The next move in Iraq

The Associated Press brings us the prelude to the big Saigon moment coming up in Iraq:

Officials say three planeloads of Americans are being evacuated from a major Iraqi air base in Sunni territory north of Baghdad to escape potential threats from a fast-moving insurgency.

A current U.S. official and a former senior Obama administration official say that means the American training mission at the air field in Balad has been grounded indefinitely.

Twelve U.S. personnel who were stationed at Balad were the first to be evacuated. Several hundred American contractors are still waiting to leave.

They have been training Iraqi forces to use fighter jets and surveillance drones.

If the security of that base cannot be guaranteed, then early evacuation is a good idea, because the army marching on Baghdad is as savage as the five Taliban leaders Barack Obama just released from Gitmo.  The UK Daily Mail has some more details about the festival of head-chopping I mentioned yesterday:

The full horror of the jihadists??? savage victories in Iraq emerged yesterday as witnesses told of streets lined with decapitated soldiers and policemen.

Blood-soaked bodies and blazing vehicles were left in the wake of the Al Qaeda-inspired ISIS fanatics as they pushed the frontline towards Baghdad.

They boasted about their triumphs in a propaganda video depicting appalling scenes including a businessman being dragged from his car and executed at the roadside with a pistol to the back of his head.

[…] In the swathe of captured territory across northern Iraq, ISIS declared hardline Sharia law, publishing rules ordering women not to go outside ???unless strictly necessary???, banning alcohol and smoking, and forcing all residents to attend mosques five times a day. BBC correspondent Paul Wood said one woman from Mosul, Iraq???s second city, had spoken of seeing a ???row of decapitated soldiers and policemen???.

The refugee woman told how the victims??? heads were placed in rows ??? a trademark, trophy-style execution favoured by ISIS militants.

The Associated Press describes an ISIS propaganda video, “set to sweetly lilting religious hymms,” in which “Islamic militants are shown knocking on the door of a Sunni police major in the dead of night in an Iraqi city. When he answers, they blindfold and cuff him. Then they carve off his head with a knife in his own bedroom.”  But that’s just part of the hour-long video:

Besides the scene of the beheading of the Sunni police major in Salaheddin province, the video includes footage of drive-by shootings of off-duty security personnel and the killings of captured army soldiers. In one scene, fighters masquerading as soldiers set up a checkpoint on a main highway, stopped cars and killed Shiites and security personnel by the side of the road.

In another horrifying scene, fighters abduct a Sahwa commander along with his two sons. They are forced to dig their own graves in the desert before their throats are slit.

“I advise whoever is with the Sahwa to repent and quit,” the commander says to the camera. “Here I am digging my grave with my own hands. … They can get to anyone.”

The Daily Mail also mentions that “members of Saddam’s old guard were joining the insurrection,” with leftover Baathist loyalists “actively supporting the rebels.”  This will add fuel to the new narrative spreading through the Middle East: Just be patient, and you’ll beat America every time.  They’ll never win a victory that the next left-wing President can’t throw away.

Since Baghdad represents all the marbles for the Iraq government and the Shiite Muslim population, it’s not surprising that they’re gearing up for more of a fight.  “Citizens who are able to bear arms and fight terrorists, defending their country and their people and their holy places, should volunteer and join the security forces to achieve this holy purpose,” announced the highly influential Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani.  A sober strategic analysis of the ISIS invasion would suggest that deliberately threatening Shiite holy sites wasn’t their most cost-effective move, given the way it will put rifles in the hands of so many Iraqis who might otherwise have stayed away from the front lines.  But of course, ISIS strategic analysis isn’t sober.

There have been reports of successful counter-strikes in Saddam Hussein’s birthplace of Tikrit, with the Iraqi government assisted by special-forces troops from Shiite Iran.  There’s another great lesson the world is learning: America is a dangerous and unreliable ally.  They’ll ask you to stick your neck out for them, but bail on you after they lose interest, or if today’s ruling American political party wants to discredit the achievements of their predecessors.

As the grown-ups have been trying to explain to President Obama and his childlike followers, sitting back and watching Iraq fall into the embrace of Greater Iran – soon to have its own nuclear umbrella – is not a winning strategy for the West.  You may have already noticed the price of oil shooting up because of the current conflict.  You don’t wan’t either the al-Qaeda offshoot ISIS, or the Shiite fanatics in Iran, to control Iraq.  Another dangerous lesson for both enemies and allies around the world is: America has no long-term strategic vision.  Everything is about short-term domestic political maneuvering with them.  And their feuding domestic political wings can be more interested in defeating each other than in protecting their national interests.  All the world is a stage for their Sunday talk-show arguments.

Taken together, these dangerous lessons will inflict generational damage on American foreign policy – the true legacy of Barack Obama, mixed with a combination of economic weakness, bitter divisiveness, and growing dependency on an insolvent government that have made talk of American sunset and the post-American world widespread.  We’re not coming back from Obama any time soon, my fellow Americans, even if his successor is one of the greatest Presidents in history… because friends and enemies alike understand that the next Obama could be coming right after that.  It’s an inherent problem representative governments will always face in global affairs, but he wise representative government seeks to limit the problem, not install irresponsible leaders who spend most of their time golfing and fundraising, and excuse their failures by sending flacks to tell the American people the President is as surprised and angry about everything that happens as they are.

So what’s the next move in Iraq?  Well, the best move would have been electing someone else as President in 2012, because just about all of Obama’s opponents understood what he did not: timing is everything in foreign affairs.  Obama figures what the hell, let everything go, pander to my infantile base, and we’ll put out the fires when they happen.  But prudent measures taken sooner – such as securing the status-of-forces agreement in Iraq that everyone other than Obama understood was crucial – mean you don’t have to take desperate measures against raging wildfire crises after they take over the evening newscasts.

The White House is said to be considering airstrikes… which the Iraqis wanted a month ago, when they could have made more of a difference.  Obama didn’t listen, because he was protecting his domestic political narrative of “ending the war in Iraq.”  It’s highly unlikely that the American people are going to want “boots on the ground” again, a step the White House is currently ruling out.  But if our embassy in Baghdad is about to be overrun, what then?  And if ISIS is repelled by Iraqi forces with Iranian help, it will be remembered that Iran was willing to put “boots on the ground.”

Sit back and watch the Sunni and Shia tear each other to shreds?  That might sound appealing to Obama’s child-constituents, who can easily forget about the strategic interests at stake in Iraq… but the human cost of that strategy would be staggering, paid largely by civilians caught in the crossfire.  It’s one thing to say that two hostile military forces should be left to sort things off, and it would be great if they could both lose.  But the world will take note of Americans blithely consigning civilians to a meat grinder and blaming the whole thing on people who have been out of office for six years.  That’s not who we are supposed to be, and there is a very small chance that the end result of indulging such an al-Qaeda vs. Iran beatdown would be both al-Qaeda and Iran emerging weaker.  

Does anyone think ISIS will be spending the hundreds of millions of dollars in cash and equipment they’ve seized entirely inside Iraq – perhaps “building schools, building roads, building infrastructure, building day-care facilities,” as Democrat Senator Patty Murray once claimed Osama bin Laden spent his fortune?  Flash-forward a few years, and it’s easy to imagine the anguished editorials asking why nobody stopped these savages before they were able to build a caliphate across the Middle East, and turn their energies against Western targets.

All the choices from here on out are pretty bad… because Obama foolishly threw away the good choices.  Once again, this Administration claims to be utterly blindsided by events.  It’s amazing that we didn’t have better intelligence on ISIS while it was incubating in Syria… a battlefield where Obama wanted to intervene on their behalf.  But we could have gotten a better response than what we’ve seen if the Administration was merely reading the newspapers over the past six months, as the invaders of Iraq gathered their forces.  (Figurative) heads should be rolling across Washington over this; Senator John McCain is quite right to call for the resignation of Obama’s national security team, and the American people really should be calling for more than that.

Iraq veteran Pete Hegseth, now CEO of Concerned Veterans of America, says there is “universal, utter dismay and anger from veterans and those who’ve served, to see what’s unfolding before our eyes in Iraq.  It’s one of the greatest foreign policy failures in a long time.  To see the progress we made and then watch it be given away is dismaying.  The implications strategically are vast. I mean, we were so close. We were creating the conditions for a stable and strong and freer Iraq, not a perfect one but one that would at least protect America???s interests and ensure radicals were not able to find safe harbor there.”

“This administration was more obsessed with ending the war than winning it or being successful,??? charges Hegseth. ???As a result, now we???ve turned the page and looked away from Iraq, and insurgents have taken advantage of it.”  I spent years listening to the anti-war (really, anti-Bush, since they vanished the instant he was gone, and most of them had nothing to say about Obama’s unilateral war in Libya) crowd proclaim their enduring love and respect for the soldiers fighting in Iraq, so I assume Hegseth’s words will carry a great deal of weight with them.  Or am I giving them too much credit for integrity?

We should also demand, on a bipartisan basis – looking back on an unfortunate history stretching back for decades, under both Republican and Democrat administrations – that the United States begin exercising better quality control over its client governments.  If we’re going to spend billions propping a leader up, we should demand higher-quality leadership than what Nouri al-Maliki provided Iraq, or Hamid Karzai in Afghanistan, or Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, and so forth.

So while the blubbering infants of the Left hug each other and whisper fantasies about how it’s all okay, Obama defeated “core” al-Qaeda so these guys don’t really count as al-Qaeda, and it’s all George Bush’s fault anyway, the monsters of the world smile and think: Such people are easily defeated.  Foreign policy is about influencing events that cannot be directly and instantly controlled.  Future attempts at influence are greatly diminished when both friendly and unfriendly states come to the conclusions they will be drawing from Obama’s bungling in Iraq, Syria, Libya, Ukraine, Egypt, and everywhere else.  That’s especially unfortunate for those who hope to conduct our global affairs without violence, which I think is most of us.  In a world full of predators, only the friendly lion – loyal, honorable, benevolent, and fierce – knows peace.