You can tell it’s a slow news cycle when the big media story is about an insurgency in Iraq being waged by two-bit clowns.
And brutal as they may be, that’s exactly what they are.
Yet American soldiers are being sent back to Iraq, ostensibly for embassy security. It won’t stop there, because it never does. The real story is not some fringe group that can’t even play nice with al-Qaeda, but the incomprehensible mistake of once again increasing America’s presence in the Middle East.
If we look at the situation objectively — the present predicament, past mistakes, and future solutions — perhaps the insanity of putting boots back on the ground could be stopped, saving American lives and preventing America from getting sucked into yet another Middle Eastern conflict that can never be won.
PRESENT: First, let’s stop making ISIS insurgents out to be God’s gift to military prowess. While some are battlefield veterans, most are bored or brainwashed types inept at waging any serious military campaign. For example, it’s not too bright to show insurgent’s faces on the videos they release, since it makes identifying and targeting them infinitely easier. Geniuses they are not.
ISIS as a "force to be reckoned with" is a sham. So they whack two journalists, and the world is supposed to run scared? Really? How hard is it to kidnap two unarmed reporters in your own territory and behead them? Or take over remote, defenseless towns, and then march fellow Muslims to their executions? Gruesome? Sure, but also cowardly, as they hijack Islam, hiding behind the Koran by spewing deliberately misinterpreted platitudes to justify their actions.
ISIS, or whatever they’re called this week, does not merit the international coverage it is receiving, and definitely does not warrant an increased American military presence in Iraq. Their "effectiveness" thus far has little to do with their political acumen and fighting abilities and everything to do with the impotent, corrupt Iraqi government, wholly incapable of handling even the slightest problem.
Let’s stop elevating them to the forefront of the world stage, which only perpetuates the myth of their effectiveness and brings the only adult in the room — America — down to the level of the petulant child.
PAST: To gain a long-term solution, it is imperative we look at past mistakes. Is that playing the blame game? Sure is, and absolutely necessary if history isn’t to repeat itself.
The vast majority of blame for Iraq’s chaos goes to President George W. Bush, though he is not alone in allowing arrogance and ignorance of history to guide American foreign policy in the Middle East.
In the aftermath of Sept. 11, Bush got bullied by neo-conservatives hell bent on going to war (again) in the region. So using Saddam Hussein as a boogieman, despite no evidence of his involvement in Sept. 11, W. launched an all-out offensive on Iraq. The result? Shock and awe regarding how naïve Bush was in thinking American troops would be treated with a coronation of roses. Instead, they received a nonstop bouquet of bullets and bombs.
In the ensuing decade, Iraq descended into lawlessness. With a government incapable of restoring order, tens of thousands were killed, including many Americans. And that carnage continues today as scores of Iraqis regularly die from car bombs.
Hussein was no angel, but as a secular leader with an iron fist, he kept the extremists at bay while maintaining a balance of power in the region. And don’t forget that he was an American ally leading up to and during the long Iran-Iraq war. Perhaps most noteworthy, he was a bitter enemy of Osama bin Laden.
Since the overthrow of Hussein, there have been thousands of car bombs in Iraq; yet while he was leader, there were none. Invading Iraq and deposing Hussein — the only man capable of maintaining order — was possibly the greatest blunder in a very long list of American mistakes in the Middle East.
Coming in a close second was the blind American support of rebels in Syria fighting Bashar al-Assad. True, Assad is a ruthless dictator, but as an avowed secularist, he provided stability by keeping fundamentalists in check. His drawn-out battle with the rebels has provided a safe haven for terrorists in areas captured from the Syrian government. And here’s the worst part: Guess which group of rebels ended up with American weapons?
ISIS. You simply can’t make this stuff up.
By backing Libyan rebels, America took out the non-fundamentalist Moammar Gadhafi (it seems taking out secular Middle Eastern leaders is the only thing we’re good at), who had been working with U.S. intelligence against terrorists. Alarmingly, it didn’t dawn on the Obama administration that these rebels were the same folks who comprised the largest foreign fighting force battling American soldiers during the Iraq war.
Consequently, Libya also has devolved into chaos (Benghazi comes to mind) now that America’s handiwork has allowed thugs to rule the day.
America keeps trying to impose its will in the Middle East. And it keeps blowing up in our faces, literally.
FUTURE: It’s time to cut our losses and come to the undeniable realization that Iraq is "unwinnable," especially since America has never been able to define victory.
It is no longer our fight. Time for locals, like the Kurds, to deal with ISIS and other extremist groups. We should supply them with weapons and intelligence, and certainly continue air strikes until they gain a foothold, but the answer for America is to pull out, not jump in.
Admittedly, we made a mess over there, but we can’t bring Saddam Hussein back from the dead. Get the troops home, stop playing policeman in Iraq, and let Assad take back Syria.
The ultimate answer is the simplest solution: energy independence. If America utilized a fraction of its untapped resources, it wouldn’t be forced to rely on Middle East oil barons, and therefore wouldn’t give a damn about Middle East politics, with the exception of its security guarantee to Israel.
It’s anyone’s guess as to how the fires burning in the Middle East will play out. Maybe they’ll explode, or maybe secular leaders will gain the upper hand needed to restore order. Either way, America would be wise to heed the words of Sir Edmund Burke in formulating its exit strategy: "Those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it."
Chris Freind is an independent columnist and commentator. His column appears every Wednesday. He can be reached at [email protected]
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Chris Freind writes a weekly column for the Daily Times. Reach the author at [email protected] .