U.S. airstrikes are beginning in Iraq. The initial objectives are necessarily limited. But it is hard to see how they can stay that way. President Obama told reporters, “I don’t think we’re going to solve this problem in weeks…This is going to be a long-term project.”
Project? Exactly what project is this?
The project to remake the Middle East as an American sphere of influence was a hopeless delusion of the previous administration – delusion, because they apparently believed the peoples of the region would throw themselves at our feet in gratitude; hopeless, because they had no interest in learning the truth.
Is the project to save Iraq? I have harped before on the fact that Iraqi institutions don’t function. They will not begin functioning because we save Baghdad from being overrun. The Shiite powers-that-be will feel even more secure in their autocracy and corrupt political practice.
Is the project to save lives? The Islamic State may be brutal toward its enemies, but the absence of a functioning state that includes the Sunni majority may become a humanitarian disaster in its own right, albeit one we may easily ignore as Western media will not brave the dangers to cover the suffering of daily life, and Western news consumers will quickly tire of it.
In other words, kill enough fighters to stop the fighting, and then we can go home again.
So the project seems to be to manage our own domestic politicians, who are using scenes of fleeing Christians and the bogeyman of ISIS to club the administration, after remaining silent for years while Iraqi PM Maliki gutted the Iraqi army of the officers we trained and tightened his grip on power.
Anything else is probably beyond the capabilities of the world’s largest democracy.