Wednesday, April 20, 2016 at 7:51 AM

Obama Continues Vietnam-Style Mission Creep in Iraq (Afghanistan and Syria)

Posted by Anthony L. Hall

U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter announced Monday the United States will send 217 additional troops to Iraq to serve as advisers and trainers…

The new forces, which will raise the U.S. troop presence in Iraq to more than 4,000, will be allowed to advise at the battalion and brigade level, rather than be restricted to the division level, Carter said, which means they are closer to the front lines and at greater risk…

Both the troops and the Apaches are expected to play a role in the upcoming offensive by Iraqi security forces to retake Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, from ISIS.

(CNN, April 19, 2016)


Both Secretary Carter and President Obama supplemented this announcement with TV interviews. Except that they spent most of their time trying to reassure the American people that these U.S. troops will have no combat role. Which, in the circumstances, is rather like a pregnant teenager trying to reassure her parents that she’s only a little pregnant.

After all, it is well established that, when any Iraqi battalion or brigade enters combat, not only will embedded U.S. troops take the lead, but Iraqi troops will expect them to. Remember, the reason ISIS won the battle for Mosul in the first place is that Iraqi soldiers demonstrated an open and notorious lack of will to fight; this, despite 13 years of U.S. troops advising and training them to fight such battles.

Republicans have spent the past seven years trying to convince the American people that Obama is delusional. But they never made any sense because they invariably cited perfectly sensible policies – like immigration reform, healthcare reform, and the nuclear deal with Iran – as symptoms of his delusion.

Instead, they should have cited his policies on Iraq and Afghanistan, on which Obama has spent the past seven years manifesting clinical symptoms of delusion. Notably, on the one hand, he has made of show of withdrawing troops in droves and declaring an end to both wars; while on the other hand, he has made a mockery of his declarations (of mission accomplished?) by redeploying troops in trickles to both countries.

u1_missionaccomplishedUnfortunately, Republicans have distinguished themselves by their uncompromising, partisan, incomprehensible and often hypocritical opposition to Obama. Only this explains why, instead of citing Obama’s policies on Iraq and Afghanistan, they’ve been railing against him for not redeploying even more troops to die in Bush’s unwinnable wars.

Recall that, under former President George W. Bush, U.S. troops were supposed to help Iraqis build a country that could govern itself, sustain itself, and defend itself. Instead, U.S. troops have done little more than unleash the death, destruction, and disillusionment that have characterized life in Iraq over the past decade.

Under Obama, U.S. troops were supposed to train Iraqis to defeat ISIS insurgents. Instead, when left to fend for themselves, Iraqis have done little more than hightail it and run, abandoning hundreds of millions in U.S.-provided military equipment in the process.

Of course, Bush and Obama have presided over similar missions in Afghanistan … with equally feckless results.

obamasalute-300x213I have been decrying these missions for years now – as evidenced by such commentaries as “The Shotgun Convention of Sunnis, Shias, and Kurds to Frame an Iraqi Constitution,” August 22, 2005, “Obama Saluting War Dead Will Be Defining Image of His Presidency,” October 30, 2009, “’Without [or even with] More Troops, Failure in Afghanistan Is Likely,’” September 23, 2009, “Demystifying ISIS: Case against Obama’s Bush-Lite War on Terrorism,” September 10, 2014, “Bombing ISIS Smacks of Masturbatory Violence,” November 18, 2015, and many, many more.

Accordingly, instead of decrying this latest mission creep, I shall reprise an instructive excerpt from “Why Have 300 Troops in Iraq When 3000 Will Do,” June 20, 2014.


Republican Senator John McCain has been front and center in the peanut gallery of those screaming that Iraq is falling apart today because Obama withdrew all U.S. troops in 2011.

You’ve probably heard their chicken-and-egg complaint about Obama torpedoing negotiations for a stabilization force to remain in Iraq, indefinitely, by offering a low-ball number of only 300 troops. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki (and U.S. generals, aping their Vietnam counterparts) requested 15,000 to 18,000…

ISIS-soldiersExcept that, with rampaging jihadists calling themselves ISIS/ISIL now marching on Baghdad, al-Maliki is so desperate he would’ve thanked Allah if Obama had announced yesterday that he’s offering just 30 instead of 300 U.S. troops.

All the same, Obama should be compelled to explain why he thinks 300 troops will have a stabilizing effect on Iraq today, with a full-scale sectarian war raging, when he clearly thought 3000 were needed in 2011, when Iraq was already relatively stable.

You’d think Obama would know better than to dump U.S. troops into the midst of a foreign civil war/sectarian insurgency, and then propagate the obvious fiction that they will not be engaged in combat. It’s as if he has never heard of the military truism, ‘mission creep.’ Remember, JFK dispatched a few troops as advisers and propagated the same fiction in the early days of the Vietnam War.

(“Sunnis, Shias, Kurds Fighting for Control of Iraq. Stay Out, America!” The iPINIONS Journal, June 19, 2014)

Like I said, just another “march of folly”!

Not to mention the galling sense of entitlement inherent in al-Maliki not only defying Obama’s calls to form a more inclusive government, but also dictating to Obama what he needs from the United States to prevent insurgents from blowing Iraq asunder. And all of this is playing out in the backdrop of the Iraqi soldiers the United States spent so many years and billions training just laying down their weapons and surrendering to the insurgents like lambs to the slaughter.

But one could hardly blame the Iraqis; after all, their training over the past 10 years consisted primarily of the United States dressing and equipping them to look like soldiers but having U.S. forces do most of the fighting for them. This is why, far from building a nation, the United States has created an unruly, yet terminally dependent, monster.

Accordingly, I reiterate that the United States has long since paid its debt (in blood and treasure) for its ill-fated invasion of Iraq. And that, notwithstanding General Powell’s Pottery Barn (you-break-it-you-own-it) doctrine, the best thing the United States can do for Iraq at this point is to leave it to its own devices.


Screen Shot 2016-04-19 at 10.00.28 PMFurther to his delusion, Obama stated during an interview on the CBS Morning Show yesterday, without any hint of irony, that these additional troops should stabilize Iraq by the end of his term (i.e., this year). But this might be even more delusional than Bush declaring, during a December 20, 2004, interview with Yedioth Aharonoth, that he would manage to bring peace between Israel and the Palestinians before the end of his term.

In fact, nothing betrays Obama’s delusion quite like the following headline – from a Huffington Post report on the Naval Special Warfare Command, which trains the “advisers” being redeployed to Iraq:

These Elite Troops Spent 15 years At War. This Program Tries To Prepare Their Minds And Bodies For The Next 15.

I can’t make this stuff up, folks.

As the title to this commentary indicates, we need only to look to the way the Vietnam War unfolded to appreciate the continuing march of folly this latest mission creep in Iraq represents.

1031588009If that history is not lesson enough, however, then surely the war zone that is Afghanistan even to this day should suffice:

A Taliban suicide bomb and gun assault on a government security building during Tuesday morning rush hour in central Kabul killed at least [64] people and wounded more than [300], in the most deadly single attack in the Afghan capital since 2011.

President Ashraf Ghani condemned the assault “in the strongest possible terms” in a statement from the presidential palace, located only a few hundred meters away from the scene of the blast.

The insurgency led by the Afghan Taliban has gained strength since the withdrawal of most international combat troops at the end of 2014, and the Islamist group is believed to be stronger than at any point since it was driven from power by U.S.-backed forces in 2001.

(Reuters, April 19, 2016)

As for Syria, remember this humiliating, costly, and all too predictable farce?

American-trained Syrian fighters gave at least a quarter of their U.S.-provided equipment to al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria early this week, the U.S. Central Command said late Friday. In a statement correcting earlier assertions that reports of the turnover were a ‘lie’ and a militant propaganda ploy, the command said it was subsequently notified that the Syrian unit had “surrendered” some of its equipment — including six pickup trucks and a portion of its ammunition — to Jabhat al-Nusra, al-Qaeda’s arm in Syria.

The acknowledgment is the latest discouraging report regarding the $500 million train-and-equip program, which Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, head of Central Command, said last week had only ‘four or five’ trained Syrian fighters active in Syria.

(Washington Post, September 25, 2015)

The title to my latest commentary on the Vietnamization of this conflict is: “Obama Amassing Coalition to Do in Syria What Bush Did in Afghanistan/Iraq,” September 30, 2015. It sounds my familiar lament about Obama deploying U.S. advisers, in patented mission-creep fashion, to train local fighters — who often seem more interested in killing them than ISIS terrorists. Again, that Obama continues sending troops on these untenable, non-combat missions makes him seem delusional. Which is why I ridiculed him on point in “Why Isn’t Combat against ISIS Combat? Er, Because Obama Says So…?” November 6, 2015.

Then, of course, there’s the imperial hypocrisy inherent in the United States intervening in Syria, in defiance of the sovereign authority of the Syrian government, while condemning Russia for doing the same in Ukraine. At least Russia can point to the express invitation of President Bashir Assad to justify its intervention in the international conflagration the conflict in Syria has become.

In any event, these are just some of the myriad reasons I wrote “Perhaps Only Authoritarian Regimes Can Govern Arab Countries,” June 11, 2014, which presaged Carter and Obama’s Groundhog-Day announcement about redeploying U.S. troops to Iraq.


Just yesterday, Iraq’s democratically elected prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki, was making hollow pledges to combat Islamic militants who had just seized control of Mosul, the country’s second largest city. Hollow because al-Maliki made similar pledges in January after these same militants – comprised of al-Qaeda acolytes calling themselves, variously, Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) or Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) – seized control of Fallujah, a key city in western Iraq, which remains firmly under their control…

Recall that U.S. forces fought two battles to wrest control of Fallujah from insurgents in 2004. The second one was “the bloodiest battle in the entire war,” during which 95 U.S. troops were killed and 560 wounded…

The point is that there was clearly far greater security in Iraq under Saddam Hussein’s 24-year authoritarian regime … than there has been under the democratically elected governments that succeeded [him]. Indeed, one can hardly blame Iraqis for … pining for the return of an authoritarian regime to restore peace and security.


Enough said?

Related commentaries:
Obama saluting war dead
Shotgun convention
Demystifying ISIS
Sunnis, Shias, Kurds fighting for control
Only authoritarian regimes
Why isn’t combat … combat

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