Friday, April 29, 2016

Too Little and Too Late

Vice President Biden, who had Iraq in his portfolio and who once said Iraq could be one of the Obama administration's great achievements, visited Iraq. He should have been there the last two years.

Well this is nice:

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden met Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and other top officials in an unannounced visit to Baghdad on Thursday to show support for the government as it seeks to build on wins against Islamic State amid a distracting political crisis.

It is the first visit for Biden, the White House's point person on Iraq, since U.S. forces withdrew in 2011 after nearly nine years of occupation. He is the third and highest-level U.S. official to visit the country this month.

When jihadis first burst into Anbar province in Iraq at the beginning of 2014, I wanted the vice president to camp out in Iraq to show our support (and drag our support in to keep things from getting worse) and get the Iraqis fighting al Qaeda rather than each other, which made Iraq vulnerable to invasion:

So if Vice President Biden is the point man who thought Iraq could be one of the great achievements of this administration (although given that obvious curve on the grading scale, it still might be that), President Obama should point the vice president at Iraq and tell him to get that achievement.

It's a time-honored tradition to send vice presidents to sticky foreign places as a sign of our interest. Nixon was sent to Latin America and Johnson was sent to Vietnam. But a mere drive-by isn't enough.

Vice President Biden should set up his office in our embassy in Baghdad and work the damn problem. Show that Iraq is important to us.

We won't send troops, as our so-called chief diplomat so indelicately stated. But we'll send our second-ranking executive branch official until they start showing real progress.

Message: we care.

With a large local security detail, and troops in high readiness in Kuwait, afloat in CENTCOM region, and in Italy ready to roll, of course.

As a bonus, I noted that such a lengthy trip would have given him a mission to jump ahead of Hillary Clinton in the succession battle. Perhaps a lot of Democrats wish this path had been followed.

I know a lot of Iraqis probably wish we had tried to repair a damaged Iraq in early 2014 before ISIL moved on to stage 2 of conquering northern Iraq, too, in mid-2014.

But still, a meeting by our administration point man for Iraq more than two years later is certainly nice.

UPDATE: Pity we didn't register our determination to overcome internal divisions (and deflect Iranian influence) two years ago:

Hostilities broke out over the weekend between two groups considered critical components of the ground war. Troops from the predominantly Shiite Muslim militias – known as the popular mobilization units or PMUs – reportedly attacked the home of an officer with the Kurdish fighting force known as the peshmerga, according to media reports. The militiamen claimed they were retaliating against an unprovoked peshmerga attack.

Fighting escalated into Sunday as peshmerga troops launched mortars and Shiite militias lit two of the Kurdish unit's tanks on fire. Iraq's ambassador to the U.S. described the incidents as unfortunate and in an area "where longstanding fault lines exist."

An uneasy truce took hold Wednesday, but concern remains.

Heck, Vice President Biden could still do some good for Iraq and our national interests by camping out in Iraq for the rest of the summer rather than hoping a day trip will do the job.

And advance his own political future. If Hillary Clinton loses the FBI primary, with such a high profile mission, Biden could be an alternative to Sanders by the time the Democratic convention rolls around.

UPDATE: Yeah, one meeting didn't do the job:

Baghdad teetered on the edge of political chaos Sunday. The city is in a state of emergency, protesters have occupied parts of the once-secure International Zone (IZ), lawmakers have run away and the military is on high alert.

Protesters led by Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr have crowded the streets in front of the country’s now-empty Parliament and gathered in what is known as the Zone’s “Celebration Square.” By Sunday evening, the protesters temporarily ended their demonstration and started to withdraw from the area.

And as long as I'm complaining about what we didn't do before, I knew we'd regret letting that three-time insurrectionist, walking piece of garbage, and Iranian hand puppet Moqtada al-Sadr live.

UPDATE: The Green Zone didn't cause our problems. Corrupt Iraqi elites would have protected themselves regardless of whether we created this zone.

Corruption is causing the problems. And I was calling for this post-war battle for rule of law before our Surge offensive and the Awakening went into high gear--indeed, before the post-Samarra violence escalation in Iraq prompted our Surge.

And I'm sure I could go back longer depending on what term I was using back then.

But the author is certainly correct that rule of law is vital to achieve. Without our presence after 2011, rule of law dissolved to dangerous levels and we haven't managed to raise the level since we returned in 2014.

Leaving Iraq--again--after we defeat ISIL in Iraq would be criminally stupid.

UPDATE: And chaos in the Green Zone is a corollary to my complaints that taking our time to win grants our enemies time to defeat us.

The corollary is that taking our time to win grants our side the chance to eff things up to deny our side a win:

The Obama Administration has been touting its military progress against Islamic State, to the extent of counting the ISIS dead and predicting victory by next year. Well, maybe not. The latest political turmoil in Baghdad is throwing that timeline into doubt and again highlights the risks of President Obama’s policy of gradual escalation.

A sense of urgency is in order. Victory is never inevitable.