Michael Crowley lays out how Obama will and won’t respond to a resurgent al Qaeda in Iraq. He says “the White House’s game plan involves better arming Maliki to repel al-Qaeda forces from his country”:
With America out of Iraq, disillusioned with Afghanistan, and clearly opposed to intervening in Syria, the opposition to a direct re-engagement in Iraq could be intense. Even McCain and Graham don’t propose it. And the administration now says it supports repealing the war authority Congress granted George W. Bush in the fall of 2002, which in theory might be used to justify renewed military action there. “It would take nothing short of a catastrophic attack on the United States at home to get U.S. forces back into Iraq,” says Daniel Benjamin, formerly the Obama State Department’s top counter-terrorism official and now at Dartmouth’s John Sloan Dickey Center for International Understanding. ”The American public has zero appetite for engagement in Iraq.”
Totten sees no easy way to destroy al Qaeda, in Iraq or elsewhere:
Al Qaeda has such a wide theater to operate in that counterinsurgency is a game of planet-wide whack-a-mole. Booted out of Afghanistan? Go to Iraq! Defeated in Iraq by the Americans? Move to Mali! Kicked out of Mali by the French? Go to Libya! It’s like using radiation and chemotherapy against a cancer that won’t stop metastasizing.
I’d love to be able to say we should do x, y, and z and Al Qaeda will eventually cease to exist, but there are no x, y, and z. The world may have to wait for this scourge to extinguish itself like communism did in Europe. That hardly implies we should do nothing in the meantime—we did not sit passively by until the Soviets self-destructed—but our options are limited and it will likely take decades.
(Photo: The roof of vehicle is partially destroyed following of a suicide car bomb that detonated outside a central police station in the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk on January 7, 2014, killing two people and wounding some 52 others. By Marwan Ibrahim/AFP/Getty Images)