The editors of Bloomberg, in reaction to President Obama’s bomb strikes against ISIS, the “Islamic State”, in Iraq, write that he’s doing the right thing for the wrong reasons:
President Barack Obama’s decision to launch airstrikes against Islamic State in Iraq was correct — though not for the reasons he gave. This jihadi movement is a major threat to the U.S. and its interests in the Middle East. That’s what justifies use of force against it.
Announcing the action, Obama stressed his determination to keep the U.S. out of a new war, and said the airstrikes were an exception to his policy of non-involvement. He said the threat of genocide against the Yazidi people and the risk to U.S. personnel stationed in the Kurdish capital Erbil had forced his hand.
Those were reasons to act but not the main reason. Caution in the use of force is always wise, and Obama is certainly right that Americans don’t want to fight another war in the Middle East — but let there be no illusions about the larger danger posed by Islamic State.
If we are to wage war against all enemies, it might be prudent to make a prioritized list.
Rather than the right thing being done for the wrong reasons I think that bomb strikes against the Islamic State are the wrong thing for the right reasons. Wanting to save Iraqi Christians, Yezidi, and, indeed, all Iraqis from the tender mercies of the Islamic State is benign. Taking actions that won’t protect them, might kill them, and isn’t supplemented by anything other than the hope that the government of Iraq will get its act together is, well, less benign.
Napoleon once said if you start to take Vienna, take Vienna. If you set out to save Iraqis fleeing the Islamic State, do it. Don’t impose limits, restrictions, and caveats that will prevent you from achieving that objective. I don’t think that Americans support the measures that would be necessary to accomplish the objective. We shouldn’t pretend that they do.