House Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said Tuesday that Democrats support President Barack Obama’s new military intervention in Iraq to attack some forward positions of Islamic State forces, deliver arms to Kurdish peshmerga fighters, and provide humanitarian aid to Yazidis and Christians under siege and attack. However, Pelosi added that her party will not support “boots on the ground” in Iraq, even as Obama sent 130 new troops to aid several hundred U.S. soldiers already in the country to protect American diplomats.
Pelosi’s rejection of any ground operation comes as analysts suggest that the U.S. cannot avoid a direct military confrontation with the guerrillas of Islamic State (also known as ISIS or ISIL), and as critics argue that mere air strikes are too little and too late, while the arms being provided to the Kurds are not powerful enough to counter the American weapons that Islamic State has already seized from Iraqi forces. Some suggest that the U.S. is already engaged in a third Iraq War in all but name only, rendering Obama’s foreign policy a complete failure.
The reality of ethnic cleansing and genocide in Iraq does not seem to have moved Pelosi or her party, and shows the enduring hold that opposition to the Iraq War still has on Democrats. (Indeed, Pelosi blasted the war once again Tuesday.) Though support for the war was initially bipartisan, anti-war Democrats used it to motivate opposition to President George W. Bush, commandeering the party’s leadership and pushing first-term Senator Barack Obama past rival Senator Hillary Clinton in the 2008 Democratic presidential primary contest.
Obama has all but undone the philosophical basis for his opposition to the Iraq War–first by waging war in Libya without congressional authorization, then by arguing for a military strike in Syria without UN approval.
Now–as critics had warned, when he broke a 2008 campaign promise and pulled all U.S. troops out of Iraq precipitously without leaving a residual force–Obama is forced to confront the consequences of a power vacuum in Iraq that is at least partly of his own creation, and must do so through military intervention.