At noon today, President Obama issued his first statement on the deteriorating situation on Iraq. “This is not solely or even primarily a military challenge,” he said. “The United States will do our part, but understand that ultimately it’s up to the Iraqis as a sovereign nation to solve their problems.”
Obama left the door open to unspecified “actions,” but repeated that the Iraqis themselves had to seize the opportunity that the years of American effort gave them.
This will no doubt be greeted by the President’s opponents with something akin to apoplexy. They will be arguing that in fact the problem does have a military solution, that the U.S. can solve it, and that whatever is happening, everything would be better if we applied more force.
We have now reached the rather ironic situation in Iraq where we find ourselves allied with Iran in an effort to save the corrupt and thuggish government of Nouri al-Maliki, while the army we spent eight years training falls apart. I’m not going to pretend to have unique insight into Iraqi politics (I’d suggest reading Marc Lynch, for starters, as a way of getting up to speed on what has led to this point).
But there are few people who understand Iraq less than the Republican politicians and pundits who are being sought out for their comments on the current situation.
As you watch the debate on this issue, you should remind yourself that the most prominent voices being heard are the very ones who brought us the Iraq War in the first place, who promised that everything was simple and the only question was whether we’d be “strong” and “decisive” enough – the same thing they’re saying today. They’re the ones who swore that Saddam was in cahoots with Al Qaeda, that he had a terrifying arsenal of weapons of mass destruction, that the war would be quick, easy and cheap, that since Iraq was a largely secular country we wouldn’t have to worry about sectarian conflict, and that democracy would spread throughout the region in short order, bringing peace and prosperity along with it.