6/15/14

The news coverage of the ISIS crisis in Iraq is fairly comprehensive but there are a number of issues that require explanation, debunking. and speculation.

First let’s start with getting the name right. It is very annoying to me when media outlets, reporters, and pundits don’t even bother to do the minimal work required to get the name right. Over ten years after the invasion of Iraq, many pundits and politicians still pronounce it AY-Raq as opposed to EE-Raq.

ISIS stands for the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, NOT of Iraq and Syria, as many say. Al-Sham translated to English fairly accurately as the Levant, hence some in the media using the confusing acronym ISIL. Al-Sham derives from the route Semite which actually refers to descents of Sham (one of Noah’s sons) most prominent of whom is Abraham, father of both the Jewish and Arab people.

ISIS was NOT formed a year ago as some will say. ISIS is a direct continuation of what was a very prominent and dangerous terror group led by the infamous Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and was known at the time as the Islamic State of Iraq. Its current leader is Abu Bakr al Baghdadi (see my blog of today on leaders) who to all accounts is a very talented and thus dangerous leader and has clearly made ISIS a major force to reckon with.

As soon as the news of the astounding achievements ISIS made in Iraq broke, everyone knew that the spotlight would be on president Obama and his past decisions so the media immediately went into Def-Con 4 and circled the wagons. If it was not tragic it would be hilarious to see people all over the media but especially CNN and the “appeaser in chief” (Fareed Zakaria) start using the worn-out excuses that they pull out every time something goes badly wrong for this president (and recently it goes wrong at an amazing pace—Ukraine, VA, the Taliban Five, and now ISIS—one can just not keep up…).

The rubbish excuses used by the media are:

  • It is Bush’s fault.
  • It is al-Maliki’s fault.
  • The “people” do not have the “mood” to use force.
  • We could not get a status of force agreement (SOFA).
  • We could not stay in Iraq so long.

And on and on…

These excuses are, with all due respect, nonsense.

According to Zakaria the blame is on Bush (with al-Maliki) because he dismantled the Iraqi army back in 2003. Really? We’re going back ELEVEN years? One can fairly debate whether launching the war in Iraq was right or wrong. One can absolutely point to mistakes, big mistakes, that Bush made in prosecuting the war in Iraq, but one can NOT deny that by the end, when he handed over Iraq to Obama on January 20, 2009, the war was WON. Iraq, in relative Middle East terms was both stable and democratic. Clearly a strong foundation for follow-through by Obama to build on and achieve the goal of a stable democratic, Western-orientated regime in the middle of the Middle Eastern swamp. Even the Obama administration in justifying their disengagement from Iraq said that it was stable and democratic, about to become economically viable. VP Biden said that it would become one of the biggest foreign policy achievement s of the Obama administration. This statement is ironic on so many fronts but it proves how secure and stable Iraq was when the U.S. abandoned it. To blame Bush’s mistakes, which he fixed on his own watch (at great cost in blood and treasure), is not only disingenuous, it is simply BS. Actually, it is a lie.

Using al-Maliki as an excuse is actually not bad. He is a bad actor. (I don’t usually quote NYT’s Tom Friedman, another pundit who thinks he knows it all and has a terrible record of being wrong in his prediction most of the time, but this time he said it simply and he is right—“al-Maliki is a jerk”). However, last I checked neither I, nor anyone one else voted for al-Maliki for president of the U.S. or expected him to safeguard the national security of the USA. This is Obama’s job and he had five and a half years and TWO Iraqi elections, during which he could have used the significant influence and power that the U.S. had and could have had if he, Obama, had the right policy.

The repeated reference by Democrats and the media’s professional apologists for the woes generated by this president to the “people” of the U.S. not wanting any more war is really annoying and stupid. I will safely say that no “people” ever, anywhere in the world, want war. The “people” choose leaders whose job is to make the RIGHT decisions based on data, intelligence, and circumstances, and then explain those decisions to the “people,” and as leaders do, lead the “people” from the front (not from the back…) to the right conclusion. If it was the people’s job to lead, maybe we should vote for the Gallup Organization as the president of the USA.

The canard of the Iraqis refusing to sign a SOFA is another bare lie. The president who did not want to have any forces left in Iraq did not fight for SOFA and ultimately used the SOFA (lack thereof) as an excuse. I shudder to think that after eight years, thousands of fallen Americans, and hundreds of billions of dollars, the president of the sole world superpower cannot, if necessary for U.S. interests, FORCE the prime minster of Iraq to sign whatever he wants him to sign. No, Obama did not want to have any troops left and he used the SOFA as an excuse. He did not want troops there because he wanted to be able to go for reelection declaring that he brought them all back. That is all. He did not have ANY strategic view of the Middle East—not then and not now—and this was driven purely by electoral consideration. Once again, as he does so often, the president sacrificed the long-term interests of the USA on the short-term altar of his personal political career.

And to those who keep saying, “Oh, but we cannot stay in Iraq forever,” I ask, “Why not?” The U.S. has about 30,000 soldiers in South Korea 60 years after the war there ended. These troops are in GRAVE danger. The North Korean army they face has over 1,000,000 soldiers and about ten thousand artillery guns directed at them and in close range. If the North decides to attack (probably when told to do so by China), these soldiers are simply cannon fodder; they are as good as dead. They are there as a DETERRENT, as a reason for whoever makes the decision in North Korea or Beijing to think twice before they pull the trigger.

However, in addition, their presence in South Korea and the unwavering commitment the U.S. has and is showing to the safety and prosperity of SK, influenced and guided SK politics for the last sixty-odd years. In the process, from a VERY fragile foundation in terms of both democracy and economy, SK turned out to be a huge success story. It is a leading economic country and it is TOTALLY democratic. A similar story can be told about the U.S. forces in Europe after WWII SEVENTY years ago that helped guide Europe into stability, richness, and of course democracy. That from a continent that was never stable before. Why would it be wrong to do the same thing for Iraq?

No, the blame here as far as U.S. interests are concerned rests wholly and squarely on the shoulders of President Obama. What is happening in Iraq is a direct consequence of his decisions to leave Iraq completely and to not engage with the Syrians’ moderate opposition from the very beginning. If he had acted differently on both these issues we would have a stable, prosperous, and really democratic Iraq to the great chagrin of Iran and by now probably a Syria where the war was over and a new moderate régime would be making its first steps on the long road (decades long) to stability and democracy.

It is worth mentioning that the same is true for Libya. If the U.S. had not deserted Libya so quickly after paving the way for the overthrow of Gaddafi, Libya would be stable and making progress. And by the way, our friend Mr. Zakaria, during the first two years of the Syrian revolt, repeatedly predicted that Assad was about to fall, any moment now. To start with, it was the strength of the rebels that would cause Assad’s defeat, and then it was the lack of money and a whole host of other reasons all delivered with great pathos and 100 percent certainty to prove that Assad would fall and that the U.S. has no business intervening. Needless to say, one never hears of those predictions now and yet that does not stop him now from declaring, with the same pathos and certainty, that Bush is the one who “lost Iraq.”

As always, some may ask why should America care? Let them all kill each other. The answer is that as was shown in the past, sooner or later, these evil forces turn their attention on America. It is still the big Satan. It is still the only force in the world that can defeat them long-term. Note how well organized, well planned, and now very well equipped with military gear and most importantly money ISIS is. The greatest risk is the fact that thousands of U.S. and Western European citizens have volunteered and are now part of the ISIS army. America and its allies are now facing a potential for a terror campaign of the likes that America has never seen before. ISIS has the tools and capability to unleash an unprecedented war of terror on the U.S.

How will you all feel if the U.S. will have to withstand weekly, EVERY week, terror events maybe not of the 9/11 magnitude, but every week? A bomb in a mall here, a bus exploding there, a subway massacre the day after, and a school suicide bomber the next. ISIS has the organization, the people, and the money to do that for a long time.

So, what now? The truth is, as I said some time ago regarding Syria, that the U.S. has no good options. The tragic errors made by Obama left the U.S. with really two extreme and bad options: Either let them all fight each other and spend time and efforts on erecting as strong a defense as possible of the homeland—intelligence, law enforcement and prevention, loss of privacy to a degree, all in the hopes that once ISIS starts with their terror campaign directed at the U.S., these efforts can minimize ISIS’ success. It is a really bad option but not worse than anything else.

The second option is an all-out war effort including “boots on the ground” against the entirety of evildoers in the Middle East, which includes ISIS but also and foremost must include and be directed against Iran. Done wisely the U.S. can enjoin this effort by many allies, regional and across the world. Planned carefully and with the use of overwhelming force, the U.S. can actually succeed. And yes one does need a political component to such action but that is not to create democracy on day one. Democracy is not something you turn an on and off switch for. It takes time to grow; one needs to nurture it. The political component would be to FORCE Iraq and Syria, to create and commit to the pathway to democracy over time. But if this option is chosen, it MUST include a major front against Iran. In spite of ISIS’s success and current high profile, Iran is still the most dangerous player in the Middle East.

I am absolutely sure that Obama will not choose the second option. What worries me is that he will choose a middle-of-the-road strategy that not only will not defeat ISIS but will enshrine al-Maliki and more importantly strengthen Iran.

Cooperation between Iran and the U.S. in pushing ISIS back is the stuff nightmares are made of. It will be a disaster. Based on the track record of this administration I suspect that this is exactly what they will do.

Why not one more disaster for his successor to deal with? Who cares? Obama does not.