When president Obama repeated what has become a ritual for every president since George Bush the Elder and from the White House announced a new war on Iraq, the question that should have come to everyone's mind is, "exactly what Middle East success story gives the US both the credentials and credibility to intervene there?"
Decent people around the world are revolted by the cruelty shown by ISIL -- not just the sophisticated video productions of the brutal beheadings of unarmed men, loaded with symbols like the orange prisoner tunics, the executioner's, the sand, the blue skies -- but those of shiite and kurdis soldiers, the persecution of Yazidis and Christians and the imposition of turning the region into a medieval caliphate, ruled by sharia law, in today's world.
That, however, shouldn't mean that the U.S. and allies -- whether Western like the UK and France, or Arab like Saudi Arabia (a medieval kingdom, also ruled by Sharia law, of millionaire sheiks that beheaded 14 people just in August and where women are not allowed to drive and thieves get their hand amputated) and Egypt -- have the capability to "degrade" and ultimately defeat ISIL.
And if the past is any indication of what could result out of this "mission," the U.S., the nation leading the way with words, guns and treasure, is likely to fail simply because every time it has gone there it has made things worse.
For the past 60 years or so.
A quick run down of key event shows nothing more than a consistent string of failures, each followed by a reaction that's created a far bigger mess.
To name a few.
The 1953 overthrow of the democratically elected government of Dr. Mohammed Mossadegh in Iran, gave us Reza Pahlevi, the brutal Sha accused of systematic violations of human rights, whose 1979 overthrow led to the shiite Islamic Republic.
Some of the current religious leadership in Iran survived the Sha's prisons, only to come out and suppress dissent in similar or worse ways.
In the mid 80s, the U.S. the supported Iraq's Saddam Hussein against the Islamic Republic of Iran, turning a blind eye to his gassing of Iranian troops.
Foreign Policy puts it this way:
CIA analysts could not precisely determine the Iranian casualty figures because they lacked access to Iranian officials and documents. But the agency gauged the number of dead as somewhere between "hundreds" and "thousands" in each of the four cases where chemical weapons were used prior to a military offensive.
Iran in check, Saddam Hussein felt confident enough to invade Kuwait in 1993.
Blind support of Israel, with billions in military and economic aid, has perpetuated a situation alternating between the mass slaughter we just witnessed in Gaza to the landgrabs in the West Bank, resulting in a tinderbox that can go off at anytime.
In neighboring Egypt, since the 1970s the U.S. supported Mubarak with billions of dollars in aid, until shortly before he was overthrown in the Tahrir Square protests all part of the Arab spring, leading to the first "competitive" election in that nation that put Mohamed Morsi as president. Morsi was overthrown soon after and replaced by a general sans uniform, and a court system that sentenced 683 supporters of the former regime to death.
The U.S. gave Egypt around $1.5 billion in FY2014, according to the State Department.
The war has killed at least 134,000 Iraqi civilians and may have contributed to the deaths of as many as four times that number, according to the Costs of War Project by the Watson Institute for International Studies at Brown University.
When security forces, insurgents, journalists and humanitarian workers were included, the war's death toll rose to an estimated 176,000 to 189,000, the study said.
There were other dimensions to this debacle. By dismantling the Baathist Army, thousands of sunni arabs lost their jobs and everything they had, many including their lives, to the newly empowered shiites. It was the point of no return.
Article in the New York Times:
The dismantling of the Iraqi Army in the aftermath of the American invasion is now widely regarded as a mistake that stoked rebellion among hundreds of thousands of former Iraqi soldiers and made it more difficult to reduce sectarian bloodshed and attacks by insurgents.
As another byproduct of the ill advised and poorly executed invasion of Iraq, Iran emerged as the area's big winner, supporting the newly imposed shia regime in Baghdad.
[Iran] welcomed the invasion; Saddam Hussein had been a mortal enemy of Iran ever since the 1980-1989 Iran-Iraq War. The destruction of his regime was satisfying in itself, but it also opened the door to a dramatic shift in Iran's national security situation.
Iraq was Iran's primary threat after the collapse of the Soviet Union because it was the only direction from which an attack might come. A pro-Iranian or even neutral Iraq would guarantee Iranian national security. The American invasion created a power vacuum in Iraq that the U.S. Army could not fill. The Iranians anticipated this, supporting pro-Iranian elements among the Shia prior to 2003 and shaping them into significant militias after 2003. With the United States engaged in a war against Sunni insurgents, the Shia, already a majority, moved to fill the void.
Thus, Iran gained in stature with a sphere of influence in the region extending to Syria.
And then, there are the Syrian rebels the U.S. wants to arm and train. Ryan Grim and Akbar Shahid Ahmed report in The Huffington Post that the so-called moderate rebels have struck a deal with ISIL until they jointly can get rid of Bashar al Assad.
A word of caution about how trustworthy "oppositionists" can become: Chalabi.
But since U.S. policy-makers did not learn one thing about how the charlatan Chalabi repeatedly lied, and since that was a decade ago, then Libya could be another case, as events there took place just three years ago.
The U.S. joined EU allies in the overthrow and brutal murder of Muammar Gaddafi, an event that churned great headlines followed by visits there by British Primer Minister David Cameron and then-president Nicolas Sarkozy of France.
What happened afterward? All hell broke loose -- as in Benghazi.
Says George Friedman in Stratfor:
The Libyan opposition was a chaotic collection of tribes, factions and ideologies sharing little beyond their opposition to Gadhafi. A handful of people wanted to create a Western-style democracy, but they were leaders only in the eyes of those who wanted to intervene. The rest of the opposition was composed of traditionalists, militarists in the Gadhafi tradition and Islamists. Gadhafi had held Libya together by simultaneously forming coalitions with various factions and brutally crushing any opposition.
And, of course, there's Afghanistan, the longest war the U.S. has ever fought and where the April 5 elections have still not produced a clear winner and as the US finds a way out, it leaves at least two billion dollars in questionable spending in projects, according to a report by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) quoted by NBC News.
Obama announced that the war against ISIL could take years. The adventure carries a price tag that could reach $15 billion a year, according to the Fiscal Times.
Some, like Nick Gillespie writing in The Daily Beast, say that the threat has been exaggerated:
And so we're being gulled into a new-and-improved crusade to fix a Middle East still utterly destabilized in large part due to our still-smoldering failure to reshape desert sand into a form more to our desires. As we prep for the next "smart war" engineered by Obama (he's against "dumb wars," remember, and lives by the credo "don't do stupid shit"), it's worth acknowledging that the signature characteristic of America's 21st-century war on terrorism and foreign policy has been massive threat inflation at every level. Until we fully grok that terrorism--whether state-sponsored or stateless -- thrives on the overreaction of its targets and that we have overreacted so far at virtually every turn, we have no hope of enacting real solutions.
Others question the so-called pundits, media darlings whose relationship with defense companies is all but clear to the public and have started to fill out the airwaves.
Lee Fang writes in The Nation:
But what you won't learn from media coverage of ISIS is that many of these former Pentagon officials have skin in the game as paid directors and advisers to some of the largest military contractors in the world. Ramping up America's military presence in Iraq and directly entering the war in Syria, along with greater military spending more broadly, is a debatable solution to a complex political and sectarian conflict. But those goals do unquestionably benefit one player in this saga: America's defense industry.
And for the contractors, euphimism for mercenaries, this splendid, little war could mean a new bonanza. "Iraq this time around is not going to be as big as it was before," but nonetheless for many it will be "the next big meal ticket," according to a report by Daily Beast's Eli Lake.
It simply doesn't look good either way you look at it.
If the U.S. really wants to help out, stay out.
It's as simple as that.
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