Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Barack Obama Bombs Iraq Again


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131 Responses

  1. greginak says:

    I’m fairly conflicted on this. Meddling is bad, but O has been keeping us out while McCain and Graham and the R’s have been screaming for war. HOwever the Kurds have been allies to a degree and the Yhdies (sp) were apparently lined up to be slaughtered. Supporting an ally and preventing a genocidey kind of thing do seem like good things.Report

  2. North says:

    First off, criticism: Obama should throw this to congress to approve. Let the neocon and GOP architects of this absolute clusterfish actually put their votes where their enormous mouths are on the subject instead of just jawjawing happily from the sidelines. What the fish he’s thinking on not doing so is utterly beyond me.

    Second off: Partisanship: This is fallout from the absolute fishup that Iraq was. Let us not forget who shoved all those guns into the hands of the Iraqi army who promptly tossed them and ran away. Let us also not forget who put Maliki into place and propped him up.

    Third off: rationalizing: Obama’s containing his mission currently to bombing to keep Kurdistan safe and to pull off some pretty clearly defined humanitarian goals. That’s at least somewhat defensible. At least -thank god(ess?) we’re not intervening to help the absolute fishup nonsense that’s going down in Baghdad. It’s astonishing how badly it’s falling apart there: even the Shiites are turning on themselves and Maliki is plumbing new depths for failure.

    Fourth off: despair: I’m afraid this is gonna mission creep on us or worse yet Obama’s going to let the neocons and liberal interventionists jawjaw him into doing more and more. Hillary (who I supported for Pres and support for Pres again) is sounding even more interventionist than Obama (though I have faith that she’ll be a proper Clinton weathervane if she gets into office and thus shouldn’t go against the public on it). So we could all be doomed, doomed.Report

    • greginak in reply to North says:

      Hell yeah he should make congress vote. It is a mistake to let them just operate their pie holes and take every possible side except the one where they put their vote where their mouth is.

      I doubt he will let the mission creep to far. That hasn’t been his MO.Report

    • trizzlor in reply to North says:

      There’s an assumption here that Congress would be interested in acting on this in a timely fashion, something they’ve been unable to do with a border crisis that directly impacts the US.Report

      • Hoosegow Flask in reply to trizzlor says:

        It surely wouldn’t be a productive political move, but part of me would get enjoyment in seeing him use his constitutional power to call Congress into session in the middle of the August recess. I wonder, though, what happens if Congress ignores it.Report

    • notme in reply to North says:


      First, Obama didn’t need or want congress to weigh in on Lybia so he would be a hypocrite to do it now to escape any blame for his policies of disengagment from Iraq. Biden said Iraq was a great Obama acomplishmnet so what happened?

      Second, don’t you liberals have another tune besides blame Bush?Report

      • Saul Degraw in reply to notme says:

        In this case he and Cheney and the rest of the neocons bare almost all the totality of the blame if not the entirety of the blame.Report

      • North in reply to notme says:

        Notme: bashing the blame Bush theme isn’t an answer; particularly when the mess we’re cleaning up was quite literally Bush’s signature policy during his term. Conservatives can spin and spin and spin this but until Iraq is sorted out and has sat quiet for a good long while culpability for Iraqs messes will always track back to the right (especially when the same actors who got us into Iraq and still happily employed on the right) and everyone knows it. I can understand why right wingers can find that enraging but them’s the breaks.

        Trizzlor: Even if he sent it to congress while doing what he’s doing it’d still be more defensible than it is now. I don’t understand it.Report

      • notme in reply to notme says:


        Why not blame the Koch brothers as well? Isn’t that the next verse of the liberal “Don’t take no responsibility” songReport

      • Patrick in reply to notme says:

        I think it’s within the realm of possibility that Saddam would be dead of natural causes by now. Given the utter bonkersness of his offspring and the resulting likelihood that Iraq would not transition leaders gently, I would say it’s reasonable to assume that right about now we’d be dealing with some sort of analogous craziness.Report

      • trizzlor in reply to notme says:

        Even if he sent it to congress while doing what he’s doing it’d still be more defensible than it is now. I don’t understand it.

        Yeah, I’ll agree with you there. I think @notme’s interpretation is probably right: if Obama didn’t think he needed Congressional approval to invade a new country, he sure isn’t going to go looking for it in re-invading an old country (and potentially opening himself up to claims of hypocrisy). Which is kind of like being in a hole and deciding to pretend it doesn’t exist instead of dropping the shovel.Report

      • notme in reply to notme says:


        So Biden is wrong about this great accomplishment? How can Obama eight years later still not be responsible for anything that has happedned in Iraq during his presidency? Nothing is his fault? If Hillary wins does she still get to blame Bush and skip responsibility?Report

      • Morat20 in reply to notme says:

        Quiz time, notme.

        What was the name of the US President who signed the agreement withdrawing all American forces from Iraq by 2011?

        I’ll just be here, humming the jeopardy theme.

        (Hint: The last name of this President has the same number of letters as the last name of the President who invaded Iraq!)Report

      • notme in reply to notme says:


        So the Iraq withdrawl is Bush’s fault or should he get credit? You are a liberal so I assume you are singing the blame Bush ragtime.Report

      • Michael Drew in reply to notme says:

        Not me:

        On Iraq, everyone gets to blame Bush forever. He’s responsible for every president’s bad table manners as they try to eat the shit sandwich he made us. That much seems obvious.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to notme says:

        I think it’s within the realm of possibility that Saddam would be dead of natural causes by now

        I’m under the impression that Iraq was the first domino. Had Iraq not been toppled and the world not seen the huge amount of discontent that Saddam had been keeping a lid on, I think it’s well within the realm of possibility that Egypt not exploded, that Libya not exploded, and that Syria not be exploding.

        I mean, sure, anything could happen… but taking Saddam down was a lynchpin event.

        The only evidence I have for this is North Korea.Report

      • Patrick in reply to notme says:

        In the history of dictatorships, I think North Korea is well on the side of the successful ones on the distribution curve. Well, modern ones anyway (post industrial).

        The ability to maintain a constant government during transition seems more the exception than the rule. There is some better success among the folks who climb to the totalitarianism platform under the guise of a communism or socialism, but old school military dictatorships usually don’t last, and since their power structure is deeply rooted in the military hierarchy with a huge dose of personal loyalty, the absence of the figurehead has all sorts of interesting power grab opportunities.

        Syria might not be in the mess it’s in now, right now, but it would probably be in that mess sometime in the next 10 years. Libya, Quaddfi would quite possibly also be passing on from natural causes right about now. Egypt is probably the best case for “this probably wouldn’t have happened without Iraq”. But a funny thing, it’s not “the middle eastern countries” or “the Islamic countries” that are in trouble.

        They stable ones are the ones where the young folks are employed. Qatar. UAE.

        If Iraq was all that of a domino effect, either Iran or Saudi Arabia would be as good a candidate for unrest than Egypt, I would think.Report

      • Damon in reply to notme says:

        @notme @north

        All I’ll say about blame is this: If the current president takes the blame for a bad economy, one doesn’t then argue that the prior president got us into this foreign policy mess. Presidents take the acolades when times are good/benefited from the good work/luck of predecessors, they take the blame in hard times. How many years after Obama’s CAMPAIGN PROMISE to get out of Iraq did he actually get it? 7 years? Nah, you own that bitch now.Report

      • Gabriel Conroy in reply to notme says:


        n this case he and Cheney and the rest of the neocons bare almost all the totality of the blame if not the entirety of the blame.

        If memory serves, there were an awful lot of Dem’s on board with the invasion. That doesn’t mean Bush et al. don’t deserve the blame or that it wasn’t team Bush’s project, but the Dem’s, or at least some of them, have something to answer for.Report

      • North in reply to notme says:

        I’m not of the opinion that Obama and his Party is blameless. Dems were on board with the initial jingo charge into Iraq; Obama has been running the show in Iraq for a while. I am more of the mind that while the Dems have not covered themselves in glory on this subject their right wing opponents are utterly and completely discredited. The Dems have failed to clean up the mess as quickly as anyone would like but the GOP are sprawled out right in the middle of it caked in it from head to toe.

        I also think the idea that not withdrawing would have helped the situation to be knee slapping idiocy. Look at the utter idiocy going on in Baghdad. If we were still boots on the ground in Iraq like we were before withdrawal then the primary difference would be that when the national army ran away there’d have probably been a scattering of American platoons going “well shit”. Not to mention us being branded as Maliki’s bag men. Yeah no thanks.Report

      • Kim in reply to notme says:

        you ever shot someone?

        You ever ordered someone shot?

        Someone innocent, even?

        Don’t you fucking dare talk about liberals not taking responsibility.

        If the Kochs are a problem, and they are, it is in no small part liberals’ responsibility. To the extent that the Kochs are busy flaming their own tail, a dragon pretending to be a dog chasing its own tail? That’s liberal responsibility too.Report

      • notme in reply to notme says:


        Several years ago when the wars overseas were still hot I rasied my right hand and accepted a comission. I was ready then and still am to go fight.Report

      • Kim in reply to notme says:

        First, I want to take the opportunity to thank you for your willingness to serve our country. Because it really is important, and I continue to believe that the American military can do a damn fine job at peacekeeping (even with bombs).

        But, that’s really not what I’m talking about. When I think of liberals taking responsibility, I mean them (and not the US Government) taking on terrorists. Taking out bad guys. Oh, sure, occasionally that means tipping off the Secret Service (easier to work with than the ATF, who knew?)…

        But if you want to take responsibility — and you care about the world at all, you’re trying to help in Rwanda.

        Liberals do take responsibility, though I’m starting to think maybe you’d rather we not (certainly other posters here have argued that murdering an innocent child is a Bad Thing Full Stop). Conservatives like to think that most actions are done through the government — or through church. Liberals rarely have time for that.Report

    • Michael Drew in reply to North says:

      He’s thinking his relationship with the Hill is I tatters and he has no idea where the politics of this will go. He’s thinking impeachment would literally be less the equivalent of a no-confidnce resolution than would two straight refusals by Congress to grant him force resolutions to deal with emergent crises. He’s thinking there’s a use of force resolution already put in place by Congress to deal with the post-regime-change problems in this country that we brought into our foreign policy landscape pursuant to same still-law resolution. He’s thinking from the perspective of the presidency it would actually be a bad precedent to suggest there’s a need to seek approval to respond to imminent threats to U.S. interests as basic as embassies and consulates in countries in which use-of-force resolutions are still law, where the violence associated with the actions authorized by said resolutions never came to a full halt.

      I wish he were saying that that resolution were part of his authority to do this because it is a much greater claim to make to say that he has the authority to respond to threats to U.S. interests in this way outside of that context. But given his political commitments wrt that resolution, I get why he isn’t. I also get that to say that would be to perhaps limit what future presidents can do to protect U.S. interests like embassies in less clear-cut circumstances than these. Nevertheless, I wish he were.Report

    • James Hanley in reply to North says:

      I’m substantially in agreement with North.

      I’m very conflicted, but in this case I’m leaning toward limited intervention. Kurdistan is a very friendly place for us, and a place that really just wants to stay out of the shit and mind their own business. I think we should defend them.

      But I don’t think it would stop there. These ISIS bastards seem to be the most brutal of the brutal. They literally want to exterminate not only all Jews and Christians, but all Shi’a as well. They’re ultimately going to collapse because their brutality is not stable, but the sooner the better. I’d like to see a situation where we don’t try to determine the winners of the side-by-side civil wars, or insists upon the extant western-drawn borders of the countries, but say that ISIS is out of bounds, destroy them, and leave the playing field to the other contestants. But we probably couldn’t restrict ourselves to that.

      But I do think the Kurds deserve our help.

      As to Bush, @notme, he was warned by everyone who knew the Middle East that he was going to reap the whirlwind. Unless you want a permanent large troop presence in Iraq, with a continual stream of dead American military personnel, this civil war was inevitable. We never had the population fully subdued, and we never would be able to. We’d just be a permanent occupying power in a country where our presence was hated, and that’s a pretty dumb fucking idea. If Maliki had been smart enough not to try to beggsrcthe Sunnis, maybe civil war could have been avoided, but he was our man, Bush’s man.

      Blaming Obama for not fixing the mess Bush created is like blaming the king’s horses and men for not putting Humpty Dumpty back together again. Some things are not fixable by American firepower, but the great idiocy of American conservatism is the belief that all it takes is firepower and willpower. This is the lazy proposal of those who find it too much effort to try to understand the cultural and political dynamics of the Middle East.

      Hell, it’s the proposal of people who are too motherfucking stupid to understand that people there are really like people here. We glorify the American revolutionaries for throwing off an occupying power, and we love Red Dawn because it has American teenagers fighting a geurilla war against occupying Russian forces, but somehow we think people in other countries won’t do the same. Ask yourself what the hell Americans would do if we had an Arabic military occupying the U.S., and you’ve got your answer about what Arabs will do while we’re occupying them.

      It’s time to grow the hell up and realize that they don’t give a shit about American exceptionalism, and in the long run occupying powers always lose unless they’re willing to eliminate most of the local population and replace them with the occupiers own people.Report

      • Jim Heffman in reply to James Hanley says:

        “Blaming Obama for not fixing the mess Bush created is like blaming the king’s horses and men for not putting Humpty Dumpty back together again. ”

        Except that, y’know, the king’s horses and men told us about how they would put Humpty Dumpty back together again. It was one of the big reasons why we let them be in charge of things.Report

      • LWA in reply to James Hanley says:

        Yep, this about sums it up.Report

      • LWA in reply to James Hanley says:

        Clarification- I was endorsing Hanley’s comment.Report

      • KatherineMW in reply to James Hanley says:

        Some things are not fixable by American firepower, but the great idiocy of American conservatism is the belief that all it takes is firepower and willpower.

        Yes, this, entirely. Their constant refrain has been “something is happening in the world that we don’t like, so clearly this is all Obama’s fault“.

        Not everything in the world is under the America’s control. Until American conservatives realize this, the libertarian idea that they’ll come around to a Ron Paul notion of disengagement and anti-interventionism is no more than a pipe dream.Report

      • Tod Kelly in reply to James Hanley says:

        “Blaming Obama for not fixing the mess Bush created is like blaming the king’s horses and men for not putting Humpty Dumpty back together again. ”

        I have to say, this seems a bit inherently pot-calling-kettle.

        It seems to me we either let go of the past as best we can and ask ourselves what we can do from this point going forward, or we *really* go back in the past, not just to the point where we feel comfortable going back. Because this habit half of us Americans have of pointing at the Middle East or even just Iraq and saying “it’s all Bush’s fault” seems about as useful and accurate as when the other half points and says “it’s all Obama’s fault.”Report

      • North in reply to James Hanley says:

        It isn’t an answer nor does it chart a path forward, my Todd, but it is a response to the Presidents domestic critics baying about precipitous withdrawals. Unless they have something very concrete to suggest doing their squalling about what has and is being done can accurately be dismissed as substanceless and valueless kvetching.Report

      • Tod Kelly in reply to James Hanley says:

        I get that, North. It’s just that… oh, I dunno.

        After almost five decades of watching this stuff, I’ve gotten a little weary of being constantly and aggressively asked to pick and defend a side (either side!) that continues to commit “necessary” atrocities, a little weary of keeping up the shared charade that this is all somehow new and therefore urgent, and a little weary of always having to frame a thousands-year old conflict on the other side of the planet as being all about America — that someone it’s always and only the God-fearing people of the United States who caused the strife and have the power to end it.Report

      • Glyph in reply to James Hanley says:

        this is all somehow new and therefore urgent

        My wife and I caught a snippet of TV news the other day with the chyron reading CRISIS IN THE MIDDLE EAST, and I reflected that I can recall seeing some version of that same headline for over thirty years now pretty consistently, and wondered aloud if something that’s been going on for far longer than thirty years can reasonably be called “crisis” any longer. At this point “Tuesday” is perhaps more appropriate.

        That probably speaks poorly of me, but it speaks poorly of the situation as well.Report

      • Kim in reply to James Hanley says:

        Ought we not to hold ourselves to higher standards for this Tuesday?
        After all, we should have plans to deal with Tuesdays…Report

      • James Hanley in reply to James Hanley says:

        @jim-heffman, @tod-kelly

        I don’t think the Democrats are blameless, and sure Obama gave us cheap talk in his election. Has he handled things well since then? Who knows? Nobody has any real good understanding of how to handle the smashed egg well, regardless of what the armchair Clausewitzes would have you think. At least he doesn’t think that we can just waltz into countries, smash everything, and be beloved by the peaceful masses yearning to breathe free, so I guess he’s an improvement.

        But it was Bush and his cohort of neocon chickenhawks who wanted war with Iraq so badly that the day after 9/11 they were already talking about invading, who fallaciously tried to link bin Laden to Hussein to justify it, who manipulated the CIA to write a misleading executive summary on their Iraq NIE, who outed a clandestine CIA operative, and who sent Colin Powell to the UN with information they knew was faked.

        We don’t stop pointing out who is fundamentally to blame just because years have gone by, others have had their fingers in the pie, and we feel obligated to a sort of even-handedness–especially at a time when one of the principals is working overtime to play historical revisionist–because the lessons we take from this are vitally important.

        We can either take away the lesson that a better president could have fixed the mess, perhaps if he’d just left our troops there indefinitely, or we can take away the lesson that we really shouldn’t try to impose regime change by force in a Middle Eastern country riven by deep historical/culture differences into at least three distinct and relatively mutually hostile groups.Report

      • Kim in reply to James Hanley says:

        Bush’s treasury secretary said that they were talking about invading Iraq well before 9/11.Report

      • Jim Heffman in reply to James Hanley says:

        “We don’t stop pointing out who is fundamentally to blame just because years have gone by…”

        See it’s not like Obama said “well I’ll sort of try to make things better in Iraq and I’ll get American combat troops out of there if it’s not messed up too badly because of Bush”, he said “we’ll be out of Iraq as soon as I can make that happen”. And he did pull all the American troops out of Iraq, and in fact he proudly took credit for doing it and claimed that Iraq was better for our leaving. So it’s a bit thick to pretend that there’s no reason to hold Obama accountable for the current situation in Iraq, because he stood up and said that he owned it now.

        Besides, if we’re going to play the Who Fucked Up First game then we need to go back to the 1940s when most of those countries were created.Report

      • Kim in reply to James Hanley says:

        because Hitler is to blame for our military adventurism in Iraq. Srsly? Who Knew?Report

      • James Hanley in reply to James Hanley says:


        You’re talking about words, not real deeds. It’s not simply the pulling out that caused this to happen. Had we never been there in the first place, pulling out would not have been an issue. And of course Obama was just following the agreement set by Bush, so even Bush bears responsibility–at least as much as Obama–for the pullout timing.

        A thoughtful person might take the time to ponder what would have been the Iraqi response had Obama just unilaterally rescinded that agreement and kept troops there. Peaceful acquiescence? Or a growing insurgency?

        When someone’s handed a pile of shit in one hand a turd in the other, you can’t seriously criticize them for choosing poop.Report

      • James Hanley in reply to James Hanley says:

        Besides, if we’re going to play the Who Fucked Up First game then we need to go back to the 1940s when most of those countries were created.

        WWI, actually. That created the trap. But nothing required Bush to walk into that trap.Report

    • Wardsmith in reply to North says:

      Luckily you’re Canadian so there’s no “we” to worry about. 🙂Report

  3. trizzlor says:

    There was a recent interview with Amos Oz on the Arab-Israeli conflict which had an interesting view on pacifism:

    Unlike European pacifists I never believed the ultimate evil in the world is war. In my view the ultimate evil in the world is aggression, and the only way to repel aggression is unfortunately by force. That is where the difference lies between a European pacifist and an Israeli peacenik like myself.

    Unfortunately, this can view easily be turned into “peace through strength” and used to justify any conflict. But the distinction between force and aggression is still a useful one, and why I feel like the “Nobel laureate uses bombs” argument isn’t dealing with the whole story. Nothing is simple, but it’s clear that ISIS is a nightmarish aggressor; that the Kurds are – at least – liberally minded; and that the former is making headway largely due to the availability of US weapons. So do we owe the Kurds anything? If every intervention now has to reconcile with the failure of Iraq nation-building, shouldn’t every non-intervention have to reconcile with the outcome of Rwanda?Report

    • Kim in reply to trizzlor says:

      /some/ people intervened in Rwanda. NGOs, ya know?
      I think many people mistake the big boomstick that is USAF
      as our only tool in the woodshed.Report

    • LeeEsq in reply to trizzlor says:

      I tend towards agreeing with Amos Oz’ distinction between war and aggression. The scholar Richard Landes often writes about something he calls cognitive egocentricism, the deep down belief that everybody else in the world really perceives it as you do. With strict pacifists, there seems to be a belief that anybody using violence would always have the proper response to non-violent resistance rather than going on their merry way and continuing the slaughter. This really isn’t the case. There are some people so firm in their cosmology that they would burn the entire world to make their version of utopia a reality. ISIL like the early Bolsheviks before they got corrupted by power seem to be a good example of this sort.Report

  4. Saul Degraw says:

    I think you are being a bit partisan here. North and Trizzlor bring up good points.

    The whole current mess was caused by the whole shitshow caused by Bush II in the first place. I see no reason to doubt that President Obama sincerely opposed Iraq II because it would likely spiral into chaos and situations like this.

    Yet there is also such a thing as being honorable and trying to mitigate your country’s mistakes as much as possible. Obama did not create the current problem, he merely inherited it and he does have a moral responsibility to clean it up. You just can’t say “not my fault” and drop everything like a sack of shit.

    He is handling a fucked up situation in the best way possible. We do have a moral responsibility not to leave minorities at the mercy of ISIS.Report

  5. Chris says:

    Point of fact: ISIS is not who we talked about arming. In fact, at some point Obama was arguing we should arm other rebels to help them fight ISIS. Now, it’s easy to get confused about this, because Syria is a god awful shitty mess, but worth clarifying.

    That said, the reasoning for this action sounds aaaaaawfully familiar. It feels like 1998 and 2003 all over again.Report

  6. Burt Likko says:

    Query: what happens if we do nothing? ISIS takes over Iraq as its new national government, maybe grabs some Syrian territory, maybe the Kurds break away? Crazy nutjob caliph dude now runs Greater Iraq which we then have to start calling the Caliphate of Greater Iraq. And they probably get crosswise with Iran and Saudi, and more than a little bit isolated diplomatically because they’re so very illiberal.

    Sounds kind of like the warm-up to the Iran-Iraq war, if you ask me — which granted leaves a generation’s worth of U.S. Intervention in Mesopotamia flushed down the Shaat al-Arab, but on the other hand is there a better way you can think of to divert chaos away from the west than by having the regional Muslim powers stuck in intramural wars? A humanitarian disaster, to be sure. Something that as moral beings we all should deplore. And from a foreign policy realism standpoint, maybe a cold-blooded policy of allowing chaos to develop in this region is the cynically least bad move available.

    It’s not like whoever is running the show there is going to stop pumping and exporting oil.Report

    • Jaybird in reply to Burt Likko says:

      There’s a quote from Genghis Khan that keeps popping up in my head whenever I read about fundamentalists winning a battle or winning territory.

      “Conquering the world on horseback is easy; it is dismounting and governing that is hard.”

      I just find myself constantly frustrated that Islam as it exists in the Middle East keeps seeming so impervious to the cultural weapons we have. I suppose that that’s because anybody who might be a target has already up’n left…Report

      • Citizen in reply to Jaybird says:

        The primary nation building scheme is to push these regions into centralisation and policing. This is exactly what they have seen from numerous dictators for decades. Centralisation is at its definition putting all the eggs in one basket. It is the easiest of targets to destroy.

        I think they look at factions being less of a problem and more representative and long term than centralised government.

        If I could deploy one cultural tool it would be peaceful anarchy. It dispatches government and faction control in the same stroke. The eggs are no longer in one basket but distributed evenly in the population.

        Maybe they wouldn’t have to choose which faction to die on:
        State, Corporation or Religion.

        If this country doesn’t decouple from the norm I think it could fall into a similar faction traps. (if it hasn’t already)Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to Jaybird says:

        Peaceful anarchy is an oxy moron because you still have to deal with the illiberal problem. Peaceful anarchy will only work as long as the vast majority of people, around somewhere over 95% of the population, adhere to it sincerely. When you get enough people in a group who believe that the only way to live is there way to live or who believe that other groups should be subjected to their group than peaceful anarchy is going to fall apart. Peaceful anarchy also falls apart if a group or person decides that it, he, or she is powerful enough to dominate others in an attempt to get a bigger slice of the pie. There are going to be business people that will decide that violence is a legitimate way to increase their wealth and power without state constraint.Report

      • Citizen in reply to Jaybird says:


      • Citizen in reply to Jaybird says:

        What does it take to disassemble faction?Report

      • Kim in reply to Jaybird says:

        the ubergoat, and a case of beer.Report

      • Citizen in reply to Jaybird says:

        They go where they are needed and appreciated.Report

    • Michael Drew in reply to Burt Likko says:

      This sequence assumes a number of eventualities that are entirely contingent, which is to say it could happen that way but it might not.

      But assuming arguendo it might go that way, that course likely remains on the table if we 1) contain ISIS’ advance into Kurdish territory 2) protect our facilities and people in Iraq using force, and 3) do the Yezidis the solid we’re trying to do for them with limited energy and political expenditure (i.e. with no boots on the ground). OTOH, it’s not clear to me that the Kurdish independence cause isn’t set back just at the moment when it may/should be coming to maturity if it sustains significant losses of territory and people to ISIS. That would be a real setback for one of our main allies in the region. And why let any of our outposts be overrun or be forced to abandon them to this group as an accepted cost? And if we’re going to act to protect those interests, why not reach out a hand to give these refugees some breathing space?

      John Judis has a piece at TNR arguing this is all about oil, and that may be. To me, it looks like it’s all about maintaining support for our main allied political group in the country and protecting our concrete interests there. Those may all in fact be one and the same, or at least interrelated. Regardless, it doesn’t look to me like our interests are served by letting this group run unchecked over the region. We thought there was an Iraqi army to check them; there isn’t. That’s not to say it’s worth putting a bunch of guys back on the ground to fight them with rifles and tanks. But it’s worth dropping a few bombs for, it seems to me. YMMV. But we hardly have to choose between containing this group’s seizures against our own possessions and those of our allies and pursuing a strategy of chaotic power balancing in the region (which seems to have been the approach to Syria thus far).Report

      • Chris in reply to Michael Drew says:

        First, we have 130 boots on the ground now, or will soon. We’re sending military advisers. It always stops there, right?

        Second, there is an Iraqi army, and a really big one. It’s just got the same problems that nation state of Iraq has. Recall that the Iraqi army, deployed in force (something like 40,000) ran from an ISIS force of about 800. Some of this can be chalked up to the reputation of ISIS for extreme brutality, but mostly it was Sunni soldiers deciding that they really had no desire to die fighting other Sunnis in a Sunni region nominally ruled by a mostly Shia government. Had ISIS pushed into mostly Shia territory, which it wisely did not, you’d have seen both Shia factions of the military and Shia militias fighting ISIS vigorously, much as we see Kurdish militias doing so now in Kurdish territory (the Kurds did retreat at first, primarily because they had nothing to fight with, but now that they are better supplied, they’re pretty systematically uprooting ISIS).

        If you want to combat ISIS in Iraq, figure out a better way to distribute power between the ethnic groups in Iraq, and push for that (rather than continuing to prop up a regime that even Shia members of the government no longer really support). Figure out a way to empower Sunnis in Sunni regions, much as we’ve empowered Kurds in Kurdish regions. And pray that fighting in Syria ends soon (which it won’t, because there are too many armed parties with no real goal other than to continue to kill each other and government troops, who themselves can’t possibly bring an end to the fighting without basically blowing their entire country to pieces).

        Guns and airdrops are at best like plugging cracks in the dam with our fingers, as more and more cracks open because of the war in Syria (where the competing ethnic groups are getting better and better at killing each other in increasingly brutal fashion) and the political issues in Baghdad. It’s ISIS now, but it will be someone else after they’re wiped out (and they’re a small group, under 10,000 fighters total). As long as Syrian turmoil and Iraqi political instability remains, the risk of fighting in Syria spilling over the border will remain, and Iraq will be no better equipped to deal with it in the future than it is now.Report

      • Michael Drew in reply to Michael Drew says:

        I’m not happy about the few hundred advisors, but under this president, yes, I think It’ll stay around that number. And I’ll make a bet the number doesn’t go above 2,000 in the next ten years. In any case, the point was that the air actions were potentially worthwhile. I don’t regard the decision to send ground troops in any significant numbers as a necessary consequence of that.

        If you want to combat ISIS in Iraq, figure out a better way to distribute power between the ethnic groups in Iraq, and push for that (rather than continuing to prop up a regime that even Shia members of the government no longer really support). Figure out a way to empower Sunnis in Sunni regions, much as we’ve empowered Kurds in Kurdish regions. And pray that fighting in Syria ends soon (which it won’t, because there are too many armed parties with no real goal other than to continue to kill each other and government troops, who themselves can’t possibly bring an end to the fighting without basically blowing their entire country to pieces).

        From the reports, that appears to be the medium-term plan of this administration.Report

    • LeeEsq in reply to Burt Likko says:

      If we do nothing than the results are going to be much worse than what you are imagining in this scenario. The current Iraqi government seems unable to deal with ISIL because Maliki refuses to step down and seems more interested in using Iraq’s armed forces against his political opponents in Iraq’s government than ISIL. This allows ISIL to take over a large chunk of Iraq if not the entire thing. The Kurds are going to respond by declaring independence. If ISIL takes over Iraq than the entire area is going to devolve into chaos because of how ISIL treated minorities. If the Shi’ites get persecuted than Iran is going to step in. Turkey might mobilize against the new Kurdish state along with ISIL in order to prevent their Kurds from getting ideas. Since ISIL is involved in Syria than Bashar is going to move against them if ISIL tries to take some or all of Syrian territory.

      There are also some reports of ISIL members being present in Gaza and that could bring Israel into the growing conflict.Report

      • North in reply to LeeEsq says:

        Let’s give the Turks some credit Lee. Whatever else one can say about Erdogan he’s not as rabidly anti Kurd as his preceeding administrations have been. Do not forget who has been cooperating with the Kurds to transship Kurdish oil. I think the Turks have amply demonstrated that they’d much prefer a stable cosmopolitan Kurdish statelet next to them than ISIL.Report

      • Burt Likko in reply to LeeEsq says:

        Is it ISIS, ICIS, ICIL, the Caliphate, what?

        Well, I know it’s a brutal and clever military dictatorship invoking ancient Muslim glories. But what do we call it?Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to LeeEsq says:

        Burt, they started off as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. After achieving control of some territories, they declared themselves to now be the Islamic State or the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant to reflect new ambitions.Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to LeeEsq says:

        Thats a good point North. The Turks might even see an independent Kurdistan as a necessary buffer zone. Edrogan might have political sympathies towards Political Islam but nowhere near the extent that ISIL believes. Nor is he or any other Turkish politician willingly going to submit Turkey to domination in a wider Islamic polity.Report

    • j r in reply to Burt Likko says:

      There are some limits to how far the Islamic State can expand. Too far into Kurdish territory in the north and the Turks have to get involved. Too far into Shia territory in the east and Iran has to get involved. Too far into the oil infrastructure in the south and everybody has to get involved.

      We’ll probably never let things get too out of hand in the region. Twenty percent of the world’s oil goes through the Straits of Hormuz. The Suez Canal is less important than it used to be, but still pretty important.

      The most likely viable scenario is that the most militant of the Islamic State leaders are either taken out or start to moderate their views and ISIS becomes a somewhat legitimate political party instead of a roving band of lunatics. The level of Shia domination that came to be in Iraq after Saddam was never a stable equilibrium. And Maliki didn’t help the situation by trying to subvert almost all of Iraq’s institutions under his personal control. Maybe the new Prime Minister will be better in that respect.Report

      • North in reply to j r says:

        From your lips to God(ess?)’s ear JR. Maliki has to go first though.Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to j r says:

        There are limits to how far the Islamic State could expand if you assume that they aren’t operating on a revolutionary mindset. Your assuming that the leaders of the Islamic State will generally stop trying to expand once they get the parts of Iraq and Syria they could hold into without other people getting involved. You might be right but evidence suggests that Islamic State is not operating with a strictly practical mindset. Based on their actions against minorities and their name changese, the really seem to want to the entire thing and if they have to fight Iran, Turkey, or the United States to get than so be it.Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to j r says:

        Maliki’s unwillingness to go is worrisome. If force is necessary to get Maliki to leave office, you might get a miniature civil war in Shi’ite Iraq unless all military units refuse to support him. This civil war will give the Islamic State an opportunity to consolidate or even expand its territory. It might also leave Iraqi forces to weak and exhausted to deal with an offensive from ISIL.Report

      • North in reply to j r says:

        The Maliki thing is quite frightening. The good news is that initial signs show some rays of hope: Maliki doesn’t have the support of his own political party and the spiritual leaders in Shiite Iraq are demanding he step down. The Shiite’s appear to be mostly convinced that Maliki is inept and want a different Shiite leader. That leaves him without an obvious power base except for the military and government establishment he created around himself. The downside, of course, is that he has a military and government establishment under his control. The $50,000 question is whether he’s deluded enough to think he can hold onto power long term using it or if he’ll recognize that he’s finished?Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to j r says:

        The evidence seems to suggest that Maliki is that deluded or at least recognizes that he is not popular but is willing to use the military to stay in power.Report

      • j r in reply to j r says:


        The limits that I am referring to don’t have anything to do with the IS’ state of mind. The limits are that, if they expand too far, they are going to get hit with significant push back. They can indefinitely hold the Sunni areas that they control now, but they likely don’t have the ability to make much headway into Kurdish or Shia areas. Presently, they can’t even take Baghdad.

        On Maliki, I wonder how much of Maliki’s feeling of invincibility was the US government’s support for him. A lot of good that is doing us now.Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to j r says:

        Jr, they might not be able to take the Kurdish and Shi’ite areas but they can certainly try in a state of delusion and cause a lot of damage in the meantime. They might also get help if the Shi’ite area goes into civil war because Maliki refuses to step down.Report

      • North in reply to j r says:

        The latest updates I’ve read have had more rays of sunshine in it. Iran has congradulated the new PM and Maliki’s security forces have stepped back from the brink a bit and a lot of their commanders are trotting out the “Loyal to the country not the individual” line whichis extremely good. If the new PM can assemble a governing coalition in his allotted time I think Maliki will end up frog marched out of power.Report

      • j r in reply to j r says:


        I was commenting on IS’ ability to hold territory outside of the Sunni heartland, but yes, they can cause lots of damage and mayhem over a wide swath.Report

    • Kim in reply to Burt Likko says:

      If you were talking Saudi Arabia — funder of Wahabis, I’d agree. Since you aren’t,I say you’re ignoring dangerous regional powers simply because they happen to be our “allies” (we won’t mention which Senators are theirs, yes,yes?)Report

      • Burt Likko in reply to Kim says:

        What dangerous regional power am I ignoring because of a formal alliance with the U.S.? I’m talking about containing and then isolating ISIS by playing it off against the House of Saud and the Supreme Leadership in Iran, both of whom we would like to see kept in check regardless of the former’s status as a formal ally and the latter’s status as a strategic rival.Report

  7. LeeEsq says:

    If I’m remembering correctly, Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize speech was about how the use of military force is necessary sometimes to achieve peace. In fact, it was a full throttled defense of the use of military force to achieve peace. Therefore, there is nothing inconsistent about Obama authorizing military strikes against ISIL and receiving the Nobel Peace Prize because he is not a pacifist and never claimed to be one.

    As for the politics, if Obama went to Congress for authorization to use force than I’m guessing that there would be a very good chance Republicans would not only deny that authorization because of their current practices but also blame Obama for not doing anything about ISIL. If Obama acts without congressional authorization than he is at only being blamed for that rather than letting the minorities of Iraq become victims of a potential genocide.

    Its also unclear if Obama actually needs Congressional authorization to act against ISIL because we still have troops in Iraq and are still in the process of officially withdrawing. There is no reason why a President could not reverse course if they feel it is necessary.Report

    • Damon in reply to LeeEsq says:

      When fighting over foreign policy objectives or such, maybe, but when foreigners, or infidels or occupiers in your land, it ain’t. LASTING “Peace” is achieved by those realizing you can get a better deal at the table than on the battle fields OR it’s achieved by ELIMINATING the opposition. Yah, you heard me…genocide.Report

    • morat20 in reply to LeeEsq says:

      In fact, it was a full throttled defense of the use of military force to achieve peace.
      There is a strangely vocal segment of the US (very, very frontline between late 2001 and 2003 or 2004 or so) who sincerely seem to believe that opposing the invasion of Iraq meant you were a pacifist.

      I was deeply amused, in a sad kind of way, at hearing people respond to the whole “Yeah, invading Iraq is a TERRIBLE idea” by explaining how pacifism fails the test of reality.

      I think the notion still lingers today, at the fringes, that opposing a US war MUST mean you’re a pacifist. It’s perfectly fine to oppose a war AFTER it’s already gone to hell, but before it starts? No rational reason, because apparently the US government will only start just wars.

      Honestly, I blame the media more than anything. Wars are good for ratings, good for correspondent’s careers, and frankly the sheer amount of excitement that journalists had at getting to cover Iraq — “war boner” doesn’t even begin to cover it, they wanted it so bad they could taste it. They got to be ’embedded’ and wear helmets and no amount of protesting was gonna stop the Pulitzer prizes.

      Seriously, a very sad day for journalism. I wonder if any of them have the sense to be embarrassed by how badly they dropped the ball in their excitement to get to ride in tanks and cover bombings?Report

      • Damon in reply to morat20 says:

        The media shares the blame for sure. They are lapdogs to the gov’t, currying favors for access. But the american populace, who continually fail to see this fact, and fail to do anything about it, nor their rulers, deserve the most criticism.Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to morat20 says:

        You find this belief outside of the United States as well combined with generally more leariness to use military force in any situation and a tendency to be more skeptical about American foreign policy, often for good reason.

        Like I mentioned above, there seems to be a decent segment of humanity that are really sincere liberal and pluralistic but assumes that everybody else is to despite all evidence to the contrary. If only we could take about our difference over coffee than surely we will all come to the conclusion that we should all emulate the European welfare state and lifestyle as superior to all others seems to be the line of thought.Report

      • Jim Heffman in reply to morat20 says:

        “I think the notion still lingers today, at the fringes, that opposing a US war MUST mean you’re a pacifist.”

        I remember a whole lot of opposition to the idea of US military intervention in Syria, and it wasn’t coming from the groups considered to be pacifist.Report

      • morat20 in reply to morat20 says:

        Oh, when Republicans disagree with war, it’s serious business.

        When Democrats do it? Hippy peaceniks.

        One of the funner emails passed around during the run-up to the Iraq war was a ‘How to talk to an Iraq War protestor’ whose instructions were to punch them protestor in the face until he punched back, thus proving pacifism doesn’t work.

        I got that from like six relatives inside of two weeks. (Stupid chain-email forwarding idiots). The entire vibe was that protesting the Iraq war was pretty much pacifists and hippies.

        *shrug*. But that’s not exactly new. The GOP has been seen as the sober, rational voice on foreign policy for like 50 years, and the Democrats were veteran-spitting protestors. It used to be more subtle, but the Iraq war PR campaign had all the subtlety of a brick to the head.Report

      • Mike Schilling in reply to morat20 says:

        I got that from like six relatives inside of two weeks.

        I may have to give The Bell Curve a re-read.Report

    • j r in reply to LeeEsq says:

      Therefore, there is nothing inconsistent about Obama authorizing military strikes against ISIL and receiving the Nobel Peace Prize because he is not a pacifist and never claimed to be one.

      Is that a statement behind which you really want to stand?Report

      • dhex in reply to j r says:

        “If I’m remembering correctly, Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize speech was about how the use of military force is necessary sometimes to achieve peace.”

        wasn’t that something? i mean, all the donk and publicrat and sports bar nonsense aside, it takes some kind of hydraulically-manipulated balls to accept a peace prize and give a just war speech in response.

        one of those weird moments i’ll probably remember right before i die, because it is very rare that one gets their biases reinforced quite so directly and succinctly.Report

      • greginak in reply to j r says:

        fwiw Some other winners of the NPP were Teddy Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Cordrell Hull ( US sec of State from the 30-40’s, General George Marshall, and Jimmy Carter. Not a lot of “peacniks” per se and includes some actual warriors. Also Arafat etc are in there.Report

      • dhex in reply to j r says:

        they do have an odd notion of what constitutes peace, to be sure.Report

      • Kim in reply to j r says:

        Marshall got it for a tremendous logistics campaign, the equal of which the world has rarely seen.

        Actions taken to create world peace are many and manifold. If we listen to Gore in time, we will prevent genocide. That seems a laudable goal, and even if we don’t — his work to show us the error of our spendthrift ways is still a credible reason for the prize.Report

  8. Kim says:
    Riverbend says all that needs to be said.Report

  9. Wardsmith says:

    If you haven’t watched this, do yourselves a favor and do so:

    I know Ryan and we’ve had discussions that would curl your beards. Just like watching a slow motion train wreck when you work for a company, only infinitely worse because it’s a government and the worst offenders are never fired nor held responsible.

    The very best thing the US government could do is fire everyone at State and start over. Truly that place is a ship of fools and everyone in foreign service knows it.Report

    • James Hanley in reply to Wardsmith says:

      If you think the State folks are bad, you should talk with the guys who were political appointees in the Bush admin. I was at a meeting in the State Department in, I think, ’06. The State folks were pretty smart, but the young political appointees sent to watchdog the meeting shocked us with their stupidity, and while one might think they could be excused for being young, they were clearly spouting their bosses’ lines, and had not learned anything better from their bosses.

      Questions like, “we keep telling them we’re trying to help them, so why don’t they believe us?” and “all this stuff about U.S.-Muslim relations is nice in theory, but can’t you just tell us whether we should back the Sunnis or the Shi’ites?”

      I needed a good stiff drink after that meeting, but I was with a group of well-behaved Muslims, so…Report

      • Kim in reply to James Hanley says:

        You should see the reviews the CIA gave of the Bush political appointees…
        There’s a reason our industrial counterespionage got a lot better in those years.
        (and not all of it was because of lax law enforcement).Report

      • dexter in reply to James Hanley says:

        James, I have heard many horror stories about the quality of President Bush’s appointees. He put a lot of Liberty lawyers in the DOJ which, to me, is very, very scary. What it took to get a Bush appointment was neocon bonafides or a daddy who gave a large chunk of change to the republicans.Report

      • Wardsmith in reply to James Hanley says:

        The good news about political appointments is they are gone with the next administration.

        As for drinking with Muslims haven’t you heard that old saw about how you keep a Muslim from drinking all your booze? Invite two.Report

      • Mike Schilling in reply to James Hanley says:

        I needed a good stiff drink after that meeting, but I was with a group of well-behaved Muslims, so…

        They had already finished all the good stuff?Report

      • James Hanley in reply to James Hanley says:


        I always heard that one as why you should always go fishing with two Baptists.

        I did have a great experience in Latakia, Syria, where a barber jumped out of his shop to pull me inside, waving what was unmistakeably a can wrapped in a paper bag, at 10:00 in the morning. Soon I ended up buying the next six pack, exchanging watches with the barber, and getting a straight-razor shave from a trainee who’d haf two or three beers. But everyone knows Alawites aren’t good Muslims. 😉

        I wonder how those guys are. And the soldier who shook my hand so enthusiastically when he found out I was American. And Ali in Zabadani who ran the cement warehouse and didn’t speak a word of English but made me sit down and ran down the street to buy more tea so he could make me a cup. Syrians really are a wonderful nation, and it tears me up to see the place being destroyed.Report

      • Wardsmith in reply to James Hanley says:

        @james-hanley When the uprising started in Syria, I sincerely wished and told anyone who would or wouldn’t listen that we needed to do in Syria what we’d already done in Libya. Airpower in the beginning would have save 100’s of thousands of casualties down the road. Anyone watching with jaundiced eyes would have cynically said we went after Libya for the oil and ignored Syria for the lack thereof. I can’t disagree with that sentiment.Report

      • James Hanley in reply to James Hanley says:

        I respectfully disagree.Report

    • notme in reply to Wardsmith says:


      Why fire anyone at State when we all know this is Bush’s fault? We all know that the folks at State answer to the Pres, right?

      On a more serious note it is amusing to see Hillary start to criticize her former boss, Bush, in the recent interview with the Atlantic and the pushback from the WH.Report

  10. Kolohe says:

    All we are saying, is give unilateral kinetic military action that sidesteps congressional authorization and nation-state sovereignty a chance. Again.Report

    • NobAkimoto in reply to Kolohe says:

      Imagine there’s no multi-national countries…it’s easy if you try…. No Serbs in Kosovo, and no Czechoslovakia, too….Imagine all the Kurdish… having their own state….Report

    • North in reply to Kolohe says:

      Congress could exercise their powers. They have the power to do it; all they have to do is use them. They don’t need to wait for Obama to come ask permission, they could step up and weigh in on the matter without an invitation from the executive.
      It’s almost as if they don’t want to.Report

    • notme in reply to Kolohe says:


      You must mean Obama and Libya when you talk about sidestepping congress because Bush had the approval of congress including Hillary, if I remember.Report

      • Kolohe in reply to notme says:

        I was referring exclusively to this administration. Precedence for each modifier is as follows

        unilateral – advisers to Iraq about a month ago, Iraq airstrikes this past week, drone strikes at frequent intervals, and most famously the OBL raid.
        sidesteps congressional authorization – Libya, and the aforementioned Iraq-targeted airstrikes and advisers
        sidesteps nation state sovereignty – (non-lethal, but still military) aid to Syrian rebels a year ago, arming Kurds now, and the aforementioned bombing the snot out of Libyan tanks to enforce a no-fly zone. Also, of course, the OBL raid.

        Sometimes you need to deviate from your principles. But once you start to run out of fingers on your hand to count the exceptions, people may start to wonder what those principles are. Or if you actually had principles to begin with.Report

      • North in reply to notme says:

        Any thoughts on why congress has not acted affirmatively to stop this encroachment on their perogative?Report

      • James Hanley in reply to notme says:


        Congress is too fragmented too coordinate on protecting its institutional interests. And there is a prisoner’s dilemma, in that whichever party holds the presidency fears the other side would only “cooperate” to attack the party’s president, and then when the other side holds the presidency, it would “defect” to protect its own president.

        I think, ironically, in a parliamentary system parties would be more willing to reign in their own executives. Separation of powers has not given us a checked presidency, but enabled the unchecked presidency.Report

      • Kim in reply to notme says:

        as Carter learned, the ultimate check on Presidential power is the election.

        Congress may give the president more latitude than the founders would have wanted (they were far more concerned with hobbling Congress than the President, after all)… But I do seem to recall the discrete application of anthrax being necessary to get us into the last war (and subsequently forgotten about: after 9/11 no terrorist attacks on US soil was the damned Republican cry. As if because it was aimed at politicians it wasn’t terrorists!).Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to notme says:

        James Hanley, Congress also has a very long history of differing to the President on foreign and defense matters with a few notable exceptions like the rejection of the Treaty of Versailles or the aftermath of the Vietnam War, which they latter ignored that much. Even in less partisan times when Democratic and Republicans worked together frequently, Congress tended to differ to the President on these matters because politics stops at the borders.Report

      • Kolohe in reply to notme says:

        Congress hasn’t acted affirmatively to protect its prerogative and exercise its responsibility wrt foreign policy since they prevented Ford from intervening on behalf of South Vietnam in 1975. They came close wish the prohibition on providing aid to Nicaraguan rebels, but that turned out to be mostly a dead letter (and the principle behind denying aid to south Vietnam as well as the Contras has been completely upended with the US support of Libyan and Syrian rebels, the Kurdish quasi-state, and the de jure government of Iraq)

        In any case Congressional failure does not excuse Executive over each, any more than failure to lock my car excuses the theft of items out of the front seat.

        And the most pertinent point is that Senator Obama’s and Candidate Obama’s most explicit promise was to restore US foreign policy to one that colors inside the lines of rules, provided by both domestic and international law, and governed by international multilateral institutions. (I have a hard time linking on a phone, otherwise i would link to the daily show’s coverage of the opening salvo of Odyssey Dawn. It’s a national treasure)

        Now, I happen to believe that international law is bunk, but that’s not what the entire Democratic leaning foreign policy establishment believes. Providing arms to a sub – nation state entity may even be a good idea, but goes against a couple of decades now of what are considered good international standards and practices. And some people may just need killing. But that’s a hell of doctrine ( it does serve to moot the questions of custody and torture, however)Report

      • Kim in reply to notme says:

        Aye, some people may just need killing. Not by governments, though. I endorse the private commissioning of mercenaries and assassins where necessary.Report

      • North in reply to notme says:

        Sounds like some good answers to me.Report

  11. notme says:

    What I find so amusing about this thread is that some how Bush is to blame for the rise of ISIS in Syria durng the civil war and their subsequent expansion into Iraq.Report

    • North in reply to notme says:

      Bush is to blame for the overall fishup that is Iraq.
      Isis is primarily a iraq grown problem. Track Isis to its’ source and you find Sunni alienation from the central government. Track that back and the blame lies primarily with Maliki’s relentless sectarianism(who rose to power under Bush).
      Obama has been President so of course some measure of blame can be levied at him but we’re not in the country en masse anymore (thank goodness) thanks to a SOFA inked (again) under Bush. Right wingers like to bray that Obama could have somehow magically kept troops in Iraq as if A) the American public wanted them there (they didn’t) or B) the Iraqi’s wanted them there (they didn’t) and on top of that right wingers somehow think that having American troops in the country playing bagmen for Maliki would make the current situation better?

      Frankly I think it’s proof positive that the GOP has completely failed to learn any lessons from the 2000-2008 period and they should be kept as far as humanly possible away from any control levers of foreign or military power.Report

  12. Creon Critic says:

    Doesn’t the whole concept of collective security presuppose so-called meddling? Why have a seat as a P5 member of the UN Security Council if the object is to avoid meddling (as an aside, except for Saudi Arabia’s recent declining, states do a whole lot of maneuvering to try to get one of the 10 elected seats on the Security Council. The US has one as of right)? Of course the US is going to “meddle”, of course great powers are going to meddle. They will meddle. All. The. Time. Or put it this way, I can’t think of a period in post-1648 international relations when great powers didn’t meddle.

    Part of the attempts towards a more regulated, law driven international order, post-WWII, is to channel great power meddling along more predictable lines, constrain their behavior somewhat, and try for diplomatic pathways where possible. But a humanitarian emergency is underway in Iraq (and Syria), isn’t that precisely where we ought to applaud intervention? When civilians are about to be slaughtered by the particularly ruthless and particularly inhumane actors in international politics, wouldn’t we want someone to intervene? (The details and caveats in an ICISS report on the Responsibility to Protect, here, )

    As for the Peace Prize, the UN (and counting UN System affiliates like refugees, children, etc.) have won the Peace Prize several times and they too have been involved in significant conflicts. Take a look at the UN Security Council agenda any given month and they’re part of attempting peace enforcement / peace keeping in hot spots, and weak and failing states, around the world. And as @leeesq and perhaps others have pointed out, Obama’s acceptance speech specifically mentioned what being a head of state means, in part protecting US interests and using force where appropriate. Here from his acceptance remarks,

    But as a head of state sworn to protect and defend my nation, I cannot be guided by their [Martin Luther King Jr. and Gandhi] examples alone. I face the world as it is, and cannot stand idle in the face of threats to the American people. For make no mistake: Evil does exist in the world. A non-violent movement could not have halted Hitler’s armies. Negotiations cannot convince al Qaeda’s leaders to lay down their arms. To say that force may sometimes be necessary is not a call to cynicism — it is a recognition of history; the imperfections of man and the limits of reason.

    Given the threat to civilians in Iraq, I think he made the right call.Report