly what the Syrian army has been doing so far? Fighting ISIS and al-Qaeda led 'moderates' at the same time? Indeed, before 2014 the two were one and the same.
Friedman wants the US president to be "utterly cynical":
This is a time for Trump to be Trump — utterly cynical and unpredictable. ISIS right now is the biggest threat to Iran, Hezbollah, Russia and pro-Shiite Iranian militias — because ISIS is a Sunni terrorist group that plays as dirty as Iran and Russia.
And if anyone has a problem with that they can just think of it like backing the Afghan mujahedeen against the Soviets (no mention of how that worked out):
Trump should want to defeat ISIS in Iraq. But in Syria? Not for free, not now. In Syria, Trump should let ISIS be Assad’s, Iran’s, Hezbollah’s and Russia’s headache — the same way we encouraged the mujahedeen fighters to bleed Russia in Afghanistan.
One wonders if Friedman also wouldn't mind slipping ISIS an anti-aircraft Stinger missile or two to make it even more of a "headache" for Hezbollah and the Russians.
Actually, bizarrely, as sinister as Friedman's proposal is, it is actually less crazy than his other two calls -- for a no-fly zone and more backing for Idlib rebels -- which are mainstream proposals in Washington. The first would necessitate a shooting war with Russia and the latter means bulking up al-Qaeda.
Indeed, Friedman is just taking US strategy to its logical conclusions. Since the US is already happy to use al-Qaeda as a battering ram against the Syrian government why not go all the way and use ISIS as well?
Indeed until ISIS went off script and carved out a chunk of Iraq for itself in 2014, that was exactly what was going on. With ISIS now almost defeated in Iraq, Friedman is asking: why not just go back to rooting for ISIS in Syria?
By asking this, Friedman reveals how uninformed and naive he is. There is no chance in hell of the US putting its anti-ISIS campaign in Syria on hold now.
The Pentagon has invested way too much into the Kurdish-led SDF, which is a far more useful anti-Assad outfit than one that was always so very obviously destined for the graveyard like ISIS. However, Friedman's outrageous ideas are not kookery. They're just a few years out of date.
Lastly, Friedman suggests the US needs to approach Syria deviously, dirty and without mercy. Because that is what the "Sunni terrorist ISIS" and the equally satanic Hezbollah, Iran and Putin (according to Friedman) are doing too:
Syria is not a knitting circle. Everyone there plays dirty, deviously and without mercy. Where’s that Trump when we need him?
One gets the feeling Thomas L. just might not be a very good person.