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The Iraq War Is Back In Session

The United States is notorious for blinded idealism. In 2003 we instigated a conflict in a region that most Americans couldn’t point to on a map. Yet the consequences of those decisions are still evident today. ISIS, which has seized large swaths of Syria and Iraq, is the culmination of our bad judgement. 

When Obama announced a final withdrawal from Iraq in December 2011, his former Deputy National Security Adviser, Denis McDonough said, “every assessment the White House sought about Iraq’s military showed they were up to the task of defending their country on their own.”

But the Iraqi army abandoned their post and fled in terror as ISIS gained control of more territory. Even so, the Obama administration has been calculated in its reaction, calling upon the Iraqi government and the Kurds to resolve the problem themselves. 

Events took a turn, however, when ISIS invaded Sinjar, a town inhabited by the Kurdish minority group, Yazidis. The Yazidis fled in the thousands to a mountaintop where they were surrounded by ISIS forces. After the Kurds pleaded with the United States for assistance, the Obama administration was forced to take action

U.S.’s reactions were confined to humanitarian aid, including medical supplies, 16,000 gallons of water and 75,000 meals. Then several days later, Obama announced a series of airstrikes against ISIS

Up until then, ISIS has largely operated out in the open. But the airstrikes forced them to retreat and hide amongst civilians, making them more difficulty to identify (the same problem was had with the Taliban).

Given our track record, we should be deeply suspicious of any rhetoric about a refusal to escalate another war. To think we can defeat an enemy in a region in which we have very little understanding is preposterous. Any hopes of an ISIS defeat lies with a stable Iraqi government and the Kurdish Peshmerga.   

Our war on terror has been a complete disaster, yielding more enemies than allies. When al-Qaeda attacked us on 9/11, the Muslim community was appalled at what had been done in the name of their religion. But working with the Muslim community to isolate those radical elements, we generalized all of Islam as “the enemy.” The Islamic State is as much an enemy to Islam as it is the United States. But we can not bomb our way to victory as our previous commander-in-chief reckoned we could. 

In June, Robert Greenwald discussed the legacy of the United States’ involvement in Iraq on CCTV America. 

“When we invade and occupy countries, or when we drone countries, when I was in Pakistan, when I was in Afghanistan, you see over and over again that we are not safer we are not more secure and we are not helping local populations by sending in troops or military solutions to non-military problems.” 

The Obama administration has been particularly evasive about our future military plans in Iraq. We will not put American boots on the ground,” the tired phrase goes. But we already have an estimated 1000 advisers and military personnel currently in the country. Though the airstrikes merely forced IS to go into hiding, we can expect a resurgence in the near future.  

Of the airstrikes, Army Lt. Gen. William Mayville, “I in no way want to suggest that we have effectively contained, or that we have we are somehow breaking the momentum of the Islamic State.” President Obama is now saying American operations in Iraq could take months. The Iraq War – as the summer of 2014 made clear – did not end on December 2011. That was merely, a hiatus. We are now back in session.