In 2007, President George W. Bush warned that if America withdrew prematurely from Iraq, American troops would eventually have to return:
To begin withdrawing before our commanders tell us we are ready … would mean surrendering the future of Iraq to al Qaeda. It would mean that we’d be risking mass killings on a horrific scale. It would mean we’d allow the terrorists to establish a safe haven in Iraq to replace the one they lost in Afghanistan. It would mean increasing the probability that American troops would have to return at some later date to confront an enemy that is even more dangerous. [EMPHASIS ADDED].
Well just an hour ago, the Washington Post reported:
President Obama said Thursday it is now clear Iraq will need help from the United States as the situation there deteriorates, adding that he wouldn’t “rule out anything,” including drone strikes and air strikes, but not ground troops.
“What we’ve seen over the last couple of days indicates the degree to which Iraq’s going to need more help,” Obama said during a meeting with Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott at the White House. “So my team is working around the clock to identify how we can provide the most effective assistance to them. I don’t rule out anything, because we do have a stake in making sure that these jihadists are not getting a permanent foothold in either Iraq or Syria, for that matter.”
He’s not ruling anything out, you see – except ground troops. He’s ruling that out.
Let’s recall that Obama inherited a pacified Iraq, where al Qaeda had been defeated — both militarily and ideologically.
Militarily, thanks to Bush’s surge, al Qaeda was driven from the strongholds it had established in Anbar and other Iraqi provinces. It controlled no major territory, and it’s top leader – Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi – had been killed.
Ideologically, al Qaeda had suffered a massive rejection by the Sunni masses. Iraq was supposed to be a place where al Qaeda rallied Sunnis to drive America out. Instead, the Sunnis joined with Americans to drive al Qaeda out. That was a major ideological defeat.
So al Qaeda in Iraq (now ISIS) had been beaten on the battlefield and rejected by the Sunnis it claimed to represent. In fact, the situation Obama inherited was so good that the Obama administration was actually trying to take credit for it. Joe Biden declared that Iraq “could be one of the great achievements of [the Obama] administration.”
Obama took that inheritance and squandered it. And – just as Bush predicted – we’re now talking about going back (at least in the air) to help the Iraqis to confront an enemy that is even more dangerous.
Is this how wars end in the 21st century, Mr. President?
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