Friday, August 15, 2014

Root Cause?

This writer (I rarely think he is even close to being right on anything regarding foreign policy) thinks it is a mistake to believe that American force is the solution to the Islamic State in Iraq (and Syria), which might help Moslems defeat their own jihadis in their societies in time:

There are several problems with this analysis. For starters, it glosses over the fact that military power in the form of the 2003 Anglo-American invasion created the opening for the jihadists in the first place. Where there had been stability, US and British forces sowed the seeds of anarchy. The so-called ‘Islamic State’ whose forces in recent weeks have spread havoc across Iraq represents the most recent manifestation of this phenomenon. In short, as far as violent Islamic radicalism was concerned, the putative American solution has exacerbated rather than reduced the problem.

When he ascended to the presidency, Barack Obama seemed to get that. Yet even as he fulfilled his promise to withdraw US forces from Iraq, his efforts to devise a policy toward the Islamic world based on something other than invasion and occupation came up short.

Without going into the author's apparent dismissal of helping Moslems defeat their own jihadis in order to encourage a post-Islamist society, let me just say that he must be fine with just living with that ideology and the violence that erupts from that thinking. I disagree on the wisdom of that acceptance.

But the notion that our invasion of Iraq created an opening for jihadists to enter Iraq ignores that long before we invaded Iraq, Saddam has imported jihadis and supported them abroad. Saddam even looked the other way when jihadis showed up prior to the September 11, 2001 attacks in remote areas of Iraq at the fringe of Kurdish territory along the Iranian border.

The history of jihadis in Iraq does not rest on American exacerbation.

And the post-liberation violence that began in 2003 was enabled by Syrian and Iranian efforts to push jihadis into Iraq to create chaos and foment a civil war. Without their aggression, Iraq would have settled down much more quickly.

And recall that the author is arguing that the brutal repression and external aggression of Saddam Hussein's Iraq represented "stability." Must I really set forth arguments against that judgment? When that horrific record made regime change in Iraq our official policy as passed by Congress and signed by President Clinton?

Also remember that we did in fact defeat the jihadis in Iraq and even enlisted as allies in the Awakening the very people we had ejected from power in 2003--the Sunni Arabs of Iraq. Yeah, we are so awful that even our enemies in less than 4 years saw us as an ally to fight their so-called jihadi allies.

Finally, in what alternate world of reality can you say that President Obama has not refrained from a policy of invasion and occupation?

President Obama pulled out of Iraq.

He bombed Libya in support of rebels but did not invade or occupy it.

He refused to invade or bomb (even incredibly small amounts) Syria--or even support rebels in any significant way.

And where he did fight, in Afghanistan, he escalated half-heartedly and ended the fight and plans to end our presence before the Taliban jihadis have been ground down to anywhere near the same degree that we did in Iraq.

Face it, the only place where jihadis were beaten is where we fought them pre-2011 until we beat them. In Iraq.

In the end, the root cause of jihadis is not American resistance to that violence and our help to non-jihadis within the Moslem world to defeat the jihadis. The root cause is the unacceptably high level of support for Islamism and jihad within the Moslem world.

It's a long war. It will be longer because of the confusion that authors like this bring to the debate.

UPDATE: Related thoughts on regrets or not for overthrowing Saddam. My regret remains that we did not defend our battlefield victory.

And I will again (as I did during the war) strongly dispute the idea that it was a key mistake to "disband" the Iraqi army after we defeated Saddam's army and government.

One, "disbanding" the army was a formality given that the army had dissolved on impact either being destroyed by Coalition forces or from scattering and going home to avoid that destruction.

Two, if the army hadn't dissolved, we should have disbanded it as a tool of the Baath Party which was loyal to Saddam.

Good grief, Baathists joined the Islamic State in the June offensive/uprising in Mosul and the north! I say again, try imagining the spring 2004 enemy offensives in Iraq had the Iraqi security forces been staffed and led by "former" Baathist officers.