In his first remarks since Islamic militants with Al Qaeda ties overran the Iraqi cities of Fallujah and Ramadi, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry promised support for Iraq's government, but emphatically rejected any possibility that the U.S. would send troops back into the country, saying of the Baghdad government "this is their fight."OK, well most Americans don't want to send troops back either, so this isn't likely to be a political problem for the administration unless things get worse. Still, are we engaged in fighting AQ wherever they are, or not?
Remember, this president and his current Secretary of State mercilessly blasted Bush and McCain for fighting the wrong war, wrong time, wrong place, ie, our fight was against bin Laden and his AQ affiliates, not Iraq. Now AQ is in both Iraq and Syria and they are off limits? The policy is beginning to look a bit feeble and confused.
Going back in time, here's what the CinC said when it was easy to speculate about actionable intelligence..
That was the long version. Here's the short debate version with McCain..
In both clips Obama says something similar: "if the United States has al Qaeda, bin Laden, top level lieutenants, in our sights, and Pakistan is unable or unwilling to act, then we should take him out." The emphasis was added to show that he wasn't necessarily talking about a belligerent government in league with AQ but also one that was incapable of helping for whatever reason. That might fit Iraq and Syria at some point, if not already.
Obama can argue that he limited his comments only to Pakistan then later followed through on UBL, presumably without Pakistan's assistance. Obviously he's correct, but at the same time surely he wouldn't argue that such a doctrine was limited to only one man on one spot on Earth at one time, seeing as how he mentioned AQ secondaries and high-value targets as Ayman Zawahiri continues to remain on the lam.
Indeed, the doctrine seems to still be in place. We just snatched 'core AQ' member Anas al-Liby off the streets of Tripoli and spirited him off to a secret interrogation facility on a ship, with unknown help from the Libyan government. So there appears to be a healthy dose of hypocrisy regards Obama's war on AQ. When it was convenient to say the US would storm into a country without said country's assistance that was the policy, but when it comes to more inconvenient places, well, they are on their own now.
Politically speaking this might work on a war-weary public unless something bad comes out of the region. But maybe not even then. For instance, CNN reported shortly after the Benghazi attack that AQ in Iraq members took part, which would suggest grounds for a reprisal attack with or without Maliki's help. But the administration has managed to eliminate that fact morsel from the public consciousness with the help of a media too afraid to report on Benghazi for fear it might harm Sir Edmund Hillary Clinton.
That said, pointing out the political hypocrisy and opportunism is fine for a snarky blogger, but it leaves us where, exactly? Does anyone think we can re-enter Iraq at this point with troops, even if the CinC once said he would leave behind a force to deal with AQ? These terrorists are now spread out in factions across two countries.
Maybe the best solution is actually what Kerry is advising--have these nations battle the threat themselves. That would be a culmination of the Bush doctrine and one the United States should be fully supporting in the background. Then if things eventually go to worms or a massive attacks is hatched from the region we may have no choice but to go back. Perhaps the actual president will weigh in on this in the days ahead.