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August 11, 2014

Obama’s Long War Drive-By

You know things are bad politically for Obama when he’s authorizing bombing in Iraq.

Three years after withdrawing from Iraq, American military aircraft returned there Friday to carry out two specific missions: a targeted destruction of an Islamic State-controlled artillery piece threatening Kurdish forces defending the Iraqi city of Erbil, where an American consulate is located, and the provision of humanitarian relief to thousands of beleaguered Yazidis seeking refuge on Mount Sinjar. Yazidis, who are described as “ethnic Kurds whose religion is an offshoot of Zoroastrianism, the religion of pre-Islamic Persia (Iran) and one of the world’s first monotheistic faiths,” were forced to flee the nearby city of Sinjar when Islamic State forces swept in last week.

“[W]hen we have the unique capabilities to help avert a massacre, then I believe the United States of America cannot turn a blind eye,” said Barack Obama of the mission, though he had no problem turning that blind eye (and a deaf ear and a mute mouth) toward the Christians in Mosul.

You know things are bad politically for Obama when he’s authorizing bombing in Iraq. Bill Clinton did the same thing in Afghanistan and Sudan to distract from his 1998 midterm troubles, and he then bombed Iraq just for good measure in December of that year. Obama declared Friday, “I don’t think we’re going to solve this problem in weeks,” adding, “I think this is going to take some time.” He then promptly departed for vacation at Martha’s Vineyard.

Before he left, however, he made time to remind everyone that leaving Iraq wasn’t his decision – a half truth at best. In fact, his perpetual six year presidential campaign has been run on leaving Iraq, and he couldn’t resist repeating his boast of keeping that promise: “I ran for this office in part to end our war in Iraq and welcome our troops home, and that’s what we’ve done.” At a very high price, we might add.

His strategy now, however, isn’t really a strategy. “As commander in chief,” he pontificated, “I will not allow the United States to be dragged into fighting another war in Iraq.” Memo to Obama: This is the same war. He continued, “[A]nd so even as we support Iraqis as they take the fight to these terrorists, American combat troops will not be returning to fight in Iraq, because there is no American military solution to the larger crisis in Iraq.”

So he’s going to drop a few bombs and leave the rest to someone else – the equivalent of a drive-by shooting.

Let’s review some history. The creation of the Islamic State is just the latest chapter in a centuries-old battle. At one time the group was known as al-Qaida in Iraq, though Obama foolishly belittled them as al-Qaida’s JV team. But earlier this year al-Qaida disavowed the group, and, after the breakup, they adopted the name of The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), which they then shortened to the Islamic State. Now, al-Qaida fighters are joining ISIL.

Straddling like a spider web over portions of Syria and Iraq, ISIL’s goal is to create a hardline Sunni Islamic caliphate. This places them in direct opposition to the Shia-controlled Iraqi government – which is undergoing its own strife from Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s regime that won’t go away and may even be staging its own coup. Meanwhile, ISIL also opposes the government in Syria and has annexed much of that nation’s eastern frontier in heavy fighting. Even Iran is involved in the fight against ISIL, supporting the current government in Iraq as well as Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria.

While the fighting has many of the elements of an exceedingly bloody but simple civil war, the ominous threat of ISIL leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi upon his release from an Iraqi detention camp – “I’ll see you guys in New York” – is reflected in a recent video from Vice News featuring ISIL press officer Abu Mosa taunting Americans about being humiliated in Iraq again. “Don’t be cowards and attack us with drones,” said Mosa. Of course, Obama didn’t use drones this time; he dropped a couple 500 pound bombs.

Yet even the provocation of being called “cowards” and the capture of American-supplied Iraqi military hardware may not do much to sway an American public weary of fighting in the Middle East. It is, however, drawing the allegiance of a few hundred Westerners who have decided to join the struggle for radical Islam.

One of those was Moner Mohammad Abusalha, a 22-year-old Florida man who drove an explosive-laden truck into a Syrian restaurant. His final video featured his rant about “always [being] sad and depressed” in America, but happy with the life he was about to give up. Abusalha had returned to Florida in the months before his demise, but eventually went back to Syria to play his role in the suicide bombing. How did he slip in and what does that mean for homeland security?

What’s striking about this particular stage in the seemingly never-ending religious strife in the region is the savagery toward opposition fighters as well as otherwise innocent civilians, particularly Christians and other non-Muslims. It’s the utter disregard for human life, including their own, as well as the shocking willingness to perform it live on video, which seems to make this conflict much worse than a garden-variety civil war.

In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, George W. Bush reminded us that we would be embarking on a Long War against radical Islam. “Americans should not expect one battle, but a lengthy campaign unlike any other we have ever seen,” Bush said. And as for being war weary, columnist Arnold Ahlert writes, “You know the trouble with being war weary? It is an utterly bankrupt notion when it rubs up against the reality that those dedicated to the destruction of Western civilization have no weariness of war whatsoever.

Barack Obama has rejected the idea that the struggle is far bigger than some cheap humanitarian relief via a quick bomb drop on the way out on vacation. And in forging his foreign policy on such errant assumptions, he has ensured the war will be even longer.

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