Monday, June 16, 2014


The situation in Iraq is a reminder of how much the media needs headlines.  "Radical Islamists", "Islamist militants", "militants led by the ISIS", "ISIS backed militants", etc. etc. etc. are the terms being thrown about by writers on both sides on the pond and across all political spectrums.  When in doubt, link the ISIS to al-Qaeda and you have a ready made headline.  The problem is nothing going in Iraq is really all that new.  Iraq's modern borders dated back to 1920 and the Treaty of Sevres, which encompassed a Shia majority with a Sunni minority population in the Southeast and a Kurdish minority population in the Northeast.

Saddam Hussein's brutality wasn't just the resulted of his own psychosis, it was in part due to keeping some semblance of order between the three different groups.  Colin Powell new this and worried that if the US invaded Iraq, it would be stuck with trying to keep all three groups at peace.  He famously warned then President Bush, 'You are going to be the proud owner of 25 million people,' he told the president. 'You will own all their hopes, aspirations, and problems. You'll own it all.'  Neither Bush nor Obama heeded that advice.

Why do I include President Obama?  Because he also failed to realize the situation in Iraq for what it truly is, three different groups seeking their own independent states but locked into a country than none really control.  The US post-war presence served as a bit of a buffer but the continued outbreaks of violence forced Obama to pull the troops out.  He made two mistakes in doing this.  First, he ignored Colin Powell's warning.  Whether Obama agreed with Bush or not, the US had broken Iraq and now owned it.  Pulling the troops out was reneging on our debt for invading in the first place.  The second mistake Obama made was announcing a firm timeline for the troops leaving.

Think about being in a boxing match.  You announce that in the next 5 seconds, no matter what, you are going to throw a right cross.  You opponent would have more than enough time to come up with dozens of counters to your pre-announced right cross.  Obama has done the same thing.  The "militants" have had years to plan their move. Blair was right in his criticism of Obama's handling of Iraq but don't agree with his assessment that military action in Syria would have prevented the ISIS from seizing power.  

(Obama is making the same mistake in Afghanistan, announcing a timeline for troop drawdowns years in advance.  The Taliban and al-Qaeda are drawing up all sorts of plans for those final days.)

Realizing this mistake (maybe), Obama quickly went on the defense to announce no troops would be sent in even though the Iraqi government was pleading for US assistance.  Now taking a page from the Clinton administration, both the White House and the UN have decided that drone strikes will help.

Unfortunately, the ISIS is conducting ground warfare which means once the have move into an area they occupy it.  Even with drones, you still need to force then out and then occupy their former areas with your own troops.  The Iraqi military has thus far proved unable to handle this assignment so the drone strikes are not going to be anything more than headlines for a few days.  Worse, if memory serves, drone strikes have not been all that popular in Pakistan.  The Taliban and been condemning drone strikes for years and since they are linked to al-Qaeda it appears the ISIS will also follow suite.

Perhaps this is why so many are now bemoaning the inevitable next strike of al-Qaeda against the United States.  Odd that this potential threat is getting more air time and concern from pundits than the masses of bodies making their way through the Mexican border, at least some of whom are part of the drug cartels.  The US evacuated most their personnel from the embassy in Baghdad.  I wonder if FEMA will be called on to evacuate US citizens from the border region?

Bush broke Iraq and Obama did nothing to fix it.  Now the US is running away from it like a kid that has just hit a baseball through a neighbor's window.  What is not being discussed is how our lack of action in Iraq will hobble future US foreign policy initiatives.

And less we forget about the Ukraine;

Ukraine says Russia has cut off all gas supplies to Kiev, in a major escalation of a dispute between the two nations.

"Gas supplies to Ukraine have been reduced to zero," Ukrainian Energy Minister Yuri Prodan said.

Russia's state-owned gas giant Gazprom said Ukraine had to pay upfront for its gas supplies, after Kiev failed to settle its huge debt.--BBC News

Putin has always had more than the military card to play in the Ukraine.  Economic sanctions have their greatest impact in the long-term.  Short-term, Putin is going to be able to bend Ukraine to his vision before any sanctions force he to adopt a new strategy.

Obama, Kerry, Hagel and Susan Rice are being outmaneuvered in each situation.  Obama's amnesty program has created a sucking chest wound on the Mexican border.  Yet the administration thinks it can contain China.

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