Despite US air strikes and a training force of over 3,000 on the ground, IS took control of another key city in Iraq last month. US President Barack Obama just authorised the deployment of another 450 training personnel to the country, but it is unclear if that will be enough to retake Ramadi or any other city from the IS.
Critics of the president claim that he is to blame for all the chaos and rising death toll in Iraq because the American troop withdrawal happened under his watch. The Obama supporters, on the other hand, are quick to point out that it was the previous Bush Administration that fabricated stories of WMDs and al Qaeda ties in order to bring war to the region in the first place. We now know for a fact that there were no nuclear weapons within Saddam’s grasp and that any ties to extremists groups were stretches of the imagination.
The truth of the matter is that mistakes have been made by Obama’s camp as well as the previous collection of George W Bush, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld. Yet, to be truthful, you can sum up all their blunders and still only have a couple of chapters of the whole story. President Obama campaigned on ending wars created by his predecessor. He made that point unquestionably clear and he was elected by the American people with that knowledge out in the forefront. Even then, he originally wanted to keep a significantly larger US training team on the ground to help build local forces and stabilise the newly empowered Iraqi government. He was prevented from doing so, when the Iraq parliament made it clear that they preferred an end of perceived foreign occupation.
Conflict to the north in Syria has played a part in the IS story as well. The group is composed of former Iraqi soldiers, as well as extremists that have spent time on both sides of the border with Syria. When civil unrest was at its peak and Bashar al Assad was reported to have used chemical weapons, Obama asked for support from the US Congress to enter the fray with missile strikes. What resulted was an overwhelmingly lopsided response from the American people reaching out by phone, email and fax to demand that their representative vote against engaging in any new wars in the Middle East. Congress had their hands tied because the political pressure to represent their electorate worked just as democracy intended. The end result was that the US government was unable to take initial strides that may or may not have weakened IS early on.
There is also the issue of other foreign countries that are involved in supporting and funding the IS. The US deserves blame for the current state of affairs in Iraq, as do those who fund extremists for ideological or geopolitical reasons. That doesn’t mean that they are equipped to somehow provide stability in the aftermath. The most productive option for Obama may be to simply concede that the US is unable to impose their will across the globe and the bombardment of Iraq was a terrible action with lasting disastrous consequences. Expecting the US to fix Iraq is akin to expecting a teenager who crashes the family car to be able to piece it back together again.
No Clear US ‘Victory’ | Sabina Khan
Published in The Express Tribune, June 15th, 2015.