As hundreds of thousands flee before the onrushing Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terrorist army, media defenders of the Obama administration are rushing to prop up the ailing Obama foreign policy.
“Who lost Iraq?” writes the Washington Post‘s Fareed Zakaria. “Whenever America has asked this question – as it did with China in the 1950s or Vietnam in the 1970s – the most important point to remember is: the local rulers did.” Joy Reid of MSNBC blamed former President George W. Bush by implication: “it’s this unpleasant recent history that helped set the stage for the bloody events that we’re seeing in Iraq right now.” And Democratic Governor of Rhode Island Lincoln Chafee went after Bush directly: “These neocons [neo-conservatives] all through the ’90s were talking the importance of regime change in Iraq and toppling Saddam Hussein, the strongman. I just didn’t understand stirring up the hornets’ nest that is the Middle East. It just never made any sense to me, and now we’re seeing some of the ramifications of having deviated from our Cold War containment strategy.”
The reality, however, is that neither weak local rulership nor the rationale for the Iraq war in 2003 explains just why the country has fallen back into chaos. After all, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has been in power since 2006; he has been incompetent and corrupt since day one. President Obama’s attempt to suggest that only tremendous leadership by al-Maliki can achieve victory is a plausible way of punting. And Bush has been out of office since 2008.
Nor was Iraq unwinnable. The same pundits who state that Vietnam and China were unwinnable wars forget that by 1973, Vietnam had been won, and that Mao had been defeated long before World War II, but was brought back into the fold by the United States in the aftermath of the defeat of Japan. United States foreign policy matters.
President Obama is responsible for the collapse of security in Iraq. Here are the six top reasons why.
Pulling Troops Out of Iraq After The War Was Won Left a Power Vacuum. By 2008, President Bush’s surge in forces had achieved large-scale security in Iraq. In November of 2006, 3,475 Iraqis died in battle and 69 Americans were killed as well; that number was down to 500 and 12, respectively, by November 2008. Violence in Anbar province had dropped 90 percent. As leftist Peter Beinart wrote in 2009 in the Washington Post, “if Iraq overall represents a massive stain on Bush’s record, his decision to increase America’s troop presence in late 2006 now looks like his finest hour.”
In 2008, the Bush administration negotiated a status of forces agreement with the Iraqi government that would remove troops by the end of 2011. Bush signed that agreement in anticipation of Obama’s entry to the White House. Sure enough, Obama then failed to sign a renewed status of forces agreement. According to David Filkens of the New Yorker:
[E]very single senior political leader, no matter what party or what group, including Maliki, said to them privately, we want you to stay. We don’t want you to fight. We don’t want combat troops. We don’t want Americans getting killed, but we want 10,000 American troops inside the Green Zone training our army, giving us intelligence, playing that crucial role as the broker and interlocutor that makes our system work. We want you to stay.
Filkens told NPR that James Jeffrey, an American ambassador, said he “got no guidance from the White House.”
Now there is no stabilization force in Iraq. And with an ISIS force that is merely hundreds large, according to some reports, rushing through Iraq with impunity, it is difficult to argue that even a minor force wouldn’t have made a difference.
Pulling Troops Out of Iraq Allowed Al-Maliki’s Sectarianism to Dominate. Al-Maliki was, as noted, always a disaster area. But America’s presence prevented him from using his power to dominate the Sunni minority in Iraq and forge close ties with Iran. Filkins points out, “Time and again, American commanders have told me, they stepped in front of Maliki to stop him from acting brutally and arbitrarily toward Iraq’s Sunni minority.” Then, he writes, “the Americans left,” and everything went to hell in a handbasket:
In the two and a half years since the Americans’ departure, Maliki has centralized power within his own circle, cut the Sunnis out of political power, and unleashed a wave of arrests and repression. Maliki’s march to authoritarian rule has fueled the re-emergence of the Sunni insurgency directly. With nowhere else to go, Iraq’s Sunnis are turning, once again, to the extremists to protect them.
The Leader of ISIS Was Released by The Obama Administration. Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, leader of ISIS, was in US custody in Camp Bucca, in Iraq. He was released in 2009 when the US shut down the camp in anticipation of the end of US presence in the country.
Enabling Iran. Al-Maliki has turned to Iran in this crisis. And why not? The United States is nowhere to be found, and al-Maliki’s radical anti-Sunni policies make him a popular man with the mullahs. Not only that – President Obama has surrendered all pretense at holding Iran accountable throughout his tenure, from abandoning the Iranian opposition in 2009 to signing an empty-headed nuclear deal with the mullahs last year to leaving Iranian-backed Syrian dictator Bashar Assad untouched after Assad used chemical weapons against civilians. Iran is now the regional power. Which means that Iraq itself will now become a proxy war in which America loses either way: either ISIS wins, or the Iranians do.
Contributing to Syrian Chaos. Focusing on Israel instead of Syria, then arming the Syrian opposition while refusing to do anything after Bashar Assad’s gassing of civilians, President Obama has contributed to a chaotic situation that facilitated ISIS’ rise in Syria. ISIS plays both sides of the aisle. On the one hand, they want to break away from Assad’s regime; on the other hand, they are saving their ammunition for use against erstwhile allies who don’t want an Islamist state.
ISIS began working in Syria in 2009 as an anti-Assad, al Qaeda-associated rebel faction. A few years later, the Obama administration began shipping arms into the country. One of the great concerns with the situation in Syria has always been the capacity for weaponry to fall into the wrong hands. While the Obama administration has claimed that it has the perfect ability to follow the weaponry, that is doubtful at best – and ISIS has been seizing warehouses of weapons.
Now the Obama administration, including President Obama, claims that it is busily vetting the Syrian opposition to which America has shipped arms. On Sunday, National Security Advisor Susan Rice explained, “the United States has ramped up its support for the moderate vetted opposition, providing lethal and non-lethal support where we can to support both the civilian opposition and the military opposition.” Meanwhile, ISIS is grabbing US humvees in Iraq itself.
Caving All Over The World. Ukraine. Afghanistan. The Palestinian Authority. Fear of the United States is passé, because there is simply nothing to fear. ISIS knows this; so do the Iranians. The only true fear is the fear of our allies, who now know better than to trust a United States that will abandon them at the worst possible time.
Ben Shapiro is Senior Editor-At-Large of Breitbart News and author of the new book, The People vs. Barack Obama: The Criminal Case Against The Obama Administration (Threshold Editions, June 10, 2014). He is also Editor-in-Chief of TruthRevolt.org. Follow Ben Shapiro on Twitter @benshapiro.