San Jose Mercury News
Trying to follow the turmoil in Iraq can be a bit like reading a Dostoevsky novel for the first time. The intricate plot can be confusing, you need a scorecard to keep the characters straight, but there’s plenty of far-reaching drama.
Make no mistake, there’s drama aplenty in Iraq now, and it is so far-reaching that it may affect us all.
The nation invaded by a U.S.-led coalition, torn apart by the ensuing war and struggling to rebuild since then is once again in disarray, and that isn’t good for anyone except arms dealers.
Insurgent forces known as ISIS, or Islamic State of Iraq al-Sham, systematically have taken stretches of territory controlled by the Iraqi government. ISIS militias have taken Mosul, the nation’s second-largest city, and are moving toward Baghdad against alarmingly impotent resistance.
The forces captured a huge oil refinery in northern Iraq and gained control of what used to be a chemical weapons facility the next day.
These guys are not your garden-variety zealots. They are so radical that even al-Qaida, from whence they arose, considers them extreme. Enough said.
Matters are so strange that there was talk about the U.S. teaming with Iran to help drive ISIS out. It’s a bad idea, but it demonstrates the moment’s seriousness.
Information is conflicting, muddled or tainted. But we are certain on a few things.
First is the obvious: Iraq is a mess. It has been since before we invaded in 2003. It’s possible that the huge divides between Shiites, Sunni and Kurds is so deep that modern Iraq is ungovernable.
Second, ISIS sees what most of us classify as terrorism as merely a means to an end. An Iraq ruled by this faction would be even more of a disaster than the current feckless government has created.
Third, partisan bickering in this country helps not at all. It is irresponsible to treat this complex circumstance as if it can be resolved with pat, bumper-sticker solutions.
Fourth, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s actions favoring his Shiite brethren are at least partly responsible for ISIS’ rise. The Obama administration has made it clear al-Maliki should leave.
But late last week Obama committed to sending military advisers and hinted the U.S. might employ airstrikes, if needed.
One thing we can conclude today is that sending U.S. ground troops back into Iraq is no answer.
The war that George W. Bush and Dick Cheney promised Americans would be as brief as it would be victorious instead has cost this nation much blood and treasure with paltry results.
Americans don’t have the stomach or political resolve to support another ground war.
It would only bring American families further heartache without offering a realistic chance of success.