President Barack Obama is taking it on the chin for something over which he seems to have had little control.
In October of 2011, the US and Iraq were struggling with the idea of leaving US troops behind after a general pull-down, for security reasons. If approved, this might well have stopped ISIS or ISIL in its tracks. But the government of Nouri al-Maliki would not cooperate.
The sticking point was the US’s insistence that if we stayed and maintained a presence for security purposes in Iraq, the US troops left there would have immunity from prosecution by Iraq courts. That would mean that if there were an incident which involved US troops dealing unreasonably or harmfully with the Iraqi civilian population, rather than being hauled in front of an Iraqi court for trial and punishment, the matter would instead be referred back to the US unit in which the men and women served.
It’s clear that Maliki wanted the US out of his country, for his own reasons, some of which may have had to do with ongoing corruption and siphoning money from the US as in the past. The resolution of the troops’ discipline within the country of Iraq itself may have been only a blind, a cover-up.
In any case, it was Maliki who insisted that we stick to our 2012 departure date, just as it was his and his representatives’ choice of noncooperation with the US in disciplinarian matters. (From his point of view, putting aside nefarious reasoning, no one like Maliki wanted a country torn by arguments and riots over possible intervention that might have been criminal, in effect a new Iraqian “sprng.”)
The fact that ISIS and ISIL have erupted and grown so quickly, are so well equipped, so bloodthirsty, has nothing whatever to do with Obama. It has only to do with Maliki. For his Shiite government has always treated its Sunni minorities badly. Having the US out of Iraq at his own insistence is what led to the vacuum in power into which ran the counter-revolutionaries called ISIS or ISIL.
This is a key part of understanding where we are today, and why we stand so shakily there.
As for the obvious split between the president and his military advisors, this is equally serious and misunderstood. Joint Chief Martin Dempsey is only saying what Robert Gates, the former Defense Department chief, has said: we don’t know what we’re going to have to use to solve the ISIS problem, but it may involve ground troops. This is not just covering one’s ass. It is looking squarely at a problem and understanding it.
That the president should contradict his military advisors is neither candid nor sensible and confuses the issue beyond Congress’ ability to understand it. Not to mention the understanding of the American man in the street. It is as much an error as admitting, as the president unguardedly did, that we have no current strategy for fighting ISIS or ISIL. Syria, as a battleground, has only recently been seen as key to the decimation of ISIS, although for three years many of us have been arguing for action on this front.
And who, for God’s sweet sakes, makes up the Free Syrian Liberation army? Not to mention, the “moderate” Syrians on the ground there? Can anyone give us a name, a group, a battalion’s designation? If we’re sending humanitarian aid and war-making ammunition and weapons to these “moderates,” how do we even address the packages? And don’t we, in the long run, stand stupidly by while the revolutionaries we are arming today turn around tomorrow and use those same weapons to attack us, their allies? We’ve seen these inside jobs happen in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Now we have to hold our breath in Syria?
In fact, aren’t we all holding our breath while, and until, President Obama gets his game plan down?