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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.

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Foreign Aid and Moral Supremacy

from The Folly of the 0.7% Foreign-Aid Solution by Ian Birrell in the WSJ:

Yet this concept is increasingly discredited in both donor and recipient countries. Study after study has found aid to be ineffective and even counterproductive: Big flows of foreign money fuel corruption, fan conflict and undermine democracy by encouraging poorer countries to place more emphasis on donor demands than on the desires of their people.

The latest one-time believer to turn against what he calls the “aid illusion” is Angus Deaton, an economics professor at Princeton University and a leading expert on measuring global poverty. “We should not be running our aid policies to keep an aid industry going and let them have moral superiority over the rest of us,” he told me.

If Western politicians want to buy virtue by helping the developing world, they should tear down the walls of trade protection, tackle the tides of dirty money that undermine democracy, loosen immigration controls so people can go abroad to earn and send home remittances, and invest in fighting diseases that kill poor people. But please stop posing as saviors of the poor by promoting an absurd, outdated and destructive target of scattering 0.7% of a developed nation’s wealth every year abroad and calling that a cure for the world’s ills.

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Korean Lessons Unlearned


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

The Korean War is justly remembered as a valiant struggle. And yet the conflict could have been avoided but for a major blunder on the part of the Truman administration. The year before South Korea was attacked, the U.S. withdrew the forces it had left there in the wake of World War II. It was the ensuing vacuum of power that precipitated that terrible war.

The lesson has been lost on most Americans, starting with Barack Obama. Bent on withdrawing U.S. power from the Middle East, Obama removed the major counterweight to the competing extremist forces there. As a result, the conflicts smoldering beneath the surface have burst into a major conflagration in a region that is far more vital to U.S. interests than Korea was.

When the U.S. withdrew its forces from Korea in the spring of 1949 — against the advice of commanders on the ground — it left behind a lightly armed dictatorship in no condition to defend itself. And then, in January 1950, Secretary of State Dean Acheson delivered his famous “perimeter speech,” which pointedly left South Korea outside our postwar military perimeter along the Pacific Rim.

It was an irresistible invitation for the North to invade, and when Kim Il-sung accepted it in June 1950, he bulldozed over the South’s army and rapidly engulfed most of the country. The Truman administration reacted quickly, and American forces began pouring into the vanishing redoubt in Pusan, at the southeastern tip of the peninsula.

Somebody should have pointed out to Truman in 1949 that, having withdrawn the garrison and left South Korea a sitting duck, he had made a North Korean invasion much more likely. If the U.S. was prepared to fight in Korea, it should have left sufficient forces there to deter an attack in the first place. Bolstering a dictatorship like Syngman Rhee’s was hardly palatable, but we ended up having no choice.

U.S. forces in Korea eventually reached 330,000 troops. And, in a horrific irony, the number of U.S. soldiers killed or missing in action proved almost exactly the same as the number we withdrew in 1949. In many cases the Americans who died in Korea were the same soldiers we had withdrawn to Japan a year or two earlier. Little did they know that, by being withdrawn from Korea too soon, they were being sent to their graves.

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Ending a War Badly


Victor Davis Hansen writes in the National Review How Obama Lost the Middle East

The more Obama campaigned in 2008 on a failed war in Iraq, a neglected war in Afghanistan, an ill-considered War on Terror, and an alienated Middle East, the more those talking points were outdated and eclipsed by fast-moving events on the ground. By Inauguration Day in January 2009, the hard-power surge had largely defeated al-Qaeda in Iraq. It had won over many of the Sunnis and had led to a U.S.-enforced coalition government, monitored by American troops.

But there remained one caveat: What had been won on the ground could be just as easily lost if the U.S. did not leave behind peacekeepers in the manner that it had in all its past successful interventions: the Balkans, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Philippines, and South Korea.

Likewise, the once-derided “War on Terror” measures — Guantanamo, the Patriot Act, military tribunals, preventative detentions, renditions, and drones — by 2009 had largely worked. Since 9/11, America had foiled dozens of terrorist plots against our homeland and neutralized terrorists abroad, killing tens of thousands in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

Obama for a while privately accepted that truth and thereby continued many of the very protocols that he had once derided.

But there was again one problem. Obama kept posturing to the world that he would close Guantanamo and substitute civilian trials for military tribunals. He continued to say that he did not enjoy using renditions or drones — even as he upped the latter’s deadly missions tenfold.

Once more in the Middle East, Barack Obama is looking to blame others for a mess that has grown since 2009. But mostly he just wants out of the lose-lose region at any cost and wishes that someone would just make all the bad things go away.


Perhaps it is ultimately more costly to end a war badly than to begin badly.  Effective diplomacy relies on your allies and your enemies knowing what you stand for.  Consistency and clarity has great value. There is no place for meaningless threats and constant self doubt.

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Kurdish Success

Victor Davis Hanson writes in Investment Business Daily, Revisionists Have A Field Day On Why We Invaded Iraq.


 Prior to our invasion, the Kurds were a persecuted people who had been gassed, slaughtered and robbed of all rights by Saddam. In contrast, today a semi-autonomous Kurdistan is a free-market, consensual society of tolerance that, along with Israel, is one of the few humane places in the Middle East.

Nor should we forget that the U.S. military decimated al-Qaida in Iraq. Tens of thousands of foreign terrorists flocked to Anbar province and there met their deaths. When Obama later declared that al-Qaida was “on the run,” it was largely because it had been nearly obliterated in Iraq.

Launching a costly campaign to remove Saddam may or may not have been a wise move. But it is historically inaccurate to suggest that the Iraq War was cooked up by George W. Bush alone — or that it did not do enormous damage to al-Qaida, bring salvation for the Kurds and by 2009 provide a rare chance for the now-bickering Iraqis to make something out of what Saddam had tried to destroy.


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