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“Paying For Bush’s 2003 Invasion Of Iraq”: Decision To Launch An Unwarranted Invasion Is Directly Responsible For The Chaos Today

As President Obama struggles to deal with the crisis in Iraq, it’s useful to remember who gave the world this cauldron of woe in the first place: George W. Bush and Dick Cheney.

Their decision to launch a foolish and unwarranted invasion in 2003, toppling Saddam Hussein and destroying any vestige of the Iraqi state, is directly responsible for the chaos we see today, including the rapid advance of the well-armed jihadist militia that calls itself the Islamic State.

Bush has maintained a circumspect silence about the legacy his administration’s adventurism bequeathed us. Cheney, however, has been predictably loud and wrong on the subject of, well, just about everything.

“Obama’s failure to provide for a stay-behind force is what created the havoc we see in Iraq today,” Cheney told CNN last month. “When we left, Iraq was a relatively stable place. We defeated al-Qaeda, we had a coalition government in place.”

Cheney predicted “the history books will show” that Obama bears much responsibility for squandering the peace and stability that the Bush administration left behind. If so, they will have to be books that don’t go back very far.

Let’s review what actually happened. The U.S. invasion toppled a Sunni dictatorship that had ruled brutally over Iraq’s other major groups — the Shiite majority and the ethnic Kurds — for decades. It seems not to have occurred to anyone planning the invasion that long-suppressed resentments and ambitions would inevitably surface.

The leader of that “coalition government” Cheney mentioned, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, turned out not to be a Jeffersonian democrat. Rather, his regime acted quickly and shamelessly to advance a Shiite sectarian agenda — and to marginalize Sunnis and Kurds.

What followed, predictably, was anger and alienation among the disaffected groups. The Kurds focused largely on fortifying their semi-autonomy in the northeast part of the country. Sunni tribal leaders twice cast their lot with violent Sunni jihadist forces that stood in opposition to the Shiite-dominated government in Baghdad — first with al-Qaeda in Iraq and now with the Islamic State.

Obama opposed the U.S. invasion and occupation from the beginning. He was nominated and elected president largely because of his pledge to end the war. He withdrew all U.S. troops only after Maliki refused to negotiate a viable agreement to leave a residual force in place.

Could Obama have found a way to keep more of our soldiers in Iraq if he really wanted to? Perhaps. But this would have required trusting Maliki, who has proved himself a far more reliable ally to the terrorist-sponsoring government of Iran than to the United States. And anyway, why would U.S. forces be needed to keep the peace in the “relatively stable” democratic Iraq of Cheney’s hazy recollection?

As I write, Maliki has barricaded himself inside Baghdad’s Green Zone and is refusing to leave office, despite that Iraq’s president has named a new prime minister. The United States has joined with respected Iraqi leaders to try to force Maliki out, but he holds enormous power — he is not only prime minister but also heads the Iraqi armed forces and national police.

Rewind the clock. If there had been no U.S. invasion, Iraqis surely would have suffered grievously under Saddam’s sadistic rule. But at least 110,000 Iraqis — and perhaps several times that many — died violently in the war and its aftermath. Is it likely that even the bloodthirsty Saddam would have matched that toll? Is it conceivable that the Islamic State’s ad hoc army would have even been able to cross the Syria-Iraq border, much less seize huge tracts of territory and threaten religious minorities with genocide?

Even after the invasion, if the U.S. occupation force had worked to reform the Iraqi military rather than disband it, there would have been a professional army in place to repel the Islamic State. If Maliki had truly acted as the leader of the “coalition government” that Cheney describes, and not as a glorified sectarian warlord, Sunnis likely would have fought the Islamic State extremists rather than welcome them.

Why is Obama intervening with airstrikes in Iraq and not in Syria, where the carnage is much worse? My answer would be that the United States has a special responsibility to protect innocent civilians in Iraq — because, ultimately, it was our nation’s irresponsibility that put their lives at risk.

Obama’s cautious approach — ask questions first, shoot later — may or may not work. But thanks to Bush and Cheney, we know that doing things the other way around leads to disaster.

 

By: Eugene Robinson, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, August 11, 2014

August 13, 2014 Posted by | Dick Cheney, George W Bush, Iraq War | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Back To Iraq, But Obama’s Way”: A Foreign Policy Shaped Around Reality

We’ve now begun some very limited military action in Iraq, with airstrikes hitting artillery positions of the Islamic State (IS), combined with airdrops of food and water to the group of Yazidis stranded on a mountaintop where they fled from IS. Naturally, the Obama administration’s opponents are saying it isn’t enough.

In a certain sense, they’re right. Unless we significantly scale up our military involvement there, what we do is unlikely to have a dramatic, lasting effect on IS. The point seems to be to find some way to help without putting American personnel at risk or sucking us back into Iraq in a major way (like Michael Corleone, every time Obama thinks he’s out of that benighted place, they pull him back in). This is Obama’s military doctrine in action. It won’t bring us glorious military victories, but it also won’t bring us military disasters.

When he ran for president, Obama promised a new approach to military involvement overseas, one defined by limited actions with clear objectives and exit strategies. It was to be a clean break with the Bush doctrine that had given us the debacle of the Iraq War: no grand military ambitions, no open-ended conflicts, no naïve dreams of remaking countries half a world away.

Of necessity, that means American military action is reactive. Instead of looking around for someone to invade, this administration has tried to help tamp down conflicts when they occur, and use force only when there seems no other option — and when it looks like it might actually accomplish something, and not create more problems than it solves.

But even though it’s designed to avoid huge disasters, this approach carries its own risks, particularly when we confront situations like the one in Iraq where there are few good options. We can take some action to keep IS out of the Kurdish north, but that might leave them just as strong, with their maniacal fundamentalism still threatening the entire region. IS is a truly ghastly bunch, with ambitions that seem unlimited. Obama said he was acting “to prevent a potential act of genocide.” What if it happens anyway, and we could have done more?

On the other hand, we could get sucked bit by bit into a larger military involvement to help the fragile Iraqi government deal with this very real threat, and find ourselves back with a significant presence in Iraq — precisely the situation few Americans, not least the President, want. And for all we know that could produce new problems, both the kind we can anticipate and the kind we can’t.

So a cautious approach contains no guarantees, and no one is likely to find it particularly satisfying. And this may ultimately be the point: When your doctrine is built in part on the idea that some problems have no good solutions, and you have to pick the least base one, there will inevitably be situations where even the best outcome doesn’t look anything like success.

Whether or not the public will accept this remains to be seen. But we do know that Republicans are not prepared to accept it. Many of them plainly hunger for glorious military crusades, where we sweep in with all those fancy toys we spend hundreds of billions on every year, and save the day to the cheers of the oppressed populace. This was the spirit that animated the Bush years, when the same people now criticizing Obama were convinced that we’d be “greeted as liberators” in Iraq, then quickly set up a thriving and peaceful state that would spread the light of democracy throughout the region.

The fact that they were so spectacularly wrong about that, and the result was so much death and chaos, doesn’t seem to have diminished their desire for that glory, nor their faith in the ability of American military power to solve problems anywhere and everywhere. Whatever course Obama chooses, in this and every conflict, their position is always the same: we need more. More force, more bombing, more toughness is always the answer. Part of this is just reflexive opposition to this president; if Obama announced tomorrow that he was going to nuke the moon, they’d call him weak for not attacking the sun. But it also reflects a desire that was there during the last Republican presidency and will be there in the next one.

It’s related to the “American exceptionalism” conservatives talk about so rapturously, not only that we’re the strongest and the richest but the best, the world’s most noble people whom God himself has granted dominion over the earth (I exaggerate only slightly). Within this belief lies the conviction that there is almost nothing we can’t do, and nothing our military can’t do.

Barack Obama doesn’t believe that. He knows there are actually many things we can’t do, and the Iraq War is all the proof you need. By shaping his foreign policy around that reality, he has removed from it the potential for glory. “We did what we could, and stopped things from getting worse” isn’t the kind of result you hold a parade to celebrate. But if in the end we can say that, it might be enough.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect; Published at The Plum Line, The Washington Post, August 8, 2014

 

 

 

August 10, 2014 Posted by | Foreign Policy, Iraq, Middle East | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Right Policies For America”: Progressives Should Stand With The President To Oppose Genocide

One of the reasons I supported Barack Obama for President in 2008 was his pledge to end the war in Iraq. I have been a vocal opponent of that war since George W. Bush proposed the invasion in 2002.

I strongly believe that the actions President Obama announced in Iraq last night deserve progressive support.

First and foremost, the president announced that America must act to prevent genocide on a mountain in Iraq. ISIS has herded 30,000 to 40,000 people from the Yazidis sect onto a mountain where they are dying of starvation and dehydration. ISIS has said that the Yazidis must either renounce their religion or they will be massacred. That is simply unacceptable in a civilized world. We cannot stand by idly and watch ISIS commit genocide.

The United States has already completed an air drop of supplies to those besieged people. And the president has made clear that if the siege of that mountain is not relieved, he has authorized airstrikes to break that siege.

The president also authorized airstrikes if ISIS advances on the Kurdish city of Erbil, where America has a consulate and a number of American personnel.

Just as important, he has also pledged that the United States will never again put combat personnel on the ground in Iraq.

Progressives should oppose any new long-term military engagement in the Middle East. The problems in Iraq will not yield to American military intervention today any more than they did over the last 12 years. Political reconciliation is the only effective solution to the current ethnic civil war in Iraq — and that requires a government that is inclusive of the legitimate aspirations of every faction in Iraq — not the sectarian al-Maliki regime.

But we cannot stand by idly and watch ISIS commit genocide on that mountain. Nor can we fail to act to prevent a vicious organization like ISIS — a group so violent that it has even been disowned by Al Qaeda — from capturing or killing Americans in Erbil and engaging in genocidal action against the Kurds in Erbil.

American airpower can help prevent these outcomes and the threat of airpower is the military option that the president has chosen to use, much as he did successfully in Libya.

Progressives oppose genocide and the murder of innocent civilians — especially the murder of children. President Obama’s actions in this respect clearly deserve progressive support.

But we should remember the roots of the horrible sectarian strife exploding in Iraq and the rest of the Middle East.

George W. Bush kicked over the sectarian hornets’ nest in Iraq and the Middle East when he invaded and occupied Iraq. He destroyed any basis for Sunni power in Iraq and installed the sectarian Shiite government in Baghdad.

Colin Powell warned that invading countries were subject to the “Pottery Barn” rule: “You break it, you own it.” For the last five and a half years, President Obama has been cleaning up the horrific mess George W. Bush made of American foreign policy in general and Iraq in particular.

Now America must navigate a very difficult course. We must resist Neo-Con calls for long-term military engagement, occupation or “nation building.” At the same time, we must step up to our humanitarian responsibility to prevent genocide and help stabilize the violent situation that those Neo-Con policies helped make possible through their reckless invasion.

It isn’t that easy. President Obama is taking the same kind of clear-eyed, confident, measured approach to Iraq that allowed him to find and eliminate Osama Bin Laden and has massively increased the respect for America throughout the world.

His actions will not satisfy the swaggering, bull-in-the-china-shop Neo-Cons that got us into Iraq in the first place and demanded that American troops remain in Iraq for the foreseeable future. Nor will those actions likely satisfy those who believe America can shrink from its engagement from the world or have no responsibility for our fellow human beings on this small planet. But they are the right policies for America and they deserve our support.

 

By: Robert Creamer, Political Organizer, Strategist, Author; Partner Democracy Partners; The Huffington Post Blog, August 8, 2014

August 10, 2014 Posted by | Foreign Policy, Iraq, Middle East, Progressives | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Obama’s First New War: The New Paradigm For Middle East Conflicts

As a fleet of French airplanes lacerated a column of Libyan army vehicles near Benghazi on Saturday, President Obama stuck to his prearranged schedule in Brazil, receiving whispered updates from his aides. Within three hours, more than 100 cruise missiles had hit two dozen targets in Libya. That’s just “the first phase,” William Gortney, the director of the Joint Staff, told reporters.

What he didn’t say: It’s the first phase of what will become Barack Obama’s first new war. By directing the military to hit targets inside Libya, the Obama administration is trying to strike an incredibly delicate balance between a strong disinclination to invade a Muslim country and their determined desire to avoid looking like they’re walking away from the indiscriminate slaughter of innocents.

When Muammar el-Qaddafi first struck back against protesters, Obama hoped that tough sanctions and material support to the opposition would be enough to force the dictator from power. Defense Secretary Robert Gates warned him that a “no fly zone” would be ineffective and essentially commit the country to war. By Monday night, it was clear to Obama that this policy wasn’t working. Countries like Iran were getting the wrong message. The Libyan military was selectively testing the patience of the world by striking opposition strongholds. The opposition was pinned down in the port city of Benghazi, swelled by tens of thousands of refugees. Qaddafi kept using a phrase that stuck in Obama’s head: “no mercy.” And France, smarting from seeming to abandon Egyptians during their time of trouble, along with the U.K., were champing at the bit to use force. The Arab League had kicked Libya out and was closer to the French position. It risked its own legitimacy, already questioned by many in the region, if it didn’t side with the rebels.

On Tuesday, during a meeting of his national security team, Obama said he wanted a new policy. “Clearly, what we’re doing is not enough,” he said, according to contemporaneous notes kept by a participant. A “humanitarian disaster” was imminent unless something was done. He wanted more options.

Gates wanted to game out scenarios, knowing that any effective no-fly zone would necessitate a cascade of other military actions that would look a heck of a lot like an invasion, no matter how carefully it was done.

Thomas Donilon, the national security adviser and one of the gatekeepers of Obama’s foreign policy, was worried about the strategic implications of both allowing Qaddafi to succeed in retaking control of Benghazi as well as what would happen down the road in other countries if a successful military response ousted him from power with a minimum of bloodshed. Even the lightest military footprint would result in civilian casualties, he warned. Almost as inevitable would be the death of a coalition soldier or the downing of an airplane.

Hillary Rodham Clinton said instability in Libya threatened to clip the democratic aspirations of its two neighbors, Egypt and Tunisia. She was also worried about the message to Iran if the U.S. and its allies did nothing in Libya: America was so afraid of committing its military to protect Muslims and Arabs that it would allow virtually anything to happen.

The meeting broke up.

Donilon would take charge of a rapid-fire series of conference calls and meetings and would, by that night, bring to the president three new policy proposals, each of which would call for a mix of diplomatic, military and intelligence actions against Libya. Obama had dinner with his combat commanders, and solicited their input about what challenges the military would face. At 9 p.m. that night, he reconvened only his principals. (Clinton was represented by her deputy, James Steinberg.) Donilon laid out his proposals. After about an hour, the Situation Room had come to a rough consensus: a no fly zone wouldn’t work, but more words would not work either. Obama instructed his U.N. ambassador, Susan Rice, to inform the Security Council that France’s resolution, which called for a no fly zone and little else, was insufficient. He asked the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mike Mullen, to turn into him by the next evening a Concept of Operation Plan, or CONPLAN, for a NATO-executed military campaign in Libya that would be assisted by Arab countries.

In closed session at the U.N., Rice laid out the U.S. position. The situation was urgent and dire. But the world had to know precisely what it would mean to keep Libyan troops from murdering their own citizens. Any resolution would have to include language authorizing strikes against Libyan military infrastructure on the ground to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe. “We are not going to hide pooch,” Rice said in the meeting, according to a U.S. official. “We must be completely clear about what we are going to do and why.” And Arab countries must participate, she insisted, in some visible way, in the campaign. She proposed a number of amendments that added significant heft to the resolution.

For the next 24 hours, Clinton and Rice tag-teamed Arab countries and members of the Security Council. They argued that if nothing was done, despots and beleaguered leaders everywhere would vow never to repeat the “mistake” of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, who yielded power without foreign military intervention. Iran, in particular, would find itself with an incentive to continue to spread its proxy forces to other countries and further repress its own citizens. And Rice has made the reinvigoration of the United Nations one of her prime goals as ambassador. The legitimacy of that body was at stake too, she argued.

On Wednesday, at about 6:30 p.m., Mullen and Donilon presented Obama with their CONPLAN for Libya. Its contents are mostly classified; an official said the air strikes on Saturday were one part of a larger campaign that includes a variety of overt and covert actions. Published reports suggest that U.K. special operations forces were secreted in the country, scouting out the battlefield in preparation for air strikes. The U.S. Air Force Special Operations Command moved several tactical air teams to a small base on Crete. In order to try and disguise their movements, the U.S. planes changed their call signs once they entered airspace over the Mediterranean, but commercial software that tracks their transponders revealed the shift, and word leaked out on Twitter. These teams would coordinate the air assault but are capable of parachuting into a region and directing them from the ground.

On Friday, the U.S. moved a Rivet Joint signals intelligence plane to Souda Air Base on a Greek Island, bearing the provocative call sign of “SNOOP 55.” Subs capable of launching Tomahawk missiles idled near Italy. The USS Florida, armed with more than 100 Tomahawks, moved into firing range. Twenty four hours after the U.S. introduced its amendments, it got its resolution, 10-0. Obama spoke with his counterparts in France and the UK and agreed that they’d give Qadaffi 24 hours to turn heel and retreat. If he didn’t, France would begin the bombardment.

It was important to the U.S. that Libyans and the world understand that this coalition of the willing was more than a U.S. rhetorical construct. An hour before bombing began Saturday, Clinton spoke to the press in Paris. Asked why military action was in America’s interest, she gave three reasons and implied a fourth. A destabilizing force would jeopardize progress in Tunisia and Egypt; a humanitarian disaster was imminent unless prevented; Qaddafi could not flout international law without consequences. The fourth: there’s a line now, and one that others countries had better not cross.

The development of a new doctrine in the Middle East is taking form, and it could become a paradigm for how the international community deals with unrest across the region from now on. The new elements include the direct participation of the Arab world, the visible participation of U.S. allies, as well as a very specific set of military targets designed to forestall needless human suffering. Though the Libyan situation is quite unique – its military is nowhere near as strong as Iran’s is, for one thing – Obama hopes that a short, surgical, non-US-led campaign with no ground troops will satisfy Americans skeptical about military intervention and will not arouse the suspicions of Arabs and Muslims that the U.S. is attempting to influence indigenously growing democracies.

By: Marc Ambinder, Contributing Editor, The Atlantic, March 20, 2011

March 20, 2011 Posted by | Democracy, Dictators, Foreign Policy, Libya, No Fly Zones, Obama, Qaddafi, United Nations, War | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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