July 14, 2008
Iraq and the Surrounding Region, As Obama Wanted ItBy Patrick J. Casey
It's worthwhile for us to imagine what Iraq would look like today had Barack Obama been in control way back in 2007, particularly as Iran launches missiles over the Persian Gulf and continues its unabated quest for nuclear weapons. How would we be positioned to deal with the Iranian Threat? (At the moment, Obama's only response is to blame the Bush Administration and call for stronger diplomacy.
During 2007, Obama had very specific suggestions on what we should do militarily in Iraq. Had we gone along with them, as most Democrats other than Joe Lieberman wanted to, and taking into account the trends that were present in Iraq during 2006 and pre-surge 2007, what would that region look like now?
On April 10th 2007, Barack Obama participated in a Town Hall forum for Presidential candidates sponsored by Moveon.org. This was three months after President Bush announced his plan for the surge in Iraq, but before it had been fully implemented. Obama promised the audience that if he were to have his way, he would begin unconditional troop withdrawals on May 1st, 2007, and that the last troops would leave Iraq by March 31, 2008.
Obama indicated that there was no military solution in Iraq, and had himself introduced legislation in January 2007 to force his timetable on the troops. That legislation, The Iraq War De-escalation Act of 2007, would have also prevented the surge troops from being deployed.
The Bugging Out Scenario
Luckily, the world will never experience what the region would look like had Barack Obama had his way. But at the very least, it is safe to say violence would have continued to increase rather than decrease (as it had been trending), and 15 of the 18 political benchmarks would certainly not have been reached.
So let's look at the scenario of Obama's unconditional "bugging out" of US troops from Iraq in a bit more detail than just an assumption that things would have gone, generally, to hell. The violence within Iraq that erupted in 2006, especially after the al-Askari Mosque bombing, seemed to portend the eventual breakup of Iraq, had the surge not taken place. At that time, it was difficult to argue against the viewpoint that we were watching the disintegration of the country of Iraq before our eyes, and doing nothing proactive to stop it.
Had Obama had his way, there's a good chance that Iran would have fully taken over the Shia region in southern Iraq both directly and via its proxy Muqtada al-Sadr, separating it from the rest of Iraq and fulfilling its desire for a larger Shia Islamic State. That would have meant that Iran would have not only controlled its own oil, but also a significant part of Iraqi oil as well. The Mullahs and Ahmadinejad might well be running Basra, the oil platforms in the Persian Gulf, the al Faw peninsula and the port of Umm Qsar -- making it uncomfortably easy for Iran to shut off the flow of Middle East oil and shipping to the rest of the world.
In the north, there would be a separate war going on, potentially involving several different countries -- a conflict much worse that the current occasional border skirmish between the Kurds and Turks. As Northern Iraq could have broken off from Baghdad in the face of other disintegration, there's a good chance that Turkey would either be contemplating or have already commenced a full scale invasion of the breakway Kurdish region -- since the expressed goal of many of the Northern Iraqi Kurds is to eventually unite all of historical Kurdistan in one large independent country, something Turkey has vowed to prevent militarily. Since the territory of Kurdistan includes not only land currently located in Iraq and Turkey, but also territory in Iran and Syria, the situation wouldn't have been pretty.
That would leave the traditional Sunni territory surrounding Baghdad alone, and with little or no natural resources. The capital city itself would probably look a lot like Beirut right now, with Al Qaeda in control, and would remain under terrorist control for the foreseeable future.
As all of this would have been taking place, one or two brigades of combat troops a month would have been leaving Iraq under orders from Obama, putting increased pressure on the remaining US troops. Both Al Qaeda and Iran would be justifiably claiming victory over America, handing them the greatest recruitment tool for terrorist groups ever seen. Terrorist attacks against our troops in Iraq and elsewhere with the resultant loss of life and injuries would be increasing, rather than decreasing.
Pressure to Return
What would be the rest of the world's reaction? It's safe to say that there would be mounting international pressure on the United States to stop its retreat and go back into Iraq forcefully -- essentially to fix what had been broken. If Obama decided to do so (remember, he said that there was no military solution), it would then require fighting a larger regional war in Iraq on three major fronts:
1) in the north against the forces and influences of Turkey, Iran, and Syria;
2) in the south against al-Sadr and Iran; and
3) in central Iraq on the streets of Baghdad against Al Qaeda.
Such military action would have required many times more than the number of surge troops that President Bush ordered into Iraq (and Obama tried to stop) in January of 2007.
It's also important to note that the primary reason why Iraq was spiraling out of control in 2006 was not because of military action, but because of the lack of it. The United States had stopped aggressively prosecuting the war, instead choosing to use diplomacy as its main instrument in addressing the deteriorating situation within the country. In essence, we had stopped fighting the war offensively prior to the enemy being vanquished and real security established. Call it the State Department method of conducting warfare. That was the strategy that needed to be changed, and President Bush did so by replacing the failed commanders in the region and launching the surge. Barack Obama, on the other hand, while publicly requesting "a change in tactics", offered only a plan (S.433) of retreat and surrender.
Today, we must look back at the clearly stated actions (retreat, no surge) that Obama wanted to take in 2007, and compare them to the results that we can see today of the change in strategy ordered by President Bush that the presumed Democratic Presidential nominee so forcefully opposed at that time.
With that in mind, why should we trust anything that Obama now says about diplomacy or military action in the region that includes Iraq and Iran? If there is even a second of hesitation in answering that question, then Barack Obama should not be elected President and Commander-in-Chief of our armed forces, especially during a time of war.
Our enemies are licking their chops....