Robin Wright writes: Let’s be honest. The United States has crossed the threshold on Iraq. We’re in it to salvage the country — again — using American military might.
But the mission has also, very quickly, grown much bigger in less than two weeks. U.S. warplanes are no longer simply helping create escape routes for the Yazidis or protecting American personnel in Irbil in Iraqi Kurdistan. The U.S. is now directly taking on the world’s most militant extremist group, bombing its positions at the Mosul dam and beyond.
And it’s probably only the beginning.
President Obama implied as much Monday. The Islamic State, formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, is “a savage group that seems willing to slaughter people for no rhyme or reason other than they have not kowtowed,” he told reporters. The United States has a national security interest in making sure “that a group like that is contained, because ultimately they can pose a threat to us.”
The U.S., however, is already doing more than containing the Islamic State. Washington has now dispatched warplanes to aggressively push back the Islamic State, and the pretense of doing anything less should end.
But so should the illusion about what it will take to achieve that goal. The Operation Without a Name should not be an operation without a well-defined mission — or without a “winning” exit strategy.
Given the human heartache and political headache from the last Iraq intervention, not to mention the mess left behind, Washington needs to be honest upfront in answering basic questions. I’ve spent decades on the ground and in the minutiae of the Middle East, including Iraq, and I can’t yet discern the specifics of Washington’s intentions. [Continue reading…]