My musings on different political topics relevant to America today.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Why the U.S. Must Stand by Iraq

Guess what was on the news yesterday?  George H.W. Bush jumped out of a plane for his 90th birthday!  Well, as important as that is.  Something else happened too...ISIS (the Islamic State of Iraq and Al Asham) has literally invaded Iraq from its stronghold in Sytria (yes...Syria, ring a bell?) and is now at the gates of Baghdad.  Yet of course, I doubt most even know that this is happening.  And of those that know, even fewer care.  I can at least understand why we would think Syria is none of our business, however now Iraq is falling, and I for one believe that we have a responsibility to the Iraqi people.  

We are the ones that went in and disrupted their country, unintentionally sparking a sectarian conflict and occupation that lasted nearly a decade.  Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have already died since we first invaded Iraq as the result of the conflict.  At the very least in return for that suffering we should deliver on the good we promised them, democracy.  They are an infant democracy struggling along, and it is simply unfair and inhumane to just let it fall apart, making all of the suffering of the Iraqis empty and meaningless.  Keep in mind that the U.S., while declaring independence in 1776, did not establish its current form of government until 1787... and that was after trying out one botched form of government, the Confederation.  We tend to glaze over that in the popular imagination of our country.  We shouldn't glaze over how difficult it is to get a democracy to work.  We should be in it with the Iraqis for the long run to ensure their democracy works...we owe them at least that much.

The Obama Administration is talking (which it excels at) about getting involved to help Iraq fought off ISIS.  According to President Obama, quoted by the Wall Street Journal, "Our national security team is looking at all the options."  All I have to say is I hope this is more than talk, and will actually be backed by action this time around.  This administration has already fumbled the ball with its red line...or maybe not so red line, on Assad's use of chemical weapons in Syria.  Then after Russia ceased Crimea from Ukraine the U.S. government imposed the most timid of sanctions.  And now China is flexing its muscles in the South Pacific, bullying its neighbors into sacrificing control over their sovereign waters.  China even started drilling for oil in the sovereign waters of Vietnam, and backed it with military force, even ramming one of Vietnam's ships .  

Current map of ISIS controlled territory (in red)
All this to say I am not too optimistic about this Adminstration's resolve, and I believe ISIS is probably banking on the U.S. doing nothing, or almost nothing.  Why else would ISIS so brazenly invade a country?  It is using conventional army tactics, and declaring itself as a state.  Well I will tell you why.  ISIS got its strength from the Syria conflict.  As the Syrian Spring turned into a blood bath, the rebel force that revolted against Assad slowly was overtaken by zealous Islamists that came from all over the Middle East to fight in the conflict.  There in Syria back in 2011 the rebels expected aid from the West, much like how the rebels in Lybia were assisted in overthrowing Khadafi, but no, no aid came.  The rebels soon turned to other less scrupulous sources for aid, including terrorist organizations.  The Syrians, and the rebels, learned a painful lesson, the West won't always be there to help, even when the cause was clearly just.  Likewise, Russia, China, Iran, and ISIS, all looked on, and realized that they could get away with alot more than they initially thought.

Hence why ISIS is now so aggressive in its tactics for overthrowing Iraq.  Whats even worse, is that Iran is contemplating getting involved to fight ISIS and back the Iraqi government.  If Iran helps and not us, we would be relinquishing our influence in Iraq to one of the least savory regimes in the Middle East.  Iran is a theocracy, supports the terrorist group Hezbollah in Lebanon, and until recently was trying to obtain nuclear capabilities.  This may be speculative, but its not a stretch to say that Iran may try to impose a Shia theocracy on Iraq modeled after its own.  In a nation as diverse as Iraq that would be a catastrophe, and could potentially lead to untold oppression agains the Sunni religious minority in the country.  

All of this is to say that we cannot afford to let Iraq fall.  It would be a moral and political disaster. Everything we did there, and all our soldiers sacrifice would mean nothing.  Politically it would just further show everyone how weak and tepid the U.S. is.  I mean seriously, if the U.S. won't take this seriously, what crisis will it take seriously?  Our friends, and enemies, will certainly be pondering that question.

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