June 16 2014
Will the President Pivot to Iraq?
Quote of the Day:
Iraq Islamists Suspend Attack While Obama Rests
---White House Dossier’s latest joke headline
But not a joke is White House Dossier’s daily publication of President Obama’s schedule: at 10 am this morning President Obama departs Palm Springs. He arrives in Washington at 5:30 pm.
No doubt, it is possible to do a full day’s work aboard Air Force One, if one is the sort who does a full day’s work anywhere, but the president’s holidaying this weekend looks eerily detached.
But I am not sure that President Obama, who speaks frequently of the “arch of history,” while often remaining abysmally ignorant of the past events of history, could have responded better than he is if he’d remained in Washington all weekend. And perish that dreary thought!
This after all is the president who said on Wednesday that the world is “less violent than it has ever been.” Mosul fell the next day with its attendant beheadings. The suffering in the Middle East is terrible to contemplate but also terrible is the idea of jihadis being able to establish a terror state from which to attack the United States, which they still hate, despite the appealing biography of our president.
Douthat refers to previous attempts to project a map of the region different from the lines drawn nearly a century ago by Sir Mark Sykes and François Georges-Picot. Colonel Ralph Peters drew a map that “subdivided Saudi Arabia and Pakistan and envisioned Kurdish, Sunni and Shiite republics emerging from a no-longer-united Iraq. This was quite different from the multiethnic states created by Sykes and Picot.
De facto, with the shocking advance of militants toward Baghdad, there are now three states in what we call Iraq: one Kurdish, one Shiite and one Sunni — with the last straddling the Iraq-Syria border and “governed” by jihadists.
This means that Iraq is now part of an arc, extending from Hezbollah’s fiefdom in Lebanon through war-torn Syria, in which official national borders are notional at best. And while full dissolution is not yet upon us, the facts on the ground in Iraq look more and more like Peters’s map than the country that so many Americans died to stabilize and secure.
What’s more, we pretty clearly lack both the will and the capacity to change them. It is possible, as The New Yorker’s Dexter Filkins has argued, that a clearer Obama administration focus on Iraq, and a more effective attempt to negotiate a continued American presence three years ago, could have prevented this unraveling. (Little about this White House’s recent foreign policy record inspires much confidence in its efforts in Iraq.)
We are watching one of history's unravelings--and it feels odd that the man in the White House seems not to grasp the imlications.
It matters so little whether he is in Palm Springs on D.C. as this crisis unfolds.