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Terrorist Sponsored States

Excerpts from Destabilizer-in-Chief by Mario Loyola in National Review:

The Arab Spring began with great hope around the world. But the Arab Spring was no mere rebellion against authoritarian regimes. It was the crisis of legitimacy of the brittle Arab states that arose in the wake of decolonization. Whether it will leave behind something better or worse is a question on which the fate of the world in the 21st century greatly depends. Bush’s pro-democracy agenda to some extent anticipated the challenge for U.S. policy, propelled by a dark harbinger of things to come — the 9/11 attacks, which had revealed the ability of terrorist networks to wage war on a par with states. But the “Bush doctrine” seemed largely discredited by the time he left office, and Obama happily jettisoned it.

But he replaced it with nothing. The Syrian civil war has revealed the gaping lack of a consensus U.S. strategy to deal with the new global security environment. Even if Assad wins the war, it would not be a return to the status quo ante of a mass-torturing state-sponsor of terrorism. As Philip Bobbitt suggests in Terror and Consent (2009), the 21st century will replace the state-sponsor of terrorism with the terrorist-sponsor of states. In Lebanon, we have already witnessed the ascendancy of Hezbollah over the government. In Syria, as a result of the civil war, the Assad regime has become, and will continue to be, a pawn of Hezbollah and the Quds Force, which in turn increasingly dominates Iran.

In the Middle East we are witnessing a struggle between opposing terrorist networks for control of entire states. By withdrawing U.S. forces from Iraq, helping assure Assad’s victory in Syria, and failing to back Israel forcefully enough, Obama has empowered all the terrorist networks in the Middle East simultaneously.

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Choosing Not to Finish

from Iraq War Regrets in The National Review, a compendium of analysis.


I don’t feel remorse for advocating that America topple Saddam Hussein. I don’t feel remorse that Americans also fought long and hard to defeat the subsequent insurgency and create a stable (though highly imperfect) Iraqi state. In fact, we largely succeeded. The Iraq of 2008 was a more stable, more humane, and more peaceful country than the Iraq of Saddam Hussein. In 2011, even President Obama was proclaiming the progress.

I don’t feel remorse, but I do feel rage. I feel rage that President Obama threw aside the pleas of coalition partners in Iraq not to pull American forces entirely out of Iraq. I feel rage that he persisted in his hands-off approach even if it became abundantly clear that the jihadist threat was growing once again.

In this war, as in virtually every American war, we made serious mistakes — especially early — but we corrected those mistakes and brought our enemy to the very brink of ultimate defeat. But unlike in prior conflicts, our political leaders chose not to finish the job. They chose to abandon Iraq, forgetting a fundamental truth: Wars do not end simply because one side chooses to stop fighting.

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Sacrificing the Bad for the Worse


“In any event, Richard Nixon was gone, and the doctrine bearing his name was not about to be disinterred by a president who saw no need for it and even thought that the United States would be better off without allies like the Shah. And so—in what would seem in retrospect an unrecognized harbinger of World War IV—the Shah was toppled by the Ayatollah Khomeini. Just how blind the Carter administration was to this portentous development can be gauged by the fact that Andrew Young, Carter’s own ambassador to the UN, hailed the radical Islamist despot now ruling Iran as a saint and a great believer in human rights.”

Excerpt From: Podhoretz, Norman. “World War IV.” Doubleday, 2007-09-11. iBooks.

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The right often sacrifices the good for the perfect.  The left often sacrifices the bad for the worse.

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Excerpts from Destabilizer-in-Chief by Mario Loyola in National Review:

Influence is a function of power. Commitments have to be backed by real resources. Otherwise, as Walter Lippmann argued, your foreign policy is bankrupt. Once the Iraq War was over, the key task facing the U.S. was to ensure the strength and stability of Iraq’s governing institutions long enough for them to be able to stand on their own. This required above all that the factions see their future in cooperation under a U.S. umbrella rather than conflict fueled by extremism — exactly as with Egypt and Israel in the 1970s.

The continued presence of U.S. forces empowered us to underwrite the risks of reconciliation for those factions, in particular the Sunnis. That’s what made us indispensable mediators. As long as U.S. forces were present, U.S. diplomats had powerful levers with which to continue pushing Iraq’s factions toward compromise. But with our forces gone, our diplomats suddenly can’t convince any Iraqi of anything. And because the conflict is internal, we can’t solve it by arming competing governments, as we did with Israel and Egypt. Our allies within Iraq — those who had fought on our side, and who are that country’s best hopes for the future — were left helpless before the competing forces in the proxy war between Iran and the Gulf Kingdoms.

Though it is often said that the invasion of Iraq in 2003 was a strategic windfall for Iran, in fact Iran achieved nearly nothing with the considerable effort it expended arming Shiite militias and manufacturing potent IEDs to kill U.S. forces. By 2009, the Iranian-backed militias in Iraq had been utterly defeated and marginalized, and, Maliki’s obsequiousness to Iran aside, even the Shiite political parties backed the U.S. over Iran.

It took Obama to turn the Iraq War into a strategic windfall for Iran. And what a windfall it has been. The alliance of Syria, Russia, and Iran is everywhere in the ascendant. Obama has thrown away not only a priceless strategic position in Iraq, but indeed the dominant U.S. position in the whole Middle East, on which the stability of the region depended — along with any hope for Israeli–Palestinian peace.

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It Is about More than Iraq

Excerpts from Destabilizer-in-Chief by Mario Loyola in National Review:

The most basic reason to keep forces in Iraq after 2011 was not to continue the war — which was already over by the time Obama was sworn in as president — but rather so that we wouldn’t have to fight a major war in the Middle East again. Granted, U.S. forces had become necessary only as a result of the 2003 invasion and the toppling of Saddam. But simply ignoring that necessity and withdrawing the troops could not undo the Iraq War, any more than abandoning open-heart surgery midway can undo the initial incision.

The Obama administration makes the excuse that because Iraq’s National Assembly refused to pass a law granting immunity from local criminal prosecution for U.S. troops, we were forced to leave. This is preposterous, and the media should stop repeating it. Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki offered to issue an executive order that would have satisfied U.S. concerns. Indeed, minimal U.S. forces are now back in Iraq under cover of just such an executive order. But the bigger point is that we had just won the war. We had defeated all the warring factions in Iraq. By 2009 virtually all the factions had some degree of dependency on the U.S., and they all understood that we were going to leave when we were good and ready.

The central position the U.S. had achieved in the Middle East by 2009 was not merely the result of victory in the Iraq War. It was a position carefully built up over decades. It started in the 1950s and 1960s with a de facto protectorate of the oil-producing Gulf Kingdoms. It was consolidated in the 1970s with Secretary of State Henry Kissinger’s success in gaining Jordan’s trust and turning Egypt away from the Soviet Union and toward peace with Israel. And it was further built up by both of the wars with Iraq.

The Persian Gulf War, in 1991, left the U.S. alliance in such a powerful position that dozens of states recognized Israel, and Arab leaders agreed, for the first time since “the three no’s of Khartoum” in 1967, to sit across from Israelis in direct negotiations. The Israeli-Palestinian “peace process” that started in Oslo in 1993 was made possible only by the shift in the regional balance of power in favor of the U.S. and away from the extremists.

The U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 unleashed a proxy war between Iran’s Shiite extremists and the Sunni extremists of the Gulf Kingdoms, because we had taken down the dominant central power keeping that conflict at bay, namely Saddam. Al-Qaeda fighters from more backward parts of the Arab world streamed into Iraq through Syria and started murdering Shiites mercilessly. And when the reprisals came, all Sunnis were targeted — whether they were al-Qaeda or not, Iraqi or not. The Sunnis of Iraq, who are less prone to extremism than their brothers elsewhere, got caught in the crossfire.

But in 2007 and 2008, the U.S. decisively defeated all the forces that were actually fighting in this proxy war. By 2009, even Obama admitted that the U.S. had achieved a promising situation in Iraq. All the major political factions there overtly backed a long-term alliance with the United States. And the Sunni moderates in particular looked to America with desperate hope. We were the only force that could protect them from both al-Qaeda and the Shiite militias.

In short, we had assumed a role among Iraq’s factions similar to the central mediating role that the U.S. had achieved between Israel and Egypt during the Nixon and Ford administrations. Any peace agreement with the Arabs carries major risks for Israel — that is the essential problem in the Arab–Israeli conflict. It is also what makes the U.S. indispensable to any resolution. Only the U.S. can guarantee Israel’s security sufficiently to underwrite the risks of a peace agreement. Indeed, it is because we succeeded in that very role after the Yom Kippur War of 1973 that Egypt and Israel made peace at Camp David — in the United States.