Part III -- Current Problems
The U.S. now has two problems when it comes to Iraq: one is how to respond to the ISIS invasion. The other is how to face up to American culpability for the mess in Iraq.
Regarding the first, President Obama has announced that American ground troops will not go back into Iraq except to protect the U.S. embassy. As a consequence, it is more likely that Iraq will find substantial assistance from Tehran than Washington. Nonetheless, this is a wise decision. Obama has also urged a political solution. It is hard to know what that means when it comes to the ISIS -- like hard-core ideologues of all stripes, they are not compromising types. Probably Obama is trying to pressure the Iraqi government to make amends with its Sunni citizens. That is a very good idea. Reconciliation between Sunnis and Shiites in Iraq is the key to the defeat of ISIS and the country's future stability.
Then, there is the second matter: how do we face up to American culpability? Pointing fingers at the current president might be politically convenient for repugnant Republicans and neocons, but it is thoroughly ahistorical. The Republican charge is based on the notion that Obama pulled U.S. troops out of Iraq too quickly. The Iraqi army wasn't ready to stand on its own and we abandoned them.
The charge is simply wrong. The Iraqi parliament itself had voted against allowing American troops to stay in the country beyond the end of the so-called Status of Forces Agreement. Obama wanted to leave a contingent of U.S. advisers in Iraq but decided against it when the Iraqi government refused to grant the advisers legal immunity. There was also the fact that the U.S. withdrawal came as a response to the will of the majority of the American people.
The fact that the Iraqi armed forces were not in good shape at the time of withdrawal was not Obama's fault. After all the U.S. military, its trainers and advisers, had been in Iraq for years under the Bush administration. And, it can be argued that even if U.S. advisers had stayed during Obama's time in office it would have made no difference. Take, for instance, the case of Iran under the Shah. From 1954 to 1979 the U.S. supplied and trained the Shah's military forces. In 1979 that military force collapsed almost immediately in the face of popular revolution.
For U.S. forces to stay in control of Iraq until the indigenous military were professionally capable was to commit to decades of occupation -- a scenario unpopular both in Iraq and the U.S. Even then the issue would be in doubt if the political context undermined Iraqi military morale and loyalty to the government. The political situation is key in these matters.
Part IV -- War Criminals