Back into Iraq
“It’s harder to end a war than begin one. Indeed, everything that American troops have done in Iraq – all the fighting and all the dying, the bleeding and the building, and the training and the partnering–all of it has led to this moment of success. Now, Iraq is not a perfect place. It has many challenges ahead. But we’re leaving behind a sovereign, stable and self-reliant Iraq, with a representative government that was elected by its people. We’re building a new partnership between our nations. And we are ending a war not with a final battle, but with a final march toward home. This is an extraordinary achievement, nearly nine years in the making.” – Barack Obama, December 14, 2011
Now that we’re going back into battle in Iraq, the mainstream media is going to memory-hole that quote. Reading it again today, I couldn’t help laughing at the arrogant, childish self-congratulation of the first sentence: “It’s harder to end a war than begin one.” At best, that’s a fortune-cookie platitude, and one that Obama obviously doesn’t take very seriously, given the absolute disaster he made of Libya. At worst, it was just the usual narcissism, with Obama patting himself on the back for doing the hard work of ending the war George Bush supposedly started so easily. I guess if you can make yourself forget everything that actually happened in 2001 and 2002, you can believe that Bush and his neocon cabal launched the invasion of Iraq on a lark.
Over the coming weeks, Obama supporters will have to make themselves forget a painfully obvious truth: this President did not “end the war” in Iraq. He made it worse. His feckless irresponsibility allowed the ISIS terrorists – who he once dismissed as the “junior varsity” of al-Qaeda – to sweep into Mosul with an absurdly small force that could have been repelled by the American military presence that should have been there, augmenting and directing the Iraqi troops. Obama was dead wrong about the Iraqis being “sovereign, stable, and self-reliant.” Everyone with actual knowledge of the facts on the ground warned him he was wrong, over and over again, but he didn’t listen, because he was so hungry for that “I ended George Bush’s war” sound bite.
Obama also ignored months of warnings about the impending genocide that has finally spurred him to action. He still doesn’t seem to care much about the ethnic cleansing of Iraqi Christians – I don’t believe he’s even directly addressed the matter in a speech – but the sight of 50,000 Yazidis slowly starving to death on the sun-baked slopes of a barren mountain, surrounded by a horde of bloodthirsty ISIS killers, was impossible for him to ignore. He dithered for days, but in the end, with global media starting to relay pictures of the trapped Yazidis and heart-wrenching footage of them pleading for help, Obama finally came off the golf course (fairly literally – he’s in the middle of taking yet another vacation) and authorized some humanitarian assistance, plus limited airstrikes to weaken ISIS.
It’s possible Obama’s hand was also forced by the stunning possibility that ISIS will overwhelm not only the Iraqi military, but also the Kurds, who had previously been seen as an effective fighting force that could keep the Islamic State away from their increasingly independent region. The Kurdish city of Irbil, which has a U.S. consulate, is now threatened, and Baghdad is still under the gun. The crisis Obama created in Iraq is spiraling so madly out of control that he doesn’t care what his anti-war voters think any more. He knows he can take them for granted anyway, because they’re not really anti-war – they were fine with him unilaterally beginning a war in Libya, and didn’t object when he tried to start one in Syria. They’re anti-Bush. It might given them a bit of a headache to hear their beloved President Obama explaining that yes, we do have interests in Iraq that must be protected with military force, but they’ll get over it.
The New York Times struggles mightily to keep the cocoon around its liberal readership intact:
In sending warplanes back into the skies over Iraq,President Obama on Thursday night found himself exactly where he did not want to be. Hoping to end the war in Iraq, Mr. Obama became the fourth president in a row to order military action in that graveyard of American ambition.
The mandate he gave to the armed forces was more limited than that of his predecessors, focused mainly on dropping food and water. But he also authorized targeted airstrikes “if necessary” against Islamic radicals advancing on the Kurdish capital of Erbil and others threatening to wipe out thousands of non-Muslims stranded on a remote mountaintop.
As he explained himself to a national television audience, Mr. Obama made a point of reassuring a war-weary public that the president who pulled American forces out of Iraq at the end of 2011 had no intention of fighting another full-scale war there. Yet his presence in the State Dining Room testified to the bleak reality that the tide of events in that ancient land have defied his predictions and aspirations before.
The tide of events “defied” Obama’s “predictions and aspirations?” Gosh, Iraq has let Obama down almost as much as America routinely does! Let me translate this gobbledygook into plain English for you: Barack Obama was wrong about everything. He was dead wrong about the condition of the Iraqi military, the threat posed by the ISIS terrorists he once held in contempt, the “decimation” of al-Qaeda following the death of Osama bin Laden (which only briefly demoralized them), and the possibility of containing the new terror state once Mosul fell to the invaders. He was wrong to say “no” when the Iraqi government begged him for air support to halt the initial wave of invaders from Syria. He was wrong about how a small group of special-forces troops could be sent in to stabilize the situation… there’s nothing about Iraq that Obama got right. And he had to ignore a lot of people who knew what they were talking about to get everything this wrong.
More from the Times, which is over-estimating the shock Obama felt at the strategic threat to the Kurds, and underestimating how much he just can’t afford to be seen as the guy who shot eighteen holes while genocide was conducted on-camera:
Aides said his hand was not forced until ISIS won a series of swift and stunning victories last weekend and Wednesday night against the Kurds in the north, who have been a loyal and reliable American ally, especially compared to the Baghdad government of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki. ISIS threats to wipe out Yazidis and other religious minorities trapped on Mount Sinjar, they said, added to the urgency.
“You don’t have to have a ton of insight to know he feels reluctant,” said Douglas Ollivant, a former Iraq adviser in the White House under Mr. Obama and President George W. Bush. “He wants the Iraq problem not to exist. And that’s exactly what the American people sent him to the White House to do.” But “all these factors may kind of drag him kicking and screaming into some kind of decision.”
He wants the Iraq problem to not exist. Every teenager on Earth has a list of things he wants not to exist. The American people didn’t send Kid Barack to the White House to squeeze his eyes shut and wish Iraq would go away. They believed him when he pretended to be a capable leader who had a unique rapport with people around the world. Remember how he was supposed to bring some great new “respect” to a world that George Bush had supposedly alienated? After six years of Obama, the harsh reality is that America’s allies see us as unreliable, while the world’s bad actors – from ISIS to Hamas, Vladimir Putin, and even tinpot operations like Boko Haram in Nigeria – view Obama as a figure of amusement, or a sucker to be shaken down.
To longtime opponents of the Iraq war, the president’s decision represented a step back down a dangerous path, one that may once again entangle the United States in a bloody and destructive venture. Far better, in their view, to find alternatives like urging the United Nations to help the Iraqis conduct their own humanitarian airdrop mission.
“Longtime opponents of the Iraq war” in this context means “blithering idiots.” You think the United Nations can protect the Yazidis, Iraqi Christians, and other persecuted groups from ISIS? What, are you going to leave the Yazidis sitting on that mountain for the rest of time in a permanent U.N. refugee camp, receiving daily airdrops of supplies… at least until ISIS develops the anti-air capability to shoot down the relief planes?
It never should have come to this. But now that we’re here, at least there have been some small airdrops of supplies to the stranded Yazidis – something the Pentagon spent all last night denying. And we’re back in battle, as the Defense Department announced on Twitter, rather than calling a traditional press conference:
US military aircraft conduct strike on ISIL artillery. Artillery was used against Kurdish forces defending Erbil, near US personnel.
— Rear Adm. John Kirby (@PentagonPresSec) August 8, 2014
I guess it’s a good thing Obama wasn’t able to get his authorization to use military force in Iraq rescinded – something he was working on just a few days ago.
Pity Obama didn’t have the leadership and vision to conduct some strikes on ISIS before they took Mosul, dug in, and became a threat that simply cannot be neutralized from safe altitude. I should think another lesson in the limits of airpower was unnecessary, but the appeal of bombing the bad guys into oblivion without boots on the ground remains strong. In this case, we can hope air strikes will weaken ISIS enough for the Kurds and Iraqis to counterattack, and that might get the Yazidis off the mountain, but neutralizing the new terror state is not going to be so easy. Among other problems, ISIS is now reportedly in control of the dams of Mosul, which means they can wipe out major cities – and put Baghdad under five feet of water – if they feel their backs are up against the wall.
Speaking for the U.N. Security Council, British ambassador Mark Lyall urged “all parties to stop human rights violations and abuses and ensure humanitarian access and facilitate the delivery of assistance to those fleeing the violence.” Well, ISIS is all about human rights violations. They tell the people in their captured territories to convert to Islam or die. They’ve murdered children. And now they have their own state. A thousand Security Council resolutions and Obama speeches will not convince them to give it up. This isn’t like the Gaza war (which just went hot again today) where Obama and his buffoonish Secretary of State, John Kerry, can pull a few photo ops and be seen lecturing the civilized side in a conflict with barbarians, to check off the “smart power” box, while the capable military forces of the civilized combatant take care of business. So back into Iraq we go, while Obama’s loyal supporters spin themselves into neck braces trying to explain why none of this is his fault.
Update: A little something to add to your bulging “Mitt Romney Was Right” files, courtesy of the Barack Obama Twitter feed, October 22 2012:
FACT: President Obama kept his promise to end the war in Iraq. Romney called the decision to bring our troops home “tragic.”
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) October 22, 2012