The former head of the British Army, General the Lord Dannatt, has written an impassioned piece for the Sunday Telegraph, urging Western leaders to intervene in Iraq as soon as possible to stop the unfolding genocide in the country.
Lord Dannatt writes that Western nations, especially Britain and America, have a moral duty to take on ISIS and send in troops to prevent them ever coming back. He also condemns the lacklustre response to the mass murder of Christians and Yazidis so far.
“The position that the British Government appears to be adopting – limiting action to humanitarian aid and some logistical assistance to the US operation – will eventually be exposed as untenable.
“It risks becoming a classic example of “too little, too late” – and when dealing with the fate of thousands of innocents, tardiness is unacceptable.”
He says that, given the West’s decision to invade Iraq in 2003, it has a moral obligation to intervene now and set things right:
“It is widely recognised now that the decision to go into Iraq and the absence of meaningful planning for reconstruction were strategic errors of truly biblical proportions.
“The US and its allies failed to replace Saddam Hussein with a unifying figure capable of managing the chaos created after the Baathist state was dismantled and the Iraqi Army disbanded.
“Into this vacuum flowed a number of malign parties, one of which was al-Qaeda, now morphed into Islamic State.”
He also blasted America’s decision to withdraw troops from the country as soon as possible:
“It would have been better if they could have stayed on in some shape or form to continue to develop and bolster the new Iraqi state, in particular its armed forces.
“If US influence had ensured that Nouri al-Maliki, the prime minister, had put together a government giving the Sunnis some worthwhile say then the present political situation would undoubtedly have been different.”
Turning to what the West can do now, Lord Dannatt says that Britain must join US airstrikes against ISIS right now, and that we should not compare intervention in Iraq with the proposed intervention in Syria last year.
“Today’s Iraqi operation takes place under a very different set of circumstances to the one proposed last August to bomb Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad’s chemical weapons capability.
“That proposal was wrong and Britain was right to stay out. But one unfortunate consequence of that wise strategic decision was that many people have interpreted the UK’s caution as evidence that we have lost the will to get involved in international affairs at all.
“Now we must demonstrate that when the issues are right, we will act in line with our values and our interests. Against the barbaric Islamic State there are no diplomatic levers to pull or economic sanctions to impose, sadly, only the legitimate use of our lethal force.”
However, airstikes alone are not enough, Lord Dannatt adds. We should send in a substantial ground force as only that will be enough to permanently hold back ISIS, even if it alienates the public.
Lord Dannatt also criticises Barack Obama’s weakness on the world stage:
“In recent years, the West has become perceived to be weak: Barack Obama states that he was elected to stop wars rather than start them. That is a noble aim, but the world does not stand still.
“He has to understand that when the West is weak this only gives confidence and encouragement to violent extremists and other calculating political opportunists like Vladimir Putin.
“The West has to maintain a strong and active defence.”
He concludes by warning Western leaders that history will judge them on how they respond to this crisis. If they do not take sufficient action, they will be looked in infamy by future generations:
“In the face of a crisis of this scale, with the potential for so much human misery, this is not the moment for decision-makers to be on holiday. Parliament needs to be recalled and the West needs to face up to its responsibilities.
“We must make sure that we do not come out of this wringing our hands at another genocide and saying “next time, we must do better”. We are being put to the test, and history will be our judge.”