President Obama’s tough Iraq choice

President Obama facing domestic pressure and a relentless noise machine from the right has a difficult decision to make regarding reengaging in Iraq militarily. Whether or not you supported the initial decision to invade Iraq in 2003 (I actively protested the invasion) the fact is the United States by leading a coalition that invaded and destabilized the nation has a moral obligation to attempt to fix things in some manner.

Islamist activity was for all intents and purposes bottled up in Iraq prior to the ouster of Saddam Hussien whose secular Ba’athist regime included Christians at a very high level. Yet somehow, George W. Bush’s Administration was able to fool much of the world into believing Saddam had a link to Al-Qaeda and Islamic terror.

The deaths of close to 5,000 American servicemen were based on orchestrated attempts to spin minimal intelligence to justify war. The use of idealism to justify wars of choice that strengthened our enemies such as Iran and created a culture of knee-jerk intervention in the region has weakened America. At the same time, our security interests in other parts of the world have been neglected by both the Bush and Obama Administrations.

The willingness of the Bush Administration to suspend reality even several years into the Iraq War was never properly investigated by Congress. The role of war profiteers, military contractors and Iranian agents like Ahmed Chalibi in formulating American policy was never properly investigated in the then Republican majority Congress.

But today, Iraq is President Obama’s responsibility and he was undoubtedly caught flat-footed yet again in a major foreign policy crisis. The reactive nature of American foreign policy under President Obama has emboldened both Russia and China who represent the two greatest geopolitical threats to our economic security.

So what choices does President Obama have in this matter?

If the United States intervenes militarily to save a government that was installed under American occupation it might serve the purposes of Iran who have aided and befriended this government and while the ISIS militants want to impose a Caliphate it is possible that they might be anti-Russia or China if handled properly. But American credibility may demand strong military action because after all to paraphrase Colin Powell, “we broke it so we own it.” The credibility of the United States as an effective and proactive actor in foreign policy has been undermined by the second Bush term, and Obama’s Presidency.

Syrian President Assad crossed President Obama’s red line and faced belated and tepid consequences. Russia’s Vladimir Putin has pushed this White House around for five and half years culminating with the Annexation of the Crimea  and the alleged support given to militants in Ukraine.

While humanitarian considerations are important so are geopolitical ones. Can this Administration really afford not to act decisively in this matter?

CNN has laid out four options for intervention. They are all worth considering as are the two additional ones I am listing below.

One potential option might be to arm the Iraqi Government beat back ISIS  but then to force a logical partition of the nation along the lines that Vice President Joe Biden once advocated.

Another option might be to pivot towards opening relations with the ISIS  as awful as that might sound. We are already opening relations with the Taliban in Afghanistan as the Karzai Government has not only been heavily corrupted but has pivoted towards Russia in the recent months. Realpolitik might demand working with the rebels if we feel they have a good chance to govern some or all of Iraq (and Syria).

Only bad options are in front of the President. But he must take one of them decisively and show clear leadership. The credibility of the United States depends on it.

 

7 comments

  1. Let’s hear what he has to say. He’s about to speak.

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  2. Another round of thank yous to Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, John Bolton, Elliott Abrams, Richard Perle, Paul Bremer, Dan Seymour and the other neo-cons!

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  3. Obama only said red line because of the campaign. Would you have preferred he say otherwise and lose?

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  4. Concerned Democrat · ·

    Leave it alone!

    No more dead Americans!

    You don’t see the Russians and Chinese going to Iraq do you?

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  5. Let them fight it out.

    No more American blood for oil!

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  6. As always we really don’t have all the facts….but the Bush Administration brought us down to
    the lowest denominator……..the people must challenge Washington on every front…I’m
    with President on the one so far…..

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  7. This is the result of the U.S. sponsoring and supporting illiberal democracies, or what might be called, tyrannical majorities, run by authoritarian governments. When elections are prioritized over promoting freedom, liberty, institution building and power sharing in divided countries the result is the same (Yugoslavia, Egypt and Iraq, since 2005). When newly “freed” populations vote and hold up their fingers it creates a sugar rush of optimism; but it is a cruel illusion.

    This is not the author’s theory but that of Fareed Zakaria. A pattern he described in his 2003 book, “The Future of Freedom,” and warned could come to pass when the U.S. invaded Iraq. His warnings were ignored in favor of neo-conservative arguments that elections in Iraq would cure all.

    Zakaria argues the 2007 U.S. lead surge was a success because it included a power sharing agreement between the Shiite forces of Iraqi Prime Minster Maliki and the Sunnis. However, the deal never came to pass as, “(Maliki) reneged on all the deals that had been made, stopped paying the Sunni tribes and militias, and started persecuting key Sunni officials. Among those targeted were the vice president of Iraq and its finance minister.”

    Since this time, Zakaria reports, “The prime minister and his ruling party have behaved like thugs, excluding the Sunnis from power, using the army, police forces and militias to terrorize their opponents.”

    I am torn about what to do, but in no way want to see any U.S. boots on the ground.

    But consider the downside of providing major military assistance to the current Iraqi government. Malaki would have no reason to change.

    In addition, I wonder if this ISIS force is as omnipotent as it appears? The more cities they take the farther they will spread themselves, and the more difficult it will be to controlling the areas they have already “won.”

    The problem is neither the U.S. nor the Sunnis can trust Maliki. Unless he takes some genuine and sustainable power-sharing moves with the Sunni’s in the next 72 hours, he may be reduced to the Governor or Baghdad/Basara.

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