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A public policy blog from AEI
Yesterday’s announcement by the president regarding air strikes in Iraq had a feeling of inevitability about it. After all, the situation has become so dangerous, the threat so grave, that the Islamic State (IS) terrorists must have awoken even as somnolent and detached a president as Barack Obama. Now, that’s not to say that reality intrudes often for the man; nearly 200,000 dead in Syria have failed to move him beyond pale rhetoric. Still, the air strikes the administration authorized — only in northern Iraq, mind you — will not be enough to turn the tide against IS. Recall where this began, in Syria. There was no IS back in 2011. It is wholly an outgrowth of the conflict in Syria, and the failure of Western powers to intervene in the face of growing Qatari (and other) support for al Qaeda. Now, three years later, IS dominates an increasingly large and strategically important area of both Syria and Iraq.
What could Barack Obama have done, his few apologists and their libertarian cohort ask. This is not our problem, they insist. We know these isolationists and know-nothings — they’re the ones who said it didn’t matter that Afghanistan was taken over by Osama bin Laden and Mullah Omar. But, they retort, none of this would be a problem if Saddam Hussein and Hosni Mubarak and Bashar al Assad were still firmly seated on their thrones. But of course, those thrones were teetering thanks to the oppressed people of the Middle East, who have noticed that the only parties now talking liberation are the Islamist Shiites and Sunnis from Hezbollah, Hamas and al Qaeda et al.
More than a year ago, Jack Keane and I wrote about what the US could do — none of the straw men’s “boots on the ground” — to stop Assad’s slaughter here. Earlier this year, we wrote about what could — no boots — swiftly cut off IS in Iraq here. These ideas are still relevant today. Remember, Obama’s movement is a lagging indicator of the seriousness of the problem we — yes, we — face in the Middle East. More must be done or the security of the American people will be the next victim.
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