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.