We shouldn’t have been there in 2003. We shouldn’t be there in 2014.
Obama has justified the decision to attack ISIS partly as a defense of American personnel in Iraq and partly as a defense of the Iraqis being targeted for annihilation by the group. As reasons for military action go, these are better than most, but I keep coming to the conclusion that these airstrikes are still a mistake. Many of the usual objections to military action don’t apply here, but a few still do. The airstrikes are being presented as a “limited” response, but it is hard to believe that military action of this kind will continue to be “limited” for very long. It is also taken for granted that military action won’t make things worse, but it is entirely possible that it will.
These airstrikes are at best a stop-gap measure to slow the advance of ISIS’s forces, and to the extent that they are effective they will likely become an ongoing commitment that the U.S. won’t be able to end for the foreseeable future. Administration officials claim that there is no plan for a “sustained” campaign, but now that airstrikes have begun it will be only a matter of time before there are demands for escalation and deeper involvement, and sooner or later I expect that Obama would yield to those demands. Having made the initial commitment and having accepted that the U.S. has a significant military role in Iraq’s internal conflicts, the U.S. will be expected to continue its commitment for as long as ISIS exists, and that will leave the U.S. policing the Iraqi civil war for months and years to come.
Last night, Obama said that he “will not allow the United States to be dragged into fighting another war in Iraq,” but that’s hard to take seriously. This is the same president that went to great lengths to pretend that the war in Libya that the U.S. was fighting didn’t qualify as “hostilities” in order to evade the requirements of U.S. law. Obama doesn’t allow the U.S. to be dragged into new wars except when he does. We already know that Obama is “allowing” the U.S. to resume combat operations in Iraq, which he had previously refused to “allow,” and it is probably just a matter of time before he “allows” that to escalate into another war that he and his subordinates will refuse to acknowledge as such.
Does anyone think this won’t end with more dead American soldiers, more innocent Iraqis sent to early graves, and more international embarrassment? Does anyone think this effort against ISIS won’t end in crisis?
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