Or if there are, we have no way to identify them. So says the Iraq War vet who posts here under the name AnotherBeliever. She writes, Evans-Manningishly, on yesterday’s “Iraq Is Not Obama’s Fault” thread:
“Rarely has a U.S. president been so wrong about so much at the expense of so many.”
I was pretty spun up about this yesterday morning. My reaction was, “You mean aside from the last guy, of course. Right??”
But I talked it out with colleagues, told some war stories, about the ethnic cleansing on a micro scale that we watched from our hill overlooking Hai Al Jihad and Hai Al Ameriyah neighborhoods of Baghdad in 2006. One mosque minaret would call complex religious diatribes on the other. Gunfire like popcorn would go on for hours. We would laugh at the new guys cowering in body armor, trying to reassure them they were shooting each other, not us. Mostly. Still, keep light discipline after dusk. My lovely friends then teased me for how jittery this tale made me, so I made a conscious effort to calm down.
The point is, ignorance on the complex loyalties and history of power-seeking bad blood between the factions in Iraq is no longer excusable, if it ever was. I’m not opposed to targeting a column of ISIS in the desert should one materialize. I really dislike ISI in all its forms knowing what I do of their on the ground tactics. But I know it won’t fix the problem. (Though it would be good for their propaganda.) This isn’t about control of terrain. It’s about influence over the populace. All the defenses of your city will come to nothing if enough of its inhabitants are suborned. The perimeter is meaningless then. And ISIS has the sympathy of a lot of influential Sunni leaders, and a lot of common folk.
Add this to the fact that the Shia militias have a record of atrocities as well, though they are not as demented and also do not tend to film their darker acts and post them to YouTube.
Add this to the fact that all the major population centers are ethnically and religiously mixed, as are a fair portion of the rural countryside. Outside of “Kurdistan” we are not talking about proto-states with defensible borders here.
So good luck picking sides. I can’t recommend either one, nor the blowback which would ensue from whichever side you didn’t pick. There’s no military solution. Iran and Saudi would have to mutually agree on a solution, since they each have huge influence in the country. But the rhetoric they are exchanging in the last few days doesn’t make that option look likely in the near term.