Back to Iraq, then. President Obama’s announcement last night that America would intervene militarily in defence of the Kurds is by any standards a stunning development. The President, whom hawks loathe for being a ditherer and a peacenik, has turned into action man, albeit still rather a cautious action man. Republican Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham – the most reliably war-thirsty politicians in Washington – released a statement approving his decision, though of course they used it as an excuse to berate Obama for his failures in the Middle East:
‘The President is right to provide humanitarian relief to the Iraqi civilians stranded on Mount Sinjar and to authorize military strikes against ISIS forces that are threatening them, our Kurdish allies, and our own personnel in northern Iraq. However, these actions are far from sufficient to meet the growing threat that ISIS poses. We need a strategic approach, not just a humanitarian one.’
Even for the more dovish among us, it is hard to make a good moral case against intervening to protect the Yazidis. Who can say the cause is not just? Reports suggest this is a genocide. Everybody agrees that ISIS (or IS) are vile, and that we should not treat them as a nation state – whatever they may say they are. Finally, having spent over a decade bungling its foreign policy, America has a war worth fighting.
That said, there’s reasons to be cynical. Why now, exactly? Is it because Erbil – the west’s friend in the region — appealed for help? If so, why are the Kurds worth protecting but not the slaughtered Shias and Christians in the rest of the region?
Obama’s Team America talk does not inspire, either: ‘Earlier this week, one Iraqi in the area cried to the world, “there is no one coming to help”,’ he said (at this point the mood music rouses). ‘Well today, America is coming to help.’
If I were an Iraqi, I’d hardly be comforted by that statement – given America’s record in Mesopotamia. But the US is chiefly responsible for the current state of Iraq – you broke it, you fix it etc – and Obama’s move last night recognised that. Plus, as Rod Dreher puts it, ISIS needs killin’.