Iraq’s Civil War Is All Obama’s
Last week I rewatched the movie Pearl Harbor with four grandchildren, ages 10 to 16. Not surprisingly, they knew little about the start of World War II in the Pacific, despite the fact that from our lanai they clearly can see the sacred spot where more than 1,000 Americans remain entombed in the sunken USS Arizona. They were riveted to this melodramatic historic epic, which proves what Michael Bay, the film’s producer, was up to: targeting young people. The movie starring Ben Affleck, which critics panned, was a huge hit with the kids in our den, proving that movies may be today’s best history teachers.
The kids liked that we fought to win.
In 1941, the U.S. was a reluctant participant in Europe’s world war against Hitler’s Germany, leading Imperial Japan’s Admiral Yamamoto to call America a “sleeping giant.” Americans were perceived as rich, lazy and disengaged. And vulnerable.
But President Franklin Roosevelt, in his speech to the country after the attack, awakened a sleeping nation:
“No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory … I believe I interpret the will of the Congress and of the people when I assert that we will not only defend ourselves to the uttermost, but will make very certain that this form of treachery shall never endanger us again … With confidence in our armed forces — with the unbounding determination of our people — we will gain the inevitable triumph, so help us God.”
And indeed, American “righteous might” did prevail against great odds. The “United” States were united in mission and victory. Sadly, that’s the last time, except perhaps in the first Gulf War and immediately after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack that Americans have been united about anything. And unfortunately, thanks to feckless and fear-filled politicians, we haven’t had many wins in the last 50 years.
Since America’s stunning and deserved emergence as world leader after WWII, our politicians often have managed to turn military victory into defeat. The Vietnam War, won by our military, was lost by politicians letting Walter Cronkite’s newscasts influence policy. In 1975, after the North’s treaty-breaking invasion, seared in my memory is the shameful image of South
Vietnamese people clamoring to escape the Communists by hanging onto helicopters leaving the U.S. Embassy in Saigon. Congress wouldn’t release another dime to help the South Vietnamese defend themselves. We didn’t even have the will to win a stalemate, as we had in Korea.
I believe the invasion of Iraq was a mistake. Bush, Congress and most Western world leaders were convinced WMDs existed in Iraq, so that’s not the argument. Faulty intelligence isn’t either. It’s that Bush provided no long-term plan to win the peace — no Marshall Plan to integrate democracy incrementally into a country that had been under a tyrant’s rule for 30 years. No patience for a long-term troop commitment, as in post-war Korea, Japan and Germany. Regarding the chaos in the streets of Baghdad after the end of fighting, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld arrogantly said: “Democracy is messy.”
But for five-and-a-half years it’s been Obama’s Iraq, and it could soon be his defeat. Iraqi cities are being consumed by an army of terrorists beheading their way to Baghdad and undoing everything America’s brave troops fought and died to secure for the Iraqi people. Meanwhile, disengaged and indecisive, Obama continues to lead from behind, still blaming Bush, Iraq’s incompetent and sectarian Prime Minister Maliki and, well, anyone. Meanwhile, in this leadership vacuum, our enemies make deadly mischief.
The second battle of Fallujah in November 2004, the 2007 surge and American troops afforded Iraq relative security. But despite military leaders’ advice to leave troops in Iraq, Obama withdrew them in 2011, helping set the stage for today’s invading ISIS terrorists. Once troops are withdrawn from Afghanistan, a similar result is predictable.
Last week commentator and author Charles Krautheimer stated, “What Obama has never understood is that the stability of the world hinges on American deterrence.”
FDR understood that. So did Ronald Reagan. And, after Pearl Harbor, I think even my grandkids understand.