It appears Iraq is about to fall to a faction of militants who could make the reign of Saddam Hussein seem like the good old days. The usual hawks — Grandpa John McCain, that mighty nimrod of warriorness Lindsey Graham, et al. — blame Obama for leaving Iraq to be defended by Iraqis (after spending countless billions building up their military so they could do that). We told you so, they said.
No, warhawks, we told you so. We warned that sending American troops into a Middle Eastern country, especially for obviously phony reasons, would inspire more radicalism and more enmity toward the U.S. and would bite us in the long haul. And we warned all along that making the Iraq invasion “work” would require pouring unlimited resources we couldn’t afford to pour into Iraq, forever and ever. There would be no end to it until we declared victory and went home.
And we were right.
If I were president, I’d call up the leaders of surrounding nations (the Saudis first) and say, good luck with this. I hope you guys can handle it. Let us know if you need anything, and we’ll consider it. I assume it’s in your own interest to not be seized and beheaded if this spreads, so I’m confident you will make a good effort without us.
Leslie Gelb makes some good points here —
The U.S. fights in Iraq and Afghanistan and Libya and Vietnam and other places (maybe next in Syria), provides billions of dollars in arms, trains the friendly soldiers, then begins to pull out—and what happens? Our good allies on whom we’ve squandered our sacred lives and our wealth fall apart. That’s what’s happening in Iraq now.
And before the U.S. government starts to do the next dumb thing again, namely provide fighter aircraft and drone attacks and heaven knows what else, it should stop and think for a change. If America comes to the rescue of this Iraqi government, then this Iraqi government, like so many of the others we’ve fought and died for, will do nothing. It will simply assume that we’ll take over, that we’ll do the job. And when things go wrong, and they certainly will, this cherished government that we’re helping will blame only America. Don’t think for a moment it will be otherwise. Don’t think for a moment that the generals and hawks who want to dispatch American fighters and drones to the rescue know any better today than they’ve known for 50 years.
How many times do we have to re-learn this lesson? The horrible truth is that as far as American security was concerned, we were better off when Saddam Hussein ran Iraq. Stephen Hayes’s fantasies to the contrary, Saddam was no friend of jihadists and clearly had given up plans to expand his territory after he was smacked down in the Gulf War. Yeah, he was a nasty piece of work, but it’s about to get a lot nastier.
See also Fareed Zakaria, “Who lost Iraq? The Iraqis did, with an assist from George W. Bush.”
The prime minister and his ruling party have behaved like thugs, excluding the Sunnis from power, using the army, police forces and militias to terrorize their opponents. The insurgency the Maliki government faces today was utterly predictable because, in fact, it happened before. From 2003 onward, Iraq faced a Sunni insurgency that was finally tamped down by Gen. David Petraeus, who said explicitly at the time that the core element of his strategy was political, bringing Sunni tribes and militias into the fold. The surge’s success, he often noted, bought time for a real power-sharing deal in Iraq that would bring the Sunnis into the structure of the government.
A senior official closely involved with Iraq in the Bush administration told me, “Not only did Maliki not try to do broad power-sharing, he reneged on all the deals that had been made, stopped paying the Sunni tribes and militias, and started persecuting key Sunni officials.” Among those targeted were the vice president of Iraq and its finance minister.
But how did Maliki come to be prime minister of Iraq? He was the product of a series of momentous decisions made by the Bush administration.
Mao Zedong took China largely because the Chinese had come to genuinely hate “our” guy, Chiang Kai-shek. Our propped-up puppet leaders in Vietnam didn’t exactly inspire devotion, either. Ngô Đình Diệm was such a disaster the Kennedy Administration approved his assassination. And Kennedy’s “best and brightest” at least had measurable IQs, which beats out the crew running things for Dubya.
And like Steve M, I’m waiting for Rand Paul and the teabaggers to stand up to the establishment hawks and demand we not compound the mistakes by
defending Maliki. Wait … do I hear crickets chirping?
I also think that if McCain, Graham et al. think the GOP can take back the Senate by demanding we re-invade Iraq and blaming Obama for having “lost” it, they may be surprised. 9/11 is ancient history, and who needs to be afraid of potential jidahis when our chain family restaurants are being taken over by halfwit armed domestic goons? I don’t think most Americas give a hoo-haw what happens to Iraq, and most of those who do care probably realize there’s not a hell of a lot we can do about it without hurting ourselves worse. And I am genuinely sorry about that, because it’s possible we’re about to witness atrocity on a historic scale.
Via Digby, see also (from 2011) U.S. Troops Are Leaving Because Iraq Doesn’t Want Them There.
And see also Juan Cole. Our best hope for beating back the jahidis in Iraq may be … Iran.