Born and raised in Belgium, I have a bias. I went to the United States in 1996 to lead the NYSE's research and international departments and I became a U.S. citizen in 2009. After the Paris attacks, an insidious attempt to blame Belgium for the attacks struck me as (at best) ill-informed.
Defense Secretary Ashton Carter has complained that Iraqi National Army soldiers have demonstrated "no will to fight" against the Islamic State (IS); the fall of Ramadi was their fault. American soldiers attached to Iraqi units might be needed to "stiffen their spines."
For more than a decade and at very considerable expense, the United States has been attempting to create an Iraqi government that governs and an Iraqi army that fights; the results of those efforts speak for themselves: they have failed abysmally.
Think of this as a little imperial folly update -- and here's the backstory. In the years after invading Iraq and disbanding Saddam Hussein's military, the U.S. sunk about $25 billion into "standing up" a new Iraqi army.
Why move on Tikrit now instead of Mosul? What does this sorry little incident tell us about the U.S. government's strategy in fighting the Islamic State and the nature of its relationship with the Baghdad government?
It was August 2, 1990, and Saddam Hussein, formerly Washington's man in Baghdad and its ally against fundamentalist Iran, had just sent his troops across the border into oil-rich Kuwait. It would prove a turning point in American Middle East policy.
In my childhood, we used to say three strikes and you're out. But in Washington, there's evidently no magic number at all when it comes to how many disbanded Iraqi armies is too many for another step to the plate and another whiff.
The latest American war was launched as a humanitarian mission. Within weeks, however, a full-scale bombing campaign was underway against IS across Iraq and Syria with its own "coalition of the willing" and 1,600 U.S. military personnel on the ground. Slippery slope? It was Teflon-coated.
The inclusionary government America's strategy for Iraq rests on is an illusion, a governmental fantasy in 2014 as it was 2003-2011. Everyone with eyes-- except the U.S. government-- can see where this one ends.
Besides some failed emblem of American exceptionalism shining brightly abroad, it seems reasonable to conclude that national security and its according intelligence tools were and remain the principle role for such a massive presence abroad.
What is becoming clearer with each passing day is that the Middle East has to adjust to and counteract a new insurgent entity which some observers already claim is stronger in motivation and manpower than the pre-9/11 al-Qaeda.
Despite the conditions and the isolation, as well as a horrible sneezing cough that persisted for about an hour after I woke up, those nights with that random, scarred and often scabbed cat on my chest, were the best nights of sleep I ever got in Baghdad.
The Status of Forces Agreement comes with outrageous stipulations that render our troops helpless, subject them to the Iraqi military tribunals, halt U.S. military operations, and turn vengeful detainees over to the Iraqis.
For all those who will accept nothing short of "victory" in Iraq, please get on the same page as the rest of us: sending others into an immoral situation and expecting them to behave morally is absurd.