POLITICS

Can Obama let Baghdad fall?

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Politics,Chris Stirewalt,Power Play

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Buzz Cut:
• Can Obama let Baghdad fall?
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• Fermisht and fertummelt

CAN OBAMA LET BAGHDAD FALL? 
As Americans flee Iraq ahead of an advancing column of Islamist soldiers hell-bent on toppling the U.S. backed government in Baghdad, the likelihood of American military involvement is growing. Though the Obama administration, not usually a stickler on legal constraints of the executive branch, is claiming legal obstacles, it seems hard to imagine that any American president would allow Baghdad to fall to a group as despicable as the ISIS, militants so vile that even al Qaeda won’t claim them as their own. More than 4,000 Americans were killed liberating and then pacifying Iraq, at a cost of an estimated $1.7 trillion. Plus, failing to stop the worst of the worst now may mean a third invasion of Iraq at a later date. (Read Dexter Filkins’ concisely excellent explainer to get the picture.) But for a president who has factored domestic politics more heavily into foreign affairs than perhaps any in history, nothing is ever straightforward. After all, no one thought that Obama would flinch on Syria after promising attacks amid a genocidal onslaught, especially with lots of liberal support. But he did.

[New Gallup poll shows that 51 percent of Americans do not think President Obama “is honest and trustworthy.”]

Negative calculations - Remember that in the last midterm cycle, Iraq was a selling point for Democrats –even more so in 2012. Taking ownership of foreign intervention would deny Democrats one of their few remaining strong points with base voters. If they could find a cutout or proxy to do the work, as they did in Libya, maybe. But U.S. bombs falling in Iraq again? That’s no winner in the Obama coalition. But that calculation is immaterial if mainstream voters revolt. Sure, moderate voters would recoil at the thought of U.S. boots on the ground, but beheadings in the Green Zone would be intolerable. And the thought of Islamist radicals having an oil-rich haven from which to launch new strikes against the U.S. and our allies, would be even less acceptable.

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