Aug 12

Limits of Airstrikes Hinder U.S. Policy in Iraq - WSJ -

Mission creep. No one should be surprised, Obama included - David C. Unger

After four days of pounding targets in northern Iraq, U.S. officials warned Monday that the campaign was unlikely to inflict serious damage to the militant group now controlling large parts of Iraq and Syria.

The airstrikes’ modest impact poses a strategic conundrum for President Barack Obama, who must decide whether to limit American military operations in Iraq once his objectives are met or expand the U.S. role to defeat the Sunni extremist forces, which have threatened to attack Americans.

Already there are signs that the military involvement could expand. The U.S. is pursuing an aggressive new strategy to directly arm Kurdish forces battling the Islamic State in northern Iraq. Such a move could embolden the Kurds, who have long sought to break away from Baghdad’s influence, and further draw the U.S. into the fray.

Aug 11

Steven Simon | The Unintended Consequences of Air Strikes in Iraq | Foreign Affairs -

Unintended consequences of Obama’s decision to bomb in Iraq

"Air strikes are undoubtedly necessary for the narrow purposes stipulated by Obama. But they will have a wide range of unintended consequences — some relatively manageable, others less so."

The Executive Editor on the Word 'Torture' - -

Obama has decided that torturers won’t be prosecuted, so NYT can now call them torturers - David C. Unger

"Meanwhile, the Justice Department, under both the Bush and Obama administrations, has made clear that it will not prosecute in connection with the interrogation program. The result is that today, the debate is focused less on whether the methods violated a statute or treaty provision and more on whether they worked – that is, whether they generated useful information that the government could not otherwise have obtained from prisoners. In that context, the disputed legal meaning of the word “torture” is secondary to the common meaning: the intentional infliction of pain to make someone talk."

A Crisis a Century in the Making - -

"The lesson is that America can use its military power to contain, but not resolve, paroxysms of violence in the Arab world as it is now drawn. That would require constitutional arrangements that would allow for genuine power-sharing — a modern iteration of the Ottoman Empire’s workable balance, on a nation-by-nation scale. That alone will bring to the Arab world the peace that eluded it at the end of World War I.

This is a job for our diplomats more than for our soldiers. We can start in Iraq, hoping that success there will help the rest of the region as well.”

The C.I.A. and Torture - -

"President Obama and Congress must work to put the C.I.A. on the path of getting out of the torture business. The Detainee Treatment Act of 2005 created a common standard for interrogations by the Defense Department.

Congress should do something similar for the C.I.A. by passing legislation to take the agency out of the detention business, “

Baghdadi of ISIS Pushes an Islamist Crusade - -

If only US had stayed longer in Iraq? If only the US had gotten involved earlier with Syrian moderate opposition? Think again - David C. Unger

"At every turn, Mr. Baghdadi’s rise has been shaped by the United States’ involvement in Iraq — most of the political changes that fueled his fight, or led to his promotion, were born directly from some American action. And now he has forced a new chapter of that intervention, after ISIS’ military successes and brutal massacres of minorities in its advance prompted President Obama to order airstrikes in Iraq."

Aug 10

Back to Iraq - -

"IT was exhilarating to drop a bunch of 500-pound bombs on whatstheirname.

Just when Americans thought they could stop trying to figure out the difference between Sunnis and Shiites, we’re in a new war in Iraq with some bad “folks,” as the president might say, whose name we’re still fuzzy on.”

Iraq Airstrikes May Continue for Months, Obama Says - -

Not a formula for limited war - David C. Unger

"Mr. Obama said an inclusive government would give all Iraqis a reason to believe that they were represented, and Iraqi military forces a motive to fight back against the militants. Once that happens, he said, the American military, working with Iraqi and Kurdish fighters, can “engage in some offense.”"

Aug 09

U.S. jets take to skies again over northern Iraq, a day after strikes on Islamic State - The Washington Post -

Time for the War Powers Act - David C. Unger

""President Obama said Saturday that U.S. airstrikes in northern Iraq would remain sharply limited so long as the nation’s political leadership remains divided along sectarian lines. But he held out the possibility of more aggressive military intervention if a unified government emerges and said the current crisis is unlikely to be resolved soon.

“I don’t think we’re going to solve this problem in weeks,” Obama said. “I think this is going to take some time.””

Bipartisan Support, With Caveats, for Obama on Iraq Airstrikes - -

Remember Somalia. There is no such thing as humanitarian military intervention. And there is no such thing as presidential authority to enter a war without congressional authorization - David C.Unger