Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Committing our traditional and familiar mistakes in Obama's Non-War War in Iraq and Syria

Über-Realist Stephen Walt is disappointed, though not especially surprised, at the course of Obama's Non-War War in Iraq and Syria.

In Uncle Sucker to the Rescue Foreign Policy 10/16/2014, he writes:

A recurring problem in the conduct of U.S. foreign policy has been the insistence that no problem can be solved if Uncle Sam isn't leading the charge. ...

The final error -- sadly, one all too typical of recent U.S. foreign policy -- is that we are promising the moon and delivering moon pies. The Bush administration promised that the invasion of Iraq would be short, easy, and would pay for itself. Bush also told us the United States would eliminate all "terrorists of global reach." Trying to eliminate a particular tactic used by many diverse groups was a fool's errand, especially when U.S. military intervention tends to reinforce the extremists' narrative and helps them replenish their ranks with new recruits. The United States is still in Afghanistan today -- and so are the Taliban -- and it is congratulating itself on convincing the Afghan government to let us stay for a few more years. And now we are headed back into Iraq. Osama bin Laden may be dead and gone, but the endless war that he foresaw would sap U.S. strength and weaken existing Arab governments is still underway.  [my emphasis]
He also recalls important aspects of the Cheney-Bush Iraq War, which I've come to think of as Phase 3 in the Thirty Years War in Iraq.


Ever since the first Gulf War, U.S. leaders have routinely exaggerated the threat that the United States faced in Iraq and/or Syria. Even though much of Iraq's military power was destroyed in 1990 to 1991 and was never rebuilt, the Clinton administration continued to portray that country as a dangerous threat to vital U.S. interests. Hence the continuation of sanctions that may have killed as many as 500,000 Iraqis and the misguided strategy of "dual containment," which forced the United States to keep thousands of troops in Saudi Arabia and helped convince Osama bin Laden to order the 9/11 attacks. After 9/11, of course, the Bush administration ratcheted up the threat even more in order to justify a preventive war. Aided by mendacious or gullible journalists, they convinced the American people that Saddam had active WMD programs and was in cahoots with Osama bin Laden, even though neither claim was true. [my emphasis]

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