Apparently not. Looking at the operations in Syria, the NYT says:
Taken together, the operations reflect what officials and analysts described as a little-noticed — and still incomplete — modernization that has been underway in Russia for several years, despite strains on the country’s budget. And that, as with Russia’s intervention in neighboring Ukraine, has raised alarms in the West.
In a report this month for the European Council on Foreign Relations, Gustav Gressel argued that Mr. Putin had overseen the most rapid transformation of the country’s armed forces since the 1930s. “Russia is now a military power that could overwhelm any of its neighbors, if they were isolated from Western support,” wrote Mr. Gressel, a former officer of the Austrian military.
Of course we’ve been advised, for years, that the Russian military was only a shadow of its former self under the USSR. And while it certainly isn’t as potent as when Russia was the USSR, it is apparently vastly more potent than we’ve been led to believe.
Another factoid from the article:
Russia’s fighter jets are, for now at least, conducting nearly as many strikes in a typical day against rebel troops opposing the government of President Bashar al-Assad as the American-led coalition targeting the Islamic State has been carrying out each month this year.
The bottom line, of course, is we still have a much more powerful military – but we’re in the middle of cutting back on it both in manpower and spending. And, of course, that sort of power is only important if your potential enemies know you’re willing to use it. Russia is demonstrating that willingness.
Russia is also “field testing” its equipment and it is “blooding” its troops.
Not to mention rallying “allies” to the Russian cause. China has sent forces to Syria. And the latest?
On Wednesday, a U.S. official confirmed to Fox News that Cuban paramilitary and special forces units are on the ground in Syria, citing evidence from intelligence reports. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Cuban troops may have been training in Russia and may have arrived in Syria on Russian planes.
Isn’t normalization with Cuba wonderful? Isn’t that reset with Russia working out well? It sure has been rewarding so far.
According to some, that’s exactly what is happening:
While no one is predicting that the Islamic State will become the steward of an accountable, functioning state anytime soon, the group is putting in place the kinds of measures associated with governing: issuing identification cards for residents, promulgating fishing guidelines to preserve stocks, requiring that cars carry tool kits for emergencies. That transition may demand that the West rethink its military-first approach to combating the group.
“I think that there is no question that the way to look at it is as a revolutionary state-building organization,” said Stephen M. Walt, a professor of international affairs at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard. He is one of a small but growing group of experts who are challenging the conventional wisdom about the Islamic State: that its evil ensures its eventual destruction.
Granted, the tools it uses to establish and maintain control are terror and violence, however that’s not much different than hundreds of totalitarian regimes throughout history. And, at this point, it is in its first generation of “rulers”, which means they’re likely to be the most true to their warped “principles”. So corruption, pre se, isn’t yet a problem (they’re too frightened of their own organization to accept bribes, for instance).
Remember history, say the experts:
Drawing on parallels from history, experts say, the group’s violence can be seen in a different light. Mr. Walt mentioned the guillotine of the French Revolution, and the atrocities of the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia and the Communist one in China — imperfect analogies, to be sure, but ones that underscored the violence and oppression that can precede creation of a revolutionary state.
Then there’s Pol Pot’s Cambodia. It finally failed, but the same formula was applied there.
The problem, of course, is this isn’t the way it had to be. Certainly the left will say “if that evil Bush hadn’t invaded Iraq, it wouldn’t be that way”. Well with people often disappearing into wood chippers in Saddam’s day, Iraq was already that way.
The problem, as we face it now, really comes down to ideology and neglect – squarely placed in this administration’s lap. Gen. Ray Odeirno, outgoing Army Chief of Staff, said as much in an interview:
But Odierno had pointed words on the rise of ISIS in Iraq and Syria – suggesting it didn’t have to be this way.
“It’s frustrating to watch it,” Odierno said. “I go back to the work we did in 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2010 and we got it to a place that was really good. Violence was low, the economy was growing, politics looked like it was heading in the right direction.”
Odierno said the fall of large parts of Iraq was not inevitable, reiterating concerns about the pace of the U.S. troop withdrawal there.
“If we had stayed a little more engaged, I think maybe it might have been prevented,” he said. “I’ve always believed the United States played the role of honest broker between all the groups and when we pulled ourselves out, we lost that role.”
But this administration wasn’t interested in staying longer regardless of the possible negative outcome of pulling troops from Iraq early. It had a campaign promise to fulfill, one of the few it ever has fulfilled. So it made routine SOFA negotiations impossible for Iraq to agree with, then blamed the lack of an agreement on Iraq and pulled our troops out before the job was done – giving ISIS the opportunity to rise.
Odierno made it clear that wasn’t the only problem we’ve let ‘rise’:
“Two years ago, we didn’t think we had a problem in Europe. … [Now] Russia is reasserting themselves. We didn’t think we’d have a problem again in Iraq and ISIS has emerged.
“So, with Russia becoming more of a threat, with ISIS becoming more of a threat, in my mind, we are on a dangerous balancing act right now with capability.”
The answer to these problems? Cut the end strength of the Army so we’re even less capable.
Can’t you just feel it?
We’re in good hands.
They don’t get a couple of things.
When Army Sgt. Patrick Hart decided a decade ago that he would not serve in the war in Iraq, he expected to follow the same path as thousands of American war resisters during the Vietnam era and take refuge across the border.
But after five years of wrangling with the Canadian immigration system, he came back to the U.S. — and ended up in a military prison.
Of course, Hart swore this oath at his enlistment and any re-enlistment he did:
I, _____, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.”
When your service is contingent upon that voluntary agreement, via oath, to fight all enemies “both foreign and domestic” and “to obey the orders” of those placed above you in your chain of command, you don’t get to decide who the enemies are or what orders you’ll obey. And if you do make a decision not to fight a particular enemy or obey a particular order, then you must also be willing to stand up and suffer the consequences of your principled stand. Not run and hide.
Yes, there are illegal orders and it is your duty to disobey them – and then stand your ground and ride out the aftermath. Same with refusing to fight. Do so and stand there and take the consequences.
But when you voluntarily take an oath such as the armed forces requires, you better think seriously about what those words mean before you utter them and then sign your name to them. As mentioned, this is a volunteer military. No one makes you go in, no one makes you swear the oath, etc. And nowhere does the oath allow caveats on who or what you may or may not fight.
So, knowing that, I have little to no sympathy for prisoner Hart. He got what he deserved and I’m quite happy to see that Canada gets the difference. Apparently some other folks don’t:
Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau has not committed to letting the resisters stay, but many are buoyed by his family history. It was his father, Pierre Trudeau, who while prime minister during the Vietnam War said Canada should be “a refuge from militarism.”
“Why not do it again? It’s only a couple of dozen people,” said Michelle Robidoux, spokeswoman for the War Resisters Support Campaign in Toronto, which has been lobbying members of Parliament.
The difference between the military of the Vietnam era and the military of today is summed up quickly: draft army vs. volunteer army. You can actually have some sympathy for those who fled to Canada during that era instead of doing something they were “press ganged” into doing or didn’t believe in. For most, no oath was involved and they hadn’t volunteered for anything.
“Why not do it again?” Because these people deserting now are deserting a voluntary commitment that suddenly became inconvenient for them. They voluntarily swore an oath and now, instead of fulfilling it, they’re cutting and running. That’s why you don’t do it “again”?
Who is one of the only groups successfully fighting ISIS and consistently winning?
If you said the Peshmerga or the Kurds, give yourself a point.
What should we, the US, be doing because the Peshmerga is, in fact, winning engagements regularly against ISIS?
Well the smart thing, and something a leader would do at a minimum, would be to help them in any way we can and supply them with the weaponry they need.
If you said that, another point.
Now, the big question – are we doing that?
If you said “no” you get 3 out of 3. If you said we’re actually working against that, you get a bonus of 1 point.
Yes, according the the Telegraph, we’ve been active in blocking needed heavy weapons shipments to the Kurds:
The Peshmerga have been successfully fighting Isil, driving them back from the gates of Erbil and, with the support of Kurds from neighbouring Syria, re-establishing control over parts of Iraq’s north-west.
But they are doing so with a makeshift armoury. Millions of pounds-worth of weapons have been bought by a number of European countries to arm the Kurds, but American commanders, who are overseeing all military operations against Isil, are blocking the arms transfers.
One of the core complaints of the Kurds is that the Iraqi army has abandoned so many weapons in the face of Isil attack, the Peshmerga are fighting modern American weaponry with out-of-date Soviet equipment.
At least one Arab state is understood to be considering arming the Peshmerga directly, despite US opposition.
The US has also infuriated its allies, particularly Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the Gulf states, by what they perceive to be a lack of clear purpose and vacillation in how they conduct the bombing campaign. Other members of the coalition say they have identified clear Isil targets but then been blocked by US veto from firing at them.
“There is simply no strategic approach,” one senior Gulf official said. “There is a lack of coordination in selecting targets, and there is no overall plan for defeating Isil.”
Another in a long litany of failures by this administration. We have both the means and a reason to supply the Kurds with the weaponry they need, and yet ….
As mentioned yesterday, Jimmy Carter is right.
Failure of leadership.
About all Barack Obama has done in the leadership department is attempt to define it down (“leading from behind”). From the beginning it has been evident that this man not only isn’t a leader, but has no idea how to lead and has learned nothing about it in his 6 years in office. Even an idiot learns a little after 6 years, or at least that’s been my observation.
Today we’re served with a perfect example of the point that he’s at best an abysmal leader:
Dispensing with the usual formalities and professionalism that take place during political discussions, a Pentagon official responded to President Obama’s comments that he’s waiting on an ISIS strategy by saying, “What the f*** was that?”
The President confessed to not having a strategy to defeat ISIS, adding that “when a finalized plan is presented to me by the Pentagon, then I will share it with the American people.”
Because the Pentagon can’t develop a plan in almost a year.
An official responded with the above question and added, “We have given him lots of options, he just hasn’t acted on them.”
That’s right, it’s the Pentagon’s fault that it has been over a year since Obama first offered that we had no strategy to combat ISIS and that remains our status today.
Because, you know, it’s the responsibility of underlings to drive things. Leaders? We’ll they play golf and enjoy the perks of the job. And when they’re finally confronted with the lack of progress on a strategy, always lay it off on their subordinates.
The dearth of leadership this administration constantly displays is dangerous. And that’s what it is. I can’t imagine a real leader saying something like this (a year after he had made the same statement). Any leader worth his salt recognizes that it is his responsibility to drive any process like that and if there is a lack of results, it is because he has failed, not his subordinates.
This guy isn’t a leader and just doesn’t care. He lets things go that are very important. He simply avoids decisions. Again, knowing what the job entails, one has to wonder why he ever pursued it? Did he think it wouldn’t be necessary to make decisions or lead on his watch?
This was just another check off the checklist of his narcissistic life. Whether or not he’d actually fulfill the requirements of the job were obviously secondary to his need to obtain it.
And now we suffer … everywhere. Because, by law, we have to let this boob finish out his lackluster and inept execution of the job.
To describe our State Department (and it’s spokes person) as boneheaded is an insult to boneheaded people. Here’s State Department Spokesperson Marie Harf and, of all people, MSNBC’s Chris Matthews:
MATTHEWS: How do we stop this? I don’t see it. I see the Shia militias coming out of Baghdad who are all Shia. The Sunnis hate them. The Sunnis are loyal to ISIS rather than going in with the Shia. You’ve got the Kurds, the Jordanian air force and now the Egyptian air force. But i don’t see any — If i were ISIS, I wouldn’t be afraid right now. I can figure there is no existential threat to these people. They can keep finding places where they can hold executions and putting the camera work together, getting their props ready and killing people for show. And nothing we do right now seems to be directed at stopping this.
HARF: Well, I think there’s a few stages here. Right now what we’re doing is trying to take their leaders and their fighters off the battlefield in Iraq and Syria. That’s really where they flourish.
MATTHEWS: Are we killing enough of them?
HARF: We’re killing a lot of them and we’re going to keep killing more of them. So are the Egyptians, so are the Jordanians. They’re in this fight with us. But we cannot win this war by killing them. We cannot kill our way out of this war. We need in the medium to longer term to go after the root causes that leads people to join these groups, whether it’s lack of opportunity for jobs, whether —
MATTHEWS: We’re not going to be able to stop that in our lifetime or fifty lifetimes. There’s always going to be poor people. There’s always going to be poor muslims, and as long as there are poor Muslims, the trumpet’s blowing and they’ll join. We can’t stop that, can we?
HARF: We can work with countries around the world to help improve their governance. We can help them build their economies so they can have job opportunities for these people…
Good grief, these people don’t want better “governance” and they’ve got the job they want … building the Caliphate. For heaven sake when are these ass-clowns going to wake up?
I’m again going to recommend an article that does the best analysis and explanation of ISIS that you’re going to find. It is very clear that those who rally to the ISIS banner think they’re building a righteous future with the Caliphate and that what they’re doing is preordained by their religion.
But the fools who run this country and our foreign policy – that would be the White House and State Department – are terrified of facing the threat and calling it what it is. It’s absurd and cowardly. It makes them come up with the sorts of pitiful nonsense that Harf is told to go out and spread.
This is a religious movement which is based, at its very core, on Islam. It is as religious a movement as you can get. In fact, as explained in the Atlantic article I’ve pointed you too, it is based in a literal interpretation of Islam’s holy book and its history. Let me hit you with that one particular quote again:
The reality is that the Islamic State is Islamic. Very Islamic. Yes, it has attracted psychopaths and adventure seekers, drawn largely from the disaffected populations of the Middle East and Europe. But the religion preached by its most ardent followers derives from coherent and even learned interpretations of Islam.
Virtually every major decision and law promulgated by the Islamic State adheres to what it calls, in its press and pronouncements, and on its billboards, license plates, stationery, and coins, “the Prophetic methodology,” which means following the prophecy and example of Muhammad, in punctilious detail. Muslims can reject the Islamic State; nearly all do. But pretending that it isn’t actually a religious, millenarian group, with theology that must be understood to be combatted, has already led the United States to underestimate it and back foolish schemes to counter it. We’ll need to get acquainted with the Islamic State’s intellectual genealogy if we are to react in a way that will not strengthen it, but instead help it self-immolate in its own excessive zeal.
Note what the author points out – that “pretending it isn’t actually religious … has already led the United States to underestimate it and back foolish schemes to counter it.”
See above! Harf is just a symptom of the idiocy and cowardice that infests our highest levels of government. When you refuse to actually identify the enemy and his motivation, you cannot hope to devise and develop a plan to counter his threat. History is littered with the failure such nonsense brings. Chamberlin thought Hitler could be reasoned with and would keep his word. He was clueless. And, as such, he developed a “strategy” that was an abject failure and, in fact, played right into Hitler’s hands.
Obama and Kerry are no different. They refuse to face the reality of the threat. That’s why we have no strategy, or at least no strategy (patience? really?) that will counter the threat. What they are doing is cowardly and reprehensible, not to mention being derelict in their sworn duties. This is unacceptable, but then neither Obama nor Kerry have ever been mistaken as leaders.
And when you elect or appoint people with no leadership experience and no real world experience, you get this. Something 50% of the idiots who live in this country approve of (sorry, I’m a little grumpy today).
An interesting article I think you’ll want to read. At least I found it interesting. It discusses the foundations of Islam and why, essentially, it is really not a “religion of peace”. In fact, as the author argues, as much as the West would like the name of the religion, Islam, to mean “peace”, in fact it means “submit”. We’ve talked here before about the need of a reformation in Islam to reorient it away from violent jihad and to a religion that actually preaches and practices “peace”. The outlook isn’t very promising. Here’s one reason:
The Qur’an contains many peaceful and tolerant verses, and these could well be used to create a genuine reformation — something several genuine reformers have tried to do. But there is a catch. All these moderate verses were written in the early phase of Muhammad’s career, when he lived in Mecca and had apparently decided to allure people. When he moved to Medina in 622, everything changed. He was soon a religious, political and military leader. During the next ten years, as his religious overtures were sometimes not welcomed, the peaceful verses gave way to the jihad verses and the intolerant diatribes against Jews, Christians and pagans. Almost all books of tafsir take for granted that the later verses abrogate the early ones. This means that the verses preaching love for all are no longer applicable, except with regard to one’s fellow Muslims. The verses that teach jihad, submission and related doctrines still form the basis for the approach of many Muslims to non-believers.
One problem is that no one can change the Qur’an in any way. If the book contains the direct word of God, then the removal of even a tiny diacritical mark or a dot above or beneath a letter would be blasphemy of the most extreme kind. Any change would suggest that the text on earth did not match the tablet in heaven — the “Mother of the Book,” much as Mary is the Mother of Christ — that is the eternal original of the Qur’an. If one dot could be moved, perhaps others could be moved, and before long words could be substituted for other words. The Qur’an itself condemns Jews and Christians for having tampered with their own holy books, so that neither the Torah nor the Gospels may be regarded as the word of God. The Qur’an traps us by its sheer unchangeability.
And, as he points out, the most “modern” interpretation does anything but put Islam in a “moderate” context:
Regrettably it is impossible to re-interpret the Qur’an in a “moderate” manner. The most famous modern tafsir, or interpretation, of the holy book is a multi-volume work entitled, In the Shade of the Qur’an. It was written by Sayyid Qutb (d. 1966), the Muslim Brotherhood ideologue often regarded as the father of modern radicalism. His interpretation leads the reader again and again into political territory, where jihad is at the root of action.
So that seems to be where we stand. Here, however, is the problem that confronts the West:
The besetting sin of modern Western politicians, church leaders, and multiculturalists is their ready acceptance of ignorance and their promotion of their own ignorance to the rank of expertise. Islam is one of the most important topics in human history, but how many schoolchildren are given details such as the ones mentioned above in their history classes? How many textbooks paint an honest picture of how Islam began and how it continued as a background to how it continues today?
Furthermore, how many real experts are denied contact with government and politicians so that lies are not made the basis for governmental decisions in the West? How many times will truth be sacrificed to fable while Muslim extremists bomb and shoot and behead their way to power?
These facts do not come from modern Western accounts; they are there in the founding texts of Islam, in the histories of al-Waqidi and al-Tabari. No-one is making any of this up. Muslims who avoid their own history should be brought face to face with it in all future discussions.
But, of course, that isn’t what is happening is it? We’re told over and over again that Islam is a religion of “peace” by those in the West who would rather believe that than confront the awful fact that its own founding documents portray anything but a peaceful religion — not to mention its history. For instance, were you aware that it is estimated that “between sixty and eighty million Hindus may have been put to death during the centuries of invasions by Muslim armies from 1000 to 1525.” That’s Stalin and Mao territory.
If you can’t or won’t deal truthfully with the problem, how can you ever expect to confront it successfully? When you remain in denial and you let the practitioners of the religion also deny the truth, how does one “reform” anything? And what does the continuous denial portend for the West in the not to distant future?
Or, the “strategy” to “manage” ISIS, if you prefer. The Washington Post today, calls whatever the administration is trying to put together to confront ISIS “underpowered”. I think they’re being kind about it because they still want access to their administration sources. If what they report is true, it’s a failure before it is even attempted.
In Paris on Monday, two dozen governments pledged to help fight the extremists “by any means necessary, including military assistance.” But only a handful — not yet including Britain — have so far agreed to participate in air combat missions in Iraq, and none has yet signed on to support prospective U.S. air strikes in Syria. Nor is any sending combat troops.
The attenuated support reflects in part the complicated politics of the fight against the Islamic State, which controls a New England-size swath of territory across Iraq and Syria and commands tens of thousands of militants. Neighbors such as Turkey and Jordan are reluctant to openly join the fight, for fear of becoming targets of the terrorists. Sunni rulers are loath to fight on the same side as the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad or Iran — which, for its part, loudly declared Monday that it had rejected a U.S. cooperation proposal.
Note the emerging strategy – air combat missions. War from 20,000 feet. Pin-pricks whose effectiveness depends on good intel and timely intervention. And this administration is going to coordinate that? The administration that couldn’t even build a website? Note also that the missions are only agreed too for Iraq. None of these erstwhile allies has agreed to any in Syria. Result? ISIS has a safehaven. Yeah, we’ve never, ever seen that before have we?
So why are they reluctant? Lack of leadership by the US, plain and simple:
In large part, however, the restraint has been fostered by President Obama himself. As The Post’s Rajiv Chandrasekaran reported, Mr. Obama rejected the recommendation of his top military commanders that U.S. Special Operations forces be deployed to assist Iraqi army units in fighting the rebels, and Secretary of State John F. Kerry said the administration has turned aside troop offers by other nations. “There are some who have offered to do so, but we are not looking for that, at this moment anyway,”he told CBS News’s Bob Schieffer.
ISIS has to only guard against airstrikes? A group who butchers people on a daily basis would never consider human shields or setting up in schools or hospitals would they? And in Syria … they don’t even have to worry about it, do they? ISIS has cowed the Iraqi armed forces, the Kurds are playing defense, they’re free to roam Syria and we don’t need any troops on the ground at all? Yeah, because, you know, all we need are airstrikes.
But this is what most amazed me about the “strategy”:
Mr. Kerry said Monday that defeating the Islamic State will depend in part on non-combat initiatives such as discrediting its ideology, stopping the flow of jihadist volunteers and providing political and material support to the new Iraq government.
Non-combat initiatives like discrediting their ideology? Really? Again, we’ve been so successful doing that in the past 20 years, haven’t we? That’s why they’re such a small and declining group (wait, we were told that Al Qaida was kaput a while back weren’t we?). Oh, and the rich part? An administration that can’t even control its own southern border is going to stop the flow of jihadist volunteers … in the Middle East? What a freakin’ laugh riot that talking point is. Meanwhile, in a country that is under armed attack by a vicious army of murderers, Obama and the guys are going to provide “political and material support” to the new Iraqi government … but none that really helps stem the tide of the threatening jihadists controlling a large portion of their country … except of pinprick airstrikes to which ISIS will adapt (mark my words on that one).
This is going to end up being another of those half-assed attempts driven by polls (aka wag the dog) which, on its face, is simply a failure waiting to happen. This administration has no idea of what is required to face down and destroy ISIS (or any enemy for that matter). And it isn’t really going to attempt it. If anything it is going to attempt to talk ISIS to death. But as a real-time strategy, if what above is any indication of the administration’s intent, it’s a bust.
But then, what would one expect from an administration that is going to send 3,000 troops to Africa to “battle ebola”, but won’t send any to battle a real, honest-to-goodness enemy in Iraq?
Even the Washington Post has a problem swallowing the latest Obama attempt at rewriting history (with the usual motive of passing off the blame to someone or something else). As usual, Obama is trying to have it both ways while waving away his culpability in the problems and deaths now taking place in Iraq:
President Obama surprised a few people during a news conference Thursday by claiming that the 2011 decision to withdraw all U.S. forces from Iraq, a politically popular move on the eve of an election year, was made entirely by his Iraqi counterpart. The implication ran counter to a number of claims that Obama has made in the past, most notably during a tight campaign season two years ago, when he suggested that it was his decision to leave Iraq and end an unpopular war.
His remarks, coming as an Islamist insurgency seizes territory across northern Iraq and threatens the central government, recalled key moments in his reelection race when he called his opponent hopelessly out of step with Middle East realities for wanting to keep U.S. forces in the still-fragile country America had invaded nearly a decade earlier.
In the 2012 campaign’s stretch, Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney met inside the performing arts center of Lynn University for the last of three presidential debates. The race remained close, and in the weeks after the Sept. 11, 2012, attacks on the U.S. diplomatic mission and CIA-run annex in Benghazi, Libya, the Romney team saw foreign policy as an area of potential vulnerability for the incumbent. The debate focused on the issue.
For much of that election year, Obama had included a line of celebration in his standard stump speech, one that among an electorate exhausted by more than a decade of war always drew a rousing applause: “Four years ago, I promised to end the war in Iraq,” Obama proclaimed in Bowling Green, Ohio, in September 2012, and did nearly every day after until the election. “We did.”
For Obama, who four years earlier had distinguished himself from Democratic rival Hillary Rodham Clinton through his opposition to the war in Iraq, the fact he had withdrawn all U.S. forces from the country was a problem solved and a political chip to be cashed in come November.
It was also a way to once again draw contrasts with Romney, who criticized Obama for failing to secure a so-called status of forces agreement with the Iraqi government. The agreement would have granted immunity from Iraqi prosecution to all U.S. troops in country after 2011. Reaching such a deal — a political risk for Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki — would have allowed a contingent of several thousand U.S. troops to remain, largely to help with training and specific counter-terrorism operations.
“With regards to Iraq, you and I agreed, I believe, that there should be a status of forces agreement,” Romney told Obama as the two convened on the Lynn University campus in Boca Raton, Fla., that October evening. “That’s not true,” Obama interjected. “Oh, you didn’t want a status of forces agreement?” Romney asked as an argument ensued. “No,” Obama said. “What I would not have done is left 10,000 troops in Iraq that would tie us down. That certainly would not help us in the Middle East.”
On Thursday, Obama addressed reporters in the White House Briefing Room about Iraq’s latest crisis. “Do you wish you had left a residual force in Iraq? Any regrets about that decision in 2011?” a reporter asked. “Well, keep in mind that wasn’t a decision made by me,” Obama said. “That was a decision made by the Iraqi government.”
While the last statement is technically true, it’s because the Obama administration had engineered it to be that way. They knew full well how all of our other Status of Forces Agreements were done and deliberately included conditions and a step that was unnecessary that all but guaranteed rejection by the Iraqi government.
Here’s a little history of the time (written in October of 2011):
Quite simply it was a matter of will: President Bush really wanted to get a deal done, whereas Mr. Obama did not. Mr. Bush spoke weekly with Mr. Maliki by video teleconference. Mr. Obama had not spoken with Mr. Maliki for months before calling him in late October to announce the end of negotiations. Mr. Obama and his senior aides did not even bother to meet with Iraqi officials at the United Nations General Assembly in September.
The administration didn’t even open talks on renewing the Status of Forces Agreement until this summer, a few months before U.S. troops would have to start shuttering their remaining bases to pull out by Dec. 31. The previous agreement, in 2008, took a year to negotiate.
The recent negotiations were jinxed from the start by the insistence of State Department and Pentagon lawyers that any immunity provisions be ratified by the Iraqi parliament—something that the U.S. hadn’t insisted on in 2008 and that would be almost impossible to get today. In many other countries, including throughout the Arab world, U.S. personnel operate under a Memorandum of Understanding that doesn’t require parliamentary ratification. Why not in Iraq? Mr. Obama could have chosen to override the lawyers’ excessive demands, but he didn’t.
He also undercut his own negotiating team by regularly bragging—in political speeches delivered while talks were ongoing—of his plans to “end” the “war in Iraq.” Even more damaging was his August decision to commit only 3,000 to 5,000 troops to a possible mission in Iraq post-2011. This was far below the number judged necessary by our military commanders. They had asked for nearly 20,000 personnel to carry out counterterrorist operations, support American diplomats, and provide training and support to the Iraqi security forces. That figure was whittled down by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to 10,000, which they judged to be the absolute minimum needed.
The Iraqis knew about these estimates: U.S. military commanders had communicated them directly to Iraqi leaders. Prime Minister Maliki was said (by those who had talked to him) to privately support such a troop commitment, and almost all Iraqi political leaders—representing every major faction except for the rabidly anti-American Sadrists—assented on Aug. 2 to opening negotiations on that basis.
When the White House then said it would consent to no more than 5,000 troops—a number that may not even have been able to adequately defend itself, much less carry out other missions—the Iraqis understandably figured that the U.S. wasn’t serious about a continued commitment. Iraqi political leaders may have been willing to risk a domestic backlash to support a substantial commitment of 10,000 or more troops. They were not willing to stick their necks out for such a puny force. Hence the breakdown of talks.
So the talks on SOFA broke down giving Obama a reason to “end the war” and to blame the breakdown on Iraq and Iraq’s government. Perfect.
And now we see the result. He has someone to blame the problem on even as the history of how and why what happened happened seems to be lost in the mist. This was a deliberately staged and engineered outcome. By making an unacceptable offer and requiring other than the leadership of Iraq to endorse the deal, they knew it would fail. And that means the usual … another of our allies thrown under the bus. Yes, Maliki isn’t any bargain. And yes, he’s done as poor a job with Iraq as Obama has done in America. But there are two people that should be under the bus, and we all know who the second one is.
Don’t let him rewrite this bit of history to his advantage.
With the relase of the 5 Taliban leaders for a deserter, we’ve been mostly assured, by the usual suspects, that they won’t go back to war with us and anyone who thinks they will, well that’s “baloney” per John Kerry. That there has been a “deal” made and we were “promised” that wouldn’t happen. That’s sort of like believing gun control laws will keep guns out of the hands of criminals … it strains credulity.
And, frankly, we’re apparently pretty good at reseeding terrorist ranks as it turns out. Take the terrorist organization ISIS which is now brutalizing Iraq:
The United States once had Islamic State of Iraq and al-Shams (ISIS) leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi in custody at a detention facility in Iraq, but president Barack Obama let him go, it was revealed on Friday.
Al Baghdadi was among the prisoners released in 2009 from the U.S.’s now-closed Camp Bucca near Umm Qasr in Iraq.
But now five years later he is leading the army of ruthless extremists bearing down on Baghdad who want to turn the country into an Islamist state by blazing a bloody trail through towns and cities, executing Iraqi soldiers, beheading police officers and gunning down innocent civilians.
Even I remember al Baghdadi’s name and the massive hunt to bring him to ground. He was murderous scum then, and he’s murderous scum now. How in the world we ever let someone like that go is, well, something the Obama administration would have to explain.
Don’t bother asking … the answer is “it’s Bushes fault, you racist”.