There seems to be great Republican resistance to the idea that their interventions in Iraq and the Muslim world are the main cause of both the mess in Iraq and the growing and increasingly powerful worldwide Islamist movement.
To the extent that Hillary Clinton and other Democratic senators and congressmen joined the Republicans in illegally delegating the war-declaring power to George W. Bush there is a point to the Republicans’ resistance.
The correct formulation of the statement is that both parties are equally responsible for the mess in Iraq and for the formidable Islamist foe that now exists. Also a correct statement is that the bulk of both parties now want the United States to become an even stronger motivator of and recruiter for the Islamists by expanding the military re-intervention in Iraq that began in the summer of 2014. Before that occurs it would be best to review a few facts:
–The 2003 invasion of Iraq was approved by both parties and driven by the Neoconservatives in both parties. There was no need for a war in Iraq. Even if Saddam Hussein had WMD he was not a threat to the United States, and because we have none but parasitic allies in the Middle East, we needed to let them fend for themselves. (NB: We need to do this now.)
–Saddam Hussein was our best ally in the war against the Sunni Islamists, an ally that we did not have to cajole, pay, or urge to act against the Sunni militants. That he diddled around with and funded the Palestinian fighters is true, but he was reliably lethal — for his government’s own interests — when it came to killing mujahedin trying to transit or set up shop in Iraq.
Without Saddam to hold the center of the Arab world and block the insurgents’ easy east-west movement, we now have a mujahedin theater of operations that extends from Morocco on the Atlantic, to Jakarta in the Pacific, and from the North Caucasus in the north, to Nigeria in the south.
–The U.S. military and its allies were defeated in Iraq. They were all shackled by political constraints and by suicidal rules-of-engagement, but U.S. generals dutifully played the role of toadies by telling the public there was “no military solution” in Iraq. There is always a military solution to war and, if it is not implemented, defeat is certain. (NB: This is equally true of the Afghan War.)
–All U.S. military personnel killed, wounded, or maimed in Iraq were a waste of our most precious assets. They were led to defeat by two presidents, myriad generals, and congresses that clearly never had any intention of winning the wars they started. (NB: (a) This is equally true of the Afghan War; (b) The cost of not winning either war has been the shredding of the 4th Amendment, and will be further constraints on civil liberty in the future.)
–U.S. Iraq policy in the Bush and Obama administrations was made by men and women who either cannot tell the difference between theory and reality, or were cursed with the feckless Ivy League educations that in the last four administrations have marched this country at quick step to the rim of hell. Saddam’s rule was brutal not only because he was brutal but because authoritarian government is the only way to keep Iraq united and the country’s Sunnis and Shias away from each other’s throat.
The constant refrain by Obama, Cameron, Hollande, and other NATO leaders that there will be an “inclusive government” in Iraq — that is, Sunnis, Shia, Kurds, and Sufis amiably working together — is witness to either their deceit or stupidity. From March, 2003, until today there was never a chance of creating an inclusive regime in Iraq. It will not happen in the future.
–The now canonized “Surge” achieved a temporary halt in the mujahedin’s progress in Iraq, slowed the pace of U.S. casualties, and — as planned — got the Iraq war minimized on the agenda of the 2008 McCain-Obama presidential debates.
But the most important long term result of the surge was that it pushed the mujahedin out of Iraq into Syria, Jordan, and Lebanon and so allowed them to regroup, rearm, and — as we now see in the Levant, Iraq, Libya, and elsewhere — live to fight and win another day.
At bottom, the surge was a cynical political scheme and tactical military act concocted by a political general. It was not meant to defeat the enemy, only to buy time for the politicians.
–The current call by most Republicans and many Democrats to return 10,000 or 20,000 U.S. ground troops to Iraq will not change the situation there except to make it worse; what more than 100,000 troops could not do, will not be done by a fifth or tenth of that total, especially when the foe is four times larger than it was a decade ago and the Iraqi regime’s forces will not fight.
In addition, the Sunni-Shia bloodletting that has occurred in the last 30 months all but ensures a full-scale and perhaps regional sectarian war. This is the best possible outcome for a bankrupt and militarily worn out United States, and hopefully one that even supreme bumblers like Obama, Kerry, McCain, Graham, and multiple retired U.S. generals cannot prevent.
–The political demand for those troops is driven by U.S. politicians who refuse to recognize that they have warred and spent the United States into something akin to an over-the-hill Madam — John McCain in drag comes to mind — who deludes herself into believing that her now sagging attributes are as powerful as ever.
We command no respect among the Islamists who see the U.S. government as afraid to kill them and their supporters; afraid to suffer casualties; and relatively indifferent to the reality that it is a superpower that regularly losses wars to insurgent forces with no air cover and limited heavy weaponry.
–The political demand also comes from the Israel-First-owned Neoconservatives in both parties who caused the 2003 invasion of Iraq believing that it would enhance the security of their country of first allegiance — Israel. They now realize that the Iraq war has likely signed Israel’s death warrant and so are desperate to undo the damage done to Israel for which they alone are responsible.
Grasping at straws, for example, Neocon Charles Krauthammer last week said the answer in Iraq was to directly arm the Kurds and Sunni tribes to fight the Islamic State. This sophomoric strategy was applauded by other Neocons, not one of whom asked why the Kurds and Sunni tribes would fight and die to reestablish the power of the Iran-backed Shia tyranny in Baghdad that the U.S. government and its allies knowingly installed and then silently watched persecute Iraq’s Sunnis.
The bottom line in all of this is the uncontestable fact that there would be no ISIS today if there had not been a U.S.-led invasion and occupation of Iraq. There is no question that the Neocons’ Iraq war afforded the Islamists opportunities to successfully internationalize their movement, expand their manpower and financial resources, and seize and hold large tracts of territory.
None of these achievements would have been even remotely possible for the mujahedin if Saddam’s regime still governed Iraq. The voices now calling for more U.S. troops in Iraq are not American voices; they are the voices of panic-stricken agents of a foreign power who have no qualms about driving the United States deeper into debt and wasting the lives and limbs of more of America’s soldier-children. Though oracular sounding, these are alien, anti-American voices that must not be heeded.
Michael F. Scheuer is a former CIA intelligence officer, American blogger, historian, foreign policy critic, and political analyst.