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Challenged by Mideast Upheaval, Obama Policy Re-examined

Posted May 22nd, 2015 at 2:20 pm (UTC-5)
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The Escalation of Unauthorized Wars

The Editorial Board – The New York Times

It seems like ages ago now. But it’s worth remembering how America’s latest war in the Middle East began.

In early August, shortly after militants from the Islamic State had taken over Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, President Obama authorized a volley of airstrikes … The White House described it as an urgent, limited intervention that was necessary to avoid genocide.

“As commander in chief, I will not allow the United States to be dragged into another war in Iraq,” President Obama said at the time. Those words were suspect then. They seem preposterous now …

When the first American bombs began slamming into Iraq and Syria, the Obama administration argued that the war authorizations Congress passed in support of the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan more than a decade ago provided sufficient legal cover …

As the war intensifies, it is more urgent than ever for Congress to approve a new Authorization for Use of Military Force that would provide adequate oversight and clearly articulate the long-term strategy for the fight against the Islamic State.

Kurdish peshmerga fighters take their positions on the front line with Islamic State militants in Tuz Khormato, south of  Kirkuk, northern Iraq,  June 25, 2014..(AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

Kurdish peshmerga fighters take their positions on the front line with Islamic State militants in Tuz Khormato, south of Kirkuk, northern Iraq, June 25, 2014..(AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

Other People’s Armies

David Rothkopf – Foreign Policy

Wary of the high costs of war (as illustrated by the unhappy interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan he was elected to end), a central principle of Obama’s plan in this regard has been something that could be characterized as “Other People’s Armies”…

At its best, it is a sound idea that recognizes the limits of American power, the often thankless, frustrating experience of being the world’s policeman, and the reasonable expectation that other nations should clean up their own messes. But the idea is not without its own limitations.

There are multiple deep risks associated with defaulting to this approach. They include the inability to influence outcomes so that they advance or protect vital U.S. interests, the problems associated with having allied armies inadequate to tackling the problem at hand trying and then failing to achieve a goal that might have been achievable with greater U.S. involvement, and the danger of being forced by expediency to support or align ourselves with bad actors, thus making matters materially worse for us and our allies.

‘Look … It’s My Name on This’

The Atlantic – Jeffrey Goldberg

I started the interview by asking Obama if—despite his previous assertion that ISIS was on the defensive—the United States was, in fact, losing the fight against the Islamic State terror group. When we spoke, the Iraqi city of Ramadi, in Anbar Province, had just fallen to ISIS; Palmyra, in Syria, would fall the day after the interview.

“No, I don’t think we’re losing,” he said. He went on to explain, “There’s no doubt there was a tactical setback, although Ramadi had been vulnerable for a very long time, primarily because these are not Iraqi security forces that we have trained or reinforced …

“I know that there are some in Republican quarters who have suggested that I’ve overlearned the mistake of Iraq… he said. “And one lesson that I think is important to draw from what happened is that if the Iraqis themselves are not willing or capable to arrive at the political accommodations necessary to govern, if they are not willing to fight for the security of their country, we cannot do that for them.”

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