Muftic: Iraq and ISIS complicate 2016 race
With the presidential marathon race now off and running, there are questions we should demand every candidate to answer. Top of my list is what to do about Iraq and ISIS.
Most fascinating so far are the polar opposite views of GOP candidates jockeying for their party’s nomination, ranging from Sen. Lindsey Graham, the ultra hawk, vs. Rand Paul, the ultra anti-interventionist. There are no simple answers.
Assuming the establishment wings of the Republican Party manage to quash Paul’s candidacy, the likely successful GOP candidates will call for more aggressive policies there.
Recent polls are showing that the U.S. electorate is still opposed to sending massive troops, but more support a limited increase of boots on the ground. Expect the GOP to continue to scare the wits out of the American public that ISIS is a personal threat to their safety, that the U.S. is incapable of stopping ISIS’ attacks on the homeland, and that they have a solution that will keep us safe.
Opposition to massive re-invasion of Iraq lags in popularity because many Americans have not forgotten that the U.S. deployed 2.5 million troops in Iraq and Afghanistan; 400,000 of them were deployed three or more times. The Iraq war alone cost a conservatively estimated $1.7 trillion dollars of taxpayer money. As of April 2014, 6,800 US troops had been killed in Iraq.
Where the hawks have an advantage is a message of simplicity. Send more troops. Never mind even Graham is only talking about 7,000 special ops and trainers in addition to the 3,000 already there. While forcefully criticizing Obama’s policies, all he proposes is to increase the numbers some. President Obama at the G7 summit Monday indicated he had asked the Pentagon for proposals. Perhaps they are not that far apart. Still the question lingers, would this be a forever intervention with continuing mission creep?
However, the situation in Iraq is not simple. Unlike 2003, there is now a full blown three way civil war to fill a power vacuum left after the fall of Saddam and the U.S. departure. ISIS threatens the power of the Saudi Royal family that has their own caliphate founded on similar theology, yet the Saudis are usually an ally of the U.S. There is a full scale religious civil war in Islam playing out in Iraq between the Sunnis (the Arab Muslims) and the Shia, the Iranians. The Shia-dominated government in Baghdad, closely connected to Iran by a shared religion, is our ally, but their Sunni troops that had not already joined ISIS are not loyal to Shia leadership. Iranian troops are already engaged fighting ISIS. Simultaneously, the Kurds, our most effective allies, hope their participation leads to independence, which no one else involved wants.
So the GOP hawks want us to get more involved in this mess and train and arm whom? As a friend of mine says,”How is the everyday Joe supposed to understand this?” And that is the advantage the GOP hawks have in beating the war drums.
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