Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Mission Creep, Shmeep

Okay, so first Obama sent 300 special forces to advise the Iraqi military. Their mission was to make helpful suggestions such as "Don't abandon your weapons and flee." (I've always felt that's a good principle of military doctrine.) Apparently that advice was insufficient so Obama announced he was sending another 300 Marines to guard the Baghdad airport and the U.S. embassy, and the road between. Hmm, what contingency might make that a priority?

Reuters gives a good overview of the current situation. Notably, the Kurdish and Sunni Arab members of parliament walked out before a government could be formed; parliament will not meet again for a week. Meanwhile, government forces have been unable to regain any territory, violence is rising in Baghdad and to the south of city, which is now essentially surrounded by insurgents on three sides; Kurdistan has announced that it will hold a referendum on independence in three months; and mortar shells have fallen on the Golden Mosque in Samarra, the Shiite shrine which was destroyed in 2005 sparking the horrific civil war.

Iraq is irretrievable. It is no longer a viable nation. That is not, however, a defeat for the United States or a failure of the Obama administration. It is history. Once the hubris and incompetence of Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld blew the country up, there was no turning back. The international borders of the Middle East, drawn in secret by France and Britain following World War I, are dissolving. The issue is not the Islamic State, which certainly cannot survive for the long term. It is only the immediate instrument of chaos.

The issue is that Iraq and Syria were never viable nation states to begin with. Our responsibility is to do what we can to limit the humanitarian catastrophe, and ultimately to contribute what we can to a settlement among the bewildering array of parties and guaranteeing the security of new boundaries. But the United States does not, and cannot, control events and there is no reason why the U.S. should try. The news is very bad for the people who live there but for now, it is what it is. Pushing in more weapons and more combatants means more people get shot and blown up. So let's not do it.

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