The editors of the Wall Street Journal urge the president to confront ISIS in Iraq and defeat it:
The Obama Administration was so preoccupied with a grand political solution in Baghdad that for weeks it refused to arm the Kurds for fear of offending Mr. Maliki, even as it was urging Mr. Maliki to resign. How’s that for consistent logic? The result is that ISIS almost overran the Kurds before the emergency weekend bombing.
Limited air attacks alone will not defeat ISIS, however. That will require a more aggressive military and political strategy. Start by arming and assisting the Kurds, who can form a defensive wall in the north and eventually push back. Work with the new Iraqi government to equip and restore the confidence of the Iraqi military. Then assist the Iraqis in retaking lost territory. Invite help from the regional Sunni neighbors and Turkey, all of which are also threatened by ISIS.
ISIS can always retreat to its strongholds in Syria, but a defeat in Iraq would be a major blow to its prestige and morale. If Mr. Obama finally armed a serious non-Islamist opposition in Syria, he could put pressure on ISIS there too.
The main obstacle to doing all, or even any, of this is less in Baghdad than in Washington. Mr. Obama and most Democrats are so invested in their claim to have ended George W. Bush’s Iraq war that they want to do only what is necessary to prevent a disaster like a rout of the Kurds. This is the thinking that produced the blunder of total U.S. withdrawal in 2011 and that ignored ISIS’s advances this year. It will not defeat ISIS now.
characterizing our bomb strikes in Iraq as “the Third Iraq War”. I believe that’s a misperception. I think that with the exception of a brief, illusory hiatus, we have been at war in Iraq for the last 23 years. Once we had engaged in the first Gulf War and driven Saddam Hussein back to his borders we had produced the conditions that were interpreted as requiring the “No Fly Zone” which produced the conditions which were interpreted as requiring our invasion of Iraq in 2003 which brought about the conditions that have impelled President Obama to order the present bomb strikes.
We could debate forever about the conditions and the interpretations but the reality is that we’re at war there and whether we call it that or not we’re likely to be involved there for the foreseeable future.
I do not find fault with President Obama for his most recent actions. I rejoice in the saving of Iraqi lives just as I mourn the deaths of innocent Iraqis. As the president himself emphasized, this situation won’t be resolved in a week. We will be involved for the foreseeable future.
I think he’s mistaken, however, in his emphasis on a political solution among Sunni Arabs, Shi’ite Arabs, and Kurds. In my view our actions in disbanding the Iraqi army and “de-Ba’athification”, along with the demographic and cultural realities in Iraq mean that any foreseeable Iraqi leader will act as Maliki has done. Time will tell.
If we had wanted another outcome in Iraq, we should have insisted on it but that returns us to my opposition to invading in 2003 or for that matter for opposing Saddam Hussein in 1991. We didn’t have the stomach to do what needed to be done in 2003 and we didn’t in 1991. Nor, in my view, should we.