Saturday, June 14, 2014

A Little Help, Please?

I'm confused about Iraq. We got out of Iraq, finally, after Obama took office, though it took more than 18 months. The people wanted us gone. Americans wanted us gone. We got gone.

Now al Qaeda insurgents are taking back the country and the troops the U.S. trained and provided with weapons simply took off their uniforms to reveal their civilian clothes underneath, and fled. The ran away from a smaller, less well armed force, and claimed that the U.S. did not provide sufficient training for them to withstand 1000 armed insurgents against 10,000 armed, trained, and well equipped Iraqi soldiers. I smell a rat.

You don't stand your post with your civilian clothes underneath your uniform unless you know that you will need the civilian clothes quickly and you don't turn tail and run from weak opposition. I guess the al Qaeda insurgents were packing a whole lot of mean that swept government forces away like so much chaff before the Ark of the Covenant carried by the Hebrews when they went to war. The result is the fleeing Shia government forces under Maliki left behind U.S. equipment, vehicles, and materiel for the Sunni forces to pick up and continue hot on their heels

After complaining about the lack of U.S. support in their struggle with al Qaeda forces, I wonder why they want U.S. soldiers back to fight the insurgents. Didn't we go through this already? This is where I get confused.

The United States armed, trained, and supported the sitting Iraqi government and left the country as ordered and now they want U.S. soldiers back. This is what happens when a power vacuum is created as the Iraqi situation demonstrates with the absence of Hussein and no tyrant/despot/powerful leader to take his place. Should we really go back in and take control of the situation again? Isn't this a civil war? Hasn't the U.S. been down this road before with disastrous implications? I'm confused.

Barry Eisler has likened the situation in Iraq to Vietnam and there are similarities, but we left Vietnam to its own devices and accepted the Vietnamese boat people as immigrants, taking them in and providing them with a home and a country. Do we do the same for Iraqi Sunnis fleeing the Sunni Muslim forces of al Qaeda? At what point does this whole circus end?

If I say we leave the Iraqis to fight it out among themselves, I'm being obtuse and elitist. If I say we go back to Iraq and restore order and throw al Qaeda out when the government forces ran from them then I'm an elitist neo-colonialist who supports war mongering. What is the right answer here?

Is there a right answer?

David Ignatius provides his take on the situation and offers a short video at the beginning of his column about the difference between Sunni and Shia. This is not Roman Catholic against Lutheran against Protestant conflict, which often flared into reprisals and armed conflicts, but something much more brutal. The result may well be Syria allied with the Sunni forces in an Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) against Maliki, who has holed up in the south, and the intervening territory left to whoever is left in Iraq. Both Sunni and Shia forces are brutal in their actions and hatred for their polar opposite faction and it looks like Maliki will not be able to hold the government together. Maliki and his adherents are Shia and not considered to be true Muslims, not for the 1400 years since Mohammed's death when the ideologically opposite Sunni and Shia split over who would control the future of Islam.

What it boils down to is that I do not have the faintest clue about their religion or their politics, except that neither will rest until the other has been exterminated. When religion and politics are so tightly bound together, how can anyone from outside Islam truly understand what is going on and whose side the U.S. should back. This is no longer about democracy, as Maliki's bloody reprisals about Sunni Muslims has shown, nor is it about freedom for the Iraqi people involved in a death struggle for supremacy. The war between Sunni and Shia isn't even about taxes. It's about supremacy and destruction and a death grip on the lives and beliefs of entire nations.

It is clear that control of the oil fields will be at risk, but why should that be a factor since the United States has more oil than Iraq and Syria combined? The Saudis have complained that their way of life will collapse if the U.S. doesn't stop producing and exporting its own oil fields and reserves.

But, no, the struggle in Iraq is not about oil. That's just a bargaining chit to get the Western world involved, and I'm back to being confused. Should the U.S. stay out of this struggle or should we ride to the rescue?

I do not know. Do you?

One thing I do know is that we cannot play cop on the block on the international stage and that has won us no friends and gained us quite a lot of enemies, but we cannot play the isolationist card as we did at the beginning of World War I and World War II because eventually we will be forced to rethink that position as we did when Truman was voted in, Roosevelt and his isolationist tactics out, and the Japanese allied with Germany bombed Pearl Harbor. Damned if we do and damned if we don't.

Obama has supposed Maliki's government and Maliki has done nothing to build a bridge between Shiites and Sunnis. Instead the reprisals against Iraqi Sunnis have gone a long way to creating the current situation, over and above what 1400 years of strife have done. Maliki, a Shiite, has been as brutal as Saddam Hussein, a Sunni, and nothing was done by the U.S. or the U.N. or any of the western nations. Obama has sent more weapons, ammunition, vehicles, and materiel into this hot zone and the picture is no better.

And I'm back to being confused. What do we do now?

I don't know. Supporting either side may come down to the flip of a coin because both sides are brutal and blood-thirsty and the man in the street will always be a casualty.

I'm open to suggestions to learn more about the players and the game. How about a little help?


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