June 23, 2014

Who’s Stuck in Iraq Now?

John Kerry’s “botched joke” from 2006 somehow seems relevant again.

In 2006, then-Senator John Kerry told a “botched joke” that rings true today. “You know, education,” Kerry bumbled, “if you make the most of it and you study hard and you do your homework and you make an effort to be smart, you can do well. If you don’t, you get stuck in Iraq.” He was supposedly encouraging young people to complete their education while attempting to disparage George W. Bush for what Democrats were then calling a “quagmire” in Iraq. That would be the war Kerry and most Democrats voted for.

Eight years later, Kerry is stuck in Iraq, arriving there Monday to meet with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to discuss a way forward. Kerry’s boss, Barack Obama, is stuck on Iraq. He has no clue what to do, or why his previous choices have brought Iraq to the verge of a jihadi takeover.

On Thursday, Obama announced he would send U.S. troops back to the country. Well, technically, it’s 300 military “advisers” who will be traveling there to assist the Iraqi army beat back the onslaught of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). And just to be clear they aren’t going for combat, those advisers will be ineligible for “imminent danger pay.”

Obama also ruled out immediate airstrikes, unwisely telegraphing his punches (or lack thereof). “Going forward, we will be prepared to take targeted and precise military action – if and when we determine that the situation on the ground requires it,” he said. We could almost hear Kerry talking about action that will be “unbelievably small.”

ISIL is an al-Qaida off-shoot that has taken over much of Iraq in recent weeks as part of a crusade to establish a caliphate roughly corresponding to the borders of ancient Mesopotamia before the British and French carved up the Middle East after World War I. This borderless nation of Islamists comprising Iraq and the Levant (Syria, Cyprus, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine and southern Turkey) is something like what we long ago termed “Jihadistan.”

“There’s no military solution inside of Iraq, uh, certainly not one that is led by the United States,” Obama said as he announced sending those 300 advisers. Then he declared, “But there is an urgent need for an inclusive political process,” something he himself shuns here at home.

In another contradiction, he boasted frequently in 2011 of his kept pledge to “bring the war in Iraq to a responsible end” by withdrawing all U.S. forces, but he said Thursday, “Keep in mind, that wasn’t a decision made by me. That was a decision made by the Iraqi government.” The buck stops over there.

Recall in the October 2012 presidential debate when Obama informed Mitt Romney, “What I would not have done is left 10,000 troops in Iraq that would tie us down. That certainly would not help us in the Middle East.” Sounds like a decision made by him. Obama blames Maliki for torpedoing a Status of Forces Agreement, but Obama wanted to leave Iraq at all costs and used the lack of a SOFA as a convenient excuse.

Obama defends himself by offering a straw man: “What we can’t do is think that we’re just gonna play Whac-A-Mole and send U.S. troops occupying various countries wherever these organizations pop up.” No, but ISIL is well financed and armed with U.S.-made weapons, thanks to Obama’s hasty withdrawal from Iraq. Empty platitudes are no substitute for leadership from the commander in chief.

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