In the context of the current crisis in Iraq, I have been astounded by Republican suggesting that Obama is not taking a tough enough stand; that that U.S. withdrew troops prematurely; and that the U.S. needs to exert its power.
Let’s start with a very fundamental point: the current situation in Iraq is the direct outgrowth of the U.S. invasion in 2003. In carrying out that illegal invasion, the U.S. set in motion the events that we are now seeing playing out. Our country encouraged the preexisting tensions that unfolded as a Sunni/Shiite split. The United States demobilized the Iraqi Army in such a chaotic manner that there was no institutional spine in the country. The U.S. sat back while Sunnis were excluded from the realm of power.
We in the U.S. have to begin with a sense of our direct culpability in this crisis. This is not about whether Obama pulled the troops out too soon. The troops should never have been there in the first place. Now what we are witnessing is a situation where there are multiple Sunni forces at war with a Shiite-dominated government that seems to have little interest in inclusion. These forces, fighting on the ground, also have regional sponsors, with the two most important being Iran and Saudi Arabia. Iran and Saudi Arabia are deeply suspicious of one another and see the other as a threat to their own regional ambitions. Given that, the crisis in Iraq will not be resolved without the engagement of Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and, of course, the forces on the ground in Iraq, including Sunni, Shiite, Kurd and secular social movements (the latter having been largely ignored in the media).
Contemplating air strikes or other military involvement in Iraq is nothing more than a fool’s course. Among other things, who would be bombed? The situation on the ground is so complicated that military intervention could exacerbate the situation rather than stabilize it. If the U.S. wishes to help, it should first do no harm. It should then work with regional powers (plus Russia) in constructing a comprehensive settlement. Unilateral action by the U.S,, including but not limited to military involvement, will be the proverbial kerosene thrown on the fire.
Bill Fletcher, Jr. is a racial justice, labor and global justice writer and activist. He is a Senior Scholar with the Institute for Policy Studies and the former president of TransAfrica Forum. ollow him on Facebook and at www.billfletcherjr.com.