The news broke late Friday morning, on the eve of Halloween, a veritable October surprise: the U.S. is going to deploy approximately fifty U.S. Special Operations soldiers -- "to northern Syria," as the Associated Press helpfully elaborated -- to advise unspecified others in the fight against ISIS. From the available reports, it appears that Washington is finally stepping in to try to contain the crisis.
Anonymous officials in the Obama administration "say discussions to establish a special operations task force are under way with Iraqi officials in Baghdad, including Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi," and is considering amping up "military assistance" to Lebanon and Jordan, according to Defense One.
Vladimir Putin's intervention on behalf of the Assad regime, its client whose battlefield losses were beginning to look terminal, has certainly complicated an already incredibly complex situation, but it looks like the Russian sorties -- some 1,600 "terror targets" have been destroyed in the past month since the attacks began, according to a Kremlin-backed propaganda outlet, may have forced the hand of the Pentagon to do something. Russia already "changed the game," Colum Lynch announced in Foreign Policy, by "turning the tide against the beleaguered U.S.-backed opposition" -- half a billion dollars was spent, reportedly, to build up an impressive battalion of four, or maybe five, fighters.
Ten times as many fighters will be on the ground training and advising Kurdish peshmerga in northern Iraq and Syria, according to a brief item in the Jerusalem Post. Iraq and Syria no longer really exist; sectarianism has destroyed them. Whether or not U.S. Special Ops can help indigenous forces defeat the fanatical revolutionaries calling themselves Islamic State looks comparatively irrelevant in the scope of a larger question about whether the region will ever be stable again. Or, in the pithy words of a national security and counter-intelligence expert,