So What Should America Do In Iraq?

By Kevin Boyd – Contributor –

Last night, President Barack Obama addressed the nation where he announced that he had authorized air strikes against the al-Qaeda offshoot ISIS, which has been on a rampage in northern and western Iraq, “if necessary” for humanitarian reasons and to defend the Kurdish capital of Erbil. The decision comes as many as 200,000 Iraqi Yazidis are trapped on Mount Sinjar without food or water in order to avoid slaughter at the hands of ISIS. Pope Francis has asked for international action on behalf of Iraq’s Christians who have also been targeted by ISIS. According to the New York Times, Turkey and France are expected to commit forces to any air war in Iraq as well.

However, involving American forces in a new war in Iraq is not a good idea for many reasons. The first of which is that President Obama would be committing American forces into a quagmire to prop up a failed state. Iraq has been unable to form a government since elections in April. The Kurds are looking increasingly likely to secede from Iraq. Meanwhile, ISIS has been fueled by Sunni grievances against the Shi’ite dominated government. This is an artificial country essentially thrown together by European colonialists irrespective of ethnic boundaries after World War I. Involving American troops in this political and ethnic quagmire is a terrible idea and could wind up to the commitment of large numbers of American troops and American money for little to nothing in return.

There are other options on the table to defeat ISIS. For example, the Kurdish Peshmerga forces have proven to be the only effective forces against ISIS, however they appear to be outgunned by ISIS forces, who are using captured U.S. weapons taken from the Iraqi Army when it collapsed in Mosul.

What the Peshmerga need are more ammunition and more up to date weapons to replace or supplement their 30 year old heavy weapons and armored vehicles they captured in 2003 from Saddam’s army. The Kurds went to Washington last month asking for new weapons, however despite the fact that the Kurds are among America’s most reliable allies in the Middle East, the U.S. government has not been eager to provide military aid. This stance needs to change and our Kurdish allies to be directly armed by the United States so they can fight their own war.

Another thing Americans need to worry about is “mission creep” in Iraq. Remember the air war in Libya in 2011, when U.S. and allied forces established a “no-fly zone” in order to prevent Libyan government forces from using the Libyan Air Force from massacring Libyan civilians? The mission eventually became one of “regime change” as allied warplanes eventually became the air force for Libyan rebels. If the goal of the air strikes is to destroy ISIS, why doesn’t President Obama just come out and say so? Furthermore, even if the real goal is to destroy ISIS, it has become clear from how this president handles foreign policy that he has no desire to do whatever takes to win a war. Our troops who would be asked to fight and die and our allies who would fight along side us deserve better.

If we’re going to go to war, and make no mistake, launching air strikes is going to war, there must be a clear objective. President Obama has failed so far to outline one. There is a good argument for using American and allied air power to defend our Kurdish allies (who are mostly secular and pluralistic), but at the same time, this administration refuses to provide them the weapons and supplies they need to defend themselves.

As for the “humanitarian” aspects of the war, even in this era of precision bombing, there are large numbers of civilian deaths. Does it really matter if Iraqi civilians die at the hands of ISIS bullets or by American bombs as they become “collateral damage“. Despite the best of intentions, the final result is the same.

What President Obama needs to do is explain to the country what his and country’s goals are in Iraq before he drops the first bomb. If America must fight in Iraq, President Obama needs to outline why and what our objectives are. So far, he has failed to do that and until he proves to the American people why bombing ISIS in Iraq is necessary, we should not drop a single bomb on Iraq.

Kevin Boyd is a staff writer at Independent Journal Review and a conservatarian political commentator. Follow him on Twitter @kevinboyd1984