Muhammad Idrees Ahmad writes: By now it is clear that US policy in Iraq and Syria is a disaster. In neither country has the situation been improved by the US military presence. In Iraq it empowers the same sectarian militias that forced alienated Sunnis into the arms of ISIS. In Syria it ignores, even accommodates, the regime whose brutality spawned the jihadi menace in the first place. In both its actions address symptoms rather than causes and alienate people without providing any commensurate security gains.
But would the situation improve if the United States were to withdraw? Ask the Yazidis of Iraq, whose tragedy would have been much larger had it not been for the timely US intervention; ask the Kurds of Syria, who would have been routed in Kobani had it not been for the sustained airstrikes that helped them repel an ISIS offensive. The Sunnis of Iraq might well ask who would protect them from the revanchist fury of the newly empowered sectarian militias, absent a US presence.
The issue then is not so much the fact of US military involvement as the nature of this involvement.
The United States bears responsibility for much of the current turmoil in the Levant. Had it not been for George W. Bush’s war and the fracturing of the Iraqi society, the region wouldn’t have turned into an incubator for jihadism. Had it not been for Barack Obama’s betrayal of the Syrian revolution — by making lofty promises and offering meager support; by following brave words with conspicuous inaction; and by demanding that Syrians submit their political aspirations to US security concerns — a quarter-million people would not have lost their lives, millions would not have been displaced, and thousands would not have drowned. The region suffers today from neoconservative sins of commission and realist sins of omission.
The United States could exit the Middle East and, in Sarah Palin’s immortal words, “let Allah sort it out.” But it would have condemned the region to perpetual war. Isolationism in the face of serious geopolitical challenges is not only an abdication of responsibility, but also a recipe for disaster. [Continue reading…]