Once again, Iraq is in the news. A Sunni army, called The Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (Isis, for short), has been sweeping through northern Iraqi cities, butchering as they go. They seem to be headed to Baghdad. And Iraqi troops have responded, basically, by laying down their weapons, ripping off their uniforms, and running away. President Obama met with Congressional leaders, like he’s supposed to, and announced that 250 troops will be going back, tasked with embassy security and some minimal training of Iraqi forces. (And Speaker Boehner and Senate Majority leader McConnell and Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi all agreed that, Article One Section Eight notwithstanding, the President has plenty of authority to do anything militarily he wants to. Political courage has not been in abundant display over this one). Iraqi President Nouri al-Maliki asked for some limited American airstrikes, which President Obama agreed to, if they can be precisely targeted.
And so Dick Cheney (and his daughter, Liz, straight off her failed bid for the Wyoming Senate seat) unloaded on President Obama in an op-ed piece, saying ‘rarely has an American President been so wrong about so much at the expense of so many,” while calling for American soldiers to return to stabilize things.
The response has been remarkable, especially on the Right. Glen Beck (!?!?!?!?) said, on his radio show, that liberals were right, and he was wrong, about Iraq. Jim Webb, Ronald Reagan’s Secretary of the Navy, wrote a very strongly worded op-ed piece opposing any further US involvment in Iraq. And a lot of liberal websites showed the remarkable footage of Fox News’ Megyn Kelly taking the former Vice President to task over his piece.
Sadly, they didn’t show the whole clip. It’s true that Megyn Kelly started off with some tough questions. But she’s Megyn Kelly, and she does work for Fox; the interview devolved into typical Fox blather about what a dangerous (really, seriously, dangerous) president Obama is. Usual argle-blargle about how feckless he is, how he doesn’t take the terror threat seriously, how he’s left America weak, and so on.
So Factcheck.org ripped Cheney to shreds. In fact, every substantive claim made by the two Cheneys on their Fox appearance is demonstratively false. Basically, the complaint Dick Cheney has against President Obama is that he’s not quite as crazy paranoid about terrorism as Cheney was.
I don’t doubt that terrorism and terrorist groups and support for jihadists have all increased under President Obama. But it’s not because he’s soft on terror. That’s ridiculous. I maintain that terrorism has increased precisely because of the actions we’ve taken to fight it. I strongly suspect that every time an American drone kills a terrorist, we recruit fifty new terrorists. The secret to fighting terrorism is winning the hearts and minds of people who mostly want to be left alone to raise their families in peace. When an unmanned drone swoops out of the sky to fire missiles at a Pakistani village or Yemeni town, one response for those witnesses is to become radicalized. Their friends, neighbors, acquaintances, townspeople, tribesmen, co-religionists have just been killed. How would you feel about it?
As for Iraq, I do suppose the President is right to want some additional security for our embassy there, and if a little more training can make a difference for their army, then fine, though I’m skeptical. Black-flagged Isis is plenty scary. But I’m worried about mission creep. I’m worried that 250 advisors today becomes 500 tomorrow.
The invasion of Iraq under President Bush remains the single most appalling blunder in the history of American foreign policy. It’s time for Dick Cheney to shut up.