Vail Daily column: How safe do you feel?
June 26, 2014
"Iraq will be one of the major achievements of this administration." "We'll be leaving behind a sovereign stable self-reliant Iraq." "Al-Qaida has been decimated and Osama bin Laden is dead" — sound familiar?
According to White House transcripts, the administration has described al-Qaida as decimated, on the path to defeat or some variation thereof on 32 separate occasions since the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya. How is it possible an administration can be so wrong so often?
Some will argue what's happening in Iraq is a civil war and we should not get involved, or that we never should have invaded Iraq and removed Saddam Hussein in the first place.
On the surface, the latter argument appears to have merit, but that's not the issue because every president who has ever sat in the Oval Office, save George Washington, has inherited the problems of his predecessor.
Andrew Johnson inherited a broken nation after Lincoln's assassination. Harry Truman inherited the second World War, an untested atom bomb and a Red Army that controlled half of Europe from Franklin Roosevelt and then handed off the Korean War to Dwight Eisenhower, while Richard Nixon inherited Vietnam from JFK and Lyndon Johnson.
To put a finer point on it, Iraq, as unstable as it was, had been moving in the right direction when Barack Obama took office in 2009. But through inattention, being dilatory or who knows what else, he failed to consummate a Joint Forces Agreement, and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria that now controls an area larger than the state of Indiana is the result.
Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi tell us what's occurring in Iraq is a civil war and we should stay out of it; but that's only partially accurate. Allow me to offer an analogy.
You live on a nice street, have a nice home and keep your lawn mowed, trimmed and presentable. But your next-door neighbor behaves as if dandelions were an endangered species of flora, which means your lawn becomes fertile ground for every noxious seed the breeze carries there.
How would you address the situation? You could research to see if your neighbor was violating a city ordinance, you could speak with your neighbor about the matter or perhaps offer to pay for his weed killer if you thought it would resolve your problem. But suppose your neighbor was intransigent — the best you could do would be to buy the weed killer yourself and offer to spray his lawn for him. But if he still refused, then there is little you could do except give up trying to maintain a weed-free lawn and suffer the consequences of his behavior.
It's true the internecine between Sunnis and Shiites has existed for centuries, but this is not a simple family squabble or internal conflict because al-Qaida believes we are the Great Satan and would slash your child's throat in a nano-second if given the opportunity.
When the Russians were driven from Afghanistan in the late '80s it left a power vacuum. Neither the Reagan nor George H.W. Bush administrations foresaw the consequences of the emergence of al Qaida — the former was busy ending the Cold War while the latter was preoccupied with re-integrating and stabilizing the former Soviet bloc. As a result, the seeds of al Qaida germinated in Afghanistan and spread to the United States on 9/11.
On May 1, 2007, at MacDill Air Force Base, George Bush foresaw and detailed precisely what would happen in Iraq if America failed to remain involved at least on a limited basis by maintaining a Joint Forces Agreement. Was "Dubya" prescient? No, he was a president who was involved, concerned and spoke about proactive not reactive measures.
Reagan and Bush I could be forgiven for not anticipating the emergence of al-Qaida with its attendant consequences, but what has President Obama been doing vis-a-vis the fact that his predecessor forewarned him so clearly?
The naysayers on the right would have us believe the president was too busy jamming Obamacare down our throats to ensure his legacy or playing golf with the celebrity of the week — perhaps. But a clearer explanation is that he was simply ill-equipped to handle the complexities of today's geopolitical world.
He and his then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton bear full responsibility for an al-Qaida that wasn't really decimated as he boasted during the Democratic Convention in 2012; but rather was in the process of becoming an even greater threat to the United States.
I don't want to see more American bloodshed in Iraq, nor do the American people. And I don't have the solution; but then I'm not the president of the United States.
Today, Americans around the world are at greater risk from al Qaida than at any time since George Bush left office. And unless the president pulls a rabbit out of his hat, this latest and even more malignant form of al-Qaida (ISIS) will become the real Obama legacy and a problem for the next person to occupy the Oval Office to solve.
Butch Mazzuca, of Edwards, writes regularly for the Vail Daily. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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