Islamic extremist forces have captured more territory and are threatening an important city in the north west. A pilot has recently been brutally beheaded. Thousands are now dead as a result of the extremist uprising, and many thousands more have been thrown out of their homes. The black flag flies in many places proclaiming the new Caliphate.
All this is happening in Nigeria with very little western attention. We have not been asked to intervene militarily to defeat the forces of Boko Haram which now threaten a large part of north western Nigeria. Different standards and considerations seem to apply to Nigeria from those the President of the USA and his allies apply to Syria.
Those of us who urge caution about our further military engagement in Iraq and possibly Syria need some explanation of why the west ignores these actions in Nigeria, unites to take action in Iraq, and remains split over what to do in Syria.
We also need to know from Mr Obama and his advisers how they see the war in Iraq and Syria developing. Yesterday we were told that it is unlikely that bombardment from air and sea can save Kobani. The forces on the ground who could lift the siege and relieve the city may be unable to win their local war. Kurds there tell the west they do not have the weapons, and co-ordinating between the ground forces and the many western airforces now capable of bombing the area is clearly difficult. Mr Obama will be under pressure to have more and more troops on the ground short of fighting infantry. There will need to be special forces in case captives can be released, intelligence gatherers, communications experts, people who direct incoming fire and assess damage and accuracy achieved, suppliers of weapons and advice to the local ground forces and many others besides.
It is easy to see how the west drifts into a more dangerous ground war. The more people we put on the ground to help others fight, the more people we have at risk. If the risks miscarry, do we then send in ground troops to retrieve the situation?
I do not see how you can quarter fight a war successfully. To me there are two choices. Cancel more bombing and leave matters to local forces. Or put in enough force to clear Iraq of ISIL forces. I would do the former. The latter draws you into war in Syria as well, and leaves open the huge question of how would you then settle the politics and governments of these huge areas once you had defeated ISIL? How do you avoid creating a power vacuum which other nasty people fill? How do you get the governments of Iraq and Syria into good democratic shape, capable of governing their whole country in a peaceful way with the consent of all the warring groups? The President does have to think through what he will do if bombing is not enough, and if the forces fighting the war on the ground are unable to win. He also needs a good political strategy to win over hearts and minds in the event that local forces do round up or drive out all ISIL miltary people.