Thursday, June 12, 2014

A symptom, not the cause

So very true (my emphasis):
The simple and fundamental fact is that this is the fallout of the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Any analysis that doesn't grapple with and accept that basic fact is just wrong and possibly dishonest to boot. It's not about how President Obama organized the exit from Iraq, whether he did it well or poorly. And yet, President Bush isn't president anymore. It's not his problem. It's President Obama's problem. And he has to figure out - decide on - the least worst way to deal with what's happening.

Historians and partisans can lay this on President Bush. And they should. But that doesn't mean anything in the here and now or give you - or rather us and the President - any clear guide on how to proceed now.

This was always the folly of the 'Hey, let's get rid of the tyrant Saddam' line of reasoning. He was brutal and awful. But he was a symptom rather than the cause of Iraq's problems, a nation drawn on maps in London and Paris, corralling together not just different sects and nationalities but the cockpit where many if not all of the Middle East's crossroads, invasion routes and contentions came together (see the Sykes-Picot Agreement and its elaborations for more). It was and is a pressure cooker that makes for a cockpit of instability and may only be able to be held together by ironfisted rule.

None of this is to justify Saddam's barbarities. It is simply to note that his existence was no accident. this is the upshot of the decision made in March 2003. There is no other realistic or honest way to understand it. How President Obama handled the departure is really largely irrelevant. To paraphrase the Emperor Tiberius (whose line was later picked in an apt but ugly rendering by Thomas Jefferson), when you're holding a wolf by the ears, just how you choose to let go is largely beside the point. Late in the last decade we had a simple choice. Stay in the country basically forever and keep the lid more or less on the powder keg or leave and leave it untended - with all that implies. The country didn't want us to stay and so we left. Without the US to hold together the pieces we broke apart, a drive toward authoritarianism or fracture was close to inevitable. The outbreak of a shattering Civil War in Syria only upped the stakes massively.
Good analysis. Read it all.

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