Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Heck of a job, Maliki

Over at the Atlantic, Peter Beinart drops the hammer: "Obama's Disastrous Iraq Policy: An Autopsy".
But sooner or later, honest liberals will have to admit that Obama’s Iraq policy has been a disaster. Since the president took office, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has grown ever more tyrannical and ever more sectarian, driving his country’s Sunnis toward revolt. Since Obama took office, Iraq watchers—including those within his own administration—have warned that unless the United States pushed hard for inclusive government, the country would slide back into civil war. Yet the White House has been so eager to put Iraq in America’s rearview mirror that, publicly at least, it has given Maliki an almost-free pass. Until now, when it may be too late.
As the article notes, a parade of generals, senators and foreign policy experts warned this Administration that marginalization of the Sunnis would invite civil war, Obama pressed ahead with troop withdrawals all while praising Maliki's "inclusive" government.  Then, when things turned bad, Obama turned to his old ways:
For his part, Obama has not spoken to Maliki since their meeting last November.
You see, when you're the only adult in the room, you just can't talk to these people.

And before I get the standard pushback: I understand that comments like those from Dick Cheney are meant to inflame rather than inform.  But this guy has been Commander-in-Chief for going on six years now and he was certainly eager to declare Al-Qaeda "decimated" and Iraq stabilized during the Presidential election.  Back then he was Large and In Charge.  Now the new line is that, hey, Maliki forced me into this - nothin' I can do.  And as ISIS lays siege to Baghdad, we can debate whether they're the best damn junior varsity team ever to take the field.


Atlantic said...

Over at the Atlantic, William R. Polk drops the hammer:

Analysis of foreign affairs problems often ends in a mental block. As we have seen in each of our recent crises—Somalia, Mali, Libya, Syria, Iraq, the Ukraine and Iran—"practical" men of affairs want quick answers: they say in effect, 'don't bother us with talk about how we got here; this is where we are; so what do we do now?' The result, predictably, is a sort of nervous tick in the body politic: we lurch from one emergency to the next in an unending sequence.

This is not new. We all have heard the quip: "ready, fire, aim." In fact those words were not just a joke. For centuries after infantry soldier were given the rifle, they were ordered not to take the time to aim; rather, they were instructed just to point in the general direction of the enemy and fire. Their commanders believed that it was the mass impact, the "broadside," that won the day.

Our leaders still believe it. They think that our "shock and awe," our marvelous technology measured in stealth bombers, drones, all-knowing intelligence, our massed and highly mobile troops and our money constitute a devastating broadside. All we have to do is to point in the right direction and shoot.

So we shoot and then shoot again and again. We win each battle, but the battles keep happening. And to our chagrin, we don't seem to be winning the wars. By almost any criterion, we are less "victorious" today than half a century ago.

...Saddam's sin was not what he did in Iraq but that he thwarted us on two issues America would not tolerate his interference: oil in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia and Israel's relation with the Palestinians and its regional dominance. War could have been avoided by adroit diplomacy but it was avidly embraced in 2003 by the George W. Bush administration and its neoconservative guides. Their policy convinced the Iraqis that nothing they could do would stop it. They were right. We fired the broadside.

In the broadside we destroyed not only Saddam's regime. Inevitably; we killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, our use of depleted uranium artillery shells is believed to have caused a seven-fold rise in cancer among survivors; our bombs, shells and the nearly 1,000 cruise missiles we fired destroyed much of the country's infrastructure and caused millions of people to lose their homes, their jobs and their access to education and public health care. And, most important, in the chaos that followed the invasion, the fragile "social contract" that had linked together the inhabitants was voided. Terror set the rules. Hope disappeared in misery. Whole neighborhoods were emptied as violent and newly empowered armed men "ethnically cleansed" them. Former neighbors became deadly enemies. The government we installed made Saddam's regime appear in contrast as civil libertarian.

A whirlwind, as the Old Testament warns us, is the inevitable reaction to the sowing of the wind of war. That is what we are seeing today in Iraq. Now, it seems, President Obama has decided to try whistling in the wind.


Purple fingers said...

So... what, then? Obama should have kept U.S. troops occupying Iraq as in Korea, without regard for the 2008 "rearview mirror" agreement? He should have "pressured" Maliki with... sanctions? A coup? A round of democratic elections, of the kind that installed Maliki? Why hasn't Obama stepped up and resolved a 1,400-year-old blood schism in the 5 years during which he was obligated to shrink and eliminate America's presence?

And what if Obama hadn't put a superficially accurate, positive spin on the fractured wreckage of Iraq he inherited? Then he would have been... oh God, no...blaming Bush!

Out of curiosity, what previous president has done the Middle East right, avoiding irresolvable entanglements, and without provoking future repercussions? And why can't I train my pet scorpion to cuddle?

Anonymous said...

The Green Lantern rationalization.

A far cry from the megalomaniac who was going to slow the rise of the oceans.

Shock and Oa said...

It's okay to have absolutely no answers. Those were very tough questions.

Anonymous said...

"Those were very tough questions" is Obama's cri du coeur.

That's why he's surrounded by teleprompters and an army of straw men.

Oa no you di'n't! said...

Are any of those straw men a megalomaniac who was going to slow the rise of the oceans?