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ISIS Looming Iraq Victory is Fruit of Decade of Failed U.S. Policy

ISIS fighters parade

ISIS fighters on the march (Yaser al Khodor/Reuters)

The shocking blitzkrieg of ISIS forces through Iraq, which finds them only 70 miles from the capital, Bagdhad, is the end-result of twelve years of failure of U.S. Middle East policy.  It all began with George Bush’s burst of irrational exuberance after 9/11, when he and Dick Cheney decided they were going to take advantage of the lemon offered them and make lemonade. So they invaded Afghanistan and toppled the Taliban.  Then the invaded Iraq and toppled Saddam.  ‘Bring it on’–remember that?  They were sittin’ on top of the world.  ‘Mission Accomplished’ and all that.

I hate to say I told you so, but there were many of us who knew this couldn’t work.  It was only a question of how it would go to pieces and how long that would take.  I don’t know what will happen in the current disastrous situation.  I don’t know if ISIS will be stopped or whether it will take over all of Sunni Iraq and declare its trans-national Islamic state in Syria and Iraq.  I don’t know if the U.S. will intervene to stop the Islamist offensive; or if Iran will intervene to protect the Iraqi Shiites.

But whatever happens, it proves that the Bush-Cheney policy of muscular interventionism was a house of cards built on faulty premises of U.S. omnipotence and infallibility.  Though I have little good to say about Barack Obama, who’s continued the former president’s counter-terror policies in far too many ways–I don’t envy Obama.  What choices does he have?  Stay out of a war he never wanted and watch as the region falls into Islamic sectarian madness?  Get sucked back into a war he never wanted?  And to what effect?  More U.S. boys killed in a war we thought we’d left behind?

The ISIS offensive proves our policy of building an Iraqi military deterrent was an abject failure.  Iraq’s military can no more defend its country than the Dutchman’s finger can stop the powers of the sea from overflowing the dike.  The Iraqi government is corrupt and hopelessly divided along ethnic lines.  Dysfunction doesn’t even begin to describe it.  And this is the quagmire Bush got us into.

Let’s not neglect Afghanistan.  After all, that’s how we got into this thing back in 2002 when Bush overthrew the Taliban.  Our plan for withdrawal seems to have been modeled on what we did in Iraq.  Given our success lately, we might want to rethink that.  Do we really believe any Afghan army can withstand the Taliban over any extended period of time without a continuing U.S. military presence there?  It’s a given that we don’t want to be there.  But if we’re not and everything goes to hell, then what?  The whole thing sucks and it’s the guy in the flack jacket’s fault.

Now a few broader issues.  Remember back last September when we were a hair’s breadth from attacking Assad?  Remember when he was the Butcher of Homs?  Well, he certainly was those things.  But it quickly became apparent that the rebels were no angels either.  Just about now, after watching ISIS crucify and behead unarmed civilians in Syria, Assad is starting to look a whole lot more–well, if not statesmanlike–then at least palatable.  And even if you turn up your nose in disgust, what’s the alternative?  Do you prefer an Alawite butcher or a Sunni butcher?

Another “analyst” whose ideas are starting to stink from the head is Daniel Pipes.  Remember when he was rubbing his hands with glee (and video) at the prospect of Syrians and jihadis, all enemies of Israel, beating the crap out of each other?  That didn’t turn out so well, did it?  As soon as ISIS realized it couldn’t defeat Assad on the Syrian battlefield, it turned its sights east and saw there the exposed underbelly of Sunni Iraq.  It did a mental calculation: who would I rather fight?  Those Shitte assholes Hezbollah, who’ve been kicking the shit out of me for months; or Iraq’s Potemkin army?

There is only one silver-lining I can see in all this mess: the opening to Iran, which has been building for months in the midst of a nuclear negotiation, could prove a lifeline.  The U.S. and Iran have a great deal at stake in the fight to re-stabilize Iraq and stymie the ISIS menace.  If I were Obama and Rouhani I would get together immediately.  Whatever it is that’s still holding back a nuclear agreement, get over it.  Sign the sucker.  There are bigger fish to fry here.  Do you want an Al Qaeda state spanning thousands of miles of Syrian & Iraqi territory?

Turkey has a potential role to play in this as well.  Though the Kurds have proven an impacable enemy, Turkey has no interest in seeing ISIS invade Kurdistan and encroach on Turkey’s southern border.  Again, this means that the U.S. and Iran should have a great deal in common with Turkey at this moment in time.

So tell me just how important now does Israel seem amidst all this chaos?  Not very.  Though Israel may see this as an opportunity to mend fences with Turkey, I’m not sure it will see things the same way.

Israel enjoys when Muslims kill each other.  Because then they’re not killing Israelis.  At least, that’s the way Israel’s strategic planners see it.  And when the frontline Arab states, not to mention the U.S., are distracted from their dispute with Israel, then it can pursue policies it favors like expanding settlements and suppressing Palestinian rights.

{ 17 comments… add one }
  • Strelnikov June 12, 2014, 12:34 AM

    “Do you want an Al Qaeda state spanning thousands of miles of Syrian & Iraqi territory?”

    I think that the US is dumb enough to let ISIS win, because Washington loathes Tehran that much.

    • Oui June 12, 2014, 3:13 PM

      You certainly confuse Obama with Netanyahu of Israel and the likes of Michael A. Ledeen.

  • Lou June 12, 2014, 3:50 AM

    al Malaki’s government asked the US to remove it’s forces, and we did.
    al Malkaki’s government asked the US to return and bomb the ISIS and we refused.

    Sounds like the al Malaki government and the Obama administration are directly at fault.

  • Oui June 12, 2014, 3:10 PM

    “… seeing ISIS invade Kurdistan and encroach on Turkey’s southern border.”

    Won’t happen!

    ISIS has taken Turkish hostages in Mosul, NATO has come together in Brussels.

  • Yair June 12, 2014, 9:54 PM

    You are as obsessed with Israel as any arab leader. The hatered that spawns the “two muslims kill each other – let’s talk about Israel” is the mentality that allows arab dictators the war crimes they are so good at.

  • Lou June 13, 2014, 3:13 AM

    The sectarian government of al Maliki ostracized the Sunni minority and therefore is most responsible for this crisis.
    The United States had had a moderating influence on al Maliki until the US was forced by al Maliki to completely withdraw.

    link to newyorker.com

  • Markus June 13, 2014, 6:37 AM

    The plan was never to stabilize these countries, if we look at what the neoconservatives wrote 10 years ago..

    “We may willy-nilly find ourselves forced … to topple five or six or seven more tyrannies in the Islamic world (including that other sponsor of terrorism, Yasir Arafat’s Palestinian Authority). I can even [imagine] the turmoil of this war leading to some new species of an imperial mission for America, whose purpose would be to oversee the emergence of successor governments in the region more amenable to reform and modernization than the despotisms now in place”

    link to theamericanconservative.com

    • dcdoc1 June 13, 2014, 2:45 PM

      Pat Buchanan, the antimsemite and former editor of The American Conservative, is most definitely not a “neocon.” The label he would agree to is “paleoconservative,” a very different political beast.

  • Moshe June 13, 2014, 8:30 AM

    Hey you MF, unsubscribe me now! k3@tampabay.rr.com You have 3 business days to do so, when not complying, FTC will get involved!

    • Richard Silverstein June 13, 2014, 6:04 PM

      @moshe: I never asked you to subscribe to my blog. That was your decision.

      I don’t respond to threats. Every e mail message you receive as a subscriber has instructions for unsubscribing. Follow those directions and do it yourself. I respond cooperatively to those who make requests similar to yours. But done so with elemental civility, unlike you. So I NEVER respond to threats.

      But I’ll happily tell people that you sent that threatening e mail by this IP address: People also have your e mail address too, now that you’ve made it public.

  • ben June 13, 2014, 10:49 AM

    If you look at Japan and Germany both are countries that America invaded and was successful in rebuilding. I think the reason for this was two fold. One was the giant capital injection and the other was the continued occupation in the form of Military. To this day there are still 50,000 troops in Japan and 40,000 in Germany. One could only imagine if shortly after the Second World War America decided that they were going to withdraw all their troops… What would Germany and Japan would look like today?

    Even though the reason for the Second World War and the war in Iraq are different I think the end results are similar. If Obama was strong enough he would have made sure that there was 10,000 troops left in Iraq as General Petraeus called for… We might not have seen the rise of Isamists in Syria and the almost collapse of Iraq. Hell I would even go as far as saying the FSA would have not been challenged by the Islamists as the main Rebel army and would have had enough Clout with the international community to receive full military support.

    From an article I read from the ISW link to understandingwar.org
    It seems that Iraq is being divided between Shia (Iran) and Sunni (Saudi Arabia) and it seems that Iraq is more important to the Shia then Syria is (due to religious holy sites) and apparently there are elite “Quds” forces protecting the Shia holy site in Samarra which was reopened in 2011 after numerous attacks. The attack in 2006 which targeted the dome of the holy site started the Ethic war which resulted in the Mehdi militia to ethnically cleanse Baghdad of large portion of its Sunni population.

    Moreover all the forging Western Fighters who will eventually come home with no doubt similar mental disorders as American troops (PDSD and such) will surely cause problems as seen in Belgium France and England.

    So to sum this as a major American Policy screw up is probably the nicest way to put it.

    • NAa June 18, 2014, 6:49 AM

      You are forgetting the other third: the largest group in the world without a country, the Kurds. Also… Japan was a unified nation for hundreds of years and had already embarked on a serious modernization program at the start of the Meji Restoration. Japan would have rebuilt regardless of our troops. Germany, while as a unified single nation had a shorter history, its largest chunks, Prussia, Bavaria, Saxony and other areas were also similarly modernized at the same time. Germany was responsible for so many technologies before, during and after the war. I would never compare occupation of Germany and Japan with Iraq which has always been an artificial creation of stupid white men after WWI / Ottoman Empire collapse. The British, French and Americans truly screwed up every conceivable aspect of “peace” to create most of our problems today.

  • guy June 13, 2014, 2:12 PM

    hi richard. how come that you didnt write about thr 3 young boys who those arabs kinnapped?

    • Richard Silverstein June 14, 2014, 3:27 AM

      @ guy: I did.

  • jbrook June 16, 2014, 6:14 AM

    Why was my comment about ISIA and MOSSAD censored?

    • Richard Silverstein June 16, 2014, 5:11 PM

      I don’t publish 9/11 conspiracy theories. I ask comments to be based on facts & evidence & not personal theories & conspiracy.

  • NAa June 18, 2014, 6:41 AM

    The painful fact of the matter: the entirety of US foreign policy since WWII has been a sheer disaster in every conceivable metric possible, from civilian death toll to environmental degradation (Haiti, Indonesia, Philippines, Nicaragua, Argentina, E Timor, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, etc). Of course, it would be utterly childish to ascribe our foreign policy as having anything to do with justice, democracy or decency. Our policy is driven by the disparate interests of corporations, corporations that in 1950 or 1960, we could identify as “American”, but with “advances” in technology and law, are simply extra-national entities capable of destroying large swaths of the world with trivial bribes funneled into various political campaigns. Long before Bush II invaded Irag, his administration’s very first meetings on energy policy had already outlined an invasion of Iraq and which oil majors would get access to where. Only a nitwit would invade an artificial country like Iraq expecting it to remain stable without a dictator. Ditto for a “country” that is only defined in geographical terms by its outer neighbors. Afghanistan has not been a true nation-state EVER. It has only ever been a collection of tribes that often hate each other with a decorative concept of a capital. Any high-school student (from a school that still teaches history) would have predicted failure in both of these tragic mistakes.

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