The Cato Institute’s Ben Friedman lays out the proper course for America.
The major reason using force to defend Iraq’s government is a bad idea is that it always was. Advocates of going into Iraq, like advocates of staying in Iraq in past years, tend to employ sunk costs logic, where the pursuit of a dumb idea before somehow makes it sensible now. Invocations of dead and wounded Americans’ sacrifice give such thinking added resonance but do not make it sensible.
A second reason to stay out of Iraq’s turmoil is its increasingly sectarian nature. President Obama today repeated the claim that we building a multiethnic military in Iraq. But, as Barry Posen pointed out at Cato yesterday (1:02 here), that has been revealed as a sham, just like the claims made over the years by our political and military leaders that we were making progress toward building an effective Iraqi military. The effective part of Iraqi military that can hold Baghdad, we hope, is its Shiite core. The reality is that we’re talking about protecting a Shiite regime against Sunni rebels, not restoring a multiethnic state.
The third reason to stay out is that we know how hard getting out is. Bombing ISIS on behalf of the Iraqi government may not change the balance of power in Iraq very much. If we again prop up a weak government, we may simply delay the day when Iraq develops a political system that matches its domestic balance of power. That seems likely to be a long, violent process that our participation may only delay.
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