How Long Will We Be In Iraq?

Patrick Appel —  Aug 9 2014 @ 3:28pm

It could be awhile:

President Barack Obama said Saturday he doesn’t have an end date in mind for the end of American strikes targeting Islamic militants in Iraq or airdrops supporting stranded Iraqis fleeing those militants. “I don’t think we’re going to solve this problem in weeks,” said Obama told reporters before departing Washington for a family vacation. “This is going to take some time.”

If that’s true, Jack Goldsmith urges Obama to get approval from Congress:

If the President plans to engage in military operations in Iraq for “months” (and almost certainly longer) in an effort to address the militant threat posed over the long term there, then the case for doing so in reliance solely on his inherent Article II self-defense power just grew weaker, legally and especially politically, and the case for seeking authorization from Congress for the military strikes just grew stronger.  As I noted yesterday, the case for seeking congressional authorization in this context was made forcefully and persuasively less than a year ago by President Obama himself, when he explained why he was seeking congressional authorization prior to military strikes in Syria.  (The Syrian strikes were supposedly going to be “limited in duration and scope,” unlike the longer term strikes now planned for Iraq.)

Larison sighs:

As we know from previous interventions, the initial estimates of how long they will last and what they will cost are frequently wrong. If the administration expects that this “project” will last several months, it will most likely continue for a lot longer than that, and it will end up being a larger commitment that originally advertised.

Beauchamp unpacks Obama’s speech:

“Ultimately, there’s not going to be an American military solution to this problem,” President Obama said in his press conference on the Iraq crisis on Saturday. “There’s going to have to be an Iraqi solution.” This is the key line to understand if you want to grasp the administration’s approach to Iraq — and why the goals of the US military campaign are more narrow than you might think. …

If the United States can beat ISIS back in Kurdistan, why not elsewhere? That line about an Iraqi solution is the administration’s answer. In fact, the Obama administration has been consistent on this question since June, when ISIS first took control of big chunks of Iraq. They see ISIS as, at its heart, a political problem — one that can’t be solved solely with force. But the march on Kurdistan and the siege on Sinjar are narrow military problems, and thus merit military solutions. This distinction between military and political problems is at the heart of the Obama administration’s thinking on Iraq.

Obama further explained his thinking in an interview with Tom Friedman:

“I do think the Kurds used that time that was given by our troop sacrifices in Iraq,” Obama added. “They used that time well, and the Kurdish region is functional the way we would like to see. It is tolerant of other sects and other religions in a way that we would like to see elsewhere. So we do think it’s important to make sure that that space is protected, but, more broadly, what I’ve indicated is that I don’t want to be in the business of being the Iraqi air force. I don’t want to get in the business for that matter of being the Kurdish air force, in the absence of a commitment of the people on the ground to get their act together and do what’s necessary politically to start protecting themselves and to push back against ISIL.”