The New York Times reported on Robert Kagan's New Republic piece, "Superpowers Don't Get to Retire" (5/26/14), ("Events in Iraq Open Door for Interventionist Revival, Historian Says" NYT, 6/15/14). The New Republic cover story has struck a chord, with ISIS on the outskirts of Baghdad.
The Times commented, "To Mr. Kagan, American action to stop the militants is imperative, but a continued military presence in Iraq and action in Syria would have avert the crisis. 'It's striking how two policies driven by the same desire to avoid the use of a military are now converging to create this burgeoning disaster,' Mr. Kagan said in an interview."
But hindsight is always 20/20 and who is to say that the presence of US troops would have turned out to be anything more than an embarrassment, as it has been in Afghanistan, where all gains seem to be Pyrrhic and where the American military's struggle against the Taliban can only be described as Sisyphean? Yes today everyone is crying for more troops and more bombs, but when we supplied troops and bombs and were getting no leverage in reforming al-Maliki's partisan politics there was an outcry for an end to a struggle which was costing the US both lives and money.
Have we forgotten the lesson of Vietnam? Every time we consider the use of force we seem to be on the event horizon of the black hole of interventionism. The US is out of touch and our real weakness is intelligence. It's as true now as it was back in 9/11. The lack of intelligence concerning the latest ISIS surge is what the real problem seems to be and it's truly confounding. Is a Johnny-come-lately employing airstrikes and drones going to weaken the impact of the writing of Sayyid Qutb the ideologist of pan-Islamism? What's needed is not force, but thought. In this case clandestine intelligence, the kind that had proven so deadly to US Foreign policy in the overthrow of Mossadegh in l952, might be turned to our advantage if we place our bets on the right horse -- and that horse might very well be Iraqi Kurdistan.
This was originally posted to The Screaming Pope, Francis Levy's blog of rants and reactions to contemporary politics, art and culture.