ISIS fighters have steadily asserted their control over the province's desert regions for months, buoyed by their consolidation of control over territory just across the border in Syria. They are more disciplined and better armed than the tribal fighters drawn into the fray over the past week, and the Iraqi security forces lack the equipment and technology that enabled US troops to suppress the al-Qaeda challenge.The feared consequence of the Obama administration's contravening the Strategic Framework Agreement (2008) by disengaging from US-Iraqi affairs at a critical stage of Iraq's post-Surge development, abandonment of President Bush's Freedom Agenda, weakness in the Arab Spring, appeasement of Iran, and bungling of the SOFA negotiation causing our irresponsible exit from Iraq is becoming real.
Al-Qaeda's ascendant influence in Syria has given the militants control over the desert territories spanning both sides of the Iraqi-Syrian border, enabling them to readily transfer weapons and fighters between the arenas.
The enemy defeated by the counterinsurgency "Surge" in Iraq and greatly reduced by the US-led post-9/11 counter-terrorism campaign has exploited the collapse of the Arab Spring, especially the Syrian civil war (with the possible collusion of the Assad regime and its allies), in the gaps left by President Obama's diminishment of American leadership in the region.
Like our post-WW2 regional partners in Asia and Europe where US soldiers still serve, post-Surge+Awakening Iraq with American partnership should have been the keystone for regional reform.
To wit, in May 2011, at the dawn of the Arab Spring, President Obama described the historic opportunity to lead to peace in the Middle East where "Iraq is poised to play a key role in the region if it continues its peaceful progress":
Indeed, one of the broader lessons to be drawn from this period is that sectarian divides need not lead to conflict. In Iraq, we see the promise of a multiethnic, multisectarian democracy. The Iraqi people have rejected the perils of political violence in favor of a democratic process, even as they’ve taken full responsibility for their own security. Of course, like all new democracies, they will face setbacks. But Iraq is poised to play a key role in the region if it continues its peaceful progress. And as they do, we will be proud to stand with them as a steadfast partner.In the benchmark address, President Obama pledged US support which Arab Spring activists took to heart to risk their lives, but Obama subsequently proudly reneged.
The Arab Spring should have been the decisive point where strong American leadership characterized by the Bush Freedom Agenda, and Iraq the model, seized the historical moment.
President Obama should have stayed the course he inherited from President Bush as President Eisenhower stayed the course he inherited from Presidents Roosevelt and Truman, and built upon the hard-won progress achieved under Bush.
Instead, the utter squandering of the hard-won promising, but still-tenuous, gains that President Obama inherited from the Bush administration and the fecklessness of the Obama administration's foreign affairs at a critical turning point in world affairs have brought on a predictable, evitable disaster.
Moved by 9/11, President Bush wore the mantle of American leadership of the free world and set us on a liberal course to compete for the shape of our children's world. America's self-labeled liberals should have stood strong with President Bush. Instead, he was vilified by then-Senator Obama and his cohort for acting to resolve the festering problem of Saddam's noncompliant, threatening, tyrannical, radicalized sectarian, rearming, terrorist regime.
Because of their critical betrayal of America the leader of the free world, we have moved a long, long way from President Kennedy's oath (1961), "Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty," President Clinton's counsel (1998, about Iraq) that “In the century we're leaving, America has often made the difference between chaos and community; fear and hope. Now, in a new century, we'll have a remarkable opportunity to shape a future more peaceful than the past -- but only if we stand strong against the enemies of peace," and President Bush's pledge (2001), "As long as the United States of America is determined and strong, this will not be an age of terror; this will be an age of liberty, here and across the world."
In July 2003, former President Clinton urged:
I would say the most important thing is we should focus on what's the best way to build Iraq as a democracy? . . . We should be pulling for America on this. We should be pulling for the people of Iraq.Instead, the Democrats chose to sacrifice America's liberal leadership heritage and life-or-death responsibility to the people of Iraq for partisan gain. From Robert Gates, former defense secretary, offers harsh critique of Obama’s leadership in ‘Duty’, by Bob Woodward, in the Washington Post:
Gates offers a catalogue of various meetings, based in part on notes that he and his aides made at the time, including an exchange between Obama and then-Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton that he calls “remarkable.”On these admissions alone of their rank self-interest and parochial partisanship trumping the grave stakes in Iraq, Secretary Clinton and President Obama should be pilloried and disqualified from Commander in Chief.
He writes: “Hillary told the president that her opposition to the  surge in Iraq had been political because she was facing him in the Iowa primary. . . . The president conceded vaguely that opposition to the Iraq surge had been political. To hear the two of them making these admissions, and in front of me, was as surprising as it was dismaying.”
More from Secretary Gates's book vis-à-vis Ann Althouse:
The difficulty of extending the surge to September 2007 (when Petraeus would submit his report on progress), much less to the spring of 2008, was underscored by the rhetoric coming from both Republicans and Democrats in Congress. The frequently used line “We support the troops” coupled with “We totally disagree with their mission” cut no ice with people in uniform. Our kids on the front lines were savvy; they would ask me why the politicians didn’t understand that, in the eyes of the troops, support for them and support for their mission were tied together. But the comments that most angered me were those full of defeatism— sending the message to the troops that they couldn’t win and, by implication, were putting their lives on the line for nothing. The worst of these comments came in mid-April from the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, who said in a press conference, “This war is lost” and “The surge is not accomplishing anything.” I was furious and shared privately with some of my staff a quote from Abraham Lincoln I had written down long before: “Congressmen who willfully take actions during wartime that damage morale and undermine the military are saboteurs and should be arrested, exiled, or hanged.” Needless to say, I never hinted at any such feelings publicly, but I had them nonetheless.President Bush handed to President Obama a history-changing winning hand in Iraq - earned with dear cost by our soldiers and allies including Iraqis - and a progressing liberal strategy to win the War on Terror. President Obama threw them away. Bush honored the commitment of his predecessors to American leadership of the free world. Obama has dishonored it and them - and us - and opened the way for the illiberal enemy.
It's enough to push this Generation-X JFK liberal to give up in disgust.
Code of Conduct:
I am an American, fighting in the forces which guard my country and our way of life.Soldier's Creed:
I am a guardian of freedom and the American way of life.Civilization oriented by a robust, sure American liberal exceptionalism, made real to me by my service in Korea, was for me synonymous with the "American way of life".
As I walked the city while the sun set on 9/11, I anticipated the anti-liberal flood in the coming contest and determined to fight it as a college activist. I'm the boy who stuck his finger into a trickling leak to try saving his hometown. My civil-military advocacy at Columbia succeeded, but I didn't make the larger social-political cultural difference that was most important for America's competitive will. The anti-liberal tsunami broke through and washed over and around the crumbling dike/levee I meant to guard, undeterred by the few sandbags I managed to pile. Worse, the anti-liberal flood burst from inside my hometown, from American leaders, as well as from outside, from America's competitors.
Failure teaches. SU4A touched the surface of the problem, but didn't dig deep enough. It's time to fall back to the redoubt and rethink the situation. What I thought we needed on 9/11 is insufficient; the social pathology infecting America is something more fundamental. Civil-military integration is closer to the issue than American liberal hegemonic order, but more digging for the cure is needed.
See 10 year anniversary of the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom: thoughts and Operation Iraqi Freedom FAQ.