Why did President Obama stand by while ISIS conquered much of Iraq? The reason seems straightforward: he doesn’t believe in using force unless it’s part of an international effort.
Obama has offered a different explanation, though. He says he’s been unwilling to intervene because “there’s no American military solution to the larger crisis in Iraq.” “The only lasting solution,” he adds, “is reconciliation among Iraqi communities and stronger Iraqi security forces.”
Obama is referring to the fact that the Maliki government’s outrageous conduct alienated Sunnis (and others) to the point that many Sunnis thought ISIS might be preferable to continued rule by Baghdad. Thus, as Karen DeYoung of the Washington Post has reported, “the administration worried that interjecting itself into the conflict would inevitably open it to charges of siding with one side or the other in what has become an increasingly sectarian battle.”
In the same vein, Obama has let it be known that he will not permit the U.S. to serve as Maliki’s air force or, for that matter, the Kurds’.
I assume that this is all a pretext for Obama’s preference for inaction. If not, it reflects criminally bad thinking — the equivalent of refusing to help a fire department put out a deadly fire because the department is corrupt.
Had Obama moved to stop ISIS as it began its conquests in Iraq, he would not have sided with Maliki over Sunnis. The military action would have been directed against ISIS, not the Sunni population. ISIS is evil made manifest. The fact that some Sunnis are blind to this reality (or are okay with it) hardly justifies U.S. inaction.
If Obama declined to take military action because he just didn’t want to fight, that’s unfortunate and possibly tragic, but understandable. If he declined because he didn’t want to take sides in a battle between pure evil and a legitimate, though badly flawed, government, that’s reprehensible. Moral cowardice is much worse than the ordinary kind.
As for the president’s unwillingness to become “Maliki’s air force,” this sounds smart until one gives it a moment’s thought. In other words, it is vintage Obama.
Even Eric Holder and John Kerry acknowledge that ISIS poses a potential threat to America’s security. That being so, we can, in Obama’s terms, view Maliki’s forces and the Kurds as “America’s army.” Serving as “the air force” in joint operations against our sworn and deadly enemy, while others do the hard fighting, is a good deal for the U.S.
For more than five years, President Obama has made the U.S. both the army and the air force of Afghanistan, notwithstanding the massive shortcomings of Karzai and his government. ISIS is an even more dangerous force than the Taliban. Obama’s unwillingness to take it on, even from the air, was incoherent.
Obama claims that there can be no “lasting solution” in Iraq until the Iraqis achieve national reconciliation. But our concern right now shouldn’t be with a “lasting solution;” our concern should be with defeating ISIS.
A lasting solution based on national reconciliation is another way of describing “nation building.” How ironic that Obama professes the need for nation building in Iraq as a prerequisite for sustained U.S. air attacks on ISIS. This is a man who will use any excuse not to take on America’s enemies.
There was a time when national reconciliation seemed possible in Iraq. But once Obama disengaged, that moment passed, probably forever.
It may be that Iraq can patch together a national government less objectionable to Sunnis and other minorities than Maliki’s. But Obama concedes that winning over the Sunnis “is going to take some time” and cannot be accomplished “in weeks.”
How much more territory will ISIS capture in the meantime? How many more innocents will ISIS butcher?
And what excuse will Obama proffer for inaction if and when momentary “national reconciliation” is achieved?