Only Military Advisors and Just a Training Exercise

Does the general theme below sound depressingly familiar to anyone?

WASHINGTON — In a major shift of focus in the battle against the Islamic State, the Obama administration is planning to establish a new military base in Anbar Province, Iraq, and to send up to 450 more American military trainers to help Iraqi forces retake the city of Ramadi.

[snip]

The additional American troops will arrive as early as this summer, a United States official said, and will focus on training Sunni fighters with the Iraqi Army. The official called the coming announcement “an adjustment to try to get the right training to the right folks.”

The United States Central Command’s emphasis on retaking Mosul depended critically on efforts to retrain the Iraqi Army, which appear to have gotten off to a slow start.

Slow start? Slow? Start? The US has been “training” and “retraining” the Iraqi Army since shortly after GWB pointlessly invaded that country and disbanded its existing military.

According to the NYT, the US has spent around $25 billion on training the Iraqi Army. Much of that cash has been swallowed by graft, of course.

I wonder how much of a difference that $25B would have made here at home — in infrastructure investment, education, “retraining” people whose jobs have been offshored, etc. And good old American graft, of course.

Is it not sufficiently clear to everyone that, because the entity we refer to as “Iraq” is a fiction conjured by outsiders who did not understand the sectarian and tribal realities on the ground, it can only be held together by fear and/or brute force? Maybe the people who don’t get that should be “retrained.”

President Obama wisely shut down the occupation in 2011 and got most of our troops out. And now the Obama administration is going to establish a new fucking base?

This isn’t the “surge” McCain and the rest of the neocon psychopaths are howling for, but it’s a small, incremental step down a road we’ve travelled before – and it leads to Shit City. Back in 2002, a politician I admire said this about Bush’s rash, ill-fated decision to invade Iraq:

I don’t oppose all wars. What I am opposed to is a dumb war.

Yeah, what he said. And that goes for a dumb training mission too.






136 replies
  1. 1
    Pogonip says:

    Since you said this is open: Thurston is a big galumphing pile of cute. Still can’t figure out how his mom is a miniature poodle. I guess you really can park a Cadillac in a closet.

  2. 2
    I'mNotSureWhoIWantToBeYet says:

    Dunno. This seems like a reasonable approach to me. The Iraqi government under Maliki was apparently hopeless. Abadi has only been in office a year or so – it takes time to turn things around.

    A small investment to give his government a chance to get its act together seems worth it to me.

    I do wonder, though, whether something like the Biden Plan will be the ultimate end, and how many lives and how much treasure would have been saved by trying to implement it 10 years ago…

    My $0.02.

    Cheers,
    Scott.

  3. 3
    samiam says:

    “And that goes for a dumb training mission too.”

    Also dumb blog posts.

    Talk about childishly simplistic opinions. I don’t even know where to begin with this ridiculous post from General Cracker. You would think this was Wr0ng way Cole posting such nonsense.

  4. 4
    Amir Khalid says:

    @Pogonip:
    Unfortunately, John Cole has been sitting on the pictures of Lovey that geg6 sent him. We’ll have to wait until Anne Laurie starts posting them to see how she’s been developing.

    On the main topic, I don’t think Obama is in a position to say, “This is W’s fuck-up,” and walk away, true though that is. In the botched-together country of Iraq, and in the Middle East generally, this is America’s fuck-up. And America must do what it can to mitigate the fall-out, short of repeating the historical mistake of jumping into other people’s fights. That will be little enough; it won’t achieve very much, unless Iraq takes it from there and commits to fighting its own fight. It might well seem like good money (and good men) thrown after bad. But I think this is the only action Obama can take with a clear conscience.

  5. 5
    princess leia says:

    I’m with you, Betty. Stupid, expensive, and just keeps us in the crappy mix. With all the blowback that entails.

  6. 6
    Betty Cracker says:

    @I’mNotSureWhoIWantToBeYet: That does sound reasonable until you consider that we’ve been hearing essentially the same argument for 10 years.

  7. 7
    cahuenga says:

    What was it they said about repeating the same mistakes and expecting different results???

    [thinking thinking]

  8. 8
    Pogonip says:

    @Amir Khalid: I think he should sit on a chair instead so we can see the pictures!

  9. 9
    Mary G says:

    I am totally down with Betty.

  10. 10
    I'mNotSureWhoIWantToBeYet says:

    @Betty Cracker: Agreed.

    But one has to play the hand one was dealt.

    The US walking away from Iraq would make Syria look like a picnic. How? Iran wouldn’t tolerate IS controlling/destroying the holy sites of Shia Islam, for one thing. Saudi Arabia wouldn’t tolerate Iran invading. It would get very much bloodier very quickly.

    I don’t think this is a creeping re-invasion by the US. Yes, tens of billions have already been spent on training. That’s “sunk cost” though – that doesn’t or shouldn’t tie Obama’s hands on how to manage things going forward.

    What happens after January 2017 is anyone’s guess though. :-(

    Cheers,
    Scott.

  11. 11
    Jim, Foolish Literalist says:

    @I’mNotSureWhoIWantToBeYet: A small investment to give his government a chance to get its act together seems worth it to me.

    I’m sympathetic to the idea that we do, for the reasons Amir @Amir Khalid: suggested, owe the Iraqis another chance at stability, but as you and Betty say in different ways, “Iraq” and “Iraqis” are a fiction. Those soldiers have been trained, they just see no point in dying for a government in Bagdad that has failed them on multiple levels, whether it was Maliki or Abadi (or for that matter Saddam) in charge. My understanding is the local Sunni leaders who made “the Surge” work to the extent that it did either have no interest in trying to re-establish some kind of balance, or can’t sell it to their own people.

    And I shudder to think what will happen, here and there, if ISIS, or six renegade Sunni twenty-somethings calling themselves ISIS, or a splinter Shi’ite group jealous of the international media attention ISIS has generated, gets hold of one American service member.

    As in 2003, I hope I’m wrong about the potential for this to be a disaster.

  12. 12
    cahuenga says:

    @I’mNotSureWhoIWantToBeYet:

    It would get very much bloodier very quickly

    Unfortunately, we may only be delaying the inevitable.

  13. 13
    Ramiah Ariya says:

    Is it not sufficiently clear to everyone that, because the entity we refer to as “Iraq” is a fiction conjured by outsiders who did not understand the sectarian and tribal realities on the ground, it can only be held together by fear and/or brute force?

    That holds true for most nations around the world. My suggestion is you sit in a corner and try to come to terms with the number of people killed by your country in the past several years, without trying to come up with great excuses like the above that blame victims.

  14. 14
    Archon says:

    I do think people like Betty should acknowledge that alternatives such as leaving and letting them figure it out or pushing a partition will both likely result in massive bloodshed.

    There are absolutely no easy answers here.

  15. 15
    Betty Cracker says:

    @Amir Khalid: The US obligation argument made sense when Obama first took office, though I’m not sure actions between 2008-2011 really improved things for Iraqis. But now? Building a new base, etc., because you don’t like how things are unfolding on the ground after you’ve left seems to me the very definition of jumping into someone else’s fight.

  16. 16
    mkro says:

    So, instead just allow groups like ISIS take over major cities in Iraq. Sounds like a great plan, Betty!

    It’s like my Dad always said: Don’t whine & complain about someone else’s decisions unless you have a better option to fight for.

  17. 17
    Betty Cracker says:

    @Archon:

    I do think people like Betty should acknowledge that alternatives such as leaving and letting them figure it out or pushing a partition will both likely result in massive bloodshed.

    I acknowledge that. It sucks, but I don’t think we can do anything to prevent it and are just making matters worse by continuing to cluelessly intervene.

  18. 18
    PurpleGirl says:

    I’ve told this story before but it stays in my memory and makes me angry:

    The Bead Society of Greater NY had a guest speaker who was an Army colonel who headed some programs with Iraqi children. He had sent a general SOS for beads and jewelry making supplies for his program. The Bead Society, being generous, had given many, many kinds of beads and tools.

    He told that in his office they kept a FEW MILLIONS in CASH. An officer on his way to seeing a local leader would grab some cash and leave for the meeting. No checks or balance on how mush was taken, how much money was taken and spent, Etc., Etc., Etc.,

    The colonel was speaking from someplace very sincere, but I thought BS the whole speech. Why were we asked to donate. Why was no one keeping track on who took money and why?

  19. 19
    Sloegin says:

    Step A: Find a popular government, and a people that will fight for it.

    Step B: Don’t fucking do any other thing until Step A is satisfied.

  20. 20
    cahuenga says:

    @Betty Cracker:

    I’m convinced we are strictly there at the behest of the Saudis and Israel.

    What other reason can the be for us to stay in a country that wants us to leave? Or stay in a situation that creates new insurgents for every one that’s killed?

  21. 21
    Amir Khalid says:

    @Sloegin:

    Find a popular government, and a people that will fight for it.

    Is such a thing even possible now?

  22. 22
    shawn says:

    I wonder if the guy you think is an idiot (W) and the guy you usually praise (O) are both doing versions of the same thing, maybe there is either more to the story that you are either ignoring (could be) or don’t know (seems super unlikely) or they are both being driven by corporate overlords (seems more likely) or some third, fourth, or fifth thing you/we don’t even know about?

  23. 23
    different-church-lady says:

    Powell was wrong about the Pottery Barn rule: at least at Pottery Barn you’d only have to pay for it once. In real war, when you break it you have to pay for it over and over and over and over again.

  24. 24
    different-church-lady says:

    @Betty Cracker: And we’ll be hearing it for years into the future. We own that mess forever. It was one of the biggest reasons we shouldn’t have done it in the first place.

  25. 25
    Archon says:

    @Betty Cracker:

    Fair enough but if the middle east explodes we were the match that caused it and washing our hands of it because W and his ideologues were at fault it is not how American democracy works.

  26. 26
    brantl says:

    @samiam: Go find yourself an extremely rust but perversely sharp implement to fall on, Douche-nozzle.

  27. 27
    catclub says:

    @I’mNotSureWhoIWantToBeYet:

    whether something like the Biden Plan will be the ultimate end,

    From your link:

    First, the plan calls for maintaining a unified Iraq by decentralizing it and giving Kurds, Shiites and Sunnis their own regions. The central government would be left in charge of common interests, such as border security and the distribution of oil revenue.

    1)That is not actually a unified Iraq. 2)Whoever runs the central government (Shia?) might not be even handed with that oil revenue.

    And that was just the first point.

    I think there should be an International conference to re-work Sykes-Picot. The Kurds might not get totally screwed.
    (But probably would.) The partition would be a bloodbath. Nonetheless, better than the present alternatives.

  28. 28
    catclub says:

    @Archon:

    and washing our hands of it because W and his ideologues were at fault it is not how American democracy works.

    But it is! See Cambodia 1975, and Afghanistan 1992.

  29. 29
    brantl says:

    @Betty Cracker:

    Building a new base, etc., because you don’t like how things are unfolding on the ground after you’ve left seems to me the very definition of jumping into someone else’s fight.

    Not when all the ants are fighting because you kicked the anthill to dust, it isn’t.

  30. 30
    rikyrah says:

    On Tuesday, a panel of three George W. Bush-appointed judges handed down a sweeping endorsement of the tactics anti-abortion lawmakers adopted in recent years in an effort to prevent abortion clinics from operating. With one narrow exception, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit’s decision in Whole Woman’s Health v. Cole is a total defeat for abortion providers who hoped to overcome a Texas law that will shut down most of the state’s abortion clinics. Worse for women seeking an abortion, the Fifth Circuit’s opinion would give many other states broad discretion to restrict access to abortion if its reasoning is ultimately adopted by the Supreme Court.

    In 2013, Texas enacted HB2, which is one of a number of sham health laws passed by anti-abortion lawmakers who believe that they found a loophole in the Supreme Court’s abortion cases. Though current Supreme Court precedent forbids laws that impose an “undue burden” on the right to choose, states may enact legitimate health regulations that govern abortion providers — and for good reason. Abortion facilities, just like any other medical facility, should be sanitary, safe and operated by competent medical personnel.

    HB2 is crafted to appear like a health regulation, even though it does little to actually advance the public health. The two provisions challenged in Whole Woman’s Health include a requirement that abortion doctors have admitting privileges in a nearby hospital, and a list of expensive architectural and other requirements that abortion clinics must comply with in order to operate. There is little evidence, however, that either provision actually advances the goal of making abortion safer for women. To the contrary, a federal district judge determined that “there is no rational relationship between improved patient outcomes and hospital admitting privileges,” and he reached similar conclusions with respect to the portions of the law regulating clinic facilities.
    Before HB2, Texas had 40 licensed abortion clinics. If the law takes full effect, “only seven facilities and a potential eighth will exist in Texas that will not be prevented . . . from performing abortions.” This reduced access to abortion, according to the same district judge, “almost certainly cancel[s] out any potential health benefit associated with” HB2 because of “[h]igher health risks associated with increased delays in seeking early abortion care, risks associated with longer distance automotive travel on traffic-laden highways, and the act’s possible connection to observed increases in self-induced abortions.”

    The Fifth Circuit’s decision disagreeing with this district judge is 56 pages long, and it touches upon a number of procedural topics while also laying out a brief history of the Supreme Court’s abortion jurisprudence. One aspect of the court’s analysis is particularly significant, however, because it could effectively render what remains of Roe v. Wade a dead letter, at least in the context of facial legal challenges.

    http://thinkprogress.org/justi.....rely-dead/

  31. 31
    sharl says:

    Since our Glorious Iraq Adventure™ helped to make Iraq a de facto Iranian client state, I’m not optimistic there is much long-lasting good we can do now to help the Sunni-populated western areas of that country. [As I recall, Shia militias have largely depopulated Baghdad of its former Sunni residents.]

    On a side note, this is why I feel bad for Bill Kristol (and like-minded folk). They put in all that effort to advance the cause of Ahmad Chalabi – Iranian intelligence asset and a guy who showed he could truly move fast and break things, to use a phrase favored by the kids in Silicon Valley – and for what? Kristol has never been publicly thanked by Iran for his efforts. I’m very disappointed in Iran’s lack of gratitude.*

    (*Unless they awarded Kristol a medal or something like that in secret; as I recall, Soviet intelligence did that sometimes for their particularly effective agents back in the Cold War days. I hope for Kristol’s sake they did that; after all, he has EARNED that kind of appreciation.)

    All of this is reminiscent (again) of the despairing comment made long ago by the proprietor of the now-defunct Poor Man blog:

    People want someone to unshit the bed. You can’t unshit the bed.

  32. 32
    cahuenga says:

    @Archon:

    So, continue Bush style nation building for what, 10 more years, 20, 30?

    When would you be willing to admit failure and cut your losses?

  33. 33
    Brachiator says:

    @Betty Cracker:

    Is it not sufficiently clear to everyone that, because the entity we refer to as “Iraq” is a fiction conjured by outsiders who did not understand the sectarian and tribal realities on the ground, it can only be held together by fear and/or brute force? Maybe the people who don’t get that should be “retrained.”

    Modern Iraq was largely created by outside imperialists, mainly the British, who controlled the area and installed Faisal as king after Faisal had been kicked out of Syria by the French. They thought he would be a compliant ruler, and also had to deal with the collapse of the Ottoman Empire.

    The US later took up the mantle as watchdog and kingmaker, and is ultimately responsible for unleashing the sectarian pressures that Saddam Hussein had tamped down as a result of the invasion of that country.

    It’s a nice fantasy to talk about the US turning its back on its blundering and spending $25 billion at home.

    How much are you willing to pay in reparations for despoiling Iraq?

    How much are you willing to do to repair the damage caused?

    You want to say it’s not your fault or responsibility? Then for a start, round up Bush, Cheney, and every member of Congress who voted for War in Iraq, and the entire Bush cabinet, and turn them over to the Iraqis. And also determine how much you will pay in reparations. You could put it into a fund to be administered in the future by the UN or another third party.

    But any option where you suggest walking away just because intervention is a bad idea ignores the bill already accumulated.

  34. 34
    catclub says:

    @Jim, Foolish Literalist:

    My understanding is the local Sunni leaders who made “the Surge” work to the extent that it did either have no interest in trying to re-establish some kind of balance, or can’t sell it to their own people.

    My understanding is that the US, when we were there, made sure all the bribes to the Sunni leaders in Anbar kept flowing. That was the success of the surge.

    Once we left, Maliki had no interest ( or supply of US funds) to keep that going.

  35. 35
    Amir Khalid says:

    @Betty Cracker:
    As I understand, the US has no legal authority to join in the shooting match. So unless someone has evidence that the Obama admin is doing so clandestinely, without a SOFA to rest on (so to speak), I’ll take it at its word that it’s only training Iraqi troops at that base and not fighting alongside them.

    @cahuenga:
    There’s more to it than that. The US does have a legitimate interest in seeing IS and its aims defeated, quite aside from what the House of Saud and Israel want.

  36. 36
    Belafon says:

    Once again, we’re a lousy empire. We go into a country and screw it up, but rather than demanding the country pay us to keep it afloat, we’re going to spend our money to defend them. Yeah, we get another base out of it, but we’re footing the bill.

    If we’re going to empire, we ought to at least demand taxes.

    //

  37. 37
    I'mNotSureWhoIWantToBeYet says:

    @catclub: There’s “unified” and there’s “unified”. As I understand Biden’s plan, it is for a federal Iraq with most of the power devolved to the 3 major regions. It’s recognizing the reality that sectarianism is a big problem there and that there’s a huge amount of distrust of the central government. Such a system could work. There are no guarantees, of course.

    It’s in place partially already if one considers how Iraqi Kurdistan is working.

    The main problem with the plan is that the Sunni areas don’t have much oil (except at the margins). Biden’s plan recognizes that, but doesn’t explain why the Kurds and Shia would agree to give up their oil money. Some creative thinking is needed to overcome that issue (e.g. “Worlds largest solar and wind farms!!1”)

    FWIW.

    Cheers,
    Scott.

  38. 38
    shawn says:

    @Archon: hasn’t it been exploded and burning for like, tens of centuries? i mean not to bail out anything the US has done – like others we have probably made things a little worse (maybe extra worse in the last administration) in trying to do what might be impossible – make it a little better – but yeah

  39. 39
    Keith G says:

    Luckily there isn’t a sentient force in the universe which operates on an agenda of justice.

    We took a society that was barely limping along, and we smashed it to bits. The price we have paid in trying to put it back together is not nearly as high as the bill that we should be presented with. To roughly quote someone who was in the news about 8 years ago, “God damn us.” 4000 lives and a trillion dollars is barely worth the down payment on what we owe.

    Don’t get me wrong. I don’t want us to go back. But that doesn’t mean I’m comfortable with what we are doing now.I am ashamed. Fuck us.

    Maybe behind the scenes Obama is doing some of the things that I think we ought to be doing to make the best of a miserable situation, but I’ve seen no evidence of that. Even that wouldn’t be enough since we are in a situation that is beyond any easy or short term repair.

  40. 40
    Lev says:

    @Belafon: Who gave you the idea that America is an empire? We’re not nearly that smart! Empires get something out of their conquests, I don’t agree with it but there is an argument for it that few except for weirdos like Niall Ferguson make anymore. What we are is missionaries with machine guns.

  41. 41
    WaterGirl says:

    @different-church-lady: You break it, it owns you.

  42. 42
    Archon says:

    @cahuenga:

    Strawman, Bush style nation building was an unmitigated failure who is arguing that? My point is we started this fire, let’s not be so sanctimonious about having the “courage” to let the entire block burn down.

  43. 43
    different-church-lady says:

    @WaterGirl: Exactly, except that in this case we broke the entire chain of stores, not just one plate.

  44. 44
    Betty Cracker says:

    @Brachiator: Speaking of fantasy talk, I’d be on board with handing Bush and Cheney to the Hague, but that’s not going to happen. Neither are reparations. We can either choose to keep meddling or choose to walk away. Neither are great options, but IMO, the latter is the better one.

  45. 45
    catclub says:

    @I’mNotSureWhoIWantToBeYet:

    Iran wouldn’t tolerate IS controlling/destroying the holy sites of Shia Islam, for one thing.

    1)I agree with this. 2)There is a VERY long tradition of Sunnis invading and destroying the Shia Holy Sites.

    3)Has ISIS successfully invaded any non-Sunni region? The Kurds of Kobani kept them out. And they had NO backing from Iran.
    I think the Shia Holy Sites in Iraq are pretty safe.

  46. 46
    srv says:

    Drip, drop. These guys aren’t really going to be training, the base in Anbar now doesn’t have any students. We have more ‘trainers’ than students now:

    The U.S. is currently training 2,601 Iraqi forces, but none of them are at Al Asad, officials said.

    “Al Asad has zero. And Al Asad has had zero now for some time,” said one defense official on background.

    They’re going to be building infrastructure for more troops. This is how it works. The re-re-re ‘training’ is just window dressing.

  47. 47
    Ryan says:

    If it makes you feel better, there’s no way Congress would have allowed that $25 billion to be spent here.

  48. 48
    Belafon says:

    @Lev: Other than I’m partially joking, we sure do leave behind a lot of stuff military wise. It’s there to try to help those countries understand how good they have it with us there.

  49. 49
    rp says:

    I dunno…this sounds more like “I’ll do the absolute minimum to get people like McCain to shut up about Iraq.”

  50. 50
    Betty Cracker says:

    @Amir Khalid: As Jim alluded to above, all it would take is ISIS overrunning a base or shooting down a plane and capturing a US serviceman to burn on YouTube. There would be an authorization for reinvasion on the president’s desk faster than you can say “quagmire,” and the president, whether Obama, Rodham-Clinton, Sanders, Walker or Bush, would sign it.

  51. 51
    catclub says:

    @Keith G: Betty wrote that reparations are out of the question. I think the way we are avoiding the reparations question is by staying there with as little force as possible. If we actually walked away, the question would then come up in a big way. As long as we are there meddling, everyone is too busy to start on that question.

    OTOH, they are just out of he question because ‘We’re number ONE!!1!!’.

  52. 52
    Linnaeus says:

    I’d like to learn a bit more before I draw conclusions about this shift in the Obama administration’s approach, but I am sympathetic to Betty’s view.

    One thing I’ve noticed with respect to Americans’ attitudes toward American foreign policy, that often cuts across ideological/partisan lines, is an abiding faith that many (if not most) Americans have about the necessity and correctness of the exercise of American power everywhere in the world. Conservatives tend to base this attitude in their belief that the United States is a morally exceptional nation that must as a result exercise hegemony, whereas liberal Americans are more likely to have the belief that the United States has to right wrongs, and if these wrongs came about due to previous misuses of American power, then it’s all the more imperative that it be done right this time.

    My not-quite-worked-out hypothesis (which I do not claim to be original) as to why is that the United States achieved the status and power that it did relatively quickly and early in its history as an independent nation and that lent credence to the notion that there was something in particular about the US that made such a rise possible (as opposed to the circumstances out of which US primacy emerged). Furthermore, Americans have little in the way of collective experience of warfare, due to the nation’s geographic distance from the areas of the world where the most intensive conflicts have taken place, so the memories that Americans have about war (except for those in the US military who have served in combat) are quite different than the memories that people have in other parts of the world that have experienced destruction more directly.

    So you have an American populace that has gotten used to American global power, accepts it as generally good, and expects a certain level of it to continue indefinitely. When a problem arises – or when American leaders believe that some American interest is involved – it then follows that the US must do something, and that this something necessarily would be better than the alternatives. The idea that there are some problems that the US has limited ability to solve (or that the US isn’t necessarily solving a problem from the perspective of the people most directly affected by American power) is something that is very difficult to express in American political discourse. When the application of American power fails to achieve the desired result (which itself is contestable, but that’s another discussion), the explanations tend to fall in a very narrow range, e.g., not enough power was exercised (generally a right wing view) or that the US had good intentions, failed to truly understand what was going on, but had to try anyway.

  53. 53
    cahuenga says:

    @Archon:

    Pretty sure Bush style was imposing democracy at gunpoint. What exactly has changed?

    I’m not sure Iraqis will grasp the nuances of Death from Above vs Boots on the Ground.

  54. 54
    catclub says:

    @rp: McCain will never shut up. It is so McCain will get no traction for his endless demands for more war and more troops.

  55. 55

    @different-church-lady: True, but let’s just toss Obama under the bus anyway–never mind the fact that he’s damned if he does, damned if he doesn’t.

    Now, for a more informed view that isn’t pearl-clutching: http://www.juancole.com/2015/0.....ested.html

    I’d say that Professor Cole nails it. Sorry, Betty.

  56. 56
    Lev says:

    The questions about what we owe the Iraqis are irrelevant. We owe them a great deal. The real question is: given that the president has given his goal as destroying ISIS, does anyone really think that bombing and training and giving space (again) to the Iraqi government–generally speaking, the main Vietnam strategy minus the ground troops–has any chance of getting us there? My basic thought is “no chance in hell”, which is why I’ve opposed this from the start. If the country can’t hold together minus US troops, then it can’t hold together. And all this ISIS campaign has done is give the hawks back their lost swagger. No way this doesn’t end in disaster all around.

  57. 57
    different-church-lady says:

    @Marc McKenzie: WHEN WILL OBAMA GET US OUT OF GERMANY? HE’S SUCH A DISAPPOINTMENT!!!

  58. 58
    rp says:

    @catclub: Right — your version is more accurate.

  59. 59
    CONGRATULATIONS! says:

    Fair enough but if the middle east explodes we were the match that caused it and washing our hands of it because W and his ideologues were at fault it is not how American democracy works.

    @Archon: Sure it is. America’s history is replete with countless examples of walking away from people we totally fucked over. If we didn’t have all the money, we’d be as much of a pariah state as North Korea.

    More to the point, it’s the only option left that’s not going to cost us another few trillion which we don’t have, and a few thousand more American lives. Are you volunteering to fix the mess? Send a postcard; I won’t be there.

  60. 60
    smintheus says:

    Send in the military advisers to keep Vietnam divided; send in the military advisers to keep Iraq undivided. A totally different kind of intervention in a land war in Asia, can’t you see Betty? One was an obvious mistake whereas the other is totally not an obvious mistake yet.

  61. 61
    catclub says:

    @Marc McKenzie: Great link. Facts! Like the population of Anbar is only 2M and Ramadi was rarely controlled by the US between 2003 and 2011, anyway.

    Also, coldly cynical.

  62. 62
    cahuenga says:

    @Lev:

    Exactly. From where I sit a lack of Iraqi patriotism can only lead to one result, partition. You can wish it weren’t so until the cows come home.

  63. 63
    Cacti says:

    All of this has the feel of trying to perform CPR on a moldering corpse.

  64. 64
    Fair Economist says:

    By rumor we should be training their accountants since it seems a large number of the soldiers that have been “running away” were actually fictitious soldiers being reported for embezzlement. The Iraqi army has far more military capabilities than needed to handle a few thousand insurgents; the problem is that for control reasons they’re unable to use it.

  65. 65
    sharl says:

    @Belafon:

    we sure do leave behind a lot of stuff military wise.

    Yep, and recently that hardware doesn’t even stay in the hands to which we entrusted it: Dude, where’s my Humvee? Iraq losing equipment to Islamic State at staggering rate

    The Duffel Blog – if you don’t know it, it’s kind of like The Onion, but for the military crowd – weighed in on this as well: Pentagon To Bypass Iraqi Army And Supply ISIS Directly

    The situation if full of suck.

  66. 66
    Brachiator says:

    @Betty Cracker: The US is a democracy. Bush and Cheney did not do what they did by themselves. The Hague is just another bunch of elitist white guys who imagine themselves to be masters of the universe. They are not the injured parties.

    We can either choose to keep meddling or choose to walk away

    You keep trying to avoid the butcher’s bill for the mess we created. This only insures continued hatred against the US.

    The fantasy is not just that we can meddle and solve everything. The fantasy is that we don’t have to be responsible for the suffering that we have unleashed.

    The fantasy is to believe that the butcher’s bill can continue to go unpaid.

    Also, what provisions would you make to resettle Iraqi and Kurdish refugees in the US?

  67. 67
    catclub says:

    @Fair Economist: I agree. But I think you would just end up with dead accountants.

  68. 68
    Betty Cracker says:

    @Marc McKenzie: Well, Juan Cole knows a lot more about the Middle East than I do, so maybe he’s right. I hope so. But the US has an often tragic history of placing its hopes in “containment” strategies, and US presidents have been waiting for 10 years for local client governments in Iraq to get their shit together, so I remain unconvinced.

  69. 69
    Cacti says:

    @Archon:

    My point is we started this fire, let’s not be so sanctimonious about having the “courage” to let the entire block burn down.

    As opposed to, say, putting out the current grease fire by throwing more water on it?

  70. 70
    srv says:

    LoLs, Juan’s contributor in Baghdad says not to worry too. Not:

    This surprise attack by the group, which bases its ideology on its own version of Sunni Islam, began with an attack on the barracks housing irregular Shiite Muslim militias in the Sajariyah area; the militias are mostly made up of volunteers. A few hours beforehand though, some residents of the area began roaming the streets nearby, shouting that the extremist group was coming and that they had a lot of fighters and weapons.

    As a result the forces there abandoned their barracks and withdrew from the area. The Washington Post reported that almost 5,000 local policemen also fled Ramadi, leaving just a thousand troops to defend the city.

    Government intelligence agencies believe that there are around 5,000 members of the IS group in Baghdad right now but that it is almost impossible to identify them. According to the officer, the spies receive money from the IS group.

    Rummy’s deadender numbers just keep growing.

  71. 71
    smintheus says:

    @Marc McKenzie: If you treat this question as a solution to American political difficulties, the question becomes ‘What do you do next when adding a few hundred advisers accomplishes nothing?’ And then it becomes ‘Why would your successor take the political heat in pulling back rather than adding troops, when you wouldn’t?’ Cole offers no answers as to how you back out of this road once you’ve started down it (again).

  72. 72
    CONGRATULATIONS! says:

    All of this has the feel of trying to perform CPR on a moldering corpse.

    @Cacti: Precisely, and yet over half the commenters here think it’s a grand idea.

  73. 73
    Betty Cracker says:

    @Brachiator:

    The fantasy is to believe that the butcher’s bill can continue to go unpaid.

    Let me see if I can make this simple: The US and many other nations operate like powerful international gangsters. Occasionally a gangster nation pays the butcher’s bill in the way you seem to fantasize about it, i.e., the aggressor is punished and the victim is made whole as much as possible. But that’s vanishingly rare.

    The way it usually works is that the rich and powerful are further enriched and empowered, and the poor and downtrodden take it in the shorts. Halliburton isn’t going to pick up the check. Your children and mine will in lost opportunities, squandered treasuries and diminished influence abroad. And we’re the lucky ones!

  74. 74
    Chris says:

    @Jim, Foolish Literalist:

    Local Sunni leaders from “The Surge;” I’m not sure it’s “can’t sell it” or “won’t do it” so much as “fool me twice.” The militias and the leaders were supposed to be folded into the Iraqi military and government in a way that left a real voice for Sunnis, but Maliki wasn’t interested, is my understanding, and proceeded to neglect Anbar until the locals had had enough.

    It’s probably not gonna be easy to convince them that “no, this time they really mean it!”

  75. 75
    fuckwit says:

    @Amir Khalid: Pottery Barn. We broke it, we bought it.

  76. 76
    Cacti says:

    @CONGRATULATIONS!:

    Precisely, and yet over half the commenters here think it’s a grand idea.

    The Green Lantern theory of policy is strong in this thread.

  77. 77
    Marcion says:

    The prospect of ISIS getting any farther than they have scares me. These people have a pretty sick but cunning strategy: provoke the Shias by bombing their holy sites and homes, then recruit Sunnis after the Shias lash out in retaliation. People may not be aware that the population of Saudi Arabia is 25% Shia…. It’s an extension of the same Shia Arab population in S. Iraq. They’re currently bombing them trying to stir up shit in the Kingdom and see if they can force them to rebel. If they do, Saudi Arabia will not cover themselves with glory (look how bad they’re fucking up in Yemen) and ISIS will be able to present themselves once again as the vanguard of the Sunnis and activate their cells in the Kingdom. There’s a certain percent of Saudis who would support them did to decades of anti-Shia propaganda… Probably more than in Iraq (where a few ex-Saddamist tribes sold out the Awakening tribes for power. ISIS isn’t actually that popular in Sunni Iraq, but nobody has the power to stand up to them).

    The main problem is that ISIS, sick as it is, represents an alternative to the corruption and incompetence of every other ME regime. Serve well, keep your head down, mouth the right Wahhabi doctrines, and you can secure a good place in this life or the next (if you’re a Sunni). They don’t engage in the corruption other regimes do because they only care about God, not gold (their preferred punishment for bribe takers is crucifixion). They’re the closest thing to a meritocracy the Sunni world has, which is what makes them the most dangerous threat to world stability in decades. They’re not at all an existential threat to the US… But with the wrong series of events they could set the Sunni world on fire and recreate WWII’s Eastern Front on the Euphrates. If they provoke the Shia death squads to come out again… ISIS will see exponentially more recruits. And the consequences won’t be confined to the ME. Aside from the human toll, imagine what war in the Persian Gulf would do to oil prices. Groups of jackbooted thugs like Fidesz in Hungary have taken power thanks to the bad economy. If we get an oil shock expect more like them, around the world.

  78. 78
    Marcion says:

    @Chris:

    The Sunni leaders are a bunch of whiny babies more or less, they demanded that the Iraqi army pull out and hand security over to their people. Some of whom sold out the rest to ISIS.

  79. 79
    srv says:

    ISIS will be celebrating their own Tet in Baghdad before Obama is gone.

    Do the tilt-rotor’s laugh?

  80. 80
    Belafon says:

    @Cacti:

    All of this has the feel of trying to perform CPR on a moldering corpse.

    Only if you assume that corpse is not acting as fertilizer for the next thing growing.

    Edit, added a not.

  81. 81
    NorthLeft12 says:

    At first I was going to sympathize a bit with the people who are arguing that you just can’t walk away from a mess you created and/or it will be a bloodbath without ‘our’ presence, but after thinking about it……….Yes, you can to the first part, and probably not to the second.

    The US presence in Iraq is unsustainable, even for an empire like the US. Your presence in Iraq will continue to destabilize the country and the region, and cost the US far more than any value that you can possibly get out of it.

    The argument that a bloodbath will ensue has been used as justification for nearly every war or occupation in my lifetime [since Vietnam]. There are other forces in the region that are standing off and not protecting their interests because they perceive that the US will do it for them. I believe that these forces [militias in Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey] may finally step up and act against ISIS if they are the last resort.
    I know that sounds overly optimistic and I sure would not want to be in that area to put my beliefs to the test, but really, what else can you do that does not involve a repeat of the last ten years with the likelihood that you will be in the exact same position then?

  82. 82
    rikyrah says:

    of course this is their strategy. Those scaredity cat Dems better WAKE DA PHUQ UP!!
    ……………..
    Morning Plum: Mitch McConnell’s fiendishly clever strategy for coming Obamacare war

    By Greg Sargent June 10 at 9:27 AM

    If you want to understand the evolving GOP strategy for the political war that may be unleashed by a Supreme Court decision gutting Obamacare subsidies for millions, pay close attention to this new exchange between Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Fox News’ Bret Baier:

    BAIER: Doesn’t this hold some potential problems for the GOP? What do you think the solution is if you have to deal with this quickly?

    McCONNELL: Depending on what the Supreme Court decides, we’ll have a proposal that protects the American people from a very bad law. Obamacare was the single worst piece of legislation that’s been passed in the last half century. The single biggest step in the direction of Europeanizing our country…What we will do is offer a proposal to protect the American people.

    BAIER: But won’t there be some in your party who say that any vote, even that — that patch — will be a tacit endorsement of Obamacare in some way?

    McCONNELL: I think we have to see what the Supreme Court decides before we announce a proposal to deal with it.

    The repetition of the word “protect” has a distinctly focus-grouped aura to it. But this clever formulation contains the seeds of its own refutation, and neatly indicates why the Republican post-King argument will, of necessity, be incoherent and (one hopes) politically untenable.

    McConnell’s reply raises a question: How can Republicans simultaneously argue that the American people must be “protected” from the damage that undoing Obamacare will do — from the damage that will ensue from a Court decision unraveling subsidies that are crucial to the law’s basic functioning — without implicitly conceding that the right response is to reverse the immediate impact of the decision, and cleanly restore the subsidies?

    In this interview, McConnell is telegraphing a partial answer to that question. Republicans will argue that the post-King chaos is the fault of the law itself, and not the fault of the Court decision (which Republicans urged on) that is knocking out a key pillar of it. In this telling, the cause of all the damage will be that Obamacare held out the false promise of economic security for millions, in the form of expanded coverage, but that security was then snatched out from under all those people (thanks to Obummer’s incompetence) when the Court clarified what the law actually says. All this is only the latest way in which Obamacare is hurting countless Americans.

    That’s pretty damn slick.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/.....acare-war/

  83. 83
    Marcion says:

    I don’t think a re-invasion, as some call it, is necessary at this point. What you may not know is that the Iraqi military essentially has no air force at this point. They ordered fighter jets from us, but thanks to Gulf Emirate lobbyists in Congress (who see any Shia-run Iraq as an Iranian puppet) the delivery was delayed up till this year. The gulf states are starting to see how foolish undermining Iraq was given the potential to start a war on their doorstep, but for now the US and allies essentially ARE the Iraqi Air Force. And we haven’t been bombing nearly as much in Iraq as we had for PR purposes in say, Kobane (iirc we used several times the number of bombs in Kobane that we have in Iraw so far). This is a desert, ISIS doesn’t have a counter to air power. The Iraqi army’s morale sucks and they are badly run but if we can administer some tender love to ISIS convoys crossing the desert we can even the odds.

    ISIS, as of now, is a conventional army augmented by terror tactics like vehicular IEDs (basically, cruise missles you can drive) and action behind the lines by cells of saboteurs and suicide bombers. If we can degrade the conventional army they can be pushed out of Iraq. After that… Well, seems like nobody in the world wants to face the fact that Assad must go and ISIS must go if the place is every going to be more than Afghanistan on the Med. Everyone seems to want somebody else (cough America) to pick up the tap for that. There’s no way we would do that alone (at least not with. Dem in the White House) so I suspect eventually a multinational coalition is going to go in, but we are pretty far off from assembling one. After that, the country will have to be rebuilt with some kind of Marshall Plan style aid or it’s just going to be a failed state.

  84. 84
    Brachiator says:

    @Linnaeus:

    Furthermore, Americans have little in the way of collective experience of warfare, due to the nation’s geographic distance from the areas of the world where the most intensive conflicts have taken place, so the memories that Americans have about war (except for those in the US military who have served in combat) are quite different than the memories that people have in other parts of the world that have experienced destruction more directly.

    The United States got its butt kicked in the War of 1812. The White House was burnt to the ground, and the British were able to do damage almost at will. And yet, because of the Battle of New Orleans and time, many think that the US won that war. The Civil War, of course, inflicted a great deal of damage, though the north did not feel it as much as did the south.

    But you are right in a way. The US has not often experienced destruction directly. Also, from the war against Mexico, the Spanish American War, and various deployments in the Americas, the US has been able to deal out force with little blowback.

    This is perhaps why the attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon elicited such a huge reaction. And also why some in Congress have been so adamant about maintaining Gitmo. War and anything associated with it must be removed from America.

    This also fuels, I think, liberal and conservative neo-isolationism, the idea that we can wall ourselves off from the rest of the world, bury our heads in the sand, and be only concerned with ourselves.

  85. 85
    Belafon says:

    @rikyrah: The Democrats know this. That’s why Obama keeps saying fix the sentence, and there’s nothing else we can do.

    Plus, any fix McConnell pushes has to get through House Republicans, who don’t want any solution to the problem, even if it’s temporary.

  86. 86
    Marcion says:

    @rikyrah:

    I think the problem for the R’s is that the fallout from a bad decision would fall mostly in Red states that neglected to establish exchanges. The system will continue to work fine everywhere else. It’s going to be hard to explain why demolishing Obamacare is the only solution if it’s still working the next state over.

    Maybe I’m just an optimist….

  87. 87
    Jim, Foolish Literalist says:

    @catclub: My understanding is that the US, when we were there, made sure all the bribes to the Sunni leaders in Anbar kept flowing. That was the success of the surge.

    Yup. That’s what I meant.

    @Chris: but Maliki wasn’t interested, is my understanding, and proceeded to neglect Anbar until the locals had had enough.

    As with the SOFA the US wanted, he wasn’t personally interested, and couldn’t be persuaded to get interested because he never would have been able to find anyone else to start his car if he expressed interest.

    And again, I don’t pretend to be an expert, just my memory of the things I read/saw/heard at the time.

  88. 88
    Patricia Kayden says:

    @Marcion: Won’t insurance premiums rise drastically if SCOTUS decides against the ACA? I assume that would hurt all insurance holders — even those in Blue states.

  89. 89
    Kropadope says:

    @smintheus:

    If you treat this question as a solution to American political difficulties, the question becomes ‘What do you do next when adding a few hundred advisers accomplishes nothing?’

    I would like to hope this is a last-ditch effort. At one point we had hundreds of thousands of troop in Iraq. We’re now talking about 450. If Obama truly thinks this can help stabilize things enough to allow us to continue to disengage in a safe way, I think it seems worth a shot. This especially since, as one commenter mentioned, Iraq has had a recent change in its government. Hopefully most of us can appreciate that it takes time to turn things around when handed a system in the throes of catastrophic failure.

    If this mission fails to improve the situation, I would hope they would take it as a sign that there’s not much more we can do to help whatever is left of Iraq. I will wait until they make a larger commitment before raising the protest flag.

  90. 90
    Bill says:

    @Brachiator:

    You keep trying to avoid the butcher’s bill for the mess we created. This only insures continued hatred against the US.

    Fine, have the Iraqis send us a bill. We should pay reparations. I’d support writing that check. Now tell what you think the odds are the people with check writing power agree with me?

    We are more likely to insure continued hatred of the U.S. by meddling in conflicts we have no hope of resolving. Whether we finally leave Iraq in 10 minutes, 10 years or a century, it is going to devolve in to sectarian bloodshed. It is going to be ugly. And yes, we are responsible for it. Every American bears some responsibility. We should feel shame. But that shame doesn’t change reality. The bloodshed is coming.

    There is a precedent for all of this in southeast Asia. Things got very ugly shortly after our choppers lifted the last evacuees out of the embassy in Saigon. But eventually it got better. I don’t see how we avoid that same pattern in Baghdad.

  91. 91
    Kropadope says:

    @Patricia Kayden: While premiums would surely be affected, the bigger damage would be done to people in non-exchange states who can’t obtain subsidies.

  92. 92
    jl says:

    @Patricia Kayden:

    ” Won’t insurance premiums rise drastically if SCOTUS decides against the ACA? I assume that would hurt all insurance holders — even those in Blue states. ”

    That would be a good question to ask Richard Mayhew after he gets back from his family road trip. I think I did ask him some time ago, and IIRC his answer was that the insurers look at their risk pools in each state market separately, and main effect on remaining state exchanges would act indirectly through effects of smaller (due to relatively rapid shrinkage in states with no subsidies) national market on the national risk pool for the risk adjustment transfers.

    But my IIRC may not be too good.

  93. 93
    Brachiator says:

    @Betty Cracker: Let me see if I can make this simple. Many in the world rightfully hate us. We exploit labor all around the world for our toys and luxuries. We loot the world’s resources and dump electronic waste after we tire of our geegaws. We have used our armies to suppress native populations at the behest of our corporations and to ensure that we can live higher on the hog than we deserve, rich and poor alike.

    We have installed puppet rulers in many countries to make sure that our lives can be safe and comfortable.

    And on occasion we have tried to support friendly governments, and even tried to do some good in the world.

    Don’t put this off on the elites, on the rich, on the Haliburtons of the world.

    How much of the stuff in your home or office was made in China or anywhere other than the US by overworked, exploited labor? How much of your security is underwritten by tyrants who keep local insurgents suppressed?

    You want to stop intervention in the world today, tomorrow? Fine.

    But if the bill collector comes to your door, don’t pretend that your name is not on the bill.

    The US abandoned Vietnam after we could no longer keep history at bay.

    You owe the Iraqis who are being screwed over by ISIS. You owe the Kurds.

    The world will not stop just because you want to ignore it. The bill will continue to accrue. If you do not pay now, you will certainly pay later.

  94. 94
    CONGRATULATIONS! says:

    Now tell what you think the odds are the people with check writing power agree with me?

    @Bill: Zero, because I don’t even agree with you, and would make it my personal life mission to see that anyone who voted for such insanity would be forever banned from working in politics again. If that means joining the TeaParty or whatever group of lunatics, racists and psychos can get it done, so be it.

    We don’t have the money to make those poor fuckers whole, I doubt that much money exists, and I’m not selling off the future of my descendants to pay for the costs of a war I fought against since day one. Let Bush and every oil company in the world pay for it.

  95. 95
    catclub says:

    @Marcion:

    The prospect of ISIS getting any farther than they have scares me.

    Has ISIS taken any Shia dominated cities? The closest thing was Mosul, which the Kurds cared about, as far as I know.
    ISIS could not take Kobani.

    @Belafon: Kevin Drum asked the interesting question. “Why is all the discussion so one sided in assuming that the SC sides with plaintiffs? Is there a fix in that someone knows about?”

    I seem to remember the previous case had relatively balanced opinions on what the outcome would be. Here, hardly anyone is bothering even to say ‘If it decided for the plaintiffs.’ Is that just laziness?

  96. 96
    Brachiator says:

    @Bill:

    But eventually it got better.

    Well, there were the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, an indirect consequence of our meddling. And Americans wrung their hands and looked the other way while that terror was unleashed. Fortunately, North Vietnam intervened.

    And there was this:

    Following the war, Hanoi pursued the establishment of diplomatic relations with the United States, initially in order to obtain US $3.3 billion in reconstruction aid, which President Richard M. Nixon had secretly promised after the Paris Agreement was signed in 1973. Under Article 21 of the agreement, the United States had pledged “to contribute to healing the wounds of war and to postwar reconstruction of the DRV . . .” but had specifically avoided using terminology that could be interpreted to mean that reparations were being offered for war damages. Nixon’s promise was in the form of a letter, confirming the intent of Article 21 and offering a specific figure.

    After a time, the US pretended this was never part of the deal, and Vietnam ceased pressing its claim. Of course, the US also enforced a trade embargo on Vietnam, which was not lifted until 1994.

    Friendlier relations have softened some of the blows. But still….

  97. 97
    Marcion says:

    @Bill:

    The Butcher’s Bill if ISIS continues to March will include a historical reenactment of the 30 Year’s War. On the Persian Gulf. And potentially, the decay of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf emirates into failed states resembling Yemen when their own Shias rise up after they get fed up with ISIS atrocities.

    When has prices double and the world economy takes it in the shorts, there’ll be a bill. When sectarian war breaks out and poisons the well of Sunni-Shia relations worldwide (not just in Iraq or Syria) there’ll be a multi-generational bill. If the whole Arabian peninsula winds up divided between failed states and the Islamic State… there would be a bill I don’t even want to think about.

    We’re going to pay any way we slice it. At this point, we’ve been slow-walking aid to Iraq and haven’t been acting in a support role the way we could be. I hate the idea of getting involved, I really do, considering the opportunities for it to go wrong. But things are guaranteed to go wrong if we do nothing.
    Just think. Death squads roaming in Baghdad, Iranian troops cross the border to protect Shias. Saudi Arabia hemorrhages men and money to support the Wahhabi vanguard. A Shia uprising in the Kingdom, with Iranian blessings, begins after the 46th Shia mosque bombing is the last straw. The Shia coast is where most of Saudi’s oil is, BTW. Gas prices spike… Fox News goes nuts, screaming “we should have done something!!!1!” while Walker/Cruz/Jeb! declare they have a Secret Plan to beat ISIS. This is not how I’d like Hillary to go into 2016. Even if the ME is fated to collapse whatever we do… which I’m not at all sold on… who do you think would do a better job dealing with it, Hillary or Klown #13? That’s why Iraq can’t be allowed to fall in the next year.

  98. 98
    raven says:

    @Bill: It’s wasn’t the Embassy.

  99. 99
    Betty Cracker says:

    @Brachiator: Your first three paragraphs were what I meant when I used the word “gangsters.” So much for trying to keep things simple.

    Look, I am not saying we — Americans — don’t owe the Iraqis, so quit putting words to that effect in my mouth. I’m saying that to keep mucking around in that country for another 10, 20, 30 or 100 years won’t make things any better and may in fact be making things worse and/or delaying a reckoning in that region that is coming no matter what we do.

    If you have a plan for effective US intervention that will resolve the 10-plus-year-old problems that began when the US initially kicked over that hornet’s nest, I’d love to hear it. But so far I’ve heard nothing from you but bloviating about points 99% of the people participating in this thread, including myself, have stipulated from day one. Yeah, we broke it. Now what?

  100. 100
    Marcion says:

    @catclub:

    ISIS hasn’t taken any Shia cities. They don’t need to to totally flip the board in the ME. All they need to do is get to Baghdad, start slaughtering Shias, and provoke at least one of two things: 1) Get Shias to start slaughtering Sunnis in revenge, and/or 2) Get Iran to intervene overtly. Both are pretty likely in such a scenario. In either case, Gulf/Saudi support for Iraq would be permanently dead and, if they don’t intervene directly, the radical sheikhs will be throwing money at ISIS, and ISIS will received floods of newly radicalized recruits to protect Sunnis from ethnic cleansing. Saudi is terrified, for a variety of reasons, both rational (power politics, fear of influence on their Shias) and irrational (know how certain fundies see Catholics? That’s how Saudi’s brand of Islam sees Shias, but more so). If Saudi is directly backing Iran’s enemies in a sectarian war to the knife… And if Saudi Shias are pissed off enough (which they will be if ISIS keeps bombing them and the sectarian war next door heats up)…. Then Iran will have every incentive to support a Shia revolt in Saudi Arabia, if one doesn’t turn up on it’s own (they probably won’t need much encouragement… Shias in Saudi are second-class citizens and the Kingdom makes no effort to hide or apologize for this).

    A Shia revolt means that the oil refineries on the Persian Gulf are now in a war zone. World economy gets sucker punched… Saudi economy suddenly looks like a house of cards as well. The Saudi Army has no accomplishments except in blazing new frontiers in embezzlement (they’re probably worse than Iraq in that way if you can imagine…) so they will likely be a mixture of brutal and ineffectual. Faced with a revolt they can’t put down by the people they’ve demonized for decades, the monarchy loses all legitimacy. Saudi Arabia begins devolving to a failed state like Syria has.

    Enter ISIS…

  101. 101
    sharl says:

    @Marcion: It sounds like you’ve studied this matter a bit. If ISIS-allied Sunnis are covertly preparing the ground in Baghdad for an eventual ISIS assault, wouldn’t the Shia militias and intelligence activities in the city be on the lookout for that, to the point of identifying those covert Sunni operatives*?

    *probably along with a lot of completely innocent Sunni citizens; it will suck to be them

  102. 102
    catclub says:

    @Marcion:

    All they need to do is get to Baghdad, start slaughtering Shias,

    I am much less worried than you appear to be. All I need is some ham, and I could make a ham sandwich, if I also had some bread.

    Why have ISIS not yet gotten to Baghdad? When ‘as soon as possible’ is the most likely time for the Iraqi/Shia Armies to prepare for that? Because they have never been able to take a Shia dominated city – which Baghdad is. Shia Iraqi Army units in Mosul left because they had no interest in protecting a Sunni city. Shia units in a Shia city will be very different.

  103. 103
    Brachiator says:

    @Betty Cracker: I have not tried to put any words in your mouth. I have and will continue to reject your assertion that the only two choices are to continue to meddle or to walk away.

    In my ideal world, I would happily turn over Bush and Cheney and much of Congress to the Iraqis. I don’t know of any other commenters here who have suggested this. But as you note, this is not going to happen. But neither is a return to isolationism, your preferred fantasy.

    I think the US should continue to support the Kurds. I don’t know what will happen in 10 years or 20 years in Iraq and neither do you. So any solutions, including walking away, is bloviating on both our parts.

    I also suggested accepting Iraqi and Kurdish refugees, and establishing a reparations fund monitored by a third party. What have you got besides the wish that we simply walk away?

    And lastly, I have no idea what to do about the residual hatred of those who want to punish us for our meddling arrogance. But I think it incredibly naive to ignore it our to pretend that it will simply dissipate if we retreat from the world.

  104. 104
    Gin & Tonic says:

    @raven: I didn’t want to be That Guy.

  105. 105
    Elie says:

    @Betty Cracker:

    Actually, lets get all the correct blame placed. What is happening in the ME is not just the result of American fuck up and overreach — but also a consequence of the British carving up the region into nation states that fit their idea of what a country should be. Iraq was a “gift” to Lawrence of Arabia for his subjugation of some of the tribes in the region.

    I agree with Amir K — he (Obama) cannot walk away in the midst of this tactic clearly “not working” without some effort to make it better. There is no benefit to the US by being seen to relegate Iraq to its fate with ISIS. We have many complex relationships in the ME that would be impacted by an ISIS caliphate — not just Iraq. We also cannot be seen to be pulling away completely from any global leadership with this kind of impact. I agree that we should not — in fact cannot send more “boots on the ground”. But we have to keep some sort of training wheels, so to speak, on our regional partners who though ambivalent about taking on the mantle of this very significant battle for them, have to come to accept that this is theirs to deal with. They don’t want to for a variety of reasons, but they will have to.

    Obama cannot have the whole ME implode while he is still in office. Right now we have two hollowed out regions in what used to be Syria, Yemen and Iraq that have been largely appropriated by ISIS. (Some analyses have Palestine as an at risk government due to its ongoing weak leadership and instability with Israel. Needless to say, the last one would be a freaking catastrophe and Israel’s intransigence all these years highlights what a mistake that was.)

    We could not hold all that territory even if we were able to subjugate them enough to do so. No one country could — it would take hundreds of thousands of troops. Even the craziest right wingers have to know that, though they will play like that is a for real option. Several regional countries could, but none of them right now seem ready to jump full in, even though they have plenty of skin in having an ISIS takeover. The proposed caliphate would endanger the Saudis, Turkey, Jordan, Israel, and Iran, but they have complex security and other needs that don’t always make them natural allies. The US has to keep the lid on the pot long enough to have this play out to where the regional actors accept what can no longer be avoided: The US is not going to fix this situation for them now, or realistically, in the next administration. For those interested, here is a decent read on this.

  106. 106
  107. 107
    Bill says:

    @Marcion: Even assuming every word you say is true, please tell me how any of this is different if we spend the next decade “stabilizing” Iraq? We are just delaying the inevitable.

    $8 per gallon gas is the price we are eventually going to have too pay for W’s Folly.

  108. 108
    Betty Cracker says:

    @Brachiator: Just to clarify, when I asked if you had suggestions for effective US interventions, I meant realistic ones. That takes reparations, large scale relocations of refugees to the US, airlifting Bush and Cheney to Baghdad, etc., off the table.

    The course of action I suggested — pulling combat troops out and letting Iraqis settle their own hash — was more or less official US policy under PBO. I hope those who are saying that it still is — now with added window dressing to stifle the neocons — are right.

    @Elie:

    The US has to keep the lid on the pot long enough to have this play out to where the regional actors accept what can no longer be avoided: The US is not going to fix this situation for them now, or realistically, in the next administration.

    But isn’t it possible that our continued presence is preventing that epiphany? It kinda looks that way to me.

  109. 109
    Bill says:

    @Brachiator: Yup, the aftermath was awful. Terrible bloodshed.

    Yup, it was our fault.

    Now tell me how staying in Vietnam, or staying in Iraq, makes it better?

    Is eternal occupation the plan? Because I’m not seeing that as improving the situation.

  110. 110
    Gin & Tonic says:

    @Bill: I think raven’s point was that the classic Hubert van Es photo of the helicopter on the roof, the one that comes up if you Google image-search “Fall of Saigon”, the one that “everyone knows” is the last bird leaving the Embassy, wasn’t actually leaving the Embassy, it was leaving from a building occupied mostly by USAID/CIA.

  111. 111
    Bill says:

    @CONGRATULATIONS!: Nope, we don’t have the money. We didn’t have the money to go to war either, but we still figured out how to do that.

    Of course there’s a historical example of war reparations not working out so well for the world as a whole, but we can leave that discussion for another time.

  112. 112
    Bill says:

    @Gin & Tonic: Yeah, except of course there were choppers actually leaving the embassy.

  113. 113
    Linnaeus says:

    @Brachiator:

    The United States got its butt kicked in the War of 1812. The White House was burnt to the ground, and the British were able to do damage almost at will. And yet, because of the Battle of New Orleans and time, many think that the US won that war. The Civil War, of course, inflicted a great deal of damage, though the north did not feel it as much as did the south.

    The scale of the War of 1812 was limited – most Americans didn’t experience the effects of the fighting. The Civil War is about the closest the US came to something like a mass shared experience, and that was because it was, of course, an internal war. There was nothing like it for Americans before or since. Americans simply don’t have the accumulated generational memories of conflict that people in many other countries do.

    This also fuels, I think, liberal and conservative neo-isolationism, the idea that we can wall ourselves off from the rest of the world, bury our heads in the sand, and be only concerned with ourselves.

    I think “isolationism” is often part of a false dichotomy used to put those wary of intervention on the defensive. It is not prima facie isolationism to raise questions about, or be opposed to, involvement in a particular region of the world in a particular manner with respect to a particular situation.

  114. 114
    Marcion says:

    Blergh, I hate typing on my phone. Typo city. Apologies for any lack of clarity, the above post should read “Saudi is terrified of Iranian troops on their border, in Iraq”.

    I think there are a lot of people in the US, spanning the left and right, who see the Sunni-Shia conflict as this organic thing that is the “natural” result of “hating each other for centuries”. And they aren’t entirely wrong… there is a lot of bad blood between the two groups due to the legacy of history. The thing is, though, there’s a reason that up until recently, they haven’t come out and slaughtered each other. And the reason is, that up until recently there hasn’t been a group actively feeding on that hatred for power.

    That group has many names… ISIS is the most recent. They used to Al-Qaeda in Iraq, and Monotheism and Jihad before that. They’re all Zarqawi’s proteges. Zarqawi and Bin Laden were buddies back in the day, but they split up before 9/11, since Zarqawi thought Bin Laden was too lenient on the Shia Question (that is, Bin Laden’s opinion was “convert or die”, Zarqawi’s was just “die”). Saddam gave refuge to Zarqawi to give the US the finger, and he was building camps and raising money in Iraq, but when we invaded and knocked out Saddam (who was willing to use Sunni radicals sometimes but kept them at arm’s length), we handed him a golden opportunity to put his plan in motion.

    That plan can best be described as “feed on hate”. In the post-invasion chaos, there was plenty of lingering resentment between Shias and Sunnis – the Shias from being repressed, and the Sunnis who were convinced they were a majority in Iraq due to Saddam’s propaganda. The Zarqawi Plan was to pour gasoline on these embers, That’s why they did things like bomb the Karbala mosque, one of the holiest sites in Shia Islam… why their favorite thing to do was bomb Shia civilians. The idea was to piss off the Shias so much they retaliated and put the Sunnis backs to wall, where they’d have no choice but to support him. Thanks to our boneheaded decision to disband the Iraqi army immediately and hand them scads of recruits, it almost worked. Bush and company (after shitcanning Rummy) managed to turn it around in the nick of time by adding more troops, and cultivating an alliance with Sunni tribes who didn’t like Zarqawi’s plan for endless bloodshed. The fact that Shia and Sunni areas of Baghdad had been thoroughly segregated by this time helped a lot, as well. Iraq got some breathing room and might have looked like a normal country again in a decade or so…. except Syria happened and gave the remnants of Zarqawi’s organization the opportunity to reactivate the networks they’d used in Syria to smuggle men into Iraq, to fight Assad this time. Assad himself obliged every anti-Sunni atrocity they could have wanted, and they spread like cockroaches.

    They got strong enough again that when some of the ex-Saddamist and anti-Shia Sunni tribal leaders invited them in, they were able to overpower the militias originally formed for the Awakening. And here we are. ISIS is busy killing everybody who worked with us in the Awakening, so it’s going to be tough going. But ISIS is dangerous, cynical (in their own way), and has a very keen understanding of the darker side of human nature. If they aren’t contained soon, they will be able to gorge for a generation on hate, revenge, and violence.

    ISIS’s goal is this: in the Middle East there will only be failed states, and the Islamic state. Since ISIS is actually more competent and meritocratic than pretty much every other Arab Sunni state, they have a disturbingly large chance of pulling that off. I hate Hitler analogies, because it’s a neocon trope to paint every dictator as the next Hitler, but here’s where it’s relevant: the Nazis took power in Germany because they were more meritocratic than the aristocratic establishment, they promised to make Germany strong again, and they harnessed Germans’ hate and fear of Jews and Communists as a bogeyman. Most ME regimes, for all their oil wealth, are nearly as fragile as Weimar Germany. They’re run by and for absolute monarchs, sheikhs, or military dictators; despite the oil wealth they have incredibly shitty economies thanks to this corruption, with double-digit unemployment especially for youth; and boy do they ever have bogeymen, from Shias to Jews to the West. They also haven’t finished the demographic transition yet, so they have their largest generation ever of youths. ISIS promises to level the power structure, fix the economy, and restore the Sunni world to its “rightful position” as Allah’s chosen world overlords. Is it really a surprise that ISIS can find plenty of angry young men with no ambition but to die for Allah? Their society has not left them any other route to make something of themselves, much like Great Depression Germany.

    You know the quote “when fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross?” In the Sunni Arab world, it waves a black flag and screams Allahu Ackbar. Look at Umberto Eco’s 14 points defining fascism, and compare them to ISIS’s ideology… ISIS fits nearly all of them. Cult of Tradionalism? They think they’re more Muslim than Mohammed. Rejection of Modernism? “Modernity” is just an infidel Western delusion. Cult of Action for Action’s Sake? Allah demands all Muslims to rise for ISIS. Obsession with Conspiracies? Where to begin, with the Jewish ones, the Shia ones, or the Western ones? Appeal to the Middle Classes? Certainly, crucifying people is quite effective at discouraging corruption. Personifying the People’s Will through a Dictator? Al-Baghdadi speaks for the Ummah. Disagreement is Treason? You are for ISIS, or you are an Infidel. Attempting to redeem the People from a mass humiliation? ISIS says they will put Sunnis on top of the world again after two centuries of Shia, Jewish, and Western bullying. Every Man As a Hero? One word: martyrdom. Contempt for the Weak? Defeated enemies can expect death or slavery. I could go on. The only point that is arguable is the Use of Newspeak. I don’t speak Arabic so I can’t really say, but I’m sure they have their own ideological jargon. Their determination to erase all monuments to the pre-Islamic past by blowing up ruins and burning books fits a pretty similar Orwellian niche. “He who controls the present, controls the past, and he who controls the past, controls the future.” This is what fascism looks like in the 21st century

    Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states are run by fools who don’t see that they’ve nurtured a Frankenstein’s Monster sewn together from ex-Baathist fascists and radical theocrats in Syria and Iraq, brought to life with electric jolts of Wahabbi cash. They thought maybe they could let the Monster rampage through the village just a little bit, and maybe he’d knock down that asshole Assad’s house. But the Monster will be coming back for them soon enough. We’re going to have to deal with ISIS sooner or later. Our current level of kinda-sorta-half-assed fighting is perfect for them, since they get to say they’re “beating the West” while the West isn’t really making a difference. I doubt they’ll plan any 9/11 style attacks anytime soon unless they can consolidate power, for exactly this reason. But the more successes they rack up, the more it looks like Allah wants them to win, and the more legitimacy they get. The longer we wait, the more they can feed on hate, and the harder it will be beat them down. If they can manage to indoctrinate a generation in the lands they control… then they will start the attacks on the rest of the world. They’ll have a state’s resources to build chemical weapons (you don’t need a lot, any country with a petrochemical industry has the equipment to whip up some nasty stuff, and they’ve already used chlorine gas) and they’ll have molded thousands of angry young men into monsters like them. Give them time to turtle up in the ME and dislodging them will be a generation-long nightmare. They can’t win… but they can make the future a very dark place indeed.

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    JustRuss says:

    @brantl: And short of dowsing all the ants with kerosene, how do you stop them from fighting?

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    Elie says:

    @Betty Cracker:

    Well, as I said, just walking away and letting it implode on a fast track would be politically difficult for Democrats. The chaos that we see there now would be small potatoes and we would never hear the end of how “Obama and the Democrats lost Iraq and the ME”. They do that some now, but it would be a total shit storm that would also damage Hillary — who was Secy of State during a good part of the war. Seriously, I can agree with you that its something anyone with a brain would want to do, but hopefully you can see that it really is not a viable option right now.

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    The Ancient Randonneur says:

    If you are in favor of this sort of incremental nonsense, or an ever more aggressive stance, then I hope that you will encorage your family and friends in the age group of 17-27 to run down and enlist for military service. Today! Not when it’s convenient, but today. (I include the President in this group) What we need is people to have some skin in the game. Until then I hope like hell this doesn’t end in disaster and a bunch of very fine young people die because another President has decided we should police the world.

  118. 118
    Kay says:

    I don’t know what the answer to the moral question is- we broke it we bought it or something else, but “they” meaning DC, so not just Obama, have got to get around to doing something to invest in this country.

    Tom Friedman lecturing working and middle class people on the “skills gap” is a political disaster for Democrats. People don’t need career advice. They need an advocate.

    God almighty, I hope they got something else other than “skills gap” and “make yourself more attractive for employers!”

    # 1 on the list: stop taking advice from Tom Friedman. He has bad ideas. He might actually be a moron.

  119. 119
    Marcion says:

    @sharl:
    They’re working on it. As you may have noticed, Iraq is not very effective at this kind of thing.

    But if they reach Baghdad, expect it to play a major role. One reason the Iraqi army has such shit morale is that whenever they engage ISIS, they get attacked from the rear by ISIS cells set up beforehand. The grunts feel like they’re surrounded and their officers have shit coordination so they GTFO. ISIS’s guys are pretty terrifying to fight. Their other favorite tactic is piling explosives in a truck (think Oklahoma City Bombing levels of explosives) and driving it straight at Iraqi Army bunkers and formations, then…. boom. They also like to wear suicide vests into battle so if an ISIS unit looks like it’s about to be surrounded and wiped out… boom.

    This is why air power could be crucial. Like I said before, Iraq has no functioning air force of its own. Take out the VBIEDs and major ISIS formations and let the Iraqis mop up. That’s their best chance for success.

    @catclub:

    Why haven’t they gotten to Baghdad? If you hadn’t noticed, Ramadi is pretty close to Baghdad. They’ve started stepping up the bombings of Shias lately, including in areas of the South well past Baghdad. The goal is to have the whole city on edge so that the ethnic cleansing begins immediately when they reach the gates.

    IDK if they are quite ready to go for Baghdad, yet, however. The Shia militias will, as you note, fight to defend their homes and people, and the Iraqi army will probably turn in a better performance when the capitol is on the line. So their best hope is to arrange things so their morale and discipline advantages can carry the day. To do that they’ll need to activate their cells behind the lines and hope to totally confuse and demoralize the Shia forces. And for that, they need most of Sunni Baghdad on their side. This is why they’ve stepped up the bombings in Baghdad: the goal is to completely poison the well between Sunnis and Shias so that Shias no longer distinguish between average Sunnis and ISIS, start partying like it’s 2006, and start killing innocent Sunnis randomly. ISIS will then start looking more and more attractive to Sunni residents.

    Give them time – they’re just warming up the pressure cooker.

    @Bill:

    If we don’t stabilize Iraq, we will end up having to stabilize the entire Middle East. The sectarian war will not stop at the Iraqi border. And ISIS feeds on hate.

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    Chris says:

    @Linnaeus:

    I think “isolationism” is often part of a false dichotomy used to put those wary of intervention on the defensive.

    This.

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    LWA (Liberal With Attitude) says:

    @Kay:
    I’m just wondering what it would take to replace Tom Friedman with an automated writing software, maybe MOU 2.0 or something.

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  123. 123
    agorabum says:

    @I’mNotSureWhoIWantToBeYet: yeah, we need to judge what is happening based on actual facts, not the slippery slope. It’s been a year since the ISIS offensive and there are still no us ground troops in combat (aside from a spec ops raid or two). Sometimes a training base is just a training base…

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    Kropadope says:

    @Kay:

    God almighty, I hope they got something else other than “skills gap” and “make yourself more attractive for employers!”

    I think the focus should be more on “how to help those who are willing and committed to improving their skills.” It’s becoming more and more burdensome to obtain credentials that seem more and more important to employers.

    I actually think there are some pretty solid ideas in there like developing job skills outside of a four-year degree program when appropriate and integrated systems to help match job seekers who already have the appropriate skills, even if not obtained in a traditional academic setting, with employers who are having trouble filling positions. These ideas also seem far away from blaming the unemployed for their own plight, which it seems is what you are implying.

  125. 125
    sharl says:

    @Kay: I think you’re being unfair to Mr. Friedman. He’s a reliable Good Ideas Guy™ who also approved of our Glorious Iraq Adventure™, as he explained to Charlie Rose (see here; it approaches its best at around 3m35s, after he’s all warmed up and whatnot).

    I remember him getting criticism for the huge spread he lives on (still, I assume) outside of DC, after he published his thoughts on how we need to take care of the environment. In one of his comics at the time, David Rees described Friedman’s large acreage home as similar to giving Mother Nature a big kick in the vagina. I dunno; a philosophical giant like that needs a lot of space to wander and muse, undisturbed by nearby neighbors and traffic.

    I’m sure his views on our working and middle classes will be just as perceptive and useful as his past views have been on other topics.

  126. 126
    Kropadope says:

    @Kropadope:

    It’s becoming more and more burdensome to obtain credentials that seem more and more important to employers.

    Forgot to add that putting up roadblocks to prevent people from this sort of attainment helps shield the Masters of the Universe from competition for themselves and their family and friends. This effects the underemployed also, perhaps even more, since it’s hard to sustain a life, let alone college, on a shitty income. So this is not blaming the unemployed, it is blaming the War on Education, Labor, and Social Mobility.

  127. 127
    Elizabelle says:

    @Kay: It would be nice if Tom Friedman’s own paper published an article about Disney laying off competent US tech workers to bring in H-1Bs, and then having the laid off train their replacements.

    Skills gap, you say, Mr. Friedman?

    Pink Slips at Disney. But First, Training Foreign Replacements.

    2,798 reader comments. #2 on the “most emailed articles” list for past 7 days, and #11 for most emailed in previous 30 days.

    But perhaps Mr. Friedman did not see it. A shame.

  128. 128
    Kay says:

    @Kropadope:

    That’s not the main point, though. The main point is thing they’re dancing around, which is the “changing relationship between employers and employees” and what that means is temps and contract work.

    Using dept of labor information to provide some kind of clearinghouse so people can more readily put something like a full time job together and sort of cobble together living wages and benefits is not the government response I was looking for.

    “Employee” status comes with legal protections. People take it for granted because “provisional employment” hasn’t hit the above 30k a year crowd yet, but it will. This has all kinds of ramifications for the social safety net. If employers provide no security at all, not even the bare bones protections of “employee” status, something else will have to fill that void and the “something else” will have to be a stronger safety net.

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    EthylEster says:

    @Marc McKenzie: thanks for the link.

    I agree with Juan Cole:

    Tuesday’s announcement appears to be Obama’s way of batting away the critics, who cannot say he hasn’t escalated US involvement or planned a strategy that would begin recovering territory from Daesh. But he’s attempting to deflect the complaints of the hawks without actually doing very much.

    This might be the best BHO can do at this moment.

  130. 130
    Elizabelle says:

    @Kay: Friedman is getting schooled in the NYTimes readers comments, to an almost Bobo-esque degree. Haven’t read that many, but no one so far is buying his premise.

    Which is false. But said by a Very. Serious. Person. Who will prob be going on Charlie Rose to discuss said false premise, any day.

    One fun comment, by R. Law:

    R. Law: The ‘ bots ‘ which need beating are the software programs which H.R. departments use to reject any resume that does not meet the arbitrary posted job qualifications, winnowing out applicants that should be considered.

    Case in point, according to this piece, Gov. Scott Walker’s lack of a bachelor’s degree makes him ineligible for 65% of the posted job openings for executive secretary and executive assistant, even though he’s a governor wanting to be president :)

  131. 131
    Kropadope says:

    @Kay:

    “Employee” status comes with legal protections. People take it for granted because “provisional employment” hasn’t hit the above 30k a year crowd yet

    My experience with my most recent employer tells me you’re wrong.

  132. 132
    sharl says:

    @Marcion: {1/2, to stay at three-link limit to avoid moderation}

    I went off looking for Baghdad demographic information of recent vintage. Unfortunately, good map-worthy information appears to have largely dried up after 2008. But based on specific incidents (e.g.) and broader-based observations, your analysis of the current situation seems sadly spot-on.

    Those two links suggest that the current Iraqi Prime Minister can make the U.S. and West happy, or keep the Shia militias mollified, but in the long run cannot do both simultaneously as long as existing factional tensions persist.

    While I agree that air support is the best we can offer, its utility becomes limited in densely populated areas. Evil bastards though they are, Da’ish leadership are quick learners, and their forces will just mix in with the general population rather than providing a nice concentrated target for air attack. Simply bombing everyone in sight to get at the Da’ish scattered among them is a nonstarter, for very good reasons.

    Our military and intelligence people will do the best they can. I’m just not optimistic that it will be enough. They’ve been handed the fixin’s for a shit sandwich, and ordered to put something together that won’t cause the U.S. public to hurl at the first bite.

  133. 133
    sharl says:

    {2/2} In the short time between 2003 and 2008, there was a drastic decline in mixed Sunni-Shia neighborhoods in Baghdad. That is dramatically illustrated by a series of maps here, although the comments there suggest that this map may be based on more reliable data.

    Vox put up a bunch of maps, although almost all are for the entire nation of Iraq and its neighborhood, rather than Baghdad alone.

  134. 134
    Elizabelle says:

    @sharl: This has been a good thread. Got to read it and catch up with y’all.

  135. 135
    mclaren says:

    I wonder how much of a difference that $25B would have made here at home — in infrastructure investment, education, “retraining” people whose jobs have been offshored, etc. And good old American graft, of course.

    Is it not sufficiently clear to everyone that, because the entity we refer to as “Iraq” is a fiction conjured by outsiders who did not understand the sectarian and tribal realities on the ground, it can only be held together by fear and/or brute force? Maybe the people who don’t get that should be “retrained.”

    Absolutely spot on. Excellent on all points.

    It’s hard for me to think of another post where a front-pager made so many good points so succinctly.

  136. 136
    Elie says:

    @Marcion:

    so what is the plan,man? Send a million US troops in to a hell that cannot be won or controlled? The choices are all bad I know, but I just don’t see this as our war and don’t want us to burn up our young people and treasure for an unwinnable, sure to get worse no matter what, situation. I get your worse case scenario, but I am not convinced and not sure what dots you are connecting. I am not an isolationist and I do believe in a measure of US empire. For that reason, like it or not, we have and will have interests for the foreseeable future.

    I would like to ask one thing that no one seems to be truly asking or answering. Where are these people getting their training and all the money they have. Sorry, not buying that it is the spoils of oil . Who wants Isis to be successful? Really.

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