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Opinion: Columnists

Iraq is broken, we can't fix it and there's no good reason to try

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Opinion,Columnists,Jed Babbin,Iraq,Iraq War,National Security,Foreign Policy

Iraq is broken, and we can't fix it. At this point, there's no good reason to try.

There's a lot of political finger-pointing on who's responsible for losing Iraq. That's the wrong question because we never “had” Iraq to lose. Nevertheless, both presidents George W. Bush and Obama must be blamed for the failure to meet our war goals there.

We can, with 20/20 hindsight, see that the Iraq invasion was a mistake. Though Bush and many of us believed sincerely that Saddam Hussein’s regime was an immediate threat to the United States, we know now that Saddam was boasting of capabilities he didn’t have.

Obama shares the blame in an almost equal proportion. Every American president inherits the world his predecessor left behind. When Bush left office, the Iraq war was five years old. We still had tens of thousands of troops there trying to impose democracy among warring Shiites, Sunnis, al Qaeda and the rest. The troop surge under Gen. David Petraeus had established a security that he often labeled “fragile and reversible” and even then, only in parts of the country.

Obama campaigned against the Iraq war mainly because it was Bush’s war. When he took office, his Iraq policy established a timetable for withdrawal and pretended that none of the other facts on the ground even mattered. As a result, those facts – and their political and military effects – have asserted themselves and caused Iraq to break apart.

Diplomacy isn’t going to repair Iraq. History proves no reconciliation between Shia and Sunni can be made that will last longer than it takes one to reload. As Obama might say, there is no viable military option. The neocons are prattling on about the need to deploy American troops to protect some fragile sprigs of Arab democracy which exist only in their collective imagination.

They were wrong in 2003 and are wrong today for the same reasons. You cannot build democracy on an Islamic culture because it will never allow separation of church and state or the other freedoms enshrined in our Bill of Rights.

At least for now, Obama has reportedly rejected airstrikes at the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria forces, which would only have had a temporary effect. He may still be considering the insertion of special forces to gather intelligence for future airstrikes and to use in operations against the ISIS fighters. But making airstrikes or adding special operators on the ground would only aid Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who is a close ally of Iran. The ISIS fighters are allied with al Qaeda. In short, there are no good guys in this fight.

Obama's only identifiable Middle East strategy is his gravely mistaken experiment in nuclear diplomacy with Iran. To strengthen that initiative, he reportedly considered allying American forces with Iran's to defeat ISIS, but that would require us to openly embrace the principal terrorist nation in the world, which is about to achieve its nuclear weapons ambitions.

The only expert making sense on Iraq is retired Air Force Lt. Gen. David Deptula. He told the Washington Post, “Militarily, we can do just about anything we want [in Iraq]. The question is, to what end?”

We have no national strategy and no military plans that identify the results we'd want from military action in Iraq. And no wonder. We have no vital national security interest in preserving Iraq. It is in our interests to prevent Iraq from becoming a terrorist safe haven, but that is beyond our grasp. At this point, there is no justification for risking a single American life there.

No matter how much Obama wants to blame Bush for the dissolution of Iraq, history will judge him just as harshly for imposing a policy in complete disregard of the facts his predecessor left him.

Jed Babbin served as a deputy undersecretary of defense in the George H.W. Bush administration and is a senior fellow of the London Center for Policy Research. He is the author of "The BDS War Against Israel," with Herbert London.
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Jed Babbin

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The Washington Examiner