Western values carry no weight in the world of Islam. The Bush administration charged into Iraq with little in the way of an end game, and under false pretenses at that. The over-decade-old mission has produced thousands of American deaths and tens of thousands of crippling injuries, never mind trillions of dollars in long-term cost.
Americans naively believe the rhetoric of, by example, former assistant to the president for National Security Affairs Stephen Hadley, who in the WSJ wrote Americans Can Be Proud of What Was Achieved in Iraq: “Americans helped build and train an Iraqi security force that numbers well over 500,000.”
Just how many ISIS fighters are today operating in Iraq? By most counts the number is the range of 10,000 fighters, with perhaps as many as a quarter foreign. Not much of an army in comparison to the size of the American-trained Iraqi security force. And Americans should be proud of the outcome visible today? I doubt that proud is the word that best describes the situation.
ISIS is well led, organized and funded. Through its raid on Mosul, ISIS may have made off with hundreds of millions of dollars from looted Mosul banks. ISIS now controls oilfields producing perhaps a couple of million dollars per day in revenue from oil smuggled into Iran and Turkey. Additional funding appears to be coming from the Gulf States, funneled through the Kuwaiti banking system. ISIS has captured tanks, artillery pieces (including Stinger surface-to-air missiles), and a large cache of M16 rifles. There is no question that ISIS must be defeated. At the recent Aspen Security Forum, General Martin Dempsey, chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff, stated, “They (ISIS) have to be, at the very least, initially contained and then disrupted and ultimately defeated. And what makes it very hard is that that ultimate defeat has to come from within the Sunni population.”
The Bush and Obama administrations have dragged Americans into a centuries-old religious war that has no end game. The basic elements of the original Weinberger/Powell Doctrine for intervention have today not been met, and Congress has not voted for military intervention in either Iraq or Syria.
The key foreign policy issue for every American is to make America safe. The Cato Institute’s Chris Preble in The Power Problem—How American Military Dominance Makes us Less Safe, Less Prosperous, and Less Free, concludes, “Our hyperactive foreign policy of the last twenty years has become an impediment to the spread of ideas that make this country great.”