The victory of ISIS in Ramadi has forced the United States and the Iraqi government to take a long, hard look at their assumptions and the ability to defeat what has become a new caliphate in the Middle East.
When the new Secretary of Defense, Ashton Carter, observed that the national army far outnumbered the ISIS militants in the battle, he essentially called the Iraqi troops cowardly and ineffective. While his statement was designed to take the heat off the United States, deflecting blame for the defeat will not change the dynamics of the battle.
What the ISIS militants lack in numbers, they make up for in intensity, and by exploding multiple Oklahoma-City-strength bombs, they forced the Iraqi army to retreat.
In any neutral analysis of the defeat, two errors in our strategy stand out. One: without any spotter calling in U.S. air attacks, our bombers are returning without dropping their load. We need more actionable real-time intelligence to make our air campaign more effective. Two: without embedding U.S. forces among the Iraqi troops, there is no one experienced enough to tell the average soldier what to do.
Neither of these strategic changes would require much more troops; it is just a matter of re-purposing the troops that are already there. One hopes the White House will be clever enough to make these changes instead of blindly following their current strategy due to a George W. Bush-like inability to admit errors.