One of the reasons I supported Barack Obama for President in 2008 was his pledge to end the War in Iraq. I have been a vocal opponent of that War since George Bush proposed the invasion in 2002.
I strongly believe that the actions President Obama announced in Iraq last night deserve progressive support.
First and foremost, the President announced that America must act to prevent genocide on a mountain in Iraq. ISIS has herded 30,000 to 40,000 people from the Yazidis sect onto a mountain where they are dying of starvation and dehydration. ISIS has said that the Yazidis must either renounce their religion or they will be massacred. That is simply unacceptable in a civilized world. We cannot stand by idly and watch ISIS commit genocide.
The United States has already completed an air drop of supplies to those besieged people. And the President has made clear that if the siege of that mountain is not relieved, he has authorized airstrikes to break that siege.
The President also authorized airstrikes if ISIS advances on the Kurdish city of Erbil, where America has a consulate and a number of American personnel.
Just as important, he has also pledged that the United States will never again put combat personnel on the ground in Iraq.
Progressives should oppose any new long-term military engagement in the Middle East. The problems in Iraq will not yield to American military intervention today any more than they did over the last 12 years. Political reconciliation is the only effective solution to the current ethnic civil war in Iraq – and that requires a government that is inclusive of the legitimate aspirations of every faction in Iraq – not the sectarian al-Maliki regime.
But we cannot stand by idly and watch ISIS commit genocide on that mountain. Nor can we fail to act to prevent a vicious organization like ISIS – a group so violent that it has even been disowned by Al Qaeda – from capturing or killing Americans in Erbil and engaging in genocidal action against the Kurds in Erbil.
American airpower can help prevent these outcomes and the threat of airpower is the military option that the President has chosen to use, much as he did successfully in Libya.
Progressives oppose genocide and the murder of innocent civilians -- especially the murder of children. President Obama’s actions in this respect clearly deserve progressive support.
But we should remember the roots of the horrible sectarian strife exploding in Iraq and the rest of the Middle East.
George Bush kicked over the sectarian hornets’ nest in Iraq and the Middle East when he invaded and occupied Iraq. He destroyed any basis for Sunni power in Iraq and laid the foundation for the sectarian Shite government in Baghdad.
Collin Powell warned that invading countries were subject to the “Pottery Barn” rule: “You break it, you own it.” For the last five and a half years, President Obama has been cleaning up the horrific mess George Bush made of American foreign policy in general and Iraq in particular.
Now America must navigate a very difficult course. We must resist Neo-Con calls for long-term military engagement, occupation or “nation building.” At the same time, we must step up to our humanitarian responsibility to prevent genocide and help stabilize the violent situation that those Neo-Con policies helped make possible through their reckless invasion.
It isn’t that easy. President Obama is taking the same kind of clear-eyed, confident, measured approach to Iraq that allowed him to find and eliminate Osama Bin Laden and has massively increased the respect for America throughout the world.
His actions will not satisfy the swaggering, bull-in-the-china-shop Neo-Cons that got us into Iraq in the first place and demanded that American troops remain in Iraq for the foreseeable future. Nor will those actions likely satisfy those who believe America can shrink from its engagement from the world or have no responsibility for our fellow human beings on this small planet. But they are the right policies for America and they deserve our support.
You can follow Robert Creamer on Twitter: @rbcreamer.