President Barack Obama is being lambasted by US Republicans for admitting that “we don’t have a strategy yet” for dealing with the rise of the militant group, ISIS, or Islamic State, as it’s now known.
Given that the US had made an unbelievable mess of its Mideast policies, the president is right to pause and think, something his shoot –from- the- lip Republican critics rarely do. They are demanding the US attack both Iraq and Syria without asking “what then oh brave Washington warriors?” These are the Republicans who ardently supported George Bush’s catastrophic invasion and destruction of Iraq.
The problem is that too many cooks in Washington are spoiling its Mideast soup. In his magnificent new book, “The Sleepwalkers,” Prof. Christopher Clark of Cambridge describes how World War I was in part ignited by small numbers of anti-German officials in France, Russia, Serbia and Britain who often undermined their own government’s moderate policies.
The same process occurred under President George W. Bush when cabals of neocon officials in the Pentagon, State Department, CIA and media drove the US into a calamitous war whose negative effects are still being felt.
Today, other pro-war cliques in official Washington are at it again, each trying to dominate policy. Add a bunch of pro-Israel billionaires who have bought both the Republican and Democratic parties, apparently including Hillary Clinton, the front-runner for the Democratic nomination for president.
President Obama has always found it extremely difficult to impose his will on all these different factions, even more now that he’s a lame duck. He has repeatedly made clear that he wants to avoid any new wars, but while allowing drone attacks to increase.
Both party politics and the need to shore up America’s shaky Mideast imperium – which I call the American Raj – are pushing Obama towards military action.
So we see small numbers of US troops being sent back to Iraq – enough men to get the nation stuck in a new conflict but not enough to make a major difference. In short, the worst of both worlds.