As I was catching up today on the details of various stories I’d left hanging in the air, I came upon today’s news analysis by the NYT. In particular, this paragraph, which we excerpted here, about the various phases of Obama’s extension of the Iraq war:
The next phase, which would begin sometime after Iraq forms a more inclusive government, scheduled this week, is expected to involve an intensified effort to train, advise or equip the Iraqi military, Kurdish fighters and possibly members of Sunni tribes.
What I found delightful in that paragraph was that little sub-clause – “scheduled this week!” Yes, this week, after a few centuries of rancorous vengeful sectarian divides, and brutal sectarian cleansing in the very recent past, the Iraqis were going to produce a coalition government of Sunnis, Shia and Kurds in order to face down ISIS. At least, it’s: “scheduled.” It’s that kind of fantasy – the same kind of fantasy we heard so often from 2002 to 2009 – that really reveals to me how amnesiac we really are.
And on cue, of course, today the new government did not quite arrive on schedule:
Iraqi lawmakers approved a new power-sharing government led by the Shiite prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, late Monday. But they left the two most divisive security posts unfilled, potentially extending a contentious debate even as American officials prepared a new campaign of military support for the Baghdad administration … Mr. Abadi said he would nominally run the Defense and Interior Ministries himself, and gave lawmakers a week to agree on new ministers before filling the posts with his own choices.
Even now, the key decisions have not, it seems, been made by the Iraqis. There is no real unity government yet for the United States to support. The one we have exists tenuously with multi-sectarian trust not close to being built – even as the state itself is besieged. Which means we could be already Americanizing this civil war, making it less resolvable by the actors themselves, and making it ever more likely that the US will once again become the focus of Islamist hatred and terror.
My sense is that Obama knows this – hence his incredibly careful statements over the last few weeks. So it seems to me he should postpone any commitment to a campaign against ISIS until the Iraqis unite against it. This is not our war; it’s theirs. And we should only intervene behind a multi-sectarian government that represents all of Iraq. Which means, in my opinion, never. We can win no friends in Arabia; we can merely increase the number and ferocity of our enemies.
Today, I worried that ISIS was baiting the West into another religious war, and tried to make sense of the calm and sanity I felt while off-off-grid. We pondered the end of Britain, the deaths of Russians and some new grisly details from the torture files of the Bush administration.
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(Photo: Yes and Better Together supporters exchange views with one another as Jim Murphy Shadow Secretary of State for International Development (not seen), speaks on his soapbox during his “100 Towns in 100 Days” tour in Dundee, Scotland on August 27, 2014. By Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images.)