Less than three years after U.S. troops left, cities in Iraq are falling to ISIS militants. According to CNN, this week 500,000 people have fled the Northern cities of Mosul and Tikrit, and the Iraqi security forces have mostly given up.
ISIS — the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria — is an offshoot of al Qaeda that has been disavowed by al Qaeda leadership, but is just as rotten and maybe a great deal worse. ISIS militants took Fallujah back in May. Now they are an hour’s drive from Baghdad.
The situation in Iraq has become so dire that officials are asking for help from the U.S. Reportedly, Iraqi officials will even accept airstrikes, though they aren’t likely to get them.
Iraq has not been this violent since 2007, and this is convenient for mainstream Republicans, who can continue to blame Obama’s supposed foreign weakness for the country’s deterioration. Obama followed a previously agreed upon timeline set by George W. Bush to pull American troops out of the country.
Yes, Obama failed in his efforts to negotiate to keep troops in the country. That’s a good thing. America needed to get out. Now, we need to stay out.
The Iraq war gave us 4,800 Americans dead, up to 500,000 Iraqis dead, a ruined, unstable country, and a $2 trillion bill for U.S. taxpayers.
Yet the reaction to the collapsing situation in Iraq from interventionist conservatives is roughly, “Way to go, Obama, you’re the wuss who can’t do what needs to be done.”
The aggressive nastiness of ISIS may make intervening more tempting. But it would pay to remember that al Qaeda was nowhere near Iraq until the U.S. rolled in. The intervention also seems to have emboldened Iran.
The bottom line is that if you want to wean yourself off the disaster that is U.S. empire, you need to start somewhere. Starting with not going back to Iraq in any great capacity would work.
Interventionists have the same sort of cluelessness about wars that advocates of grand domestic policy ventures posses. Obama’s 2009 stimulus was an ill-advised Keynesian, cronyistic adventure — just like the bailout and TARP under Bush.
When Obama was criticized for his policy’s colossal failures, supporters responded that the economy would have been much worse without it. And how can you disprove that? Conveniently, you can’t.
How can you be sure that more gun laws would prevent criminals from using firearms to hurt people? You can’t, but you can’t disprove it either. Better go for more gun control, especially when there’s all this moral outrage pushing for legislation so that no mass shooting ever happens again.
The nature of liberalism suggests that doing something is always superior to doing nothing. Conservatives and Republicans can fall into this trap too. Back in 2002 and 2003, the Republicans — with exceptions named Ron Paul — were dead-certain about the good that would come from invading Iraq and overthrowing Saddam Hussein.
When things went South, it was “the mishandling of the war” that Republicans objected to, not the fact that we had invaded a country. After things exploded into sectarian fighting, some Republicans backed away at last, saying maybe it wasn’t the best idea, maybe. But it wasn’t until the war became truly uninteresting as frontpage news and folks like Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) started chomping at the bit for new conflicts with Iran that it lost some power as a talisman of Bush-era bravery — doing the right thing, no matter the cost, that sort of thing.
The confidence with which the war began in Iraq is exactly the same anti-individualist attitude expressed by nanny state liberals in nearly every endeavor. The conservative belief that a government — bureaucratic and incompetent in nearly every other sphere — suddenly gains perfect knowledge in life and death foreign policy matters is a bizarrely common one. And it seems to go entirely unnoticed by the mainstream GOP.
Hopefully Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky) and his allies will continue their good influence on the Republican party. Rand is not quite his father, the former Representative who spent huge chunks of the 2008 and 2012 presidential races patiently explaining that blowback is a real thing, and that people resent foreign meddling, even when it’s done by the most noble United States.
However, even in a lite version, the Paulification of the GOP is a move in the right direction. Had it happened earlier, we wouldn’t have had the war in Iraq.
Warmongering Republicans might say, still, that things would have been “worse” without that war. We’ll never know for certain, though a stable dictatorship is arguably superior to a broke, terrorist-ridden country, even disregarding the appalling body count.
We’ll never know what Iraq would look like without American interventions, but we do know what the U.S. actually did there. It’s time to say, “Enough!”