Decision Time Again in Iraq

 

640px-IS_insurgents,_Anbar_Province,_IraqLast September, President Obama announced to the world that the United States would “degrade and ultimately destroy” the Islamic State. Though Congress never approved a new Authorization for the Use of Military Force as Obama requested, their relative inaction until now — coupled with the Administration’s belief that such an authorization is not actually required — has served as a de facto, if reluctant, endorsement.

That mission does not appear to be going well. Despite enduring a limited American air campaign, losing most of its infrastructure and industry, and goading most of the region into declaring war against it, the Islamic State seems hardly degraded let alone destroyed. And while it’s worth noting that Baghdad’s immanent collapse has been erroneously predicted before, it’s hard to spin the fall of Ramadi as anything other than very serious and very bad news.

The United States made a very public and very clear promise to destroy the Islamic State and protect Iraq. Whether or not this was a good decision — and who is to blame for the circumstances that precipitated it — is an important matter for another day. On the assumption that an air campaign is not up to the task, the question for today is whether the costs and risks of fulfilling this mission outweigh the costs in the loss of honor, trust, and fear in either continuing our half-hearted efforts, or just giving up and making a cut-and-run.

America’s martial history is far from perfect and our reputation has its share of blemishes, from which it’s mostly recovered. But given that our history with Iraq goes back 24 years — and involves three separate conflicts presided over by three separate presidents — its falling into the hands of some of the worst butchers in the world after we’d made promises of protection will be a hard one to recover from.

The world is watching: not only our enemies, but also our friends.

Image Credit: “IS insurgents, Anbar Province, Iraq” by Islamic State (IS) – http://securityobserver.org/the-islamic-states-road-to-becoming-a-caliphate/. Via Wikipedia.

Published in Foreign Policy, Politics
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  1. Ryan M Member
    Ryan M
    @RyanM

    hah!  I had forgotten all about that line.  “Degrade” is a perfect Obama word, since it really cannot be proven in the negative.  It’s his “jobs created or saved” in foreign policy terms.

    • #1
  2. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    They are taunting us.

    My suspicious nature makes me wonder what devious plot they may be working on. It is unlike them to be aimless. The IS must have an end game in mind. We need to know what that is before we try to do anything. I keep thinking they are trying to pull us into Iraq to distract our attention from something else they are doing.

    We have to do something about Ramadi. For a million reasons.

    • #2
  3. user_86050 Inactive
    user_86050
    @KCMulville

    Obama has a history of distrusting the military, so I’m inclined to see his refusal to fight as a problem of his own making. But I honestly don’t know what the top brass of the military is telling him. Most of the military leaders who have left  – guys like Stanley McChrystal and Jack Keane and Bob Gates – have harsh words for the current administration’s efforts. Then again, the people who have replaced the former leadership are mostly Obama-picked or Obama-approved officers, so who knows what they’re telling him?  What do you say to a military when they kill a top ISIS commander on the same day that Ramadi falls? Is this a good military or not? Or is this a good military that’s misfiring?

    Probably the first question I’d ask is whether we can defeat ISIS in the first place.

    • #3
  4. Herbert E. Meyer Contributor
    Herbert E. Meyer
    @HerbertEMeyer

    Tom is asking precisely the right question: What should we be doing, NOW, about Iraq. This is the question that reporters should be asking all the candidates for president, in both parties. We need to know what these individuals would do today, not what they might have done back in 2003.

    My response to Tom’s question is that it’s in our national interest to exterminate ISIS. Our military could do this in no-time-flat,and with a minimum of casualties, if only we would remove the so-called rules of engagement that have hobbled our soldiers for years. Why should we exterminate ISIS? Because an instable Mideast eventually — always — winds up with an attack on us. Because this string of ISIS victories encourages lunatics around the world, including in the US, to launch their own attacks in our cities. Because the world needs to see that the US hasn’t lost its nerve, and its ability to fight. And, finally, because we owe it to the men and women who gave their lives to take control of Iraq.

    • #4
  5. Ryan M Member
    Ryan M
    @RyanM

    Herbert E. Meyer:Tom is asking precisely the right question: What should we be doing, NOW, about Iraq.This is the question that reporters should be asking all the candidates for president, in both parties.We need to know what these individuals would do today, not what they might have done back in 2003.

    Are there any actual reporters?  I think we have a fantasy about media and they fail to live up to it.  Those days of “Foreign Correspondent” are long gone, I think.  Hopefully not permanently, though.

    That’s why I’d like to see more republican hopefulls actually grace the pages of Ricochet (or at least read them).  We do ask important questions, I think.

    • #5
  6. Western Chauvinist Member
    Western Chauvinist
    @WesternChauvinist

    I’m still at the pointing fingers and laughing sardonically phase. Can we get the administration and Obama voters to acknowledge he didn’t “end the war in Iraq?”

    C’mon. Give us a little somethin’ before we have to bail your disastrous policy positions out — again!

    • #6
  7. tbeck Inactive
    tbeck
    @Dorothea

    It seems to me that the ISIS “victory” parade the day after the fall of Ramadi was a target-rich environment for US airstrikes. I am puzzled why our military leaders did not take advantage of this mass gathering. Trying to keep city buildings intact should the Iraqi government retake the city?

    • #7
  8. CuriousKevmo Member
    CuriousKevmo
    @CuriousKevmo

    Herbert E. Meyer:My response to Tom’s question is that it’s in our national interest to exterminate ISIS.Our military could do this in no-time-flat,and with a minimum of casualties, if only we would remove the so-called rules of engagement that have hobbled our soldiers for years.Why should we exterminate ISIS?Because an instable Mideast eventually — always — winds up with an attack on us.Because this string of ISIS victories encourages lunatics around the world, including in the US, to launch their own attacks in our cities.Because the world needs to see that the US hasn’t lost its nerve, and its ability to fight.And, finally, because we owe it to the men and women who gave their lives to take control of Iraq.

    I may well agree with you Herbert, but this would take the kind of leadership that I’m not sure we have anymore.  I reckon the public would be dead set against putting more Americans on the ground in Iraq.  To do so means making a very strong case that it is the right thing to do, and then following through despite no doubt relentless criticism.

    I’m just not sure we have anyone with the strength to do that anymore.  Certainly not Obama and his crowd.

    I suspect the can will get kicked further down the road.

    • #8
  9. FloppyDisk90 Member
    FloppyDisk90
    @FloppyDisk90

    And while it’s worth noting that Baghdad’s immanent collapse has been erroneously predicted before, it’s hard to spin the fall of Ramadi as anything other thanvery serious and very bad news.

    The interventionist interpretation of this is that it was a temporary set back, the IA is fighting bravely and they will retake the lost portions of Iraq within a year.  Link.  Link.

    • #9
  10. Nick Stuart Inactive
    Nick Stuart
    @NickStuart

    CuriousKevmo:

    I reckon the public would be dead set against putting more Americans on the ground in Iraq. To do so means making a very strong case that it is the right thing to do, and then following through despite no doubt relentless criticism.

    I’m dead set against putting more Americans on the ground in Iraq because the majority of the American public currently have what they voted for, twice. The majority of the American public is completely unwilling to face the bloody arithmetic of the inevitable collateral damage that would be caused; or pay the price in American blood and treasure to do what should be done, exterminate ISIS.

    If Obama and the geldings he’s now got in place in the upper echelons of civilian and military leadership do anything, it will be only for show (like sending troops to Liberia to fight Ebola). They’ll try to half-a$$ it, and it will end up being a gigantic cluster-up that they’ll blame on George W. Bush, or climate change, or Republicans in congress.

    Doing nothing will yield a terrible result, but it will be the least worst alternative.

    • #10
  11. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    Herbert E. Meyer:Tom is asking precisely the right question: What should we be doing, NOW, about Iraq.This is the question that reporters should be asking all the candidates for president, in both parties.We need to know what these individuals would do today, not what they might have done back in 2003.

    Hear hear.

    My response to Tom’s question is that it’s in our national interest to exterminate ISIS.Our military could do this in no-time-flat,and with a minimum of casualties, if only we would remove the so-called rules of engagement that have hobbled our soldiers for years.

    America has always had overwhelming military superiority – but it’s self defeating to exterminate ISIS in such a manner as to cause something similar to rise up in its place.  Hence the rules of engagement.

    Perhaps quixotic and unrealistic, given the circumstances, but they have a strategic purpose.

    • #11
  12. Steve C. Member
    Steve C.
    @user_531302

    I find the lack of real information causes me to hesitate in supporting any course of action that involves direct action by U.S. main combat units. Our carefully constructed Iraqi Army appears to be failing. But I don’t know if it’s a lack of will, skill, logistics or leadership. I have yet to see or read an analysis that gets beyond slogans and sensationalism. I fear it is a lost cause.

    • #12
  13. user_656019 Coolidge
    user_656019
    @RayKujawa

    The current situation is the fault of bad leadership under Nouri al-Maliki. He lost the confidence to be the leader of all Iraqis when he turned on the Sunnis. But our current oval office occupant also has some responsibility for not making a better case for preserving an American presence in this volatile region.

    Making pronouncements is easy. Was there any acceptance of fault in the prior position from our president? I doubt he would willingly and publicly accept responsibility for his previous short-sightedness. Is this one sided? What commitments have the Iraqis made? Has Iran made any commitments? Iran seems to be playing both sides of the fence. While they offer assistance (which hasn’t been of much help in the current circumstance), are they continuing to fund terror organizations? It’s difficult to know whom we can trust in this part of the world. After liberating Iraq from the leash of Saddam, we were expecting Iraq to have a close relationship with the United States. There is blame enough to go around.

    • #13
  14. tbeck Inactive
    tbeck
    @Dorothea

    Ray Kujawa:The current situation is the fault of bad leadership under Nouri al-Maliki. He lost the confidence to be the leader of all Iraqis when he turned on the Sunnis. But our current oval office occupant also has some responsibility for not making a better case for preserving an American presence in this volatile region.

    Making pronouncements is easy. Was there any acceptance of fault in the prior position from our president? I doubt he would willingly and publicly accept responsibility for his previous short-sightedness. Is this one sided? What commitments have the Iraqis made? Has Iran made any commitments? Iran seems to be playing both sides of the fence. While they offer assistance (which hasn’t been of much help in the current circumstance), are they continuing to fund terror organizations? It’s difficult to know whom we can trust in this part of the world. After liberating Iraq from the leash of Saddam, we were expecting Iraq to have a close relationship with the United States. There is blame enough to go around.

    They have already murdered the Christians and others in Iraq. Now we are waiting to see how much the Sunni and Shia hate each other. Let’s hope someone, somewhere sheltered the Christians and others.

    • #14
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