The Iraq Crisis is Not About Obama, But About Making the Hard Choices


The headlines are abuzz this morning, talking about President Obama’s announcement that he has authorized targeted airstrikes in Iraq for humanitarian reasons. Having just extricated ourselves from Bush’s war there, are we going back to Iraq?

Obama rejected that idea last night. While asserting that “We need to act, and act now,” he told the world the hard truth, and that is that “There’s no American military solution to the larger crisis in Iraq.”

The United States broke Iraq. But events there have moved beyond the point at which America can fix it. Arguably, that point was 2003, when Bush declared “mission accomplished” and he had no idea what to do with his victory and let it become his defeat instead.

Bush’s partner in Iraq, Britain, has now – also for humanitarian reasons – voiced support for Obama’s decision to intervene with airstrikes, but has ruled out joining the U.S. by rejecting military action. Bush’s great adventure has become as unpopular in Britain as in the U.S.

Another question being asked this morning is, what does all this mean for Obama’s legacy? This is the president, after all, who centered his foreign policy on extricating America from both Iraq and Afghanistan.

Julie Pace on AP’s The Big Story, writes that,

After years of resisting the pull of more Mideast conflicts, President Barack Obama is ready to return the United States to military action in Iraq, the very country where he accused his predecessor of engaging in a “dumb war.”

It is almost as though there is a suggestion here that Obama is somehow being Bush, that once having criticized Bush for intervening in Iraq, he is being dumb too and somehow surrendering the moral high ground.

But Obama is being, as always, a realist. As a practitioner of realpolitik rather than Neocon or conservative ideological illusions, Obama knows when he is at the point where, whatever he may like to be true, the facts on the ground dictate otherwise. Sometimes in history, there are no good choices, and the best choice is only the least objectionable.

It is also wrong to compare any Obama intervention in 2014 with the 2003 war launched by President Bush. The Bush war was a dumb war, completely unnecessary in pursuit of Bush’s own avowed purpose of destroying al Qaeda.

The Iraq War functioned more as a means of self-aggrandizement for Bush and as a means of settling his daddy issues, and also a vast, if poorly organized, plundering expedition for so-called Neocons. Along with America’s reputation abroad and economy at home, Bush destroyed Iraq’s government, economy, and infrastructure, and created the conditions in which ISIL now prospers.

The Iraq War has limited America’s current and future responses to the consequences, immediate and extended, of the American occupation and mismanagement of the country. President Obama’s successor will find him or herself equally constrained by what Bush did from 2003 to 2008 in a country America had no business being involved with in the first place.

But as so often happens in the mainstream media, the search for context goes nowhere, or at least, not beyond Obama himself.

For example, Pace writes,

It also raises fresh questions about whether Obama’s desire to end that conflict clouded his assessment of the risks of fully withdrawing U.S. troops, as well as his judgment about the threat posed by the Islamic extremists who have taken advantage of a vulnerable Iraq.

While the situation may be evolving quickly, the conditions that returned the U.S. to the brink of military action in Iraq can be traced back months — or to the president’s critics, even years.

Years yes. But years beyond Obama. History did not being in 2008. By then we had been in Iraq for five years.

Unfortunately, because of the utter incompetence of the Bush administration, Obama’s legacy, if we want to talk about that before he exits office, is not entirely his own. No president escapes the context of his times, but Obama’s is more constrained than is usual. His cannot be extricated from the extreme incompetence of Bush’s own legacy, and Obama’s actions in Iraq must be understood in the context of the mismanaged war fought by the Bush administration, which resulted not only in the ruination of America but that of Iraq.

It is Bush who created the conditions on the ground that lead to the rise of ISIL, not Obama’s withdrawal of the troops. It is not Obama’s judgment that needs to be called into question, but that of the Bush administration. Ultimately, the situation in Iraq is not about the Obama legacy. This is a continuation of the Bush legacy.

To be blunt, and we must be blunt at this point, Obama was left with a pile of crap. You cannot reasonably expect him to make a cake out of it, but that seems to be what is being demanded. While Pace asserts that, “For Obama, the threat of undermining his own legacy on Iraq could hardly come at a worse time,” Obama, perhaps alone on Capitol Hill, seems to realize that this is not about Obama. This is about having the strength of character to make the hard choices, something no Republican has been willing to do in more than a decade.

There are good, sound reasons to avoid going back to Iraq. It was very nearly America’s graveyard. It could yet be, if hawks like the Bush war criminals – who created the crisis in the first place – get their way. It’s endlessly fascinating how the mainstream media can challenge Obama’s decision-making while ignoring that of Cheney & Co.

John McCain and Lindsey Graham released a statement yesterday following Obama’s announcement, saying that “If ever there were a time to reevaluate our disastrous policy in the Middle East, this is it.”

On the contrary, I would argue on very good grounds that that time was 2003. Both McCain and Lindsey Graham supported establishing that disastrous policy which, more than anything Obama has done or could have done, led to the creation and success of ISIL, and the current crisis in Iraq, and that as a consequence, it is too late for them to pretend to know better today.

The AP analysis, and those others found on the mainstream or right-wing media this morning, may present a big story, but they are not even close to presenting the big picture.

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23 Replies to “The Iraq Crisis is Not About Obama, But About Making the Hard Choices”

  1. Julie Pace may be qualified to report events, but she has no qualifications to analyze anything. The same could be said about Chuck Todd.

    Our current MSM is one of our biggest problems that is often overlooked.

  2. This is what caught my eye from Ms. Pace:It also raises fresh questions about whether Obama’s desire to end that conflict clouded his assessment of the risks of fully withdrawing U.S. troops

    WTF!!! Ah Ms. Pace Iraq didn’t want to sign the SOFA and that’s not what you sit your lazy ass on.

    I mean this is why Americans are so dumb because the people writing this bullshit are either in the words of MLK:”Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.”

    I give the AP story this rating
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  3. Yeah, I’ve been watching GMA this morning and one of the things I noticed them saying is the war President Obama “supposedly” ended. I hate the fact that they don’t ever mention the SOFA as the reason we left, we couldn’t leave our troops at the mercy of Iraqi law.

    The media is one of the biggest problems we have when it comes to getting the truth about any issue, there certainly does seem to be an agenda. I don’t know if they’re just trying to stir the pot to keep people watching, or if it goes deeper than that.

  4. And as of this am, strikes are already being conducted.
    There is no political solution to ISIS. Its fine that Britain wont go in, they can set on the sidelines and do whatever. ISIS will move militarily to destroy, rule or do whatever they want. They are Iraq’s answer to the taliban. In some ways the Iraqi prime minister brought this on himself by not making room for all Iraqi’s in government. Once again religion screws the people.
    I hate the thought of going in and killing more people just for the cause of one idiot in Iraq.

  5. One of the hard choices well two the President will have to make is 1. Arm the Kurds and tell Turkey to STFU and 2. Coordinate with Iran to wipe them out. That will piss off the gulf states who have been funding ISIS but IMO they are the problem.

  6. irony…the carrier george w bush is where the jets are coming from that are flying the cover for the humanitarian mission to clean up the mess created by george w bush & company…i wonder if the President did that on purpose….

  7. Well the drunk one has spoken
    “The president’s authorization of airstrikes is appropriate, but like many Americans, I am dismayed by the ongoing absence of a strategy for countering the grave threat ISIS poses to the region. Vital national interests are at stake, yet the White House has remained disengaged despite warnings from Iraqi leaders, Congress, and even members of its own administration. Such parochial thinking only emboldens the enemy and squanders the sacrifices Americans have made. The president needs a long-term strategy – one that defines success as completing our mission, not keeping political promises – and he needs to build the support to sustain it. If the president is willing to put forward such a strategy, I am ready to listen and work with him. For now, I wish Godspeed to all our men and women participating in these operations.”

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  8. I knew the Republicans would find some way to be critical of President Obama. The worthless, unpatriotic, SOBs just can’t for once back our President without the political BS. I’m so tired of all those ba**ards and their mealymouthed criticisms of President Obama.

  9. This is interesting but consider the source
    How tough really are the Peshmerga?
    For years, the Kurdish fighters of the PKK apparently fought the disciplined might of the Turkish army to a stand still. Supported by Iraqi Kurds across the border, Turkey’s Kurdish minority was able to bring the Erdogan government to the negotiating table and conclude an uneasy peace.

    The Iraqi Kurdish fighting force, the Peshmerga, by reflection, therefore, enjoyed a fearsome reputation for toughness and effectiveness which recent events would seem to suggest is very largely undeserved.
    Read More

  10. Dropping some targeted bombs and humanitarian aid does not a war make.

    I don’t want anymore bloodshed, but I don’t think we can leave people to starve on top of a mountain when we can at least mitigate it to a certain degree.

    But this isn’t “war” and it certainly isn’t the war Bush started.

  11. The Yazidis beleive that god created everything good and bad, including the devil. Thats why Islam and the nut case christians are up in arms over this

  12. But the reasons they use to exclude Yazidis from their humanitarian gaze only defines their hypocrisy, and puts it on vivid display.

  13. Every American should know by now that these are more empty words from Boehner. If the president asked for a military intervention in Iraq, he’d come out and say the same thing he said a few weeks ago about the migrant kids–Pres. Obama has some things he can do alone about ___ that doesn’t need congressional approval. He went on TV and made a big fuss about the president allowing Congress a voice in whatever action the U.S. took in Syria, and when the president did what he wanted him to do, neither Boehner nor his loud RW Caucus in the House wanted anything to do with it. Boehner’s thing is to make a lot of fuss about what the president does, and when it’s his turn to act, get very, very quiet on the subject. Dude’s a coward, and why many Americans can’t see it, I can’t begin to explain why. Plus, iirc, last week the House passed a bill to limit the president’s ability to launch unilateral military interventions. SMDH.

  14. Before I retired, I taught a class (world history)that included a review of the history of world religions for 20 years, so I know quite a bit about Zoroastrianism. What Fischer doesn’t know is that there are 11,000 practicing Zoroastrians currently in the U.S., and there’s a Zoroastrian center/church in Los Angeles, CA. Now, if Zoroastrians are ‘devil worshipers, and there are quite a few living in these United States, and since Fischer has appointed himself the official ‘spotter’ of devil worshiping religious groups, why hasn’t he said anything about the Zoroastrians who have been living in the U.S. for years? People who tend to believe his BS are largely uninformed. Zoroastrianism is a monotheistic religion, just as Christianity, Judaism, and Islam are. My dearly departed parents were right–if you don’t know certain things, others can make a fool of you. I expect to hear the Zoroastrianism=devil worship claim repeated by some. Poor souls.

  15. I’ve noticed that when it comes to foreign policy, most Americans, even members of the press, don’t know the meaning of the word nuance as it applies to FP. They tend to have a ‘one size fits all’ approach to FP. This approach usually manifests itself in the forms of ‘might makes right’ and military interventions always. They don’t understand that it’s not always necessary to use military force when a conflict arises. Just as a doctor wouldn’t write the same prescription for his/her patients who have different ailments, no president should have a single method of dealing with FP issues. It was due to the Bush Doctrine that things in the ME are in such disarray. The only tool in the Bush FP pak was military force. It was the use of that single tool which led to the destabilization of the ME, N. Africa, and Central Asia. Some Americans refuse to acknowledge this fact, but history will not be so kind.

  16. Never Can Say Goodbye
    With which long-term moral debt of the extended Bush family would you like to discuss first? The one that Junior locked the country into by kicking over the hornet’s nest in order to drain the swamp, or the one Poppy ran up by selling the Kurds down the river in 1991? I know, I know, there’s a lot more that went into the president’s decision to drop humanitarian aid to the Yazidi people stuck on a mountain in northern Iraq, and into the president’s decision to drop a couple of 500-pound bombs on the genocidal barbarians who have surrounded the mountain with the intent of killing everybody on it. But if there’s one family that best symbolizes the historic price paid by the people of Iraq by a century of Western bungling in that part of the world, it’s the Habsburgs Of Kennebunkport.
    Read More

  17. I caught the tail end of President Obama’s speech this morning (Saturday); he was asked by a reporter if he was sorry he pulled American troops out of Iraq and he set that reporter and all the reporters there straight. He finally told them exactly why the troops were pulled (as you know the press has very convenient memories) because the Iraqi’s refused to sign the SOFA agreement (just like djchefron said earlier) And finally, he all but accused some people in congress, and me thinks in his subtle way, even the press, that keep blaming him for pulling the troops out when it was an agreement by the previous administration and also the Iraqi’s who wanted to be out from under America’s thumb. It was a great answer. Lord, that man is brilliant! And tactfully gets his point across. Can anyone picture GWB extemporaneously answering questions from the press?

  18. Iraq is the place where American aspiration go to die. Leave the governing of Iraq to the Iraqi citizens. Not one more drop of blood shed for profit of the few and elite.

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