According to the New York Times, President Obama is now considering military options in response to a rapid ISIS takeover of northern Iraq. I don’t envy him. Whatever decision he makes is likely to turn into an enormous clusterfuck.
Someone Set Up Us The Bomb
Speculation is the force will be limited to airstrikes or targeted drone strikes. While that’s preferable to putting boots on the ground, these strikes will be of little consequence so long as ISIS remains holed up in cities like Mosul, Tikrit and Samarra. ISIS isn’t strong, numerically speaking, and there are plentiful places to hide and/or shield one’s self with non-combatants. That should be enough to give Obama pause. Killing extremists does not kill extremism; any collateral damage taken in these Sunni-majority cities could easily reignite simmering sectarian conflict boost ISIS’ popularity in the region.
Neither, however, can we sit on our hands and let this play out. Take a look:
Over the past week, ISIS took Fallujah, Samarra, and Baqubah. This wasn’t by accident. There are five major routes into Baghdad: three from the north and two from the south. With their capture of the aforementioned cities, ISIS now controls all three northern approaches.
These highways are in excellent condition. If ISIS were so inclined, they could be in Baghdad in less than an hour. And we have to assume ISIS is inclined to do just that.
This puts us in a tricky position. Act too soon, and the effect will be minimal, if not counterproductive. Act too late, and the enemy will lodge itself in the beating heart of the country you’re trying to save. Whatever the case, we, the American people, should accept that military intervention of some kind is at the point pretty much unavoidable. Iraq can’t solve this problem on its own. If the world sits idly by, we will see a Taliban-style Wahabbist government emerge right smack in the middle of the Near East. And, unlike the Taliban, these jokers will have access to immense oil revenues to further fund their campaign of human misery.
Are You John Wayne? Is This Me?
If there’s a silver lining to any of this, however, it is that international politics sometimes makes for strange bedfellows. The United States does not want an Islamic theocracy in Iraq, but Iran really doesn’t want an Islamic theocracy in Iraq. ISIS has declared war on Shia Islam as much as they have the ostensibly secular governments of Syria and Iraq, and they have already seized towns along the Iraq-Iran border. Should Baghdad fall to ISIS, they would be poised to launch a major offensive against the Shiites of southern Iraq, and possibly Iran itself. To the chagrin of the Iranians, they know perfectly well they can’t handle this situation on their own, and may begrudgingly seek assistance from their erstwhile enemies in the West… chiefly the United States.
While I am not so naive as to think that if the United States and Iran were to neutralize the ISIS threat that all would be well between our countries, the situation may at least open both sides to more fruitful discussions of outstanding disputes, such as Iran’s nuclear program.
Crimes and Misfortunes
Before I take leave of this article, there is one last item I would like to discuss, one that must be addressed to our Republican friends out in the “real world”:
I FUCKING TOLD YOU SO.
And so did every American you called “traitor” for having stood up to oppose the invasion of Iraq in 2003.
We told you there were no terrorists in Iraq. We told you Saddam Hussein’s regime, as bad as it was, was the only thing keeping them out of Iraq. But no. You had to have your little war. We overthrew Saddam and hung him high.
Now there are terrorists in Iraq, and there’s no practically no way of getting them out. Congratulations, assholes. You made us all a nice, big shit sandwich. And we’ve all got to take a bite.