Obama’s Capitulation in Iraq

To be sure, when the last US forces left Iraq in 2011, the American population was ready for it. And the US forces had achieved most of their goals. The Hussein regime had been toppled, and a nascent viable government and security force were in place. 

Militarily, a small contingent should have been left to help build the Iraq forces, and to continue to reinforce their technical and tactical capabilities.

But during difficult negotiations with the Iraqi government over the Status of Forces led the Obama government to exercise its preferred option, and simply leave Iraq completely. After a fashion, it allowed Obama to proclaim victory. And the proclamation was far more important than any actual benefit or cost to the nation’s long term security interests.

And so we see today that Iraq has slowly been shuffling toward sectarian civil war. And now, the resurgent Al Qaeda group in the region, ISIS, has achieved significant victories in the last two days, seizing both Mosul, and today Tikrit.

This is, of course, precisely the situation critics of the abandonment policy warned of in 2011.

And not a few veterans are livid that the administration has squandered the chance for stability that their brothers in arms bought with their blood.

Then, by declining to provide a long-term security assistance force to an Iraq not yet able to handle the fight itself, we pulled defeat from the jaws of victory and increased the peril our Iraqi friends would face. By not training and equipping Syrian freedom fighters in the summer of 2012, we provided an opportunity for al-Qaeda to rebuild strength in the region. The renewed Sunni insurgency in Iraq joined with the worst of the anti-Assad forces in Syria present a threat greater than the fragile Iraqi government can handle on its own.

We are reaping the instability and increased threat to U.S. interests that we have sown through the failure of our endgame in Iraq and our indecisiveness in Syria. There is a clear lesson here for those contemplating a complete withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan. Having given al-Qaeda a new lease on life in the Middle East, will we provide another base where it began, in Afghanistan and Pakistan?

This is not the end state my friends fought for and died for.

I understand that there is currently no popular public support for a recommitment of US troops to Iraq. But that isn’t the only option on the table.

It isn’t like the attacks on Mosul and Tikrit were wholly unexpected by the Iraqi government.

In fact, the Iraqi government requested US airpower, both manned and unmanned strikes, on ISIS assembly areas to blunt their attacks.

And Obama turned them down.

As the threat from Sunni militants in western Iraq escalated last month, Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki secretly asked the Obama administration to consider carrying out airstrikes against extremist staging areas, according to Iraqi and American officials.

But Iraq’s appeals for military assistance have so far been rebuffed by the White House, which has been reluctant to open a new chapter in a conflict that President Obama has insisted was over when the United States withdrew the last of its forces from Iraq in 2011.

The swift capture of Mosul by militants aligned with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria has underscored how the conflicts in Syria and Iraq have converged into one widening regional insurgency with fighters coursing back and forth through the porous border between the two countries. But it has also cast a spotlight on the limits the White House has imposed on the use of American power in an increasingly violent and volatile region.

A spokeswoman for the National Security Council, Bernadette Meehan, declined to comment on Mr. Maliki’s requests and the administration’s response, saying in a statement, “We are not going to get into details of our diplomatic discussions, but the government of Iraq has made clear that they welcome our support” in combating the Islamic extremists.

As I mentioned to a friend in relation to this topic either intentionally or through incompetence, the Obama administration has virtually always sided with the most islamist faction in every issue.

And a pretty fair amount of support could be provided to the Iraqi government without substantial presence of US forces inside Iraq. And while the American public is quite wary of any entanglements of troops on the ground, they’ve shown a remarkable complaisance toward US airpower being used. How many times has the US used drones in Yemen or Pakistan with little or no reaction from the general public?

Shift your eyes from the chaos in Iraq to Afghanistan, and we see the administration striving mightily to again flee the field. Look at the ability of the US to depose a mostly neutered Libyan strongman in favor of radical islamists, and to consistently back the most radical parts of the Muslim Brotherhood against popular opposition in Egypt. The administrations dithering and incomprehensible approach to Syria (admittedly, not a place with a lot of good options) hasn’t improved matters much.

Obama has repeatedly touted his “successes” as having “Al Qaeda on the run.” Sadly, it appears Al Qaeda is indeed running, sprinting for the finish line, while Barry trots to the locker room.

Obama will do anything to end  a war. Except win.

12 thoughts on “Obama’s Capitulation in Iraq”

  1. I’ve said all along that what we should have been doing is bringing Iraqi battalions over to America, sequestering them in places like Ft Bliss or NTC and training them for about four months and rotating in the next ones. Use them as OPFOR at NTC or other posts. In four months of dedicated training, I could make the most lethal (non-Israeli) battalion in the Middle East.

    1. Oh, and yeah, I am kind of agitated to see the fruits of my three trips over there squandered. Had a great perspective seeing 2003, 2007/08 and 2010.

  2. Bombing Libya to support unknown anti-Khadafi forces–Okay.
    bombing Syria to support unknown anti-Assad forces-Okay.
    Bombing to support friendly (sorta) anti-AlQaeda forces-No way!

    The smartest man in the room.

    1. What two things do Khaddafi’s regime, Assad’s regime, Maliki’s government, (and Mubarak’s government, for that matter) all have in common? They all were the entities that most aligned with US strategic interests, and they are the the very regimes we helped overthrow. Makes you wonder about Obama’s true intent. (Yes, we are obliquely supplying ISIS through weapons deals in Syria and Libya.)

    2. pbho has one hatred: The middle class of America. The enemies of America are his passive allies. Golfing and partying, not the work and responsibility he strove for, are his real interests.

  3. Vietnamization of the war, the catchphrase of that era, worked as long as there was US provided air support. When Congress canceled that, it was only a matter of time. But at least Vietnam is not out to force its ideology on anyone but its own residents.

    1. “as long as there was US provided air support.”

      And money.
      Anyone taking bets on how long Afghanistan gets either after 2014?

  4. If left unchecked, ISIS will create a toxic breeding ground or terrorists much worse than AFG under the Taliban. The US response has to be much more than a strong condemnation and more assistance to the Iraqi military. Failure to act decisively will have a tragic impact for years to come and will be the worst foreign policy mistake of any recent administration.

    1. You are assuming that the “tragic impact” is not precisely the intent of Obama’s foreign policy. It has to this point been an unbroken string of foreign policy decisions that have been the absolute worst of all options for US interests. Eventually, it stops being a tragic coincidence.

  5. This isn’t in the slightest politically correct, but I’ve always felt we should have left Gaddafi alone.

    Look at the background:
    -he gave up his nuclear program
    -he gave up a lot of weapons
    -he (IIRC) gave up some major players
    -he stopped supporting terrorism

    In short, Libya stopped behaving like a destabilizing regime and started acting like a grown-up state, as it were. The unspoken deal was that Gaddafi would behave himself, and we would leave him alone.

    Instead, we hounded him to his death. Takeaway for other players:
    -don’t make deals with the US, they’ll eventually renege.
    -don’t give up your external power in exchange for US guarantees, they’ll fink out on you.
    -don’t expect the US to support you in a pinch, as they’ll leave you twisting in the wind.

    Obama worries about whether a regime is morally good. I worry whether they’ll help keep the peace.

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