The shocking blitzkrieg of ISIS forces through Iraq, which finds them only 70 miles from the capital, Bagdhad, is the end-result of twelve years of failure of U.S. Middle East policy. It all began with George Bush’s burst of irrational exuberance after 9/11, when he and Dick Cheney decided they were going to take advantage of the lemon offered them and make lemonade. So they invaded Afghanistan and toppled the Taliban. Then the invaded Iraq and toppled Saddam. ‘Bring it on’–remember that? They were sittin’ on top of the world. ‘Mission Accomplished’ and all that.
I hate to say I told you so, but there were many of us who knew this couldn’t work. It was only a question of how it would go to pieces and how long that would take. I don’t know what will happen in the current disastrous situation. I don’t know if ISIS will be stopped or whether it will take over all of Sunni Iraq and declare its trans-national Islamic state in Syria and Iraq. I don’t know if the U.S. will intervene to stop the Islamist offensive; or if Iran will intervene to protect the Iraqi Shiites.
But whatever happens, it proves that the Bush-Cheney policy of muscular interventionism was a house of cards built on faulty premises of U.S. omnipotence and infallibility. Though I have little good to say about Barack Obama, who’s continued the former president’s counter-terror policies in far too many ways–I don’t envy Obama. What choices does he have? Stay out of a war he never wanted and watch as the region falls into Islamic sectarian madness? Get sucked back into a war he never wanted? And to what effect? More U.S. boys killed in a war we thought we’d left behind?
The ISIS offensive proves our policy of building an Iraqi military deterrent was an abject failure. Iraq’s military can no more defend its country than the Dutchman’s finger can stop the powers of the sea from overflowing the dike. The Iraqi government is corrupt and hopelessly divided along ethnic lines. Dysfunction doesn’t even begin to describe it. And this is the quagmire Bush got us into.
Let’s not neglect Afghanistan. After all, that’s how we got into this thing back in 2002 when Bush overthrew the Taliban. Our plan for withdrawal seems to have been modeled on what we did in Iraq. Given our success lately, we might want to rethink that. Do we really believe any Afghan army can withstand the Taliban over any extended period of time without a continuing U.S. military presence there? It’s a given that we don’t want to be there. But if we’re not and everything goes to hell, then what? The whole thing sucks and it’s the guy in the flack jacket’s fault.
Now a few broader issues. Remember back last September when we were a hair’s breadth from attacking Assad? Remember when he was the Butcher of Homs? Well, he certainly was those things. But it quickly became apparent that the rebels were no angels either. Just about now, after watching ISIS crucify and behead unarmed civilians in Syria, Assad is starting to look a whole lot more–well, if not statesmanlike–then at least palatable. And even if you turn up your nose in disgust, what’s the alternative? Do you prefer an Alawite butcher or a Sunni butcher?
Another “analyst” whose ideas are starting to stink from the head is Daniel Pipes. Remember when he was rubbing his hands with glee (and video) at the prospect of Syrians and jihadis, all enemies of Israel, beating the crap out of each other? That didn’t turn out so well, did it? As soon as ISIS realized it couldn’t defeat Assad on the Syrian battlefield, it turned its sights east and saw there the exposed underbelly of Sunni Iraq. It did a mental calculation: who would I rather fight? Those Shitte assholes Hezbollah, who’ve been kicking the shit out of me for months; or Iraq’s Potemkin army?
There is only one silver-lining I can see in all this mess: the opening to Iran, which has been building for months in the midst of a nuclear negotiation, could prove a lifeline. The U.S. and Iran have a great deal at stake in the fight to re-stabilize Iraq and stymie the ISIS menace. If I were Obama and Rouhani I would get together immediately. Whatever it is that’s still holding back a nuclear agreement, get over it. Sign the sucker. There are bigger fish to fry here. Do you want an Al Qaeda state spanning thousands of miles of Syrian & Iraqi territory?
Turkey has a potential role to play in this as well. Though the Kurds have proven an impacable enemy, Turkey has no interest in seeing ISIS invade Kurdistan and encroach on Turkey’s southern border. Again, this means that the U.S. and Iran should have a great deal in common with Turkey at this moment in time.
So tell me just how important now does Israel seem amidst all this chaos? Not very. Though Israel may see this as an opportunity to mend fences with Turkey, I’m not sure it will see things the same way.
Israel enjoys when Muslims kill each other. Because then they’re not killing Israelis. At least, that’s the way Israel’s strategic planners see it. And when the frontline Arab states, not to mention the U.S., are distracted from their dispute with Israel, then it can pursue policies it favors like expanding settlements and suppressing Palestinian rights.