Iraq

Sane Talk on Iraq

Maliki is part of the problem.

|

A man who owes his presidency to his opposition to the Iraq war is now pondering a new intervention in the same country. Some of his foremost critics think the president is being too cautious, even accusing him of "surrendering." The debate over Iraq has gotten so risible that if Saddam Hussein were still alive, some hawks would probably be calling for Washington to "finish the job" by reinstalling him.

Fortunately, some people have kept their heads. One of them is The Monkey Cage's Marc Lynch:

Caption contest!
Lawrence Jackson

The absence of U.S. troops because of the 2011 withdrawal is an extremely minor part of the story at best. The intense interaction between the Syrian and Iraqi insurgencies is certainly an important accelerant, but again is only part of the story. Nor is the U.S. reluctance to provide more arms to "moderate" Syrian rebels really the key to the growth of ISIS in Syria or in Iraq. It's a bit hard to believe that the jihadists who have joined up with ISIS would have been deterred by the presence of U.S.-backed forces—"Well, we were going to wage jihad to establish an Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, but the U.S. is arming moderates so I guess we'll stay home." In reality, the shift to an externally fueled insurgency and the flow of money and weapons to a variety of armed groups is what created the conditions that allowed ISIS to thrive in the first place.

The more interesting questions are about Iraq itself. Why are these cities falling virtually without a fight? Why are so many Iraqi Sunnis seemingly pleased to welcome the takeover from the Iraqi government by a truly extremist group with which they have a long, violent history? Why are Iraqi Sunni political factions and armed groups, which previously fought against al-Qaeda in Iraq, now seemingly cooperating with ISIS? Why is the Iraqi military dissolving rather than fighting to hold its territory? How can the United States help the Iraqi government fight ISIS without simply enabling Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's authoritarianism and sectarianism?…

I've long argued that the only thing that would force Maliki to change his ways would be his perception that his survival depended on it. When U.S. troops were fighting his war and securing his rule, he consistently refused to make the political accommodations that his U.S. advisers pushed upon him. After U.S. troops left, he enjoyed sufficient political strength and military security to strike the kind of political deal that could have consolidated a legitimate Iraqi order. Instead, he moved to consolidate his personal power and punish Sunni political opponents.

Read the rest here.

Addendum: Daniel Larison is making sense too. In a post at The American Conservative, he criticizes

the expectation that an American military presence gives the U.S. the ability to "shape" political outcomes in a significant and constructive way. This overlooks the fact that the U.S. was remarkably unsuccessful in influencing Maliki's behavior during the years when the U.S. was fully occupying the country. The assumption that an American presence would make it easier for different factions to compromise ignores that the eruption of sectarian bloodletting took place under U.S. supervision, and it also fails to take into account that opposing the U.S. presence served as a rallying point for both Shia militias and jihadist groups.

Read the rest here.

NEXT: The Least-Liked Minority Group? Atheists.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Did our all so wise and noble leaders learn anything from this?

    No. It will be double down on stupid.

    1. Yes. They learned (yet again) that voters won’t hold you accountable for your lies.

  2. FYI:
    The Reason web-guy didn’t know we were having comment-function difficulties when I contacted him last night; he’s been logging hit rates and they haven’t changed much.
    So if you are as frustrated as I am at losing a paragraph or two and having to retype it, you might go right to the bottom of the page to locate the contacts and let him know.
    My 2014 donation is a good bit smaller than the 2013 amount and shrinking every time another comment gets lost in the ozone.!

  3. Notice that Lynch isn’t saying that the US should just stop returning Maliki’s calls and stay out of it. In the final paragraph he basically says it would be nice to attach some conditions to the inevitable whatever, but that’s gonna be hard to do because it’s a crisis.

    1. Yes, the last graf is pretty fatalistic.

  4. he’s been logging hit rates and they haven’t changed much

    They aren’t going to change much if the site continues to be a pain in the arse. And it’s making libertarians look bad.

    I think web guy should be looking at the hosting service or the site configuration/code. It’s not freaking normal to have constant log outs and time outs, there’s not even that many people posting here at a time. Even HuffPost is not this bad and they have 100x the commenters.

    1. “I think web guy should be looking at the hosting service or the site configuration/code.”

      I agree; this works like the site of a local boy-scout troop.
      But you need to contact HIM. He’s not reading what you wrote.

    2. I was wondering if the constant logging-out was on my end but I see other people are having the same problem.

  5. In both Vietnam and in Iraq and Afghanistan, our leadership was taken in by fast talking well connected people wearing suits who swore they could run the country for us if only they had the chance. IN all three cases we wound up putting in crooks. Maybe because our leadership is so often filled with crooks makes them sympathetic to crooks overseas. More likely it is that our leadership is insular and doesn’t understand the countries they are dealing with and are easily taken in by any native who looks, talks and acts like them. It is an expression of our top men, credentialed society. This guy went to Harvard, his pants are creased perfectly, I met him at Davos last year, he must know everything about how to fix things in his country. Ah no, that guy is a fucking crook who hasn’t made an honest dollar in his life and hasn’t been home in two decades. The important guy is the guy you met last week who smelled like a goat and wore weird clothes and made you go out and shoot machine guns with his people. Our leadership never gets that and they inevitably create governments inhabited by fast talking crooks.

    1. I have to do some research. Was it dumb luck or refusal to accept bullshit that made our nation building exercises in Korea, Japan, and West Germany successful? Those successes made us too cocky.

      1. Big cultural differences between those successes and the Middle East.

      2. In Japan and Germany it was that those societies were just so fucking hard working and organized even we couldn’t fuck it up. In Korea, we did put in a bunch of crooks. Syngman Rhee was pretty much the definition of a cleptocrat. I think it was just that the Korean people are just so hard working and so have their shit together, it didn’t even matter that they had a lousy oppressive government. The Iraqis and Afghans don’t quite come up to the level of the Germans, Japanese and Koreans.

        1. I wouldn’t underestimate the difference that unconditional surrender makes, either.

          In addition to the cultural head start Germany and Japan had, the war was completely over, and they were broken down to the ground. I suspect that’s what you need for successful nation-building most times.

          Korea is a different case, although South Korea was pretty much completely defeated early in the war and pretty well broken down by the Japanese before we got there.

          1. We had unconditional surrender in Iraq. The entire government and civil society fell apart and everyone associated with the government ran for their lives.

            If there is a difference it is that Korea, Japan and Germany are actual countries with a sense of national identity where Iraq is not. Iraq is an artificial amalgamation of various groups that hate each other. That makes making a country a lot harder.

            Vietnam is and was a country. And people forget that we did build a viable nation in South Vietnam. South Vietnam was not going to fall apart on its own the way Iraq is. South Vietnam had to be invaded by a rearmed North. We didn’t fail to build a nation in South Vietnam. We just failed to build one strong enough to stop a communist supported North after we refused to help anymore. Really we didn’t fail in Vietnam anymore than we “failed” in Korea. In both places we created a viable state that could exist but needed our help defending themselves against their communist neighbors. The difference is that in Korea we stayed and helped them and in Vietnam we didn’t.

            1. Yep – Vietnam had a chance if they had a defensible border.

            2. We had unconditional surrender in Iraq.

              Not really. Chunks of the army and Sunni power structure went underground. Baathists and Shia militias never stopped shooting at us and at each other.

              Unconditional surrender in Viet Nam would have meant the surrender of the North. We never did that, but left the civil war going, which the South lost. South Viet Nam was apparently not a functional nation, certainly not one built to our specifications as it was always governed by corrupt, inept dictators.

      3. South Korea was not a success at first until the Koreans got their shit together and made it one. It was a dictatorial shithole far worse off than the North.

      4. Japan and Germany were successful counties/societies/cultures first; and were defeated utterly. I think that had a lot to do with it.

    2. Our leadership never gets that and they inevitably create governments inhabited by fast talking crooks.

      Isn’t that a bit redundant? I mean, aren’t all government havens for fast talking crooks?

    3. The bigger problem is the inability of Americans to view the world through the jackwagons they support. Irrespective of western education and polished appearance, most of these guys come from families that have been in and out of power for hundreds of years. Their first concern is always toward that end no matter what line of bullshit they sell you about democracy or freedom and shit.

      Just get out of the business entirely or start operating like the Brits did – look the other way, hold your nose, and have a gin and tonic. If it all fucks up in 50 years, you’re dead anyway.

    4. We went into Japan and Germany as conquerors, not “liberators,” and set up governments that answered to the occupying forces as a matter of law, rather than the “well, we think you should do this, and we’ve got all the money and guns, but we can’t force you” arrangement they tried in Iraq. Basically, it’s way easier to set up a stable puppet regime than to come in, tear down a government, and expect the people who couldn’t overthrow it on their own to somehow get their shit together and set up an independent system.

      1. And we broke them both. In both countries we bombed and killed and destroyed until the citizens realized that to continue down their current path would only lead to more death and destruction. Could we rebuild Iraq? I don’t know. But the only way to succeed would take more bloodshed and collateral damage than the American citizen is willing to tolerate.

  6. Is the Iraq situation bad enough yet? NO! Dear leader is ready to screw it up even more!

    Dumbo in Chief ready to ‘do something’

    Hey Shreeky! I look at Booosh 2, your guy!

    1. Shreek will claim Obama is cleaning up BOOOSH’s mess the right way, by not putting boots on the ground, so it’s totally different and not a war.

      1. Well, he can’t stop the Islamists from taking Iraq over again, without boots on the ground, lots of them. Then only way to maintain some semblance of the Iraq that WE want is to occupy it forever. Anyone should be able to understand that, but our great wise leaders can’t.

    2. The White House is claiming that Hegal is the one who made the call on the Berdahl swap. I am going to give them the benefit of the doubt here and say they are telling the truth. That means that the country just made a hugely strategic and important deal with an enemy we are at war with and the President didn’t make the call.

      At this point, can you even call Obama President? He doesn’t seem to make any of the decisions. He just plays golf and talks out of his ass. No one in the government seems to give a shit what he thinks or says.

      The government is going to do something. If nothing else, they will choose to do nothing. But they will make a decision. The question is who is going to make that decision? It sure as hell won’t be Obama from what I can tell.

      1. John|6.13.14 @ 10:52AM|#
        “The White House is claiming that Hegal is the one who made the call on the Berdahl swap. I am going to give them the benefit of the doubt here and say they are telling the truth.”

        Yep, Obo is both a fool AND a knave.

      2. The White House is claiming that Hegal is the one who made the call on the Berdahl swap. I am going to give them the benefit of the doubt here and say they are telling the truth. That means that the country just made a hugely strategic and important deal with an enemy we are at war with and the President didn’t make the call.

        If he actually did something useful with his JD he would realize how terrible you look when you’re the man in charge and blame someone else. “I’m sorry your honor, my client was supposed to give the affidavit to my paralegal…”

        1. Yeah. To me saying Hegal made the call is even worse than saying Obama did and thinks it is great. I can’t fully judge the deal. I don’t know what the President knows and I can’t look into the future to see how it will work out. So, my ability to criticize him for making that deal is somewhat limited. But Jesus tap dancing Christ, I sure as hell know how the government works and that the President is supposed to be in charge of foreign policy and the executive. If Obama is letting DOD make the final call on these things, than he is an incompetent and negligent leader regardless of the virtue or lack thereof of the Bergdahl swap.

    3. I managed to run off PB yesterday.

      He was shreeking about how Obama cut the deficit in half.

      So I posted some deficit numbers, reiterating that Obama only cut the deficit if you use Bush’s bailouts as the baseline.

      2013: $680 billion
      2012: $1,087 billion
      2011: $1,300 billion
      2010: $1,294 billion
      2009: $1,413 billion
      2008: $458 billion
      2007: $161 billion
      2006: $248 billion
      2005: $318 billion

      Haven’t seen hide nor hair since.

      1. He has been dropping that turd on these threads for years. Obama “cut the deficit” if you assume that he somehow bore no responsibility for the deficit in 2009. And even with his “cutting the deficit”, we are still left with a higher deficit than any year under Bush except 2009. Shreek can’t get enough of people rubbing his nose in that little pile of shit and he keeps leaving it on threads.

      2. And the debt has increased by $800BB so far this year.

        1. And I proved you were both lying with one link:

          The Congressional Budget Office in April projected that the federal deficit will decline to $492 billion this fiscal year, the smallest in six years, from $680 billion in 2013 and a record $1.4 trillion when President Barack Obama took office in January 2009.

          In the fiscal year through May, the government posted a $436.4 billion deficit compared with a $626.3 billion shortfall in the same period a year earlier, the figures showed.

          http://www.bloomberg.com/news/…..venue.html

          1. And the bot trots out the same old little turd hoping ot have his nose rubbed in it.

            Yes shreek, we know. If you attribute spending that happened while Obama was President to Bush, Obama cut the deficit. Everyone knows that. It is just that we are not retarded like you are and understand why that doesn’t mean anything.

          2. I’m not talking about CBO projections, Plugs.

            I’m talking about the actual increase in actual debt actually outstanding.

            Go to debt to the penny and run a report from September 30, 2013 to the present day.

            1. FICA taxes used to buy Treasuries – so what?

              1. Debt is issued when FICA taxes are used to buy them. Ergo, the debt goes up. That debt will have to be redeemed OR we “default” on SocSec.

                $800BB so far this year. Them’s the hard numbers, Plugs. Flop around all you want, but we’ll have another trillion dollar deficit this year.

          3. Hey dipshit. Can you read? Look at the deficits for 2005, 06, 07 and 08. None were above $500B.

            Then you’ve got the stimulus of 09. Bush’s bailouts.

            Only if you use the bailouts as a baseline and completely ignore the preceding four years can you say Obama cut the deficit.

            1. Your lies may work on the Peanuts but Bloomberg and the rest of the non-wingnut world knows better.

              The 09 stimulus and TARP are NOT in the $1.4 trillion deficit of CBO Jan 09.

              1. What does the CBO have to do with anything?

                Just look at the data.

                Four years previous to the stimulus the deficit remains below $500B.

                That is the HONEST baseline.

                Only if you use the stimulus as the DISHONEST baseline can you claim Obama cut anything.

                Figures don’t lie, but liars figure.

                For example the figures show that the honest baseline would be, I dunno, $300B if you take an average. Maybe $500B if you want to round it up.

                Liars figure that if they use the year with the stimulus, then they can claim to have cut the deficit.

                1. Your lies may work on the Peanuts but Bloomberg and the rest of the non-wingnut world knows better.

                  The 09 stimulus and TARP are NOT in the $1.4 trillion deficit of CBO Jan 09.

                  1. So you refuse to use an honest baseline. That’s fine. I used to think you were simply stupid. Now I see you are a liar as well. Thank you. I will now treat you with all of the respect that a liar deserves.

                  2. Say you have a major expense that isn’t part of the normal budget. Instead of putting it on the credit card you use your grocery money, then you use the credit card to buy groceries. Technically you didn’t use the credit card for the major expense, but you still borrowed more that month than you normally would. So using that month as a baseline is dishonest.

                    Figures don’t lie, but liars figure.

          4. yet somehow the national debt has doubled under the Lightworker in less than six years, even while interest rates have been held artificially low by the Fed.

      3. Cocaine is a hell of a drug.

    4. What? I heard Osama bin Laden was dead and that Al Qaeda was defeated. This has to be Bush’s fault somehow.

      I haven’t seen shreek this morning. He must be waiting for them to finish drafting his talking points.

  7. I’ve long argued that the only thing that would force Maliki to change his ways would be his perception that his survival depended on it.

    Might be too late, now.

    1. It couldn’t of happened to a nicer dumber guy…

  8. The great rule of conduct for us, in regard to foreign nations, is, in extending our commercial relations, to have with them as little political connexion as possible. So far as we have already formed engagements, let them be fulfilled with perfect good faith. Here let us stop.

    What isolationist pussy could’ve said something like this?

    1. Ummm.. SHitler?

    2. Why did that person hate America so much?

      1. Because of our freedumbz!

  9. Why are these cities falling virtually without a fight? Why are so many Iraqi Sunnis seemingly pleased to welcome the takeover from the Iraqi government by a truly extremist group with which they have a long, violent history? Why are Iraqi Sunni political factions and armed groups, which previously fought against al-Qaeda in Iraq, now seemingly cooperating with ISIS? Why is the Iraqi military dissolving rather than fighting to hold its territory?

    Sheesh, Jesse, don’t ask *me*! Ask Dianne Feinstein!

  10. How about the Chinese approach? No aid. You want to buy weapons, here they are, pay up.

    Not our business otherwise.

  11. Start looking at all the fighting in the Mideast (except for the Palis and Hez fighting Israel) as just another chapter in the centuries long war between Shia and Sunni, and it will all make a lot more sense.

    The rebels in Syria are Sunnis, and the government is run by Shiites. The Gulf states are Sunni and have been supporting the Sunni terrorist organizations at one level or another forever, including in the Syrian civil war. They hates them some (Shiite) Iran.

    Iran is sending Quds forces to help fellow Shia Maliki. Iraqi Sunnis are welcoming Sunni fighters coming in from Syria. We are getting to the point where we may well see US air cover for Quds forces in Iraq. Think about that for a minute: the USAF flying cover for Iran. In Iraq.

    Smart power, baby!

    1. As always, I advocate admitting Kurdistan into the union, then arming it to the teeth. Kurdlahoma!

  12. There’s an odd idea that knocking off a dictator will bring freedom, liberty, and justice. And unicorns flying overhead will shit gold coins and chocolate bars.

    The only thing that knocking off a dictator will do is get rid of someone who is threatening US interests. If he’s not threatening our interests, he’s not our problem. If he is, then the next guy (and that’s all you’ll get, a “next guy”) will be wary about fucking with us. If that’s not the case, rinse and repeat.

    Nation building is absolutely the stupidest and most futile idea ever. If the people somewhere want a nation, they can go build it themselves.

    1. In offering to you, my countrymen, these counsels of an old and affectionate friend, I dare not hope they will make the strong and lasting impression I could wish; that they will control the usual current of the passions, or prevent our nation from running the course, which has hitherto marked the destiny of nations.

      Washington agreed.

    2. “Nation building is absolutely the stupidest and most futile idea ever.”

      You are assuming that the people who undertake it actually want to build a nation and not hand out contracts to their cronies.

      1. Good point. It’s a euphemism, not a description.

  13. So, being one of those guys carrying a reservist ID card, I ponder what label will get slapped on this one…

    Operation Third Time’s A Charm?

    Operation Not This Shiite Again?

    Operation Deja Vu?

    1. Operation What VA?

  14. Linky on Iran forces in Iraq:

    http://online.wsj.com/articles…..1402592470

    Looks like we’re actually encouraging Iran to go into Iraq. Holy shit, what a colossal fuckup.

    [State Department] spokeswoman Jen Psaki said American diplomats who met with Iranian officials in Geneva this week to discuss Tehran’s nuclear program didn’t raise the issue of the Iraqi crisis.

    “We’ve encouraged them to play a constructive role in Iraq,” Ms. Psaki said about the Iranians.

    Best writing on the internet on all this is at Belmont Club.

    http://pjmedia.com/richardfernandez/

    1. I am not surprised we are doing that. But I wouldn’t even call it a fuck up. Saying it is a fuck up implies the White House is even trying anymore. I don’t think anyone is in charge and I don’t think they have any plan or really any idea what is going on much less what to do about it. It is basically chaos at this point. Who is “we”? Who is encouraging in Iran to go in? The State Department? DOD? Who knows. It is every cabinet member for himself right now. There is no “administration” right now. It is just a collection of executive agencies acting of their own accord with no regard to each other or much of anything else.

      I really think it is that bad.

    2. Getting Iran military tied up in Iraq doesn’t seeming obviously bad to me. Maybe we can convince them to occupy Afghanistan too.

  15. I don’t know how this looks to people who have never put on a uniform but for the guys who were just cutting their teeth in Operation Desert Storm and then were mid-career or senior leaders for Operation Iraqi Freedom the idea of suiting up again to go back and un-fuck the outcome… …nuking it from orbit will be the first thing to pop to mind.

    We don’t have a new cast of characters on either side. This will only end in tears – I fear that nobody “in charge” has a concept for how bad this will end up.

    1. That is how I feel. The Iraqis had their chance and they are apparently fucking it up. If this country ever requires me to go back to the middle east, I will go. But I have no interest or intention of ever going back to do anything but be a part of a punitive expedition sent to exact retribution and make attacking the United States a thought so horrible that having it will be considered a mortal sin in Islam from that time forward.

  16. Obama is already as unpopular as Bush ever was.

    But wait until the footage of helicopters flying out US citizens just ahead of the jihadi hordes hits the news. or the footage of roads lined with the butchered bodies of our allies.

    What’s the over/under on his approval rating in, say, another month?

  17. Is it possible that ISIS is performing such barbaric deeds as summary executions, beheqdings, and drive-by shootings in part to induce a military response by the.United States, which.would.end.disastrously?

  18. I say just let them kill each other off. When one side eventually wins, send them a note reminding them that if any terrorist attack on the US comes with their return address on the envelope, we will line up our planes wing tip to wing tip and turn their country into a parking lot.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.