People will tell us that ISIS is a supernaturally evil group that must be stopped at all costs and that only the US military is capable of stopping them. That is the moment everyone should do a very deep gut check and contemplate exactly what that means. President Obama is reluctant to get the nation into the business of "keeping a lid" on these conflicts in the middle east. Maybe he's wrong about that. But if he is, it's important to understand that this means a very long-term commitment to troops, manpower and vast amounts of American taxpayer money.Her post starts off with a commentary on this article about the prospects that a more intensive involvement in the civil war in Syria by the United States would have prevented the current situation with IS in Iraq from developing: Mark Lynch, Would arming Syria’s rebels have stopped the Islamic State? Washington Post 08/11/2014. (Short answer: not very dang likely.) Lynch's concluding sentence: "As catastrophic as Syria’s war has been, and as alarming as the Islamic State has become, there has never been a plausible case to be made that more U.S. arms for Syrian rebels would have meaningfully altered their path."
There is plenty of time to think all that through. Right now, the US and others are trying to help the Yazidis and the Kurds. They've finally been putting pressure on the Iraqi government to get rid of Prime Minister Maliki and let go of some long standing baggage about what Iraq is supposed to look like. But there are a whole lot of people starting to hyperventilate about ISIS being as existential threat to American babies. There's no need for that. ISIS is very busy in Iraq and Syria right now --- I'd imagine that invading Tucson or Newark is down on their list of priorities. We can think this through and not let panic artists talk the nation into more war without end.
Stephen Walt is one of my favorite commentators on foreign affairs. He aggravates me. In a good way. He talks bluntly about the likely path of US foreign policy for a "realist" perspective. It's not what I would hope to see. But his perspective is a lot more prudent and sensible than most of what we hear from neocons and "humanitarian hawks." More so than Tea Party yayhoos goes without saying.
In Double Diss Foreign Policy 08/13/2014, he looks at the sobering set of realities that makes a new, long, more intensive involvement in the Iraq War depressingly possible:
Why does the United States keep repeating the same mistakes, and occasionally inventing new ones? I'd highlight four main reasons.There's more. It's all well worth reading.
First, as I noted a couple of years ago, the United States does a lot of these things because it can. America is simultaneously wealthy, basically secure, and has a lot of residual capability even today. No other country could even consider organizing the aerial intervention Obama has recently ordered in Iraq, whereas the United States can do this without having to mobilize the nation or do more than lift the phone and issue the order. And because the United States is mostly secure back here in the Western hemisphere, it thinks it can do these things without creating greater risks for itself.
Tags: iraq war