Saturday, October 4, 2014

(Un)Worthy Fights

Seems Leon Panetta has an axe to grind with his old boss, saying that Obama caved into the counsel of his top aides rather than listen to him when it came to retaining a "small US force" in Iraq.  I hope Leon mentions in his book that this was Robert Gates plan, engineered in the waning months of the Bush administration, and carried out by the Obama administration, which he served.

A wave of criticism has emerged with the rise of ISIS, or IS as it is now being referred to.  For all this blather that we should have retained a force in Iraq, there is little mention that military intelligence advisers warned way back in 2002 that a war with Iraq would increase Islamist militancy throughout the region.  But, it seemed the Bush administration had a score to settle with Saddam Hussein and wasn't heeding any of this advice.  It was only in 2007 that Bush seemed to see for the first time the Pandora's Box he had opened and made what Fox news now regards as a "warning."

Obama based his 2008 campaign on full withdrawal from Iraq, so it was little surprise that his advisers told him to stick with the plan.  The only question was whether he would step up that withdrawal to 16 months (as hinted during the campaign) or let it go through as planned for three years.  Panetta was fully aware of this, but it seems he got ants in his pants in 2011 and pushed for retaining a small contingent in the country.

How long is the US expected to prop up the presumably secular government in Baghdad?  After 9 years of training, and well over a trillion dollars spent on the war, you would think the Iraqi government had sufficient forces to fend off unruly Islamists.  However, it seems that the Iraqi army has division within its ranks, resulting in a lack of will to defend the country against what on the surface appears to be a predominantly Sunni uprising.  Maybe there should have been an attempt at greater power sharing in the new Iraqi government, rather than putting in place a predominantly Shi'ite government that for the most part was antithetical to Sunni concerns.  After all, we live in an age of federations.

I don't think these air strikes will do much to beat back the Sunni insurgents, nor would have keeping a "small US Force" in the country.  These fratricidal battles have been ongoing for centuries and no doubt will continue well into the future.  Our involvement in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan only serves to exacerbate these conflicts, as we inevitably take sides without looking into these sectarian differences in any depth.   It is the Good Indian/Bad Indian argument all over again.  We still seem to base our foreign policy on romantic Western myths rather than the reality of the situation.

1 comment:

  1. More unworthy comments from Panetta,

    It really disappoints me to see a former cabinet member, who should have been well aware of the strategy deployed in the Syrian "red line," missing the whole point of the bluff, which was to draw Russia out, getting Putin to admit his role in supplying the Assad regime and that Assad was responsible for the chemical weapons attack. After all the chemical weapons were Soviet grade. But, Panetta, for whatever reasons of his own, seems to be trying to pretend he is some kind of "tough guy," when he is nothing more than career politician, serving one administration or another since 1966, who for whatever damn fool reason (probably as a political favor) Obama made director of CIA and Sec. of Defense. Wisely, it seems like Obama heeded little of Leon's advice.