Why the push for more involvement in Iraq?


Sen. John McCain, chillin’ with his ISIS pals in Syria in 2013.

You would think that after 10 years of a war that was started for illegitimate reasons, Republicans would have learned their lessons not to rush into combat.

You would think that the American people’s distaste for sending men and women of the U.S. military to a place where they can get killed, maimed, and mentally damaged would send the message that enough is enough. You would think that a war costing more than $9 billion a month, according to the Congressional Budget Office  — with no funding from Congress — would dampen the GOP ardor for war. You would think that they should know better than to try to goad the Obama administration into further Iraq entanglement. But I guess they just can’t help themselves.

On Sunday morning talk shows and on the campaign trail, we hear the same old tired rhetoric from the same old usual gang of suspects. The latest talking points, repeated ad infinitum, are that “we didn’t stay there long enough” and that “the soldiers left too soon.” Too soon for what, you may ask. Too soon to rebuild an entire nation that the U.S. destroyed? Too soon to pour more money and effort into training soldiers who apparently don’t want to get trained, since they dropped their weapons that the U.S made and paid for and ran away at the first sight of an enemy? Too soon to hold together a country formed after World War I of disparate tribes, ethnic groups, and religious sects that probably never should have been made into a new country in the first place?

Hillary Clinton, most likely gearing up for a 2016 presidential run, also cast doubt on Obama’s foreign policy, even though she served as his secretary of state. In an interview with The Atlantic, she said Obama should have armed Syrian rebels sooner. “Great nations need organizing principles, and ‘Don’t do stupid stuff’ is not an organizing principle,” she said.

Former Obama political adviser David Axelrod was quick to hit back. He tweeted: “Just to clarify: ‘Don’t do stupid stuff’ means stuff like occupying Iraq in the first place, which was a tragically bad decision.” It also was something that the hawkish Clinton voted for when she was a senator.

Of course, if we had listened to people like Sen. John McCain (R, I never met a war I didn’t like), the U.S .would have armed ISIS, or the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. Don’t forget it was McCain, on a trip to Syria to meet with rebel leaders, who gave ISIS its first photo op (see above) by posing with the very leaders now leading the effort in Iraq. Who, exactly, should we have armed in Syria? The people John McCain posed with in their selfie, so they could use those same weapons against the Shi’a, the Kurds, and the Yazidi?

The Iraqi Army took care of that. Never has there been an army so quick to cut and run. There have been stories of ISIS forces bribing Iraqi Army officers, who ordered their own soldiers to dump their equipment and hightail it away from battle.

And what about “leaving U.S. forces in Iraq”? Don’t forget that SOFA, the U.S.-Iraq Status of Forces Agreement, was made under the Bush Administration and signed by President George W. Bush in 2008. And the Iraqis were totally unwilling to allow any U.S. troops to remain in Iraq or give them any legal protection. Obama rightly corrected a reporter in a recent news conference when he said: “That entire analysis is bogus and is wrong. But it gets frequently peddled around here by folks who oftentimes are trying to defend previous policies that they themselves made.”

Nevertheless, McCain says the upsurge in violence in Iraq must be Obama’s fault. So does Sen. Lindsay Graham (R, S.C.) who said that if there’s an ISIS attack in the U.S., it will definitely be Obama’s fault. Funny, I don’t remember Graham, McCain, or other Iraq War supporters blaming President Bush when he ignored the intelligence briefing memo that said “Bin Laden determined to strike inside U.S.”

The current limited approach to violence in Iraq is supported by a majority of Americans because it’s just that — limited. According to a poll conducted just after the president ordered the airstrikes and humanitarian effort, nearly 60 percent of Americans said they support the limited option of airstrikes against ISIS. Only 15 percent support sending in ground troops again. And no wonder — we all saw how that turned out the first time. The American people most definitely do NOT want “boots on the ground,” and Obama has consistently said that’s not an option. Iraq needs its own political solution, not a solution from the U.S. military, he has stressed time and time again.

The limited number of U.S. troops sent to Iraq to protect U.S. personnel has remained limited, although the number has climbed to nearly 1,000. All that means the media are doing what they love to do best — start talking about “mission creep” and start making predictions.

Still, Obama has vowed to stick to his limited approach and not get bogged down in another unwinnable war. ” ‘Don’t do stupid stuff’ ought to be emblazoned on the foreheads of all future presidents and secretaries of state,” said Aaron David Miller, a former State Department adviser during both Democratic and Republican administrations.

It turns out that “Don’t do stupid stuff” is a pretty good approach to foreign policy after all.

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