As militants belonging to the Sunni sect of Islam seize more and more of Iraq, the U.S. has been forced to analyze its own role — and particularly the role of the Obama administration — in the country’s chaos.
“If we left the residual force behind, we would not be facing the crisis today,” Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, said in a quote picked up by The Daily Beast. “We had it won,” McCain said.
McCain is not the only one who believes Obama’s handling of Iraq led to its collapse. Marc Thiessen of The Washington Post wrote, “When Obama took office he inherited a pacified Iraq, where the terrorists had been defeated both militarily and ideologically. Obama took that inheritance and squandered it.”
Thiessen, McCain and other commentators agree that Obama’s primary mistake was in removing all troops from the country, which Thiessen believes gave terrorists the opportunity to reassemble and strengthen themselves.
Iraq has had such a lack of success in controlling the rebels that its neighbor Iran seems likely to intervene, perhaps with the help of the U.S., Buzzfeed reports.
“Thanks to Obama,” Thiessen wrote, “We may soon have a situation where we are helping our Shia extremist enemies (Iran) fight our Sunni extremist enemies (ISIS) for control of Iraq.”
But not everybody blames Obama for the debacle in the Middle East, particularly the results of his decision to remove American troops.
“There is simply no reason to believe that the presence of American soldiers in Iraq makes a durable political settlement more likely, and there never has been,” wrote Matthew Yglesias of Vox. “If eight years weren't enough, why would one more — or two more or twenty more — be the key to success?”
America was floundering in Iraq, Yglesias wrote, not doing much good and costing the American public significantly.
“Admitting that we made a mistake and that the wisest course was to cut our losses and get our troops out was one of the best calls Obama ever made,” he wrote.
Andrew McCarthy of The National Review has written extensively on the failures of the Obama administration, and yet he does not believe that Obama should be blamed for the current state of Iraq.
“It was not Obama who agreed to the withdrawal schedule,” McCarthy wrote. “It was President Bush. And it was not Obama who turned Iraq into an Islamic-supremacist state seething with anti-American and anti-Semitic hatred.”
McCarthy went on to say that Obama’s handling of the Middle East has been “a disaster,” but even so, Republicans and American politics in general are more to blame for the current collapse of Iraq than Obama is.
“Let’s not pretend that America’s Middle East mess is strictly an Obama production,” he wrote. “Today, a Sunni jihadist in Iraq might be killed by an American drone in support, incredibly, of the Iranian military intervention to prop up Iraq’s Shiite government. But if that same Sunni jihadist instead crosses the border into Syria, he will be given American-supplied weapons to fight against the Iranian military intervention that props up Syria’s Shiite government.
“That kind of insanity does not happen overnight,” he continued. “It happens after more than 20 years of willful blindness to the ideology of our enemies, and more than 20 years without a strategic vision of the global jihadist challenge.”
Bethan Owen is a writer for the Deseret News Moneywise and Opinion sections. Twitter: BethanO2