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Posted by on May 24, 2015 in Foreign Policy, Iraq Invasion, ISIS, Jeb Bush, Leadership, politics, President Obama, Progressive policy, Progressive Think Tank, Progressives, Public Policy, Terrorism, Think Tank, Uncategorized | 2 comments

Won’t Get Fooled Again

Legend has it that Prometheus stole from the Gods fire, which he gave to man. For this affront Zeus took his revenge by bequeathing mankind another gift, this time a jar incorrectly labeled a box. And the box which contained the evils of the world was entrusted to a curious but foolish young girl who contrary to all advice opened the box and in the process set loose the hounds of hell.

The Iraq invasion and occupation is our Pandora’s Box. And since the opening of this particular container the world has become a much more dangerous, more unstable place. This week, the terrorist organization known as ISIS secured two key military victories.

Via a well-coordinated wave of truck bombs that paved the way for fighters to pour in and rout dug-in Iraqi forces, ISIS captured the key city of Ramadi, capital of the Anbar province. An estimated 500 soldiers and civilians were killed in the campaign and thousands of refugees fled to neighboring Baghdad.

The second victory was the capture of the ancient Syrian town of Palmyra. Syrian government forces collapsed in the face of ISIS attacks and withdrew from the town late Wednesday. According to the Wall Street Journal, before fleeing the National Defense Forces evacuated civilians as militants took control of residential areas and established themselves in the City’s nearby ruins.

Palmyra is significant because it allows ISIS militants to advance to key government-held areas such as Damascus and the Syrian coast to the south and southwest. Palmyra is also located near important gas and oil fields. And in both cases the $400 million dollar US trained Iraq army fled, surrendering millions of dollars in vital military hardware and supplies to the terrorist.

Some have blamed the current administration for these setbacks. The argument is that “ISIS did not exist during the Bush administration and that the surge of 2007 not only wiped out Al Qaeda, but created a fragile but stable Iraq that President Obama could have built on.” Instead, according to these voices, the current administration withdrew American troops from Iraq for purely partisan and specious political reasons. “

We admit that neither the President nor the former Secretary of State and Presidential candidate are above criticism. And we await demonstrative evidence that the current policy will yield a stable Middle East and a world free of terrorism. There is also merit to the proposition that even though past mistakes were made, now is not the time to look backwards. Nonetheless, this administration for all its shortcomings can hardly be faulted for the disastrous consequences of the Iraqi invasion and occupation. Moreover, while we must not obsess about the past, we should nevertheless learn from it.

Prior to the ill advised decision to invade, Al Qaeda had no presence in Iraq, the pronouncements of certain politicians notwithstanding. Rather, Al Qaeda migrated to Iraq in response to the invasion/occupation. Moreover, ISIS was not caused by the recent withdrawal of US forces. It was instead created in 2003, as a direct consequence of the de-Baathification of the Iraq army and government.

Nor did the surge wipe out Al Qaeda or create stability in Iraq or anywhere else in the Middle East. It merely gave the prior administration political cover by which to declare victory and negotiate the withdrawal of American troops. This is precisely what President Bush did via the Status of Service Agreement. The withdrawal of US troops by the current President was done pursuant to this agreement and was entirely in keeping with the stated desires of the Iraqi government.

In 1971, the English rock band “The Who” recorded the antiwar anthem “Won’t be Fooled Again.” On this Memorial Day weekend, when we honor those who have served this country, the following words of the song ring especially true:

“We’ll be fighting in the streets
With our children at our feet
And the morals that they worship will be gone
And the men who spurred us on
Sit in judgment of all wrong
They decide and the shotgun sings the song”
In summation, our foreign policy, especially as it pertains to the Middle East should be debated. Perhaps we do need a more vigorous approach? Maybe boots on the ground; American soldiers in Iraqi is the answer? And quite possibly the current administration cannot free us from the morass that is Iraq? The problem of ISIS and international terrorism is not going away and does indeed pose a threat to the US and the world.

But we must be careful. We must not be fooled again by repeating the mistakes of the past. And we cannot, we must not reopen Pandora’s Box” by listening to the very voices which have been consistently wrong and which got us into this mess in the first place.

As The Who” so correctly counseled, “meet the new boss, same as the old boss.”

Leo Barron Hicks, President and CEO
Blackacre Policy Forum

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