The Bitter Fruits Of Intervention


Here’s a useful reminder of how even after a years-long occupation, a relatively smooth exit and thousands and thousands of deaths, there is still no democracy in Iraq and still no sectarian reconciliation. The “surge” failed in every respect but giving the US a face-saving run for the exits. Sunnis in the parliament just voted to prevent Maliki from getting a third term, after long-simmering Sunni-Shiite violence flared up again in Anbar:

Dueling scenes that played out on Saturday — the hundreds of mourners who hoisted the coffins of dead protesters in the streets of Falluja and the lawmakers in Baghdad who cast votes in an attempt to limit the power of the prime minister — encapsulated the prevailing features of Iraqi public life after the long and costly American war: sectarianism, violence and political dysfunction.

But notice that the prime minister’s power is effectively unlimited:

Mr. Maliki’s coalition in Parliament boycotted the vote, and an official close to the prime minister called it unconstitutional and vowed to appeal to the federal courts, which on paper are independent but in practice bend to Mr. Maliki’s will.

Yes, those thousands of dead soldiers and countless thousands more maimed and countless thousands more affected and a trillion dollars spent and … we relaced one Sunni genocidal dictator with a Shiite authoritarian. Meanwhile, president Obama’s unconstitutional and undeclared war on Libya continues to bring more chaos in its wake:

Libya’s upheaval the past two years helped lead to the ongoing conflict in Mali, and now Mali’s war threatens to wash back and further hike Libya’s instability. Fears are growing that post-Moammar Gadhafi Libya is becoming an incubator of turmoil, with an overflow of weapons and Islamic jihadi militants operating freely, ready for battlefields at home or abroad.

Then this news from Washington, as Obama tries to decide whether to support the French government’s impulsive armed intervention in Mali:

In the case of Mali, one official said, American intelligence assessments have concluded that the Islamic extremists have little ability to threaten the United States. “But they can threaten the region,” he said, “and that’s where the argument for American involvement comes in.”

If these Jihadists only threaten their own region now, our intervening will immediately shift their focus toward the US. It could make us less safe rather than more. And this is exactly why any single military intervention anywhere requires very serious debate in the Congress and the public before it is launched. It’s relatively easy to go in, given the simply massive neo-imperial war machine we pay for; far harder to get out; even harder to do anything to address the intricate, deep cultural, religious and political forces that are sweeping the Muslim world. We did not elect Obama to get us involved in more wars in distant places we don’t understand against Jihadists who do not threaten the US. And we cannot afford it either.

(Photo: Anti-government protesters perform the weekly Friday prayer in the western Iraqi city of Ramadi on January 25, 2013. The longest-running of the protests, in Ramadi, has cut off a key trade route linking Baghdad to Jordan and Syria for a month. By Azhar Shallal/AFP/Getty Images.)