Time to leave Iraq—for good

The Iraq War has been America’s longest: it’s been eleven years since we invaded, based on trumped-up accusations, in 2003.  Iraq Body Count estimates the number of violent deaths, including those of combatants, at 188,000. It’s only June 14, and already 758 civilians have been killed. Official estimates of American military casualties are 4,489 killed and 32,021 wounded.

Have all those deaths, and all the misery attending them, accomplished anything? It would be hard to say anything but “no”. The militant Muslim group ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria), so extreme that it’s been disowned by al Qaeda, has captured Mosul, and is moving rapidly on Baghdad.  And what happened in Mosul—the immediate imposition of sharia law, including the veiling of all women, and the prohibition of all religions save Islam—will happen everywhere.  In the end, the country will become a Muslim theocracy, unstable, impoverished, and a launching pad for worldwide terrorism.

Right now Obama is pondering military action: not the incursion of new troops, but drone strikes. There’s even talk of a US alliance with Iran, which would threaten another disastrous clash between Iran and Iraq.

Nothing can be accomplished by further American military action in Iraq. Drones won’t stop ISIS, nor will the unmotivated troops and police of al-Maliki’s government. Iraq will become a medieval religious state, there will be more battles between Sunnis and Shiites, and women will go back into veiled oppression.

It’s time for us to leave—for good. Let us leave that country to its own destruction—something for which we’re partly responsible. We’ve lost nearly 5,000 citizens (and killed many Iraqi civilians) in a cause as futile as that of Vietnam. It’s time to declare victory and get out. If you have a better solution, by all means suggest it.

I’ve seen two Vietnams in my lifetime, and that’s enough.

208 Comments

  1. Posted June 14, 2014 at 9:20 am | Permalink

    The McCain’s and Graham’s over the world are totally fine with the idea of perpetual war, extremely scary. http://wp.me/p4oODX-1D

    • M. Elwood
      Posted June 14, 2014 at 10:43 am | Permalink

      McCain also thought Sarah Palin would make a good VP of the USA. Say no more.

      • Posted June 14, 2014 at 4:13 pm | Permalink

        My theory is that Sarah Palin was imposed on McCain to ensure that he would not win, so as to leave the Bush disaster (both home and abroad) to a Democrat president on whom they could later put the blame.

        • Merilee
          Posted June 14, 2014 at 4:40 pm | Permalink

          Your Sarah Pee theory has some kind of logic.

        • Marella
          Posted June 14, 2014 at 5:17 pm | Permalink

          I have seen nothing to suggest that McCain’s decision making abilities would preclude his actually choosing that crazy woman to be VP. I also don’t believe that Republicans would ever voluntarily relinquish power, under any circumstances.

          • John Scanlon, FCD
            Posted June 14, 2014 at 11:29 pm | Permalink

            But surely such decisions are made by the owners, not the performers? Since Obama is clearly owned by the same team, vierotchka’s theory seems likely enough.

        • Richard C
          Posted June 14, 2014 at 6:57 pm | Permalink

          Don’t assume nefarious plots when ordinary incompetence is just as likely. People don’t intentionally throw their only chance at becoming the next President of the United States.

          She was chosen to contrast Obama’s popularity with younger voters (who up until now the Republican Party hadn’t had to deal with). McCain went along with it with the flair and class of that guy who shows up at a high school don’t-do-drugs talk with a boogie board, knickers, and a backwards-facing cap because that’s what the young’uns are into nowadays.

          • Posted June 14, 2014 at 7:39 pm | Permalink

            Besides, McCain really is that short-sightedly opportunistic, cynical, and stupid. His positions demonstrate more variability and variety than Jerry’s footwear….

            b&

        • Carlos del Solar
          Posted June 14, 2014 at 8:52 pm | Permalink

          They chose Sarah Palin to re-energize the batshit religious crazy republican base, who considered McCain “not conservative enough”. And they succeeded at it, at the cost of pushing away independent voters.

  2. Barry Lyons
    Posted June 14, 2014 at 9:21 am | Permalink

    I have nothing to add to this.

  3. Stephen Barnard
    Posted June 14, 2014 at 9:25 am | Permalink

    What’s really shocking is that people like John McCain, who were wrong about every aspect of the war (WMDs, greeted as liberators, easy victory, Sunni and Shia will get along fine, etc.), are being taken seriously now.

    • francis
      Posted June 14, 2014 at 9:31 am | Permalink

      …the middle east has been fighting and killing for thousands of years; nothing new here.

    • Nathan Teegarden
      Posted June 14, 2014 at 10:10 am | Permalink

      That’s how Washington works now – only your credentials matter, not your track record.

      • merilee
        Posted June 14, 2014 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

        But what the hell ARE those “credentials”? This whole thing is very disturbing. Let us stay away away away. Mission Accomplished—yeah, right…

    • ascanius
      Posted June 14, 2014 at 11:26 am | Permalink

      Future Babble: Why Expert Predictions Fail – and Why We Believe Them Anyway
      by Dan Gardner

  4. eveysolara
    Posted June 14, 2014 at 9:32 am | Permalink

    Hopefully they are content with just conquering the north

    • Posted June 14, 2014 at 9:40 am | Permalink

      Except how many extremist Islamist groups are ever content with just a part of one country?

    • Posted June 14, 2014 at 11:23 am | Permalink

      They are moving on to Baghdad now. So they will likely fracture the country into two regions, as I doubt they can take all of it. They may not be successful in taking Baghdad. Hope I am right.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted June 14, 2014 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

      Hopefully they are content with just conquering the north

      That would be the religious meaning of “hope” – i.e. probability zero.
      I’m just hoping that my college mate Stef got out alive.

    • Kevin Alexander
      Posted June 14, 2014 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

      Their aim is to ‘restore the Caliphate’ I put that in quotes because there never was a single caliphate. Like most religions it’s based on a fantasy past world that we have to kill any number of people to ‘restore’
      You don’t really think the they will stop before they get the holy city of Mecca?

      • Jeffery
        Posted June 14, 2014 at 9:01 pm | Permalink

        Therein lies the “rub”- of COURSE they will eventually try to take the “holy city”; Saudi Arabia being our “ally”, we will no doubt be sucked into that one, too…..

  5. Posted June 14, 2014 at 9:35 am | Permalink

    Colonialism practices imposed on regions with highly desired natural resourses results in vast wealth for a paltry few invaders, an enhanced standard of living to some degree virtually immediately for colonial societies (negative qualifiers too numerous to list, of course), both at the immediate expense of populations in exploited regions (with the obvious exception of bribed indigenous facilitators), and maybe/maybe not economic/societal improvements down the road for the indigenous.

    None of the locals who end up fucked as a result ever asked for or in any way deserved it. Few engineers of exploitation ever answer for their deeds, either.

    • Posted June 14, 2014 at 9:43 am | Permalink

      I notice right away I wish I’d added that while the autocrat who engineers disaster’s like Iraq may never personally suffer from outcomes he precipitates, and wealth he passes to his family may also insulate them from repercussion, it is not unknown for the remainder of the population who lives in the society he lists as a residence (even as he typically evades paying taxes to, but depends upon the military services of [I will not up with criticism of where to place prepositions put]) to experience blowback. I know that’s a difficult sentence to read, but too damned bad.

    • Kevin Alexander
      Posted June 14, 2014 at 3:31 pm | Permalink

      Nice to know that Cheney et al will die peacefully atop their mattresses stuffed with money.

  6. Mark Joseph
    Posted June 14, 2014 at 9:37 am | Permalink

    For what it’s worth, there’s an on-line petition to sign here, which already has 46K+ signatures, including mine.

    • susan freiman
      Posted June 14, 2014 at 10:03 am | Permalink

      Mine, too. Thanks for posting the petition.

      • Mark Joseph
        Posted June 14, 2014 at 11:47 am | Permalink

        My pleasure.

        I do, however, have a question for the collective wisdom of this website. Does anyone know of any research that’s been done into the effectiveness, if any, of on-line petitions such as the ones at change.org? I’d be very interested in knowing if they actually accomplish anything, or if it just more electronic noise or, worse, just a way of helping people feel as if they’ve done something when they really haven’t.

        This sounds like a doctoral thesis just waiting to happen!

        • Nathan Teegarden
          Posted June 14, 2014 at 11:56 am | Permalink

          I don’t know about that particular petition, but many of them are set up to automatically send an email to your representative and senators when you sign. Constituent communication with congress people does have some influence, although obviously not as much influence as a fat campaign contribution.

  7. Cathy Anne
    Posted June 14, 2014 at 9:38 am | Permalink

    Sub to comments

  8. Posted June 14, 2014 at 9:41 am | Permalink

    A minor point–we began the invasion of Afghanistan on October 7, 2001, and that of Iraq on March 20, 2003. So by that count, at least, Afghanistan would count as our longest war.

    Which is not to ignore our presence in the area since Desert Shield/Desert Storm in 1991…and can it really be said that we ever left?

    In any case, Jerry is absolutely correct. The hardest thing can be to admit a bad job when one is responsible for having caused the problem in the first place. But it’s long past time for us to “stop helping.” Yes, the long dark night of Islam in general, and sharia in particular, will be horrible for the people, and especially the women. But–and this will sound quite insensitive, especially since we made it much worse–so what?

    These people are determined to have their eighth century back, and there is NO WAY to stop them from getting it. It’s time to stop helping, and let them have it.

    Iraq is lost. No surprise to anyone who paid attention to Vietnam. The better question, having had yet another opportunity to learn the lesson…will it change our behavior in Mexico/Honduras/Guatamala/El Salvador/Colombia/Venezuela/etc?

    • Posted June 14, 2014 at 11:13 am | Permalink

      The ISIS never had significant support from the Iraqi and Syrian people. They are not a grassroots movement, but an intensely hierarchical state that fights against anyone and everyone they see as competition.

    • gluonspring
      Posted June 14, 2014 at 11:50 am | Permalink

      “The hardest thing can be to admit a bad job when one is responsible for having caused the problem in the first place.”

      Given the twin human defects of hubris and honoring sunk costs it’s a wonder there is ever a break in the unending war.

  9. Posted June 14, 2014 at 9:44 am | Permalink

    I think there is a case for protecting the Kurds, we owe some responsibility to them. How that happens I don’t know.

    • wiseape108
      Posted June 14, 2014 at 10:57 am | Permalink

      Our NATO ally to the north – Turkey – would not thanks us for arming or training the Kurds.

      • Filippo
        Posted June 14, 2014 at 4:55 pm | Permalink

        Nor does that ally want to hear the word “Armenian.”

    • Posted June 14, 2014 at 11:26 am | Permalink

      I think the Kurds will hold their own. Their fighters will not just change uniforms and run away.

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted June 14, 2014 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

        Besides, since Iran has a substantial Kurdish province and people within their own borders (thanks to the utterly botched post-WW1 carve up of the Ottoman Empire), I suspect that they’re figuring that they can kill one ahd a half stones with one bird : after the inevitable massacres during the war, they can invade to get a considerably larger Kurdish problem and considerably increased oil reserves (not that they need that) AND get some “we protected Iraqi Kurds from infidel Western mis-handling” kudos too”. Which might make managing their Kurdish problem easier.

        • E. Bethlenfalvy
          Posted June 14, 2014 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

          Iran didn’t get Ottoman territory after WW I.

  10. Posted June 14, 2014 at 9:46 am | Permalink

    We could, as a small gesture of goodwill, round up the neocons and ship them over there in shackles, and leave them to the sharia courts. Not much of a positive solution to anything happening now… but perhaps it would count for something.

    • Mark Joseph
      Posted June 14, 2014 at 11:48 am | Permalink

      It wouldn’t help over there. But it would help here a great deal.

  11. rodgerma
    Posted June 14, 2014 at 9:58 am | Permalink

    I agree, although I think “—something for which we’re partly responsible.” is an understatement.

  12. boggy
    Posted June 14, 2014 at 10:09 am | Permalink

    Don’t forget the involvement of Tony Blair on-time prime minister of the UK and a Catholic convert. He it was who brown-nosed Dubya and lied about weapons of mass destruction.

    • boggy
      Posted June 14, 2014 at 10:10 am | Permalink

      Sorry, should be one-time pM

      • reasonshark
        Posted June 14, 2014 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

        Oh God, yeah. Blair’s involvement was and is an disgrace for many of us British citizens, and I wish the country had never voted him into power in the first place. The UK should never have gotten involved in the USA’s oversized witch-hunt.

  13. Nathan Teegarden
    Posted June 14, 2014 at 10:10 am | Permalink

    “And what happened in Mosul—the immediate imposition of sharia law, including the veiling of all women, and the prohibition of all religions save Islam—will happen everywhere. ”

    You know where else this is happening? Brunei. But for some reason John McCain isn’t clamoring for military action against Brunei.

    • Posted June 14, 2014 at 11:33 am | Permalink

      Brunei isn’t trying to militarily expand. It does not make enemies with every political entity it comes into contact with. It has some degree of economic freedom.

      http://www.doingbusiness.org/data/exploreeconomies/brunei/

      • Nathan Teegarden
        Posted June 14, 2014 at 11:41 am | Permalink

        Not sure how that’s relevant, especially the economic freedom part.

        • Posted June 14, 2014 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

          It’s very relevant. The Japanese empire would have been much less dangerous were it not trying to expand.

          The ISIS is not open to foreign investment. This guarantees impoverishment for the vast majority of the people in its territory. Brunei is a first world country.

  14. ashdevra
    Posted June 14, 2014 at 10:13 am | Permalink

    Whatever happens will be the will of allah.

    If these muslims butcher millions of muslims it will be the will of allah

    If muslims live in a 10,000 year self imposed dark ages praying 5 times a day with each man enjoying the services of 5 bagged up female chattel breeders it will be the will of allah

    allah takes care of his own chosen people

  15. Posted June 14, 2014 at 10:16 am | Permalink

    I agree that we shouldn’t get involved anymore. This has the potential to get very ugly and possibly ignite another civil war. However, I don’t see how ISIS could end up taking over all or even most of Iraq, since Iraq is majority Shiite(65%), while ISIS/Al Qaeda and its affiliates are Sunni extremists. The Iraqi government is controlled by Shiites who are close allies of Shiite Iran. Iran will do everything it can to help boost the Shiite government in Baghdad, with weapons and advisors, or maybe direct military involvement.

    Mosul is mostly Sunni, which may explain why ISIS found it easy to take over. I don’t see them making much headway in Shiite majority areas, where a combination of both the admittedly inept Iraqi army and fanatical Shiite militias will confront them and drive them out. Even a fairly large number of Iraqi Sunnis are against ISIS. The formidable Kurdish militias are also anti-ISIS.

    At least this is how I see things, though I am not an expert. I mean, look at neighboring Syria. It is majority Sunni, and even the Sunni extremists/ISIS have trouble holding on to any territory for long. The government of Syria is Alawite(10% of population), an offshoot of Shiite Islam, and it appears they have won the civil war.

    I just hope the U.S doesn’t get involved in this mess.

    • Bob Carlson
      Posted June 14, 2014 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

      The Iraqi government is controlled by Shiites who are close allies of Shiite Iran.

      In an opinion piece posted on June 12 (there are presently 4928 comments!), Fareed Zakaria points out that Maliki is beholden to Iran, where he lived in exile for 24 years. He discusses the fact that Iran demanded that Maliki not allow US forces to remain in Iraq.

  16. Posted June 14, 2014 at 10:17 am | Permalink

    “The person who is certain, and who claims divine warrant for his certainty, belongs now to the infancy of our species.” Christopher Hitchens

    • Posted June 14, 2014 at 10:22 am | Permalink

      It’s a fine quote from a great mind. But an ironic source, considering the topic at hand and the fact that the Hitch was a vocal supporter of our unfortunate little adventure in Iraq.

      • John Scanlon, FCD
        Posted June 14, 2014 at 11:37 pm | Permalink

        To be fair, Hitch did not imagine that the ‘liberation’ and ‘reconstruction’ could be conducted so incompetently and so cynically, or over so many years. To be equally fair, he should have known better.

  17. Posted June 14, 2014 at 10:19 am | Permalink

    “Nothing can be accomplished by further American military action in Iraq.” I agree.

    My thinking on the Iraq war has been shaped by Hitchens and Paul Berman. I find their arguments persuasive. I don’t think it was for nothing, or necessarily a foolish war to begun with. Unfortunately it has turned into a disaster.

    But GDP is up, oil revenues are up, more parts of the country have electricity. Saddam is gone; one less dictator in the world. Iraq has had elections.

    I don’t know the impact on education. But I know in Afghanistan, enrollment went up following US presence.

    On the subject of WMDs — I saw CSPAN where John Kerry was arguing for doing something in Syria. One Congressman, just trying to score political points, asked Kerry if he considered poison gas a WMD. Kerry responded that he did. The congressman then said “So Saddam did have WMD’s, because he had poison gas and had used poison gas.” But the congressman was still in favor of doing nothing about Syria.

    • Nathan Teegarden
      Posted June 14, 2014 at 11:42 am | Permalink

      Saddam had destroyed his poison gas before the 2003 invasion.

    • Nathan Teegarden
      Posted June 14, 2014 at 11:43 am | Permalink

      “But GDP is up, oil revenues are up, more parts of the country have electricity. Saddam is gone; one less dictator in the world. Iraq has had elections. ”

      I guess I missed the part where any of those things became reasons to send American servicemembers overseas to die.

    • Draken
      Posted June 14, 2014 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

      Question is, how do you go to school if there’s a militia roadblock ahead and a sniper on the roofs?

      • Mark Joseph
        Posted June 14, 2014 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

        I thought we were talking about Iraq…

        (aorry, couldn’t resist ;-) )

    • gluonspring
      Posted June 14, 2014 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

      The term WMD has always struck me as a term created for the purpose of deception, regardless who who is using it (Kerry here, Bush in Iraq). From the first time I heard the term it seemed like a bald attempt to obscure what you were actually talking about, to lump together a truly horrific thing that is a very real threat to the US, nuclear weapons, with merely awful things that are not (chemical and biological weapons, both of which are very hard to deploy effectively against us). There is no purpose for the term but to muddy the water and anyone arguing policy based on whether something “is a WMD” or not is, to my ears, trying to pull something over on me. If you mean nuclear weapons, say so. If you mean chemical weapons, say so. Saying it is “a WMD” adds nothing to my understanding of the situation. Quite the contrary, it tries to imply that these various kinds of weapons, nukes, chemical weapons, biological weapons, are equal threats to us, which is such nonsense that I’d characterize it as a lie.

      • Draken
        Posted June 14, 2014 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

        I think the criterium here is not so much whether something is a direct threat to the US, but if it can be easily deployed on, for example, Israel, which might provoke a nuclear chain reaction (pun partially intended).

        • gluonspring
          Posted June 14, 2014 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

          So WMD means “threat to Israel”? Really?

          OK, but that just makes the term even more muddy and deceptive as a cause for war.

          But even in this case, there is a HUGE difference between a nuke being deployed against Israel and chemical or biological weapons being deployed against Israel. I think even given the dubious premise that we are responsible for Israel’s security, it is still deceptive to in any way equate these three kinds of weapons.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted June 15, 2014 at 1:00 am | Permalink

        I absolutely agree with gluonspring.

        Considered logically, the *only* weapons of mass destruction worthy of the name are nukes, with ordinary high explosives and incendiary weapons trailing a long way behind. (Guess who’s got the biggest arsenal of true noocular WMD’s in the world?)

        Poison gas is a weapon of mass death but causes remarkably little destruction, ditto biological warfare. If you wanted to take over a city undamaged you’d simply have to blanket it in a cloud of chlorine for a few days, wait till it disperses, clear away the corpses and there’s your city all ready for
        you to move in. No mass destruction whatever.

        So ‘WMD’ is just a term of obfuscation and anyone who uses it is, I submit, using a Weapon of Mass Delusion.

        • Posted June 15, 2014 at 5:22 am | Permalink

          I submit that any list of WMD is incomplete unless it includes saturation aerial bombardment utilizing both HE and phosphorous explosives, shown to obliterate animate and inamimate alike.

          Drawbacks, compared to nukes: requires substantially more units per sq mi of explosive devices, therefore significantly higher resource allocation to accomplish indiscriminate annihilation.

          This unit expense factor makes your nuke appealing to the thrifty sociopathic First World industrial war lord titan.

          http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/feb/15/bombing-dresden-war-crime

          • infiniteimprobabilit
            Posted June 15, 2014 at 11:24 pm | Permalink

            Yes, I left out carpet bombing (though I thought of it), it seems to me that in view of the number of aircraft required, that’s stretching the definition a bit in that each bomb (or each aircraft) doesn’t really fit the description on its own.

            But really, this just emphasises the silliness of the term.

            • Posted June 16, 2014 at 5:44 am | Permalink

              +1

            • Posted June 16, 2014 at 8:54 am | Permalink

              A “weapon of mass destruction” (WMD or WoMD) is a nuclear, radiological, biological, chemical or other weapon that can kill and bring significant harm to a large number of humans OR cause great damage to man-made structures (e.g. buildings), natural structures (e.g. mountains), or the biosphere.

              http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Weapon_of_mass_destruction

              Thus, one can include Daisy Cutters, MOABs, White Phosphorus use, Cluster Bombs and especially the use of Depleted Uranium in the definition of “weapons of mass destruction”.

              • infiniteimprobabilit
                Posted June 17, 2014 at 2:45 am | Permalink

                So that would include Boeing 767’s and cow farts….

                Really, that definition is so wide as to be almost useless.

      • Kevin
        Posted June 15, 2014 at 6:14 am | Permalink

        WMD = macroscopic inconvenience to humanity. It is so general it could imply an errant asteroid not even under human command. It is well abused term.

    • Timothy Hughbanks
      Posted June 14, 2014 at 10:45 pm | Permalink

      It is difficult to believe that anyone still flogs the WMD horse. I’m guessing the congressman in question thinks the earth is 6000 years old and is sure that global warming is vast hoax/conspiracy hatched by a cabal of librul atmospheric scientists, oceanographers, and geophysicists.

  18. Posted June 14, 2014 at 10:28 am | Permalink

    A gravitational collapse will leave a black hole with Jihadi Spring serving as the event horizon. All is lost.

  19. Posted June 14, 2014 at 10:54 am | Permalink

    There’s even talk of a US alliance with Iran, which would threaten another disastrous clash between Iran and Iraq.

    -Er… why? Maliki’s government has always been backed by Iran.

    I am one of those thinking that the rise of ISIS is squarely Obama’s fault. America had a golden opportunity to destroy the ISIS in both Syria and Iraq in January of this year. Obama didn’t take it. The ISIS only continued to grow.

    I fully support both covert and overt U.S. military aid to all political entities (Kurds, Syrian rebels, Iraqi and Syrian governments) fighting against the ISIS. The ISIS is Syria and Iraq’s equivalent of the 1990s Taliban- a potential terrorist haven whose ascent must be stopped. France restored order in Mali in 2013. America can restore order in Iraq and Syria this year. Before the French intervention, Northern Mali was at serious risk of becoming an Islamist terrorist haven. This risk has now been averted.

    This risk can be averted in Iraq as well.

    • Posted June 14, 2014 at 11:39 am | Permalink

      This is a fine pep talk for our country 15 years ago, but had the Syrian crisis begun at that time we would even then have had very little desire in getting entangled in Syria. It has long been a rather complicated place in which we have no direct economic or security interests. It is no surprise that we have even less desire to do it now. Although much divides our country, we are united in being sick and tired of one war after another.
      So we cannot just march in and restore order. We were never very good at that, even when we had a lot of energy to try.

      • Posted June 14, 2014 at 12:51 pm | Permalink

        Remember, Bin Laden had his 1996-2001 base in Taliban Afghanistan. A future Bin Laden may have his base in the ISIS. A superpower can only ignore internationally unrecognized Islamic states at its own risk.

        • Michael
          Posted June 14, 2014 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

          Maybe. But there are many fundamentalist Islamic countries with sharia law. Are you suggesting we go after them as well? Perhaps Saudi Arabia, who is a major funder of terrorism and who has long funded radical Imams and madrasas all over the globe where they preach and teach hate towards Jews, Israel, the West and most especially the United States.

          • Posted June 14, 2014 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

            The only reason America shouldn’t go after Saudi Arabia’s regime is because the Saudi leadership is willing to adopt a scorched earth policy towards its oil fields if it is seriously threatened.

    • Nathan Teegarden
      Posted June 14, 2014 at 11:44 am | Permalink

      I think you’re being a little optimistic about Mali.

      • Posted June 14, 2014 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

        Perhaps. But one can’t say the French intervention didn’t help.

    • Nathan Teegarden
      Posted June 14, 2014 at 11:51 am | Permalink

      Adding on to the above:

      “America had a golden opportunity to destroy the ISIS in both Syria and Iraq in January of this year. Obama didn’t take it. ”

      Obama didn’t have the authority to take it. Congress did not authorize him to attack ISIS in either of those places. We have no status of forces agreement with Iraq, so it would be illegal under both American and Iraqi law to send American troops there.

      The president can’t just attack whoever he feels like whenever he feels like it. The constitution gives the authority to declare war to Congress, not the president, for a good reason.

      • Posted June 14, 2014 at 12:16 pm | Permalink

        The president can’t just attack whoever he feels like whenever he feels like it.

        -Yes, he can. C.f. Libya 2011.

      • Filippo
        Posted June 14, 2014 at 5:09 pm | Permalink

        Do I correctly recall that the last time the U.S. Congress troubled itself to declare war was December 8, 1941?

    • Draken
      Posted June 14, 2014 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

      You mean ISIS can be destroyed in the same way the Taliban and Al Qaeda have been “destroyed”? For each head you chop off, it’ll grow two new ones. There’s a sheer endless stock of young jihadi warriors waiting to throw their lives in the meatmill.

      • Posted June 14, 2014 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

        It is undeniable that insurgent groups are difficult to completely annihilate. But, as an example, Algeria is much safer today than it was during the 1990s. If the threat of insurgency cannot be eliminated, it can certainly be substantially reduced.

    • Kurtis Rader
      Posted June 14, 2014 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

      Are you an armchair general or will you be putting your ass in harms way? How about your children, nephews, etc.?I’d be more willing to support these wars if the people advocating for them had some skin in the game.

      • Posted June 14, 2014 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

        We have a volunteer army. Your arguments here are illegitimate.

        • Kurtis Rader
          Posted June 14, 2014 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

          Wrong. My argument is extremely relevant. A major reason we continue to engage in aggression is that the pundits (e.g. Thomas Friedman), advocates, and politicians risk nothing and suffer no consequences when proven to be wrong. The book “Antifragile:Things That Gain From Disorder” by Nicholas Taken discusses why this dynamic is so dangerous.

          • Kurtis Rader
            Posted June 14, 2014 at 4:02 pm | Permalink

            #&-%%++\ autocorrect on my tablet! That should have been Taleb. Also, my suggestion that @pithom put his ass in the line of fire is metaphorical not literal. The point is that people like him rarely face any direct consequences when advocating for actions that will cause others much harm and which are unlikely to result in the stated benefits.

        • gluonspring
          Posted June 14, 2014 at 4:00 pm | Permalink

          Interesting point of view. So volunteering for the army means that your life is forfeit already and no one need concern themselves with the value of what you’re sent to die for? Do they put that in the brochures?

          I think that rather makes Rader’s point, that the volunteer army takes the skin out of the game for most Americans and converts decisions about going to war into trivialized armchair exercises of rah rah patriotism unconnected from consequences.

        • Filippo
          Posted June 14, 2014 at 5:28 pm | Permalink

          Since you bring up the “voluntary” military service notion – some people “volunteer” to join the military out of economic necessity, to get out of dead-end Podunk.

          So what if we currently have a volunteer military? How about before 1973 when the voluntary military kicked in? I assume that you hold that a military is necessary and that SOMEONE has to do it. Does anyone have some sort of civic obligation to join the military? Who do you think should join – what compelling words would you utter to persuade the flower of our youth to join – what able-bodied person of sound mind is so special as to be exempt from joining – to possibly go in harm’s way to be killed or maimed for life? How does having a “voluntary” military somehow allow one – Pilatesque – to wash her/his hands of the matter and not have to spend one moment in thoughtful reflection and consideration of the matter?

        • Darth Dog
          Posted June 14, 2014 at 11:15 pm | Permalink

          From the fact that you evaded the original question, I assume that no, you don’t have any “skin in the game”. As someone who has two sons in the US Army, I think your comment about the volunteer army is totally asinine.

        • Kevin
          Posted June 15, 2014 at 6:36 am | Permalink

          People volunteer for war because they lack opporunities: education or financial means.

    • Posted June 14, 2014 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

      America can restore order in Iraq and Syria this year.

      No, we can’t.

      We have overwhelming empirical evidence, including hundreds of thousands of dead people, over the span of decades and several wars, demonstrating that America is utterly incapable of doing any such thing.

      We couldn’t restore order in North Korea.

      We couldn’t restore order in Vietnam.

      We couldn’t restore order in Iraq the first time around.

      We couldn’t, can’t, and won’t restore order in Afghanistan.

      We couldn’t restore order in Iraq the second time around.

      …and you somehow think we’re going to do in Iraq the third time in a mere six months that which we’ve been unable to do there twice before in two of the longest wars in our history?

      And you expect us to take you seriously?

      America is awesome when it comes to blowing shit up and killing people and throwing entire regions into chaos so our war profiteers may make vast sums of money, but we are utterly and completely incapable of cleaning up our own messes, let alone anybody else’s.

      b&

      • Posted June 14, 2014 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

        The incomplete victory in North Korea was due to the fact it bordered the U.S.S.R. The Korean War was still commendable, though, as there would have been no South Korea without a Korean War.

        The 2007-8 surge was partially successful, keeping civilian deaths at under 750 per month from 2009 to 2012 (the year after the U.S. left Iraq).

        http://www.iraqbodycount.org/database/

        Though Afghanistan and Vietnam were much more difficult to make progress in, Afghanistan’s GDP per capita has spiked since 2001.

        http://www.google.com/publicdata/explore?ds=d5bncppjof8f9_&met_y=ny_gdp_pcap_cd&hl=en&dl=en&idim=country:AFG

        • Posted June 14, 2014 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

          North Korea never had a border with the USSR. Its only border in the north is with China.

          • mordacious1
            Posted June 14, 2014 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

            Russia and North Korea share a 17 km border along the Tumen River.

            • Posted June 14, 2014 at 3:37 pm | Permalink

              Ten miles… how bloody significant! LOL!

        • Kurtis Rader
          Posted June 14, 2014 at 4:18 pm | Permalink

          Holy shit! You’re seriously claiming the ~10 mile border Korea shares with Russia is the reason we lost that war? A border on the northeast corner about as far from the 48th parallel as is possible while still being in North Korea? You’ve made a lot of stupid comments in this thread but that one is worthy of a YEC like Ken Ham.

          • Posted June 14, 2014 at 4:23 pm | Permalink

            We didn’t lose. It was a stalemate. South Korea still exists.

          • Posted June 14, 2014 at 5:03 pm | Permalink

            Okay Kurtis, you will apologize to the people you called stupid, and accused of having Dunning Kruger syndrome, and you’ll apologize NOW. If your next comment isn’t an apology, you’ll never post here again.

            Do you know the Roolz? No calling other commenters names!

            • Kurtis Rader
              Posted June 14, 2014 at 7:56 pm | Permalink

              You’re right. I apologize. Name calling is boorish. In my defense I had just listened to a MRA rationalize rape in a discussion of George Will’s recent column and my emotions were getting the better of me.

      • mordacious1
        Posted June 14, 2014 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

        It’s not that we can’t do it (or couldn’t do it in the places you named), but we just don’t have the national will to take on such an onerous task. Americans do have the will to have a knee-jerk reaction to something they get stirred up about, but they don’t have the stomach for a long-term commitment or for an all out war (which is what the Korean and Vietnam situations called for). My own feeling is, that if the situation isn’t bad enough to have an all-out conflict (fight to the death, if you will), then find another way to resolve the problem. That doesn’t mean we can’t give out spankings occasionally, just stay away from regime-change, nation building conflicts. If the locals don’t have the gumption to overthrow their own government, then they have the government they deserve.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted June 14, 2014 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

        Look at Afghanistan. Russia couldn’t restore it, the UN couldn’t restore it, the Americans and their allies couldn’t restore it. You can’t destabilize a place like the Middle East and fix it unless you occupy it forcefully not just invade it and fight there, especially when you are up against the type of extreme ideology like Islam.

      • Marella
        Posted June 14, 2014 at 6:10 pm | Permalink

        The prime purpose of the English Empire was to safeguard trade. If the USA wishes to be a colonial power they need to dig in for the long haul, as the British did for hundreds of years. You have to accept that the military will be a constant presence in colonised areas with a continuing need to oppress the locals, who cannot be allowed to make any move towards self government. This sort of thing is not generally thought to be a good idea any more. It tends to cost rather a lot and usually trade can be safeguarded without it.

        The thing that clearly doesn’t work is to march in, reorganise the government and then expect it all to be self sustaining without support after the armed forces leave. I think the American ruling class would do well to study the history of empires. You can maintain client states if they are convinced you will invade if they misbehave, or if it is in their financial interests to behave themselves, but trying to determine their method of government is an experiment only the US has tried, and so far without success except arguably, in Japan.

        Iraq was always going to be a catastrophe, I never expected it to go other than it has. The USA has no appetite to rule foreign countries over the long term, and appears to have very limited ability to maintain client states at a distance. Unless you’re prepared to undertake to rule Iraq for the next 50 years, you may as well leave now and let nature take its course in the middle east.

        • gluonspring
          Posted June 15, 2014 at 11:27 am | Permalink

          “This sort of thing is not generally thought to be a good idea any more.”

          I wonder if it is even possible any more. Technology, manufacturing, and easy global travel have made weapons cheap and easily available everywhere in the world, even in poor countries. The lethality of these weapons (AK47’s, RPGs, IEDs) is such that an occupying army will have a much more difficult time now achieving the monopoly on deadly power that earlier empires enjoyed when they could roll in with guns and confront swords. The occupied still can not force the invaders out, but the cost of protecting assets (say, oil wells) and people (contractors, shipping, etc.) against them is, I expect, vastly higher than when the British maintained their empire. I think the dynamic has changed somewhat, even if we were bloody minded enough to do what it takes to control a client state, which we are not.

          • Marella
            Posted June 16, 2014 at 2:57 am | Permalink

            I’m suppose it’s possible at a cost, but as you suggest the cost is prohibitive. Even the brief American wars are waged for the benefit of an elite minority rather than the country as a whole. They are a way of funneling taxes into the coffers of the wealthy at the expense of the multitude. Colonial governance of foreign countries has not been cost effective for a long time and it doesn’t seem likely to be again in the foreseeable future.

            • Kevin Alexander
              Posted June 16, 2014 at 5:45 am | Permalink

              You wouldn’t be referring to the Pentagon Protection Racket would you?
              Our Motto ‘It’s a nice country youse got here. Shame if something should happen to it.’

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted June 16, 2014 at 9:59 am | Permalink

                LOL! This is funnier than many probably know.

  20. Chris Walker
    Posted June 14, 2014 at 11:08 am | Permalink

    I wholeheartedly agree. It’s incredibly saddening and angering to come to the realization that a war which tens of thousands of lives and trillions of dollars all amounts to nothing (or nothing positive, at any rate). We took out Saddam Hussein, who was truly a repressive dictator, but his replacements were no more effectual as leaders. They were all incompetent or corrupt or both. They didn’t learn anything from the regime that preceded them about how favoring your religious group over the over main religious group encourages sectarian violence. Violence that was erupting constantly, and which the American media largely glossed over except to give bare-bones reports like “65 killed in deadly market attack. This is the 25th such attack since the beginning of the year.” To be fair, it was hard to be seen as a legitimate government when you’re occupied by a large military force, large sections of your infrastructure have been demolished, and crime is out of control due to the previous two factors.

    I’m angered by those I’ve seen using this situation to criticize the president over leaving the country in the first place. As if we had stayed a couple of years more we would have miraculously fixed all the things that needed to be fixed before leaving. As if the destabilizing effect of a large civil war in Syria in an already unstable region could have been predicted and adequately accounted for. Staying in Iraq would just have delayed this problem, and continuing to cause its own not insignificant problems all the while.

    I sympathize with people who have the gut emotional instinct that we should DO something. I have those feelings myself. However, we have direct evidence that military intervention does not help these situations and in fact tends to make them worse. Drone strikes aren’t going to stop ISIS. They’re not going to significantly protect Iraqi civilians. Hell, we couldn’t protect Iraqi civilians when we had an Army there. Over one hundred thousand Iraqi civilians have died there from the beginning of the invasion until this day. I feel that the reality is that we have to accept these things and look for ways in which we can effectively mitigate the suffering of Iraqi civilians through humanitarian aid, which is quite a challenging problem in and of itself!

    • Posted June 14, 2014 at 11:23 am | Permalink

      However, we have direct evidence that military intervention does not help these situations and in fact tends to make them worse.

      -Have you ever heard of the French intervention in Mali or of the 2007-8 surge in Iraq?

      I criticize the President not for leaving Iraq (which was surely long overdue), but for his deceitful Syria policy.

      Humanitarian aid isn’t going to stop the ISIS.

      • Nathan Teegarden
        Posted June 14, 2014 at 11:45 am | Permalink

        The 2007-08 surge in Iraq didn’t fix anything.

        • Posted June 14, 2014 at 11:55 am | Permalink

          Then what was the cause of the halving of civilian violence in late 2007?

          https://www.iraqbodycount.org/database/

          • mordacious1
            Posted June 14, 2014 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

            The surge put the lid back on the boiling kettle (for a while), it did nothing to lower the temperature of the stove.

            • Posted June 14, 2014 at 11:18 pm | Permalink

              Nice analogy

              Amis told, in Koba the Dread, of some prostitutes(?) sent to the gulags under weird Uncle Joe saying it was so much better than under the monarchy because now only half their scalp is shaved. iirc

              Yippee

          • Darth Dog
            Posted June 14, 2014 at 11:24 pm | Permalink

            Come on pithorn. Yes, the surge was a tactical success by the US military. It increased security in Iraq. The whole point of that was to give time and space to reach a political solution. And you know what? No solution was reached. Maliki continued his sectarian policies.

            If you want to understand the surge, I would recommend reading The Gamble by Thomas Ricks. There are also excellent books by David Kilcullen, The Accidental Guerilla and Counterinsurgency. Kilcullen was the Australian officer who drove the theory behind the surge (some of The Accidental Guerilla was his PhD thesis). He was a primary advisor to Petraeus during the development of the COIN doctrine used by the US Army during the surge.

            It is important to understand that the role of the military is to provide an opportunity to reach political solutions in a counterinsurgency. Like I said – read before you start throwing around isolated statistics.

            • heleen
              Posted June 15, 2014 at 2:32 am | Permalink

              If I remember rightly,this ‘surge’ consisted of convincing clan leaders that radical islamists were not a good idea if they wanted to remain clan leaders; together with some money.

            • Posted June 15, 2014 at 9:22 am | Permalink

              Thank you for your helpful suggestions.

      • Chris Walker
        Posted June 14, 2014 at 6:35 pm | Permalink

        I wasn’t trying to imply that military intervention can never do any good in any situation ever. However, I feel that it’s fairly clear that US military intervention in Iraq has not accomplished much if anything and I see no reason to believe that further such intervention will have a positive impact on the situation.

        It’s quite true that humanitarian aid won’t stop ISIS, but that wasn’t my point. I was trying to say that, for people whose gut emotional reaction is that we should do something to alleviate the suffering of Iraqi, there might be other, non-military avenues to explore.

        • Posted June 14, 2014 at 8:43 pm | Permalink

          So a halving of civilian violent deaths per month in late 2007 is “not… much if anything”?

          • Posted June 14, 2014 at 8:56 pm | Permalink

            You’re obsessed with the hourly weather forecast on a single day while everybody else is discussing the climate.

            b&

            • Posted June 15, 2014 at 9:14 am | Permalink

              So four years (2009-2012) is “the hourly weather forecast on a single day”?

  21. g
    Posted June 14, 2014 at 11:34 am | Permalink

    Sorry but I disagree completely with this isolationist view.

    I miss Hitch. He was right about Iraq then and he still is now…

    • Nathan Teegarden
      Posted June 14, 2014 at 11:45 am | Permalink

      Then you go risk your life for your imperialist pipe dream.

    • Kevin
      Posted June 15, 2014 at 7:10 am | Permalink

      Hitchens would never go to war. He would claim 1) that others could do it better (physically and mentally) and 2) that he serves society better by writing and thinking, which he was clearly much better than most.

      If everyone were like Hitchens, well educated, then society would have no legitimate volunteers for war: they would have to manufacture reasons to sacrifice their lives, even if they knew it was for a noble cause.

      • Kevin Alexander
        Posted June 15, 2014 at 8:23 am | Permalink

        You don’t need soldiers so much any more. We are so rapidly automating the brown people snuff fest that it will soon be possible to do it with the boots never leaving Nevada

  22. W.Benson
    Posted June 14, 2014 at 11:36 am | Permalink

    Exxon, Shell, Ocidental, BP, Total, Petronas, JAPEX and others have hefty investments in Iraq oil development. Is there any chance the US will not bomb?

    • Posted June 14, 2014 at 11:47 am | Permalink

      I have been trying to decide how I feel about the current Iraq situation, and whether or not we should get involved with a campaign of airstrikes and logistical support. Right now, I feel I agree with you. The arguments against getting involved do not, in my opinion, outweigh the humanitarian costs to the Iraqis if we stand by.
      We faced similar enemies before in Afghanistan. We did beat the Afghani Taliban back, with support from the population of that country. We did not ‘win’ there, but we did not (yet) lose either. So right now I think we could do good more good than harm in Iraq b/c the alternative seems worse.

      • Posted June 14, 2014 at 11:51 am | Permalink

        I meant to reply to ‘g’ up there. Sorry.

      • Nathan Teegarden
        Posted June 14, 2014 at 11:53 am | Permalink

        In what way is it “our” place to attempt to do “good”?

        Are Iraqis American citizens? No? Then it is improper to use our military to try to help them.

        • Posted June 14, 2014 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

          So you’re a Steve Sailer-style citizenist?

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted June 14, 2014 at 3:26 pm | Permalink

        I wonder what Israel is thinking? One thing is for sure, they won’t hesitate with a nuclear strike if things get bad enough to threaten Israel. This conflict truly scares me because you are not dealing with rational people. You are dealing with terrifying, religious zealots who are willing to die and sacrifice everyone they love for their cause.

    • W.Benson
      Posted June 19, 2014 at 11:30 am | Permalink

      It has taken less than a week for “Oil” to decide to start a new intervention in Iraq. Obama (19 June) will start by sending advisers. He will certainly escalate if Financial America deems it necessary to protect ‘our’ oil.

      • Filippo
        Posted June 20, 2014 at 5:11 pm | Permalink

        The default position apparently is that, in the final analysis, everything is “ours.” And if something of ours is “lost” or taken away from us, we want to know who “lost” it. As in, e.g., “Who ‘lost’ China?” in 1949.

  23. gluonspring
    Posted June 14, 2014 at 11:46 am | Permalink

    “Unless the US has bombs that can install wisdom and leadership into PM Maliki, airstrikes in Iraq would be pointless.” – Micha Zenko, Dillon Fellow, Council on Foreign Relations

    • Nathan Teegarden
      Posted June 14, 2014 at 11:54 am | Permalink

      Good point. Maliki has spent his term in office going out of his way to alienate Iraqi Sunnis.

      • gluonspring
        Posted June 14, 2014 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

        You’d think we would have learned something from our disastrous attempt to prop up the corrupt and incompetent Diem government in South Vietnam. However,self reflection, or indeed even knowledge, is not an American strong suit.

        I am reminded of Saletan’s admission that, though a cheerleader for the Iraq war, he was too young and too poorly read to have absorbed the lessons of the Vietnam war:

        http://slate.me/1hYdKYp

        I mean, really? WTF?

  24. David Duncan
    Posted June 14, 2014 at 11:47 am | Permalink

    “There’s even talk of a US alliance with Iran, which would threaten another disastrous clash between Iran and Iraq.”

    It’s high time the US and Iran started cooperating, supporting the Shia and Kurds in Iraq. Letting ISIS take over northern and central Iraq is far worse than the US cooperating with Iran and Shia Iraq.

    • Posted June 14, 2014 at 11:50 am | Permalink

      There was a period during the early stages of the Afghan war when we did work closely with the Iranians. They supplied us with very good intelligence on what targets to hit for the greatest strategic effect. That was a weird moment that neither side should forget.

      • Nathan Teegarden
        Posted June 14, 2014 at 11:52 am | Permalink

        It’s almost as if we live in a world where various states have interests that sometimes compete and sometimes overlap, instead of a simplistic one divided into two sides.

        • gluonspring
          Posted June 15, 2014 at 11:40 am | Permalink

          +1

      • David Duncan
        Posted June 14, 2014 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

        I read once that in around 2000 Iran discreetly offered the US settlement of their differences on terms highly favourable to the US, but the peace feeler was ignored. It’s this sort of pigheadedness that is disastrous for us. The Iranian government is hardly ideal but they, especially under Khatami, were light years ahead of the other enemies we’ve made in that region.

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted June 14, 2014 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

          The neocons in the Bush administration spoiled many diplomatic relations. They did the same in Russia where (and I know people don’t like her) Condoleezza Rice) was much more willing to talk and more diplomatic.

  25. Heather Hastie
    Posted June 14, 2014 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

    Al-Maliki (Iraq’s PM) refused to sign a SOFA (Status of Forces Agreement), so Obama had no choice but to leave. Further, the US, Britain and their allies did a good job of training the Iraqi military to protect their own country before they left. However, since then al-Maliki has gutted his military by replacing the well-trained commanders with his Shi’a political allies, who have little or no experience and are poor leaders. This is why ISIS (aka ISIL- Islamic State in the Levant) has been having success. The Sunnis have been supporting them because of increasing resentment over al-Maliki’s increasing sectarianism and favouritism of Shi’a over Sunni, especially in his current second term. It is al-Maliki who has caused this particular problem, not Obama. This is why Obama is demanding some conditions before he helps; he wants al-Maliki to be less sectarian. The issues can never be resolved long-term unless the government becomes more inclusive.

    The reason it is in America’s interest to help resolve the situation is that there are literally thousands of Western citizens, a huge proportion of which are American, currently fighting for ISIS. They will return home not only more radicalized, but with new skills enabling them to be dangerous domestic terrorists. Further, Iraq has 11% of the world’s oil reserves and is currently producing three million barrels per day. Yesterday the price of Brent Crude went up $4 a barrel because of the instability and will continue to rise until the situation is resolved. A high oil price has a negative effect on the whole economy. The situation would be better resolved during the northern hemisphere summer. If America doesn’t intervene now it will still be going on in the winter (and at election time) and the whole world could suffer.

    • Posted June 14, 2014 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

      It is al-Maliki who has caused this particular problem, not Obama.

      -Wrong, wrong, wrong, at least, for Mosul. Perhaps Fallujah’s capture might have been averted had Maliki been more willing to compromise. But the ISIS began taking over northern Iraq from Syria, not from the region of Baghdad. It is Obama’s Syria policy that is to blame for the ISIS’s ascent in Syria, not Maliki’s domestic policies.

      • colnago80
        Posted June 14, 2014 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

        Absolute balderdash. al-Maliki ignored US warnings about forming an all Shiite government amd marginalizing the Sunni and Kurdish populations.

        http://goo.gl/7hwLCN

        • Posted June 14, 2014 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

          Read my comment again.

          • colnago80
            Posted June 14, 2014 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

            I read your comment and you are seriously in error. The Iraqi troops who were supposed to be guarding Mosul threw away their weapons and ran like the hounds of hell were chasing them. This despite the fact the fact that they greatly outnumbered their ISIS opponents and also out gunned them. The administration is absolutely correct to demand that al-Maliki clean up his act before the US commits assets to his support.

            As for the situation in Syria, unfortunately, the problem is that we can’t tell the bad guys from the not so bad guys. Trying to arm the Free Syrian Army would have been an exercise in futility as the arms would have ended up in the hands of the Sunni militants who greatly outnumber them. Our Israeli allies have apparently come to the conclusion that the best outcome in Syria, from their point of view is a greatly weakened Bashar Assad surviving. Despite overtures, they have declined to support the FSA.

            • Posted June 14, 2014 at 3:50 pm | Permalink

              The Iraqi troops who were supposed to be guarding Mosul threw away their weapons and ran like the hounds of hell were chasing them. This despite the fact the fact that they greatly outnumbered their ISIS opponents and also out gunned them.

              -It’s uncertain whether this tepid response was Maliki’s fault and whether anyone else could have done a better job in preparing the soldiers for unexpected attacks.

              Obviously, the Syrian rebels are a mix of good and bad (mostly bad). But it is the fact that the more fundamentalist elements of the Syrian rebellion are better funded and more organized that has kept CIA-supplied weapons flowing into the hands of such groups as Nusra, Ahrar-ash-Sham, and the ISIS. Trying to keep MANPADS out of the hands of the less fundamentalist rebels only led to the more fundamentalist groups in Syria having an advantage. So funding the Syrian rebels is not a particularly big risk to U.S. security as long as the Syrian rebels’ gains against the regime aren’t too large.

          • colnago80
            Posted June 14, 2014 at 3:36 pm | Permalink

            Incidentally, the problem in Syria was initially caused by food shortages caused by a severe drought which is the result of global climate change. Of course, your Rethuglican pals maintain that climate change isn’t happening.

            http://goo.gl/BJrROM

            • Posted June 14, 2014 at 4:06 pm | Permalink

              The attribution of any specific drought to climate change is dubious. The Syrian rebellion was caused by a revolutionary environment which resulted from al-Jazeera broadcasts of the Egyptian, Libyan, and Syrian revolutions. The Tunisian revolution, which started it all, was precipitated by a decline in satisfaction regarding everything.

              http://www.gallup.com/poll/157049/tunisia-analyzing-dawn-arab-spring.aspx

              • Posted June 14, 2014 at 4:11 pm | Permalink

                The “Syrian revolutions” in my comment was an accidental error.

        • Posted June 14, 2014 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

          Do you even know where Raqqa and Mosul are?

    • Nicolas Perrault
      Posted June 14, 2014 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

      It would be simpler to strip the American Jihadists of their citizenship than to involve America in a new war.

    • Posted June 14, 2014 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

      Just heard that Obama is deploying the aircraft carrier the George H.W. Bush [irony meter is rising} into the Gulf in case it is needed. The word is that they will go to work IF the Maliki government makes a deal with the Sunnis. Two birds with one stone?

  26. TnkAgn
    Posted June 14, 2014 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

    I am a Vietnam vet who, as a high school teacher, also lost one of his favorite students to the hubris-fueled, treasury-draining military adventure that was the 2003 Iraq War. I can only say that if the wearer of even one pair of American boots ends up dead in one of John McCain’s quixotic night terrors of vengeance, President Obama will be down yet one more “favorable,” should anyone care to ask me.

    As to the current situation, we could’ve taken Joe Biden’s 2007 advice and come up with three autonomous regions for Iraq: Kurds in the north, Shia in the southeast and Sunni in the middle. We did not, so here we are. I do believe that the media (left, right and center) is getting ahead of itself. There is nearly always an ascendency of defense in war, given enough time. We shall see.

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted June 14, 2014 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

      The portioning of the country into three is quite likely and is openly being talked about by Iraqi politicians. I wouldn’t be surprised if this happened.

    • Posted June 14, 2014 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

      I firmly agree with you that partitioning Iraq would have been a much better option than the one which was taken.

    • Posted June 14, 2014 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

      The Kurds in the North and North East have already lost their territories and cities to these new Jihadists – and that is also where the richest oil fields lie.

      • Posted June 14, 2014 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

        Not that I can see. The Iraqi Kurds have greatly expanded territory since June 10. See the maps at my blog for evidence.

    • Posted June 14, 2014 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

      Partitioning would be a great idea. The first problem is the uneven distribution of oil wealth, and I think access to major sea ports. which would not be viewed kindly by the losing sides. Still, it would be a nice solution. Lumping religious groups into one country sure has not worked out for the Mid East.

  27. kirkgray
    Posted June 14, 2014 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

    Iran sends troops into Iraq to aid fight against Isis militants

    http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jun/14/iran-iraq-isis-fight-militants-nouri-maliki?CMP=fb_gu

    “Iran has sent 2,000 advance troops to Iraq in the past 48 hours to help tackle a jihadist insurgency…”

    That makes things more interesting.

    • Posted June 14, 2014 at 3:22 pm | Permalink

      And we have an aircraft carrier heading in. I would like to see the ISIS rank and file start to look for a back door soon.

  28. Posted June 14, 2014 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

    The Iraq war that began in 2003 has caused well over a million Iraqi civilian deaths (and counting). That’s considerably more than just many.

  29. docbill1351
    Posted June 14, 2014 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

    What we have here is a giant Northern Ireland: Catholic vs Protestant, Shiite vs Sunni.

    Fueled by irrational religious beliefs there is no end in sight for this conflict. Hitchens got it right: religion poisons everything.

    And, in the end, it’s not even about religion; that gets lost in the heat of the feud. Simply, I wear green, you wear orange, therefore I hate you.

  30. Frank Stabile
    Posted June 14, 2014 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

    I disagree with Dr. Coyne on this one. I think the war and the deaths have accomplished something. The theocratic dictatorship of Saddam Hussein is over and Iraqis can actually vote in elections. Obviously our involvement was seriously flawed, but I think it’s incorrect to say it accomplished nothing and that Iraq is the same or worse than before. Depending on the estimate you go with, the number of civilians killed in ten years of the Iraq War matches the number Hussein killed in just a few months (Al-Anfal campaign). Drones certainly can accomplish something, much in the way that drone strikes have hollowed out Al Qaeda’s leadership. I don’t think we should send troops this time, but to do nothing is to essentially condemn Iraq to the fate Dr. Coyne described above. It might end up a stone-age theocracy even with our help, but to say “Your on your own” at this point basically guarantees the failure of the state.

    • Posted June 14, 2014 at 2:08 pm | Permalink

      Saddam wasn’t theocratic, to my knowledge, but I agree with the rest of your points.

      • Frank Stabile
        Posted June 14, 2014 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

        Oops yes you’re right, sorry about that. Had theocracy on the mind, but typed it too early. Thanks!

    • Posted June 14, 2014 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

      Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship never was theocratic. Yes, the Sunni minority was in power, but that wasn’t about religion, it was about tribalism. During his markedly secular dictatorship, there were no tensions between different Muslim groups, there was freedom of religion and women were largely free. Veils were the exception, women attended university and had top jobs in science, economy, engineering, etc.

      The Ba’ath party was the ruling party, and was totally secular. See https://education.yahoo.com/reference/encyclopedia/entry/Baathpar

    • Filippo
      Posted June 14, 2014 at 6:01 pm | Permalink

      Do I correctly recall that the U.S. materially supported Saddam Hussein before and during Iraq’s 1980’s war with Iran? (Re: video of Rumsfeld shaking hands with Saddam.)

      Had Saddam stayed out of Kuwait in 1990, would the U.S. still likely be on such agreeable terms with him?

      Where were those weapons of mass destruction and what was the 9/11 connection?

      Aren’t we as obligated to overthrow any other Mid-East tyranny like, e.g., Saudi Arabia?

      • Posted June 14, 2014 at 11:49 pm | Permalink

        You do recall correctly. The US also supported Bin Laden & Co. vs the USSR back in the day.

        PDB of Aug 6 2001 warned of looming aerial attack – also not only warning iirc – ChimpCo went on summer holidays. Chimpy, swingin a golf club, is asked by a talking head what concerns the dear leader. Iraq. Watch this drive.

        Downing St. Memo details how the BS artists are fitting the evidence around policy.

        Colin ‘blow’ Powell gives a laughable slide show before the UN.

        Blix, Ritter etc detail the lack of WMDs.

        Rummy insists they’re around Tikrit…

        Can you say war criminals?

        Sure, I knew you could.

        • Posted June 15, 2014 at 9:57 am | Permalink

          Bush was widely criticized in August 2002 when he decried terrorist bombings in Israel while golfing and then told reporters: “Now watch this drive.”

    • Frank Stabile
      Posted June 14, 2014 at 10:20 pm | Permalink

      To vierotchka: Yes, theocratic was a typo, as I said above. However, Iraq under Hussein was hardly the wonderland you depict. The Sunni minority was in power and regularly used that power to commit genocide against the Kurds (many of whom are Muslims) and Shia Muslims in the south (for example, see how Saddam responded to uprisings after he lost in Kuwait). So definitely plenty of tension between Muslim groups. As for the rest of your claims, I’d need to see evidence to believe it. It seems farfetched to me though that being say, a Jew, Christian, or atheist was easy in Iraq at the time.

      To Filippo: Yes, we supported Saddam in the past and many of the reasons Bush presented for the war proved to be false. Both huge mistakes on America’s part. However, I think that Iraq was the right war, but that Bush made the wrong case for it. And yes, the US (along with the entire international community) is obligated to overthrow tyrannies that break international law (say, by committing genocide). However, few countries are willing to do that. Instead, each country tends to get involved in regions where it has a history (the US in Iraq, the French in Mali, etc.)

      • Posted June 15, 2014 at 9:43 am | Permalink

        In Iraq, respect for the Jews Baghdad: A tiny minority that has seen good days and bad is treated well under Saddam Hussein.

        http://articles.baltimoresun.com/1998-11-13/news/1998317119_1_jews-of-baghdad-abu-yusef-two-jews

      • Posted June 15, 2014 at 9:48 am | Permalink

        Iraq: Worse for Christians Now Than under Saddam Hussein

        Excerpt:

        “In modern times, under Saddam, Christians were treated much the same as Muslims; Saddam’s right hand man, Tariq Aziz, was Christian, Pelley said.

        “”Before the war,” said Pelley,”it’s estimated there were about a million Christians in Iraq. They were a small minority, but free to worship, free to build churches, and free to speak the ancient language of Jesus, Aramaic. But, after the invasion, Muslim militants launched a war on each other and the cross.””

        http://www.christianheadlines.com/articles/iraq-worse-for-christians-now-than-under-saddam-hussein-11578523.html

      • Posted June 15, 2014 at 9:51 am | Permalink

        Iraqi women miss Saddam Hussein’s days

        Excerpt:

        “Under Saddam Hussein, women in government got a year’s maternity leave; that is now cut to six months. Under the Personal Status Law in force since Jul. 14, 1958, when Iraqis overthrew the British-installed monarchy, Iraqi women had most of the rights that Western women do.”

        http://www.middle-east-online.com/english/?id=37856

      • gluonspring
        Posted June 15, 2014 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

        I was at the time, and still am, convinced that the main reason we went to war in Iraq the second time was because Margaret Thatcher called Dick Cheney and Bush Sr. weak for not rolling into Baghdad the first time.

        “Now, just look, there is the aggressor, Saddam Hussein, still in power. There is the President of the United States, no longer in power. There is the Prime Minister of Britain who did quite a lot to get things there, no longer in power. I wonder who won?” http://to.pbs.org/1lDOzK7

        In that documentary you can see Cheney making a very intelligent and measured case for NOT going into Baghdad (a case that would be proven exactly right in the end). He seemed like a statesman in that film. That’s basically the last time you see Cheney make a rational statement about Iraq. The Bush camp was proud of their 1991 war and were stung by this (and similar) criticism that they had been weak. Like any good glandular American, they were out to prove themselves. That’s all the Iraq war was about, the Bush camp attempting to prove themselves by rewriting the ending of the 1st Iraq war which they came to consider an embarrassment. 9/11 had nothing to do with it nor did Saddam’s bad behavior nor did WMDs. It wasn’t even about oil or money. It was about pride. All the other reasons were mere excuses trotted out to sell a war they had their mind set on before Bush was even elected. The degree to which these were mere excuses should have been obvious to anyone watching at the time as they trotted out one reason after another in a series of trial balloons to see what the public would go for. I was, and still am, rather startled that people fell for their almost transparent mendacity.

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted June 15, 2014 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

          I am persuaded by much of this argument as well (I say much only because I haven’t put in the time to examine everything about this war) and I see so many world conflicts that are all about emotions of the leaders. It’s about time we started recognizing how much emotions and alpha pride take us so we can deal with it better an maybe stop some conflicts from ever eruption.

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted June 15, 2014 at 11:51 pm | Permalink

          “The degree to which these were mere excuses should have been obvious to anyone watching at the time”

          It was obvious at the time. It was blatantly obvious to the whole world except Tony Bliar, why do you suppose Dubya couldn’t cajole/threaten/blackmail/bribe anyone else into supplying even a token force to give some pretext of legitimacy to his crusade?

        • Michael
          Posted June 16, 2014 at 10:22 am | Permalink

          I think it was also about money, rewarding Bush’s cronies and funneling war money into Bush’s political supporters and cronies by way of war purchases, war contracts and just plain old large suitcases full of cash that disappeared into a lot of peoples car trunks.

          Corporations made billions. Billions of dollars in cash disappeared. A lot of Americans got rich.

          • Posted June 16, 2014 at 10:24 am | Permalink

            Rich is quite the understatement here…

          • Kevin Alexander
            Posted June 16, 2014 at 10:34 am | Permalink

            ‘A lot of Americans got richer.’
            Fixed it for you.
            Playing the game on Pentagon level you have to have some serious ante and now that the Supremes have bumped the game up to no limit, very few have the means to pay.

          • gluonspring
            Posted June 16, 2014 at 11:17 am | Permalink

            Perhaps, but I doubt it. While the profiteering certainly is an agreeable side effect for many people associated with them, I really doubt that was a major motive for going to war. I think it is not bald selfishness that is behind their drive for war but a kind of selfish delusion. I think they were people who could not distinguish between their own ego and the good of the country. When they felt an ego sting of criticism of how the first Iraq war was ended the interpreted this as a sting for the country. When they felt the need to have their pride and ego stroked, they interpreted that feeling as a need to restore the stature of the country. When they gave us bogus reasons for the war, at some level they knew they were lying, of course. Their lies were too flimsy for it to be credible that they really believed them deep down. But I think too that they were searching for additional rationalizations for a war they had already decided to launch based on ego, and so there might have been some element of self-deception, of hope even, that there were other reasons that would make it worthwhile. I see them as people who feel it is totally worth thousands of American lives to establish our reputation in the world as a country not to be messed with, but who feel that they needed something better to sell to the little people who didn’t get their Big Picture. Their self deception is that there is no Big Picture, only their ego.

            In any case, we can agree that the real reasons for the war were criminally illegitimate, whatever the details.

  31. lisa parker
    Posted June 14, 2014 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

    Eastern Sub-Saharan Africa-the cradle of humanity; all kinda humane action there. The Tigress and Euphrates river delta-the cradle of civilization; oh so civilized there. IMO sadly crib death. Although my daughter still finds it hysterically ironic that when the museums in Baghdad were looted someone stole the Code of Hammurabi clay tablets.

    I wish to make it abundantly clear that I find war a really ridiculous way to solve any country’s aggression or repelling aggression. Problem with the neighbors? Well then, lets decimate our gene pool, especially ridding it of our ‘best and brightest’ young men (and sometimes woman.) But no one who has ever studied history, anthropology and/or all the other social sciences can see humans as anything but warriors. So, if you want to play war, play by its rules. We went to war with Iraq (and all neighboring countries.) We won. That means that all that real estate is the US’s property; isn’t that what war is all about? So after so many of our children died in the litter box of the planet and now we just turn around and go home? Are we a people of war or peace? Decide that and then we can either stay home or play war. To leave so much of our children’s blood in the sand and achieved nothing is perhaps more barbaric than playing Empire.

  32. Diana MacPherson
    Posted June 14, 2014 at 3:36 pm | Permalink

    I never favoured this war but there was no stopping W. I’m thankful the Liberal government was in charge in Canada then as the opposition (our current government) badly wanted to go to war. I know Canadian-US relations were hurt then and there were several incidents of Canadian flag burning and harassment of Canadians by thugs as they crossed the US border (damaging cars, etc) but that died down quickly. It was bad enough fighting in Afghanistan for so long. Canada has a small population and those deaths take a toll.

    As I said up thread, this conflict really scares me because the people cannot be reasoned with. Further, I always think of the citizens who have suffered so much and now suffer more. Poor things. It is just awful to think of.

  33. Posted June 14, 2014 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

    The US can’t just leave Iraq, they still have to find the Weapons of Mass Destruction. Those weapons are there somewhere in Iraq, we just need to have patience.

    • Doug
      Posted June 15, 2014 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

      The real killer of Nicole Brown Simpson is hiding them.

      • merilee
        Posted June 15, 2014 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

        along with the airliner and all the nightjars…

  34. Filippo
    Posted June 14, 2014 at 4:44 pm | Permalink

    sub

  35. Richard C
    Posted June 14, 2014 at 7:17 pm | Permalink

    Iraq is a nightmare of a situation. Short of inventing a time machine and keeping us out of there I don’t know how we can make it better without making it far, far worse.

    At this point we have to trust that the new Iraqi government can successfully drive the militants out. Maybe given the imminent threat of becoming overrun by the next Taliban they’ll stop acting like sectarian asses and develop some sort of power-sharing truce. Or maybe that’s just too optimistic. We’ll see.

    • Posted June 14, 2014 at 7:43 pm | Permalink

      At this point we have to trust that the new Iraqi government can successfully drive the militants out.

      We don’t even have to accept that. All we have to do is accept that we are powerless to effect the type of change we desire, and have the courage to do nothing — nothing being the least evil thing we can do at this point.

      After the bull has rampaged in the china shop long enough, how many more chances do you give the matador to glue all the pieces back together again? At what point do you just tell him to get the fuck out, take his goddamned bull with him, and never come back?

      And if you’re the matador, at what point do you accept the “invitation” to stay the fuck away, no matter how bad you feel about having made the mess in the first place?

      b&

      • lisa parker
        Posted June 14, 2014 at 8:19 pm | Permalink

        Perhaps they should forget the WMD’s and find the Code of Hammurabi. If you want to really go back to the beginning…

        And it started way way before any Bush administration. Sometimes I wonder if that Old Testament story of the Tower of Babel might have had roots in historical fact.

      • merilee
        Posted June 14, 2014 at 9:40 pm | Permalink

        sub

  36. walkingmap
    Posted June 14, 2014 at 8:18 pm | Permalink

    I beg to differ, on one major point. Afghanistan is our longest war, started in 2001, Iraq started in March 2003.

  37. Jeffery
    Posted June 14, 2014 at 9:30 pm | Permalink

    One of the reasons our government can’t keep their hands off the Middle East is that they can’t accept the fact that it’s a “no-win” situation: continue “helping” over there, and more people will die and more dollars will flow out of our economy (one of Al Queada’s main strategic weapons against us- spend us to death!), with about the same results as we’re seeing now. Pull out, do nothing, and years from now when we’re fighting WW III against this presently-imaginary “caliphate”, it will be said that we should have done something about it.

    You have to remember that “Iran” and “Iraq” are imaginary constructions: Winston Churchill drew the boundaries of present-day Iraq back in 1920, pasting Shia, Sunni, and Kurdish-controlled areas into one state, complete with a puppet ruler who was completely unfamiliar with the region. When asked why he did this, he supposedly said, “That’s so they’ll be so busy cutting each others’ throats that they won’t have time to cut OURS”. In “true” Islam, no independent “state” is recognized: all the world will eventually be under the rule of Sharia law, with government and religion being one and the same. The tenets of their socio-political control system that masquerades as a religion demand that, at some point in the future, they MUST “come after us”.

  38. madscientist
    Posted June 14, 2014 at 10:28 pm | Permalink

    It’s a pity we squandered an opportunity to improve things in Iraq. Instead, as I said way back before the war started, we’d simply bombed them and left them to deal with the disaster.

    ‘Isis’ of course is a huge threat to Iraq as well as all the neighboring states. I have yet to see any news on who’s funding that group. What I do hear on the news makes little sense: that Isis includes Sunnis. Well, now we have our very own Chechnya.

    What’s happening in Iraq at the moment is reminiscent of our abandonment of Afghanistan almost 30 years ago. I wonder what will happen to Afghanistan when we abandon them again.

  39. Posted June 14, 2014 at 11:57 pm | Permalink

    If you have a better solution, by all means suggest it.

    My idea would be to identify progressive, secular, pro-democracy, pro-human rights forces in unstable countries and support them with training, money and weapons, kind of Communist International style. It would empower people there to do what they want to do instead of occupying them and forcing them into something.

    The problem with my idea is that there is no incentive for our Western governments to support groups that want self-determination for their peoples. Quite the opposite: because governments who are free to do what is best for their countries have the unfortunate habit of doing things like nationalising strategically important economic sectors, not signing trade agreements destroying their own industry with cheap Western imports, or allying with countries other than the USA, Germany or France, they tend to be toppled by anti-democratic groups trained, financed and equipped by the West or its allies like Saudi Arabia…

  40. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted June 15, 2014 at 12:44 am | Permalink

    “It’s time to declare victory and get out.”

    Oh I do hope that was meant as cynically, ironically and sarcastically as it reads.

    The trouble is, the neocon fat cats in Washington who engineered the war probably will regard it as a victory. For them and their bank balances, it probably was. I like Stephen Muth’s idea of shipping them over to Iraq for sharia courts to deal with, I’m sure the Koran has some appropriately bloody penalty for lying and engineering the deaths of thousands. (We should throw in Tony Bliar as a bonus).

  41. gluonspring
    Posted June 15, 2014 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

    Every time I hear about ISIS in Iraq I think of this old TV show: http://bit.ly/1n0GPOP

  42. Posted June 16, 2014 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

    We should sanction the hell out of that country and ideally get as many other countries to do the same. No imports, no exports, no travel between the countries?

    Will it prevent the immense suffering already going on there? No, but maybe it can help contain it there and let them wallow in ignorance long enough so that the society ultimately eradicate itself. I foresaw this exact scenario back in 2003 before we invaded and so did anyone else (sadly only about 22% of the country) who had any sense or knowledge of history. One simply cannot forcibly insert democracy (an oxymoron already) into a region where irrational aspirations for 72 nonexistent virgins in a nonexistent paradise take precedence over everything.

    Give up defeating it, just try to contain it as we would do with any virulent pandemic.

  43. Posted June 16, 2014 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

    We should sanction the hell out of that country and ideally get as many other countries to do the same. No imports, no exports, no travel between the countries?

    Will it prevent the immense suffering already going on there? No, but maybe it can help contain it there and let them wallow in ignorance long enough so that the society ultimately eradicate itself. I foresaw this exact scenario back in 2003 before we invaded and so did anyone else (sadly only about 22% of the country) who had any sense or knowledge of history. One simply cannot forcibly insert democracy (an oxymoron already) into a region where irrational aspirations for 72 nonexistent virgins in a nonexistent paradise take precedence over everything.

    Give up defeating it, just try to contain it as we would do with any virulent pandemic.

  44. Diane G.
    Posted June 16, 2014 at 11:20 pm | Permalink

    sub


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 30,619 other followers

%d bloggers like this: