President Obama has authorized airstrikes against ISIS, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, the notional “caliphate”, to protect our consulate in Erbil and, if necessary, our embassy in Baghdad:
President Obama authorized airstrikes “if necessary” against Islamic militants if they move toward Erbil in northern Iraq where American military, diplomats and civilians are stationed.
During a late night statement Thursday from the White House, the president said he’s okayed “targeted airstrikes to protect our American personnel and a humanitarian effort to help save thousands of Iraqi civilians who are trapped on a mountain without food and water and facing almost certain death.”
Mr. Obama explained that the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in recent days has “continued to move across Iraq and have neared the city of Erbil, where American diplomats and civilians serve at our consulate and American military personnel advise Iraqi forces to stop the advance on Erbil.
ISIS is presently consolidating the areas of Iraq it presently controls and slowly extending that control. At some point I strongly suspect it is likely to move on Baghdad. In the areas it controls it is exterminating Christians. The surviving members of the small Iraqi Yezidi sect are now besieged on a mountaintop. If there were ever a case for a responsibility to protect this is it.
The Security Council has not authorized military action by the United States in Iraq and, unless it does or until it threatens our consulate in Erbil directly, military action by the U. S. in Iraq will be on shaky legal ground. IIRC it wasn’t too long ago that many were urging us to stay out of the conflict in Iraq. If they change their views once the president has authorized the use of force, the will abandon any pretext of coherence.
Just to make my own views clear I think that President Bush’s decision to invade Iraq was an error, the treaty he negotiated with the Maliki government was an error, and President Obama’s adherence to that agreement was an error. Contrary to the president’s assertions of just a few years ago Iraq is clearly not stable and is not able to defend itself. The editors of the Wall Street Journal concur:
For President Obama, any decision to reinforce the Iraqis or Kurds will be painful. On Thursday night he still took credit for removing all U.S. forces from Iraq in 2011. He was at pains to reassure Americans that the U.S. will not fight another war in Iraq even as he committed U.S. air power to the war that continues in Iraq.
It’s clear now that his decision to withdraw all U.S. troops in 2011 was a strategic and increasingly a moral disaster. The President—which is to say the United States—bears responsibility now for the humanitarian catastrophe occurring in Iraq, just as it did for the mass flight of Vietnam’s boat people, some two million, after the Communist triumph in the 1970s.
Before using force in Iraq, the president should seek Congressional authorization and gain the support of the American people. Don’t be gulled into believing that ISIS’s progress can be stopped with air power alone.