Iraq is in chaos, with terrorists about to take control of Baghdad. The U.S. embassy has been at least partially evacuated. The Islamic terrorists conducting the offensive — Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS for short — wasted no time in establishing the most vicious and restrictive version of Sharia law in their new territory, with extreme clarity that religion would be paramount over every other concern for the people living under its rule. Mass murder reigns. Violence is everywhere, especially against Christians and other non-Muslims, and millions are fleeing the country. And American veterans who fought and bled to free Iraq are forced to watch as their sacrifices are wiped away with each passing day.
Obama has pledged that no new soldiers will be sent to Iraq to bolster the beleaguered Iraqi forces. Unfortunately, this has allowed Iran to step in and provide critical assistance in the absence of American aid. So much for allies, right?
The thing that really sticks in the throat is that the undeniable, unequivocal message that Barack Obama has sent loud and clear to America’s allies around the world since he took office is one of extreme indifference. Being attacked? Too bad, we’re not interested in helping you out. Under siege? Meh, not our problem. Need a powerful friend in the world when times get tough? Sorry, look elsewhere. It’s shameful, dishonorable, and just about the worst possible policy position our nation could take. What happens when the next 9/11 takes place? It’s only a matter of time – terrorists are constantly probing, experimenting, and plotting to carry out another major strike against us…nuclear, if possible. Iran and North Korea both hate America, both possess nukes, and both seem just about as likely to provide one to terrorists for that purpose as not; other nuclear nations like Pakistan aren’t exactly stable, either. It’s completely within the realm of plausibility. So, what happens when a nuke is detonated off the coast of Washington DC, or in the sky above New York, and our nation is plunged into chaos? Who will help us if we haven’t been helping our allies all along, especially if there is a coordinated attack against our closest allies at the same time? I think Luke Skywalker said it best: I have a bad feeling about this. This is a terrible way for the world’s lone superpower to conduct global affairs, and it is deliberate.
Did Barack Obama lose Iraq? Honestly, no. But a lot of people are making that argument, and he did throw a whole lot of gasoline on the fire that was already burning there. The common argument is that Bush had Iraq won and the last few years of Obama’s policies have let the country slide back into violence and chaos…but it’s a little more complicated than that:
Obama won the 2008 election in no small part because he promised to get the US out of Iraq. John McCain lost in no small part because he famously argued we should stay “100 years” if that’s what it took. The American people made their choice. To now say that having won on getting out of Iraq Obama should have instead turned around and adopted McCain’s losing policy idea is absurd.
This does not absolve Obama from his negligent inaction in the face of the [imminent] threat presented by the still growing ISIS invasion. That’s entirely on Obama and his band of national security incompetents. But the great “loss of Iraq”? That’s on the Iraqis. They were given a chance to build a decent country after Saddam’s removal and they squandered it.
As much as I’d like to put the blame squarely on Obama, that seems a little disingenuous. This seems more accurate to me:
When the Americans invaded, in March, 2003, they destroyed the Iraqi state—its military, its bureaucracy, its police force, and most everything else that might hold a country together. They spent the next nine years trying to build a state to replace the one they crushed. By 2011, by any reasonable measure, the Americans had made a lot of headway but were not finished with the job. For many months, the Obama and Maliki governments talked about keeping a residual force of American troops in Iraq, who would act largely to train Iraq’s Army and to provide intelligence against Sunni insurgents. (They would almost certainly have been barred from fighting.) Those were important reasons to stay, but the most important went largely unstated: it was to continue to act as a restraint on Maliki’s sectarian impulses, at least until the Iraqi political system was strong enough to contain him on its own. The negotiations between Obama and Maliki fell apart, in no small measure because of a lack of engagement by the White House. Today, many Iraqis, including some close to Maliki, say that a small force of American soldiers—working in non-combat roles—would have provided a crucial stabilizing factor that is now missing from Iraq. Sami al-Askari, a Maliki confidant, told me for my article this spring, “If you had a few hundred here, not even a few thousand, they would be coöperating with you, and they would become your partners.” President Obama wanted the Americans to come home, and Maliki didn’t particularly want them to stay.
The trouble is, as the events of this week show, what the Americans left behind was an Iraqi state that was not able to stand on its own. What we built is now coming apart. This is the real legacy of America’s war in Iraq.
Again, it’s extremely hard for me to find fault with this logic. Regardless, it’s clear that Obama seems more than content to sit back and watch Iraq burn:
…as Obama said on Friday, his apparent commitment to the political goals which propelled him into office – namely, a commitment to American retrenchment and especially the extrication of U.S. forces from the Iraqi theater – trumps the immediate security needs of a region in crisis.
“This is not solely or even primarily a military challenge,” Obama told reporters. He placed the burden of the present crisis on the Iraqi government, which the president said has fostered an atmosphere of sectarian mistrust by excluding Sunni groups from broader representation in the central government.
Obama insisted that internal political reforms must be forthcoming. “In the absence of this type of political effort, short-term military action, including any assistance we might provide, won’t succeed,” he insisted.
“Iraq’s neighbors also have a responsibility to support this process,” Obama said, “The United States will do our part, but understand that ultimately it is up to the Iraqis, as a sovereign nation, to solve their problems.”
And then he went on vacation.
America may not want another protracted war to fight, but I think a lot of people don’t like how this has turned out:
The collapse of the American strategy of providing assistance from the sidelines having become apparent, Obama remains inexplicably unable to commit to a change of course.
While political reforms inside Iraq are critical, the president’s priorities are misplaced. There is no question internal reforms in Iraq are necessary. The pressing threat to international security posed by the possible collapse of the Iraqi state, however, is not setting the conditions conducive to a prolonged reconciliation process. That comes later. The first step should be ensuring stability.
… The reality is that America has a responsibility for Iraq’s security today, and the president is shirking that responsibility.
Here’s what’s at stake by screwing this up:
The threat posed by Syrian instability is clear – it has engulfed Iraq. The threat posed by Iraqi instability is clear – it is now drawing in Iran. A regional war is now a very real possibility. The United States can engage in that theater on its terms now, or wait and engage in it on less favorable terms down the road. But, for the globe’s only superpower, there is no avoiding engagement.
One way or another, we will become involved. Wouldn’t it have been better to be involved on our own terms and to hold fast the stability that was genuinely there rather than broadcast a foolish withdrawal plan based on political winds rather than reality, and let the whole thing spin completely out of control? We can only hope and pray for a better outcome than that which looks likely at this point.
And what is the Obama administration truly focusing on right now? Distracted drivers and map apps.
Priorities, you know.
There’s my two cents.