US must follow up Iraq missile strikes with efforts to rebuild

The China Post news staff

U.S. President Barack Obama’s launch of air attacks against the Islamic State (IS), an extremist terrorist group that took over huge swaths of Syria and Iraq, is the beginning of another test of commitment by the U.S. in a region where it has turned in a record of disastrous involvement. Mistakes that were made back then cannot be unmade. George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq based on the claim that Saddam Hussein was manufacturing weapons of mass destruction turned out to be false. The similarly disastrous decision to disband the entire Iraqi army after the U.S. toppled the Hussein regime, and thus to turn a large portion of these people into a loose militia who waged war against each other and now bolster the ranks of IS, continues to haunt the U.S. Obama has given the impression of not following through on the commitments he made in the realm of international affairs. The biggest example of that is his “red line” of chemical weapon usage by the forces under Syria president Bashar Al-Assad. Obama’s was caught indecisive when that red line was crossed. He backed down by allowing Assad’s ally Russia to spearhead a deal to destroy these weapons.

Calling on the various factions to work together, Obama is emphasizing that it takes not U.S. military force but the determination of Sunni and Shiite and Kurdish clans to sit down and agree to political power sharing that does not presume a winner-take-all zero-sum takeover. In an interview with The New York Times’ Thomas Friedman, he repeatedly appealed for commentators to give him a break on managing the politics of democratization in difficult places.

Asking the parties to take the initiative may be a reasonable demand, but here, the burden is on the U.S. for two reasons. First, the U.S. is directly responsible for the disintegration of Iraqi society and the ignition of sectarian strife. The Iraqi people and others in the region are paying the price for the recklessness of U.S. policy, and it is only natural that the U.S. should take responsibility by rebuilding the wreckage left by the disastrously planned regime change.