Take Mosul Back

The blame game misses the point. Iraq and Syria were rotten to the core before America’s mistakes.

Comments: 164

  1. Indeed they were rotten to the core and always had been. However, by third world standards they were relatively stable. The US intervention has destabilized an established order that had existed for nearly 100 years. It's resulted in the deaths of far more Iraqis than Hussein ever killed.

  2. I wonder if the Post Cohen wrote this.

    First, the Obama Administration deserves great blame for not going the Biden route of seeking the decentralization and 2nd amendment the US had in 1787. Bush is first cause, but when you are elected criticizing Iraq, you have a responsibility to try to correct the mess, not just ignore it with a few pious words.

    Second, the Obama Administration should have stopped Arabia from destabilizing Syria.Syria had an Arab Spring which was dying a natural death and the Saudis, a fundamentalist rogue regime, supported fundamentalists.

    Third, Cohen proudly says Congress will support Israel. The Gods make mad those they intend to destroy.The Cantor story is as big as the nationalist victories in European election. He was attacked from the left, not the right. He was called a tool of Wall Street. He attacked the reactionary establishment immigration policy as designed to keep wages down and favor crony capitalism.

    Anyone who does not think there was a whispering campaign that Cantor was a Jew and that Jews control the banks and foreign policy is a fool. When the libertarians call for withdrawal, what are they saying about Israel and US support for its policies that Cohen supports in this column. Read Romney today about cluelessness. He is an expert on that subject, and it is not only Hillary who is clueless.

    If we or Israel bomb Iran, etc., and the economy goes south, we court a rise in anti-Semitic feeling that is truly dangerous.

  3. You need a proof reader. Bombing Iran has no bearing on this situation. And for the 100000000th time, this isn't about Israel, its not ALWAYS about Israel, although their aid should be cut as well for inflaming this sort of thing.

  4. Wrong. The Democratic Party was until recently the most pro-Israel party, partly because most Jewish voters are Democrats. Now, the Republican Party is at least pro-Israel, and that is largely without Jewish voter support. And the reason is because the Republican Party particularly since 9/11 is the party of Islamophobia. Remember, it was the Republican George W. Bush who referred to Ariel Sharon as a man of peace. And of the "whispering campaign" you write of, where is the proof? If you have no proof then it is just mere opinion.

  5. I agree with all you say about the history of the region. Well stated. However, I do not agree with the last paragraph. I believe we should now allow the people of the region determine their own future--even if it requires bloodshed. We can help them diplomatically when they are ready, but the rage has grown for too long and too intense for us to accomplish anything militarily now.

  6. You glibly write that "President Obama should use targeted military force to drive back the fanatics of ISIS." Isn't that exactly what the US has been doing for a decade?

  7. Well written! I add, Obama shares the biggest blame for his reluctance to intervene in Syria, The US cannot be part of the problem for 80 years or more and all of the sudden decides to back out and say let them sort it out.

  8. @Adil: no one seems to remember any more, but Mr. Obama drew a line in the sand and threatened airstrikes after the chemical attack by Mr. Assad's government. Congressional Republicans prevented him from doing that. So he settled for Russia's mediation instead. While the buck stops with Mr. Obama, let's at least keep that fact as a footnote in this debate.

  9. To quote Ronald Reagan once more: "There you go again...!" "It is Obama's fault" ...never mind that Cheney/Bush started the whole current mess. Maybe Congress should hold hearings and have investigations. After they finish with Benghazi, Obamacare, Immigration Reform, and the list goes on, and on, and on, doesn't it?

  10. Au contraire!

    Eighty years of being part of the problem is long enough, especially when the hapless Middle-Easterners could not find their way in the meantime to defining for themselves what their statehood/nationality/political system should be. Eighty years of blaming "foreign intervention" for every little problem, whether it was trash not being picked up or power outage. It was always someone else's fault but God forbid they would take a stand on their own. So now, what we see is self-determination in the making. Bloody, Brutal, Horrible, but in the end, earned. Foreign Intervention will only postpone this (sadly) necessary process....

  11. Say what you will Bush stirred up a hornet's nest, and far from being stung himself he is happily and safely turning out some truly witless paintings.

  12. Roger Cohen once again let's us know it is time to get on the march

    With regard to using "targeted" military force to "take Mosul back," this is the real world and not a foreign affairs remake of Groundhog Day. Once Mosul is "retaken" perhaps Mr. Cohen can explain in his next column how it is retained by some means other than an open-ended (but of course ever so reasonable and "targeted") U.S. military presence.

    Just because past performance may be no guarantee of future results does not mean it should be ignored.

  13. Mr. Cohen, it's time to leave, time to let the area's sectarian blood lust exhaust itself. Make no mistake: it will happen, whether it's a decade or a century - but we cannot artificially make it happen. Not even Napoleon's ground troops - with air support from B-52s, fresh from victory at Waterloo - could accelerate the process. The modern world has ways of ushering that process to its inevitable conclusion, so we all must stay out, giving what support we can to refugees and, of course, protecting ourselves, as necessary, from the inevitable spillover of violence.

  14. Eisenhower said 'beware of the military industrial complex" that will lead the nation from one war to another in search of profits, and their collaborators in the political and military establishments. How right he was.

  15. The Europeans have always thought that they know better. The Americans have always thought that they know better. When it comes to drawing the borders of countries around the world, they have both failed miserably. Let the borders be drawn by the inhabitants of these regions along ancient tribal lines and the fighting will stop. Period. In other words, get out and stay out. Let the oil industry fight their own battles, and that includes in South America as well.

  16. Good précis of how and what happened with us in Iraq. We can admit to mistaken intervention, sadly, but those losses which resulted should not be a justification for reentry into this unholy, unmanageable conflict. After they bleed themselves out, perhaps a weakened state well enable a more secular, unified effort at nation-building. We have all been through it before already.

  17. It looks very simple to me, Sunnis (ISIS) are fighting Shiites.
    The sunnis extremists are the least one we wan't to win. The sunnis extremists got gains on their tribal turf, but they are now up against the Shiites (Iran) and they are outnumbered and outgunned.

    So it looks like we should lean back and let them fight it out.
    And we should stop thinking of Iraq as a country, there are just confessions fighting in the sand.

  18. I too am tired of hearing the DC crowd dump on W for going in or Obama for leaving. What's done is done. What we need now are facts and reasoned analysis.

    For instance, until I checked Wikipedia, I had no idea that Suleimaniyah and Erbil are in the Kurdistan region. The apparent wealth in these cities is consistent with the impression I've had that the Kurds have taken advantage of the opportunity to self-govern that followed our second intervention. So, I guess when all seems hopeless in Iraq, we can look to the Kurds as a major success story.

    For the rest of Iraq, I am at a loss for what to do, but with it becoming increasingly likely that ISIS is bent on genocide, I'm leaning toward doing something. I am really grateful for Roger Cohen's sorting out some of this for me. Is it too much to ask the President and Congress to do the same and start talking to us about the national or humanitarian interests at risk in Iraq?

    More and more, political discourse has been displaced by the baying of the hounds in the Senate and House and the bland assurances of administration spokespersons, evidently trying to calm the dogs. But there was a time when Congress debated intelligently, and Presidents, like Ike, JFK and LBJ, actually spoke to us, in detail, about what was going on. Obama is capable of communicating to us, but for some reason doesn't. On the other hand, with a few exceptions, Congress seems hopeless and frankly is best ignored.

  19. Thank you for this historical analysis. While I disagree with your conclusion, I appreciate your ability to look past the screaming, and focus on how we actually arrived at this juncture.

  20. Sorry, sir, but it is absolutely not a fact that the U.S. invaded Iraq because of its weapons of mass destruction program. That was merely cover. The documents and reports are clear that the Bush administration wanted Iraq. They wanted a foothold in the middle east, they wanted the oil fields protected and producing, they wanted to show U.S. military might. That was it. The weapons of mass destruction program was never a real threat, and was never a real reason.

    To continue to state as fact that the WMD program was the cause is willfully disregarding the real facts brought to light since of their internal discussions and motivations.

  21. Jeff is spot-on correct. He should add the personal dimension, that after his Inauguration (and before 9/11), George W. Bush was actively looking for a way to bring down Saddam Hussein's regime. It wasn't 'just business,' but intensely personal: Saddam's intelligence apparatus had tried to kill George H.W. Bush across the border in neighboring Kuwait. Bill Clinton symbolically retaliated by lobbing several cruise missiles into Iraq, then calling it 'even.' As soon as the dust settled from 9/11, Bush was asking Cheney and Rice for a way to connect Saddam with the attacks, to provide the pretext to 'take him out.' That was the fertile soil from which sprang the WMD nonsense.

    Being a local neighborhood Thug with a keen sense of survival, Saddam maintained the WMD facade in order to keep Tehran and his local Shia majority at bay. He understood that US intelligence knew fully well it was a bluff aimed at Iran, since he could not have survived another Iran-Iraq War after 1991. What Saddam never dreamed was that George W. Bush would 'hold a grudge' and follow through on it quite like he did.

  22. Then why aren't the architects of that war being tried for crimes against humanity?

  23. It was a lie when Judith Miller reported it, it was a lie when Thomas Friedman, David Brooks and Roger Cohen supported the invasion. It was a lie when it was said that "Saddam has WMD." "Don't let the smoking gun be a mushroom cloud." "We will be welcomed as liberators." "It will be over in 6 weeks" "The Iraqi oil will pay for the occupation." "We will plant democracy in Iraq to flower throughout the middle east." and, mostly, "Mission Accomplished." To paraphrase John Kerry: "How do you tell a man he will be the last to die for a lie?"

  24. The betrayal of those who lost their lives is irredeemable. They were betrayed by an American administration that sent them to conquer and colonize people who prefer to run their own lives.

    How is more killing and bombing on our part going to make things better?

    You want to make things better? Show the world that the US does want peace and does believe in the rule of law. Prosecute our war criminals. Prosecute the ones who committed fraud to take us to war.

  25. Partition of Iraq is the only solution. Kurds need to put it to a vote in UN or declare their independence. We have a moral obligation to support them. Let the Sunnis and Shiites keep fighting like they have done forever or separate their enclaves in Iraq and Syria into separate countries. We have now climbed in bed with both radicals in Saudi Arabia who hate us and radicals in Iran who hate us. Time for the locals to step up and sort out their differences or separate the Sunnis and Shiites permanently. Let the Chinese get involved since they are one of the chief customers of oil from Iraq. It is not Obama's problem except the Kurds..

  26. "President Obama should use targeted military force to drive back the fanatics of ISIS."

    A few questions arise in reading that statement.

    First--when precisely does Mr. Cohen--and other advocates of a military response--think that "military force" is not "targeted" at something?

    Second, will we ever reach a point in human development where it is not easy for old men to send young men (and women, now) off to way--blithely using the phrase "targeted military force" to mask the carnage and bloodshed that such force will unleash?

    Last--why are pundits like Mr Cohen--poo-poohing "the blame game" on the basis that there is plenty of "blame" to go around--unable to grasp what any fair-minded and non-partisan history of Iraq over the last 13 years finds?

    The date certain for the withdrawal of ALL U.S. troops--both combat and training--was established by the Bush administration--and signed into formal agreement by President Bush--and that efforts by the Obama administration to modify that agreement and extend the U.S presence there were stymied by the steadfast Iraqi refusal to shield U.S. forces from trial in Iraqi courts.

    Iraq is splintering--as Mr. Cohen details--along the lines Dick Cheney said it would--in a 1994 interview on C-SPAN--in defense of Bush Senior's decision to end the first Gulf War when Kuwait was liberated, without taking down the Iraq government.

    "Targeted military force" unleashed this whirlwind.

    It's delusional to think more of the same will stop it.

  27. Very good of you, Don Duval, to pick up on the redundancy in Cohen's use of "targeted" military strike.

    It may have simply been innocent sloppiness by Cohen and his editors, or there may be something more intentionally sinister and deceitful in trying to tone down the use of military force by calling it "targeted."

    Indeed, "targeted military force" sounds like some watered-down descendant of the notorious "surgical" air strike which, again, implied limited cost.

    When undertaking a military adventure, we rarely have the benefit of neatly defined limits on our involvement. Extricating ourselves from distant quagmires has proven very tough. And Iraq is one hell of a Tar Baby.

  28. To continue a war because otherwise "It would be a betrayal of the thousands of American lives lost since 2001" is a recipe for endless war, un-winnable war. Enough!

  29. A betrayal of thousands of American lives lost?
    How would the loss of thousands more and an unending occupation of the region make that loss acceptable.
    Recognize the fact that the entire region needs to be partitioned into governable states. Short of that this region will continue to be unstable.

  30. Yes, but he closed with another reason: the perpetuation of the Middle Ages in the region, which is vast with human potential and real life, and vital to the world and its humanity. Perhaps he is being idealistic to frame such hopes, but not really, as in the long and short run a positive outlook is an essential to every human endeavor.

  31. Cohen is calling for sending sons and daughters to war based on the need to justify previous American lives lost? Would those who lost children want that? Isn't it a betrayal of those lost lives to increase the sacrifice if there is no path worth the total sacrifice? Cohen doesn't see a resolution of Iraq's problems but would proceed with a further sacrifice. Didn't we have enough of that with McNamara in Viet Nam?

  32. The first step away from madness is learning some basic facts.

    The Population of

    Kurdistan is 6 million
    Iraq 36 million
    Turkey 76 million
    Iran 77 million.

    Turkey is going to let Kurdistan seize Sunni Iraq and activate the Turkish Kurds???

  33. Just to correct you there are more than 20 million Kurds in Turkey, 8 million in Iran and 2 million in Syria.

  34. Cohen urges Obama to "take Mosul back"! It's about how, without putting American boots on the ground.
    Unfortunately there's a bunch of Iran phobics in the Congress and in the Middle East, who oppose any reaching out to Tehran. Or else the US should grab the chance to cooperate with Iran on various issues.
    However frustrated the US is with Nouri Maliki's sectarian policies, keeping him in power may be the lesser of two evils, as Iraq has a Shia majority. He is a close ally of Iran. One could hope that Tehran might be persuaded to encourage Maliki and Assad to either be more inclusive in their politics or to grant their opponents independence.

  35. While I agree with Mr. Cohen overall analysis of the situation in Syria/Iraq, his recommendation to "use targeted military force to drive back the fanatics of ISIS" is so dumb and simplistic as to take ones breath away.

    We spend almost a decade in Iraq, with huge military presense and a huge financial commitment, and we were unable to provide for a stable government to replace Saddam. What in the world leads a supposedly intelligent person to suggest that "tageted military force" - supposedly without "boots on the ground", can reverse that failure and provide stability to that region. There is not an ounce of evidence from anywhere to support such action. Afghanistan will end in the same chaotic state as Iraq after even longer involvement!

    People like to point to the success of the fight against the Serbian extremists in Bosnia and and the breakup of Yugoslavia as an example of what air power alone can do. But there is no comparison between those regions. To make that comparison halfway reasonable, American should have worked towards a breakup of Iraq into three separate entities from the very start.

  36. So what should we do. We should certainly withdraw from ALL military action in the region - we have proven without doubt that we have no clue how to be successful there.

    We should let the regional powers fight out their religious wars - it seems that such is necessary: Christian Europe had its own centuries long religious wars.

    The bugaboo is always that these lawless Islamic regions will be used to stage attaches on "The Homeland". But lets face it, the 9/11 disaster was made possible to a large extent by the pitiful incompetence of our "intelligence community" - remember the "slam-dunk" prediction by the head of CIA. Despite lots of talk, the "reform" of our intelligence organizations since 9/11 has come to nought - they are still uncontrolled bands of uncoordinated fiefdoms which are more interested in extending their own power than truly protecting the US. All we have really done is undermine the protections of the Constitution in the name of homeland security.

    Lets concentrate our political and financial resources to truly reform our intelligence apparatus to better protect us from rogue foreign attacks.

  37. We have unleashed the 21st century version of the Thirty Years War (in percentage of the population killed the most destructive war in Europe). We, and the rest of the world, cannot do anything to stop it, or even to mitigate its severity. The best thing for us to do is to stay out of the way, unless we or our allies are directly attacked. In the end, the boundaries of the area will be redrawn a century after the European powers drew arbitrary lines on a map, and this time they will (in large part) respect the ethnic and religious divisions. Otherwise, we will be deserving of Kipling's epitaph as "A fool who tried to hustle the East."

  38. And the Europeans tried to draw the borders in secret, which of course was discovered by the Arabs and Standard oil. Now we pay, in money and lives, with the normalization of the middle east into logical boundaries.
    Iraq was always 3 regions, even under the Mongols in the 1200's, until the Europeans stepped in after WWI.

  39. These clowns should have listened to Col. T.E. Lawrence (of Arabia) whose post WW I maps were made to take into consideration all tribal, religious, ethnic, georgraphic, travel and sectarian concerns in drawing boundary and border lines in the Middle East. But, why listen to someone who may know something of the area, anyway?

  40. Can't disagree more. The collapse of the Iraqi army/police shows there is nothing the US can do to change the situation. While the mass executions are absolutely savage, the tragic truth is that things are probably working out as they need to - 1) independent Kurdistan 2) borders based on sectarian affiliation, not Sykes-Picot. Let the Iranians deal with propping up Maliki and defining Iraq's new borders. The closer the ISIS "barbarians" (good word) get to Baghdad, the harder the Shia will fight. Hard to imagine it won't end like the Iran/Iraq war, with both eventually reaching an exhausted equilibrium.

  41. It would be a betrayal of the thousands of American lives lost since 2001 and of the millions in the Middle East who view the Middle Ages as over.

    [ By this curious reasoning we would have been needlessly fighting and dying and killing in Vietnam for another decade on longer. We went to war in Iraq needlessly which was at once a betrayal of all Iraqis who were engulfed in the war and occupation and a betrayal of Americans who fought in Iraq. Enough of warring. ]

  42. Its an absolute truth that those who supported a war and an invasion of Iraq which had nothing to do with 9/11 are to blame. If you supported that idiocy, you are to blame. The lack of honesty and real patriotism of those who can't admit their horrendous mistake is a terrible thing for the USA. This is not a game. W. Bush (not his father) Cheney, and the neo-con ideologues who still have the temerity to try to wield power are responsible, but without the guts to admit how they have hurt their country, the mid-East, and the world and released the dogs of war.

  43. We should NOT use targeted or any military force to drive back the murderous Sunni jihadists. It's not our job. Sunni and Shia have been slaughtering each other for approximately 14 centuries. It's not our problem.

    Let Iran and Saudi Arabia deal with this. I'd rather see Iraq's oil off of the world market and an increase in gas prices than see another American life or even dollar expended in protecting the venal Iraqi government.

    Dan Kravitz

  44. so the invasion was wrong so let's invade again. this is a religious war that's been going on for nearly a 1000 years. nothing, and i mean nothing, we do will stop it. it's up to the people of the region to choose what they want; not us some 8,000 miles away. your comment would be more honest if you stated your real concern:Israel. nearly every column you, and jennifer rubin, write boils down to, whatever the topic might be, it's effect on Israel. if the ISIS prevails the situation for Israel darkens. that's your concern, and it's a valid one but it should have been stated clearly rather than hidden in the weeds.

  45. Mr. Cohen, you seem to spend the entire opinion piece demonstrating how inevitable it was for the ethnic and tribal majorities of Iraq and Syria to FINALLY take control of the areas in which they live, and then in the last paragraph revert to the increasingly discredited recommendation that American force (bombing? tanks? drones?) can somehow succeed in pushing Sunni fanatics out of the majority Sunni town of Mosul.
    Yes, it appears that the ISIS leaders meet every definition of "barbaric," but it's unclear how (or why) America should try to support their inept and corrupt opponents.
    During the Reagan years we supported the "freedom fighters" of Afghanistan, and it seemed like a good idea to many, but in doing so we helped create Al Qaeda. Perhaps it's time to to learn a lesson, and support humanitarian aid in the region only, and step away from military options.

  46. It is a very sad commentary on the contemporary frame of mind, including that of Mr. Cohen, that a well-functioning (sub-) state is characterized by “We saw Ferraris and Bentleys being driven by students at the American University of Iraq in Suleimaniyah, and at the only five-star hotel in Erbil, the car park was filled with new BMW’s and Range Rovers." NO, NO, NO, a better model is a state that provides safe streets, sanitation, education, and chance for EVERYONE to strive to do his best. Mr. Cohen, having imbibed the Anglo-American model of capitalism views the presence of a few Ferraris in the hand of the 1% as a desirable goal for a nascent state. But, this mirage will only perpetuate the endless inequity that is at the core of the present-day turmoil in the Middle East and elsewhere.

  47. We were in the Iraq hole and kept digging for eight years at the behest of many experts and two presidents. We got out of the hole and should now allow it to fill itself up. Going back with shovels in any guise is madness.

  48. Mr. Cohen advocates more violence and killing as a means to stop the violence and killing that has been plaguing this region for centuries. Frankly, his use of the term "targeted military force" sounds a bit too much like the argument for very "limited military involvement" dishonestly promised by Cheney and Rumsfeld. In truth, this is a recipe to keep things unstable for the next few generations---rather than a true solution. Mr. Cohen claims the alternative is far worse-----for whom?

  49. The exit strategy, democratic elections, was flawed from day one. We were not prepared for the inevitable result: Shia majorities aligned with Iran, theologically and most likely politically, and the impact that would have on Sunni/Shia relations throughout the region. Now we face a choice between supporting the Iranian-backed Shia or the radical Sunni ISIS or just staying home. Not only are the choices bad, its hard to imagine a realistic scenario for decisively influencing the outcome in a timely manner.

  50. Ol' Roger isn't happy unless America is fighting somewhere, killing someone. Lessons are never learned by this war ghoul. He describes a situation of hopeless chaos In Iraq and then wants us to jump into the middle of it. Doesn't he already enough blood on his hands?

  51. Russia helped prop up a brutal dictatorship in Syria, so why not heap praise on it for saving it.

    Mr. Cohen gives a recipe for a permanent US war presence in Iraq and Afghanistan. If we go back to Iraq, we'll never be able to leave Afghanistan.

    Iraq was never meant to be a single state. It survived that way through a brutal secular dictatorship. it should be allowed to redraw its borders. If the Sunni's want a better future, they better pick up arms against the ISIS.

  52. "The facts are plain enough. The United States invaded Iraq in 2003 because of its weapons of mass destruction program. However Iraq did not have any weapons of mass destruction."

    Not quite plain enough; as can be seen by many of the commenters of the past few days. The invasion happened because of lies about a WMD program while questioning the patriotism of anyone opposed.

    You say, "Take Mosul back". After trillions of dollars down the rathole chasing lies, we say: No thanks. Round up as many neocons as you, put them on the aptly-named George HW Bush aircraft carrier, and see who volunteers to fly off the deck first, eager to take Mosul back.

  53. "President Obama should use targeted military force to drive back the fanatics of ISIS.."

    There he [Cohen] goes again, from his pundit perch, on his quixotic quest to involve America in another civil/religious war.

  54. Roger Cohen and a multitude of other commentators and pundits need to grasp one fundamental truism. The United States does not own the World nor are we in charge of it. Period. Every event that happens on the world stage is not and should not be orchestrated from the White House. Yes we are a World leader, but we are not the World's Supreme Ayatollah issuing fatwas directing what others in the world must blindly obey. There are times when our best course of action is No action whatsoever. The sectarian violence being unleashed in the Middle East had its origins in the breakup of the Ottoman Empire and the imposition of unrealistic borders by Western powers. This includes the strife in Syria. I have not heard one person demand that the United Kingdom step in and rectify the damage caused by these borders for which they bear a large part of the responsibility. "Take Mosel Back".... and do what with it? Hand it over to the Maliki government only to be lost again. Maybe the majority of the people in the Mosel area; Sunnis don't want to be taken back. I would only be in favor of bombing one thing in Iraq; that monstrosity of an Embassy we foolishly built there, after it is evacuated. When we get out of a place we need to get out! Finally, to placate the McCains and Lindsey Graham and their NeoCon brethren screaming we must do something, buy them some worry beads.

  55. Mr. Cohen applies perfect Rovian circular logic to his argument.

    We must send our air force personnel to fight and die in Iraq ("targeted military force") so those who already fought and died there did not die in vain.

  56. The mostly reasoned summary of the situation in Mr. Cohen's article collapses on this misguided conclusion: "It would be a betrayal of the thousands of American lives lost since 2001 and of the millions in the Middle East who view the Middle Ages as over." The betrayal, if there was one, was to send them there in the first place for no reason whatsoever; for this statement of Mr. Cohen's is also false: "The United States invaded Iraq in 2003 because of its weapons of mass destruction program." That anyone can still believe this lie in 2014 boggles the mind.

    Those brave Americans who died in Iraq are dead. It is insane to base a future policy on the vanity, or not, of their deaths. We sent many of our children to die - in vain - in Vietnam, and trying to ensure that their deaths were not in vain only killed more of them. We could repeat this obscene idiocy in Iraq, but let's try to do something more sensible this time. If you want to give some meaning to those deaths, let it be in our finally learning the folly of attempting to use our military strength to reshape the world to our liking.

    There is no good outcome to the Iraq mess. After Iraq collapses into Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish states, the Shiite part will be a client of Iran, the Kurdish part will be in a constant simmering conflict with Turkey, and the Sunni part will be a haven for Al-Qaeda. The idea that American military intervention of any degree can "fix" this is simply wrong.

  57. President Obama should use targeted military force to drive back the fanatics of the ISIS

    What is targeted military force? Where does he drive them "back" to?
    Alas another one sentence solution to a very complex situation. A solution with no mention of Iran, Israel or President Assad of Syria.
    Last week's solution was for the US to arm the "moderates" in opposition to President Assad.
    We have no doubt that the US military can defeat ISIS on the battlefield. Where's the end game? If Mr. Cohen is saying that we should become, in effect, the Iraqi Army in order to prevent a "blowback" in Europe and the US, then he should tell us so.

  58. The USA has no credibility in Iraq. From the outset, Iraqis were firsthand observers of conduct evidencing the American establishment’s bad intentions:
    * In April 2003, Rumsfeld found soldiers to guard the oil ministry, but otherwise looked away while Baghdad was being looted.
    * Later that same year, the Abu Ghraib revelations exposed Uncle Sam’s zest for anti-Islamic sadism.

  59. How patronizing that Europeans and Americans should think Middle Easterns need their wisdom to solve their problems. Stay out of the region, period. It is not yours to begin with. Even if you were trying to help with extremists, how would anyone know who to target them, in a region where ties are so intertwined; when one member of a household is a fundamentalist and the other is not, one is married to a Sunni and the other to an Alevi. This is not US's fight US had no business to search for non existing "weapons of mass destructions" to begin with and remain in the region cause millions of civilian deaths. To reenter in this conflict would be a horrific mistake.

  60. Unfortunately, I don't see any other conclusion but that an ISIS "nation" made up of Sunni parts of Syria and Iraq would be a serious threat to our national security, just as the Al-Qaeda stronghold in Afghanistan turned out to be. I don't see this as a continuation of the Iraq War, but as a new and extremely dangerous conflict. Related to the Iraq War, yes, but now with real treats to America. Many other countries are threatened, too. For example, Israel, Saudi Arabia, and many nations in western Europe. It's time for a coalition of nations to figure out how to counteract ISIS.

  61. This is comically delusional. Multibilliondollar annual aid recipient Israel and fabulously wealthy petro-state Saudi Arabia are threatened by a under-10,000 man army of radical jihadists? That would suggest that our existing moronic policy of attacking countries and groups in West Asia which pose no threat to us since before 9/11 has failed miserably, not that we should keep meddling.

  62. Cohen has one idea which is completely wrong and leads to more troubles: "...It would be a betrayal of the thousands of American lives lost since 2001..." if Obama does not bomb ISIS. The betrayal of American soldiers was done by Bush and Obama. Iraq and Afghanistan did not ask for our help and the sectarian conflicts were sown by America. We, my dear Roger, are the source of conflict. We planned it; we broke it; and we cannot fix it. We are still fanning the flames. Our betrayal is in all directions and we don't have the guts to admit it. So, Roger, do not obscure the truth. It won't fly.

  63. While Mr. Cohen's premise that the American invasion of Iraq brought the Shiite majority to power is on the mark, his conclusion that President Obama should use targeted force to drive back ISIS is not logical.

    Religious fanatics are immune to diplomacy, and seem to flourish in battle. I deplore the waste of young American lives to bring Bush another term in office, and to reap vast profits to Cheney's oil interests, not to mention Haliburton and Blackwater.

  64. "Targeted military force" usually does not stick to the target and in any case, will not be enough to drive anybody, and especially an ideologically driven force like ISIS, anywhere.

    There are reports in other news media that the US might be actually ready to do something, but they are not sure who the target is. They should read Mr. Cohen.

    But not to worry. While Mr. Cohen may be right in principle, the US will ultimately stick to its policy of doing nothing. ISIS is just resting and re-grouping. Baghdad is still in the sights.

  65. “longue durée” is an expression used by the French Annales School of historical writing to designate their approach to the study of history; one that gives priority to civilization’s long-term historical socio-economic and technological structures and describes how changes in them over long periods of time play out; expressed as “histoire événementielle.” (eventual history) This view of history is in contrast to the short term time-scale that is the domain of the chronicler and the journalist so prevalent in our society today. There is no American “quick fix” here. We are just going to have to let this one play out. www.InquiryAbraham.com

  66. "A plague on both their houses! It’s unseemly to fight Washington’s talk-show wars over the myriad dead of the Levant."

    Your attempt to be even handed by writing the above is ham-fisted. There is no parity here. Bush, Cheney and co. led us to a war that has cost us billions of dollars and thousands of lives.

    I don't have an answer to this problem but I think that throwing more money will not solve the problem; it'll only result in more people dying.

  67. Bush/Cheney lied the American people into invading Iraq because of WMD's they knew didn't exist, to steal the oil.
    I don't see how you can make snide jokes about the ten of thousands who have died because of America's Wars for Oil and Israel.
    Your conclusion that we have just not dropped enough bombs is deranged.

  68. I appreciate all the concise comments from Times readers. I would like to add another point of view. We should pass a new law that states that anytime the U.S. commits ground forces to conflicts anywhere in the world, that all the children and grandchildren of members of Congress, between the ages of 16 and 45, be required to sign up and be the first boots on the ground. Perhaps this will slow the endless verbal hysteria from the talking heads in D.C. instead of mindlessly committing others children to the slaughter in the tribal warfare of the Middle East. There is no real "Iraq". It became a political configuration drawn up by the French and British after WW1.

  69. This is a misconception I had myself until recently. See: http://gulfanalysis.wordpress.com/2013/12/30/dammit-it-is-not-unravellin...
    "Sometimes Sykes-Picot is being construed as a complete armchair project by willful European strategists. What is often not realized is the extent to which the agreement merely put on the map patterns of special administrative arrangements that had been in the making under the Ottomans for decades, if not longer. Thus, special Ottoman arrangements for Palestine and Lebanon date back to the nineteenth century: the special administrative district of Lebanon dating to 1861 and the special district of Jerusalem established in the 1870s. As for Iraq, it had been separated entirely from Syria in administrative terms almost since the beginning of Islam – and had for long periods been ruled from Baghdad as a single charge. Again, the only real exception pertains to the Raqqa-Ana borderlands which in brief intervals had gravitated towards Baghdad rather than Damascus. All the talk that these boundaries are a mere hundred years old and that everything was designed by a couple of European colonial strategists is utter unscientific nonsense that collapses immediately upon confrontation with contemporary primary documents, where terms like “Syria” and “Iraq” were in widespread use long before Sykes and Picot even knew where these areas were located."

  70. Thanks, this is a useful historical correction. However, there is a very big difference between a department set up for administrative convenience of a multi-national/multi-ethnic empire and a nation-state. In the former, since everyone is being governed (in principle) by an outside power from a central location anyway, the ethnic divisions within a department are of little consequence.

    Transferring Ottoman administrative conveniences into states is just as terrible an idea as when Imperials powers did the same thing in Africa with their administratively convenient entities.

  71. Gee willikers, these ISIS fellas just mysteriously sprang out of nowhere! It had nothing to do with the US destroying the Iraqi state and giving Syrian rebels enough assistance to prolong their war without winning, no sir.

  72. Do you know something the rest of us don't?
    American support to the Syrian rebels was limited to humanitarian aid.
    We did that because we foresaw the situation we see today. Syrians rebels and freedom fighters becoming insurgents and terrorists.
    On the other hand, our close friends the Saudi's were more than happy to give arms to the Sunni rebels.
    Saudi Arabia has a vested interest in seeing Sunni's expand their territories.

  73. Cohen writes that there is enough blame for the situation in Iraq to go around. Yet he neglects to apportion any blame to himself and the many other journalists who advocated this war, not just to defend against WMD, but to remove the powerful threat to Israel that Iraq represented.

  74. Iraq was not a credible threat to Israel at that time. Israel certainly wanted to wreck Iraq but that was not the main motivation. The main motivation was to reorient the Middle East in a way that would be favorable to the US forever. It never had anything to do with WMD. Saddam did everything possible to avoid war without publicly losing face, including offering completely unlimited inspections, which were rejected by the US.

  75. Another military intervention at a time when we are trying to clean up the existing two mishaps?! I am not sure that this is a wise advice. The area is in a big mess (does not matter who started this mess) and an overall assessment of the present situation is essential (I am almost certain that you will find no agreement on what is actually happening now) before we decide what the next decision should be. Most important this time is that a decision is not taken unilaterally by the US in complete isolation of Europe and, maybe, some more stable Arab Countries. The last 100 years have been disastrous years for the Middle East. And it is time we forget about wars and military interventions as the first way out. Let us talk first.

  76. "If the jihadis cement their hold, the blowback will be felt in Europe and the United States." With their weapons of Mass Destruction, I suppose?
    Which state do you vote in, Cohen? As an American taxpayer and veteran I resent your advice to our president to use military force 12000 miles away from our borders, even if you are writing in an American newspaper.
    The way to avoid blowback is to not be out throwing gasoline on other peoples' fires. If we hadn't financed the jihadis in Afghanistan, we -and the Afghan people would have been better off.

  77. Ian beat me to the punch, but this is worth saying twice. The most dangerous of all lunacies is to imagine and obligation to wastefully spill your blood and burn your treasure to pay some type of imaginary respect to the fact that you have already wastefully spilled your blood and burned your treasure. What is the disgrace is saying that you are smarter today than you were yesterday--for either a person or a nation?

  78. If you feel so strongly about the U.S. going back into Iraq militarily, Roger Cohen, then why don't YOU put your action where your big mouth is and volunteer to go fight over there?

    Here is the U.S. Army's website address for its recruiting department: www.goarmy.com. The U.S. armed forces are waiting to hear from you.

    The U.S. government and its insatiable war machine will be glad to have your healthy body and sharp mind as more fodder for the meddling in other countries' affairs and killing, killing, killing they just can't stop pursuing in the name of American taxpayers, and you seem to be all for this ongoing practice. So go for it! In your mind, you'll be helping out your beloved Israel, too, around which pundits like yourself anchor what you believe the United States' foreign policy in the Middle East always should be formulated. Memo to you: Israel if not one of the 50 states in the U.S. union. It is a separate, independent, apartheid state and theocracy. Get it? Go fight for that!

    The only thing holding you back from heading to Iraq with your gun and your arrogance would be your cowardice and your hypocrisy.

  79. There is not as much daylight between what Cohen calls the "blame game" and the core fact that many folks could see all along that the Bush plan was based on lies and insinuations (esp. the yoking of the whole undertaking to 9/11 in none-too-subtle fashion) and that the war could have many bad consequences, and so now that disagreement has come back to the fore. But to Cohen it sounds like a "blame game." No, the war was a disgraceful fraud, maybe not entirely "cooked up in Texas," as Ted Kennedy so bravely said when no one yet had come out against the rush to war, but wherever it was cooked up, above all in Rumsfeld and Cheney's brain, it was a fraud and a lie. (Washington Post: Kennedy's sharpest public criticism of Bush has been over Iraq, a war that he called "a fraud . . . cooked up in Texas" to advance the president's political standing. He accused the administration of "bribing" foreign nations to send troops to Iraq. In a speech on the Senate floor, Kennedy accused the administration of telling "lie after lie after lie after lie." Last month, Kennedy called Iraq "one of the worst blunders in the history of U.S. foreign policy.")
    If Cohen wants to armor himself up and lead the charge into Mosul, more power to him. But U.S. power and blood have rained down over there for far too long. So amid the suffering and strife, yes, we find "blame" being passed around, and whatever faults Obama has had as a president, it's to his credit that he got us out of there.

  80. Using "...targeted military force..." on the latest round of insurgents in Iraq will probably produce...more insurgents. Really, Mr. Cohen, it's time to stop the folly. Abandon the delusion that we can accomplish anything constructive in the Middle East by the application of force. We might kill an occasional odious dictator but the costs exceed the benefits in the absence of competent and successful nation-building. The people there want to build their own nation(s) on their own terms. Eventually, they might succeed, but we aren't helping advance civil society with our drones. Not. At. All.

  81. Cohen's "What's done is done" tone of the piece (though a poor bit of historical analysis, given the facts now available) should be extended to include the present moment.

    The Shiites of south-eastern Iraq have lost control over the Sunni north-west. Their army in the region collapsed without a fight.

    There is no prospect that they can ever construct something they never had - a real national army able to maintain order and security in the Sunni region.

    The ethic partition of Iraq has happened. It cannot be stitched back together by yet another U.S. military intervention.

    If we are to push out ISIS (and they will very likely overplay their hand and Al Qaeda-in-Iraq did before them), it will be by creating Sunni self-rule with their own security forces.

  82. I agree with much in this article, but it still rankles me that so many columnists and media pundits feel they always have to establish proportionality. The left didn't invade Iraq. Has everyone forgotten Bush 2's Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neil lamenting the fact that the Administration used 9/11 as a pretext to invade Iraq. I wonder if, at the time of the invasion, Roger Cohen really thought there were serious "weapons of mass destruction" (whatever the hell that really means) in Iraq before the invasion. I never for a moment thought that Saddam Hussein had much of anything that could threaten his neighbors or the US. After the original Gulf War, his military was a pale reflection of what it had been before Bush 1 and his coalition unloaded on Saddam's much vaunted military force.

  83. Of course there were no weapons of mass destruction. The administration knew that. Everyone who actually read the Times's reporting at the time knew that. The evidence, crummy as it was even at the time, WAS FAKED BY THE ADMINISTRATION. The fact that Cohen blithely asserts that the US "invaded Iraq in 2003 because of its weapons of mass destruction program" disqualifies him from writing anything on the subject.

  84. This is a balanced historical analysis, which ends with a recommendation that doesn't seem to be supported by anything said up to that point. What America's response should be to this situation is far from clear. Given our misjudgment about the entire Iraqi situation in 2003, not just about WMD, but about its endemic sectarianism and our misguided response to that situation, such as our program of "de-baathification," it is very hard to believe that we now hold the key to solving the current crisis. I, for one, am very skeptical about the claim that pouring more weapons into the "right hands" in Syria would have done anything more than put more weapons into everyone's hands. I can't see how an aerial attack on urban ISIS strongholds will now do anything more than kill so many civilians that the U.S. becomes, again, the bogeyman for all future Islamic terrorists. During our "surge" in Iraq, the crucial factor was the revolt of Sunni tribal leaders against the mindless bloodshed of al Qaeda in Iraq. Kurds have largely rejected extremism and found a way to keep ISIS out of their territory. Iran will not tolerate Sunni extremists controlling a state that executes Shiites and destroys their shrines, right on its border. These people can solve their own crisis. Doing little or nothing is seen by Americans as abdicating leadership, but it may be the wisest option.

  85. You certainly raise the main issues in a clear way, and it has been my thinking that we have no choice but to act. Will it be a little too late? Do we have a strategic plan to back up this assault? We certainly can sit idly by and it will be a hellish price to pay for ourselves and the west.

  86. Mr. Cohen is right. Targeted military force could mean air strikes on the ISIS rebels. There is a middle ground between a full on ground war involving US troops and doing nothing. Many readers think we can simply turn our backs on the middle east - but this is not so. If ISIS is allowed to create their own state they will export their terrorism to the US and Europe. To think otherwise that if we just leave them alone they will live in peace is completely naive.

  87. What penetrating insight. The naive people are the ones who say stop meddling, not the ones who called for aggressive war in the first place. Your brand of realism is what's cost us thousands of lives and virtually all overseas credibility, and apparently will continue to until we are completely ruined as a country.

  88. "If ISIS is allowed to create their own state they will export their terrorism to the US and Europe."
    So why aren't the Europeans offering military aid to defeat ISIS? Has the US got to finance this and put American soldiers' lives at risk again?
    IF ISIS creates their own State, they will then be isolated and not hidden among residents of other States such as Syria and Iraq. They will be totally exposed to severe aerial attacks if they export terrorism to the US, Europe, Israel or Australia. As Harry Truman said, when it comes to ending wars, we got options.

  89. Sorry to say, but the civilians and military personnel killed or wounded in body and mind from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been consumed by a hopeless cause. Senators McCain and Graham trumpet themselves for having seen the devolution in Iraq ensuing from the American withdrawal, but there was no real alternative. We were going to have to depart eventually, leaving the forces there to unplay as they wished. Same as in Afghanistan, where the Taliban will, posthaste, take their country backwards centuries in time. How can there be any surprise on the part of the United States for the way those countries were governed, when we knew and were once content to get behind, how ruthless both Saddam Hussein and the Mujahedeen were? The best outcome is that Americans learn that getting behind dedicated fighters can make one’s own Frankenstein, an especially pertinent message for the question of now arming fighters in Syria and elsewhere.

  90. It is easy for the author, or any other critic of America's policies to recommend the use of military force. Having spent a career in the military during a few wars, I must keep repeating myself: if you want to go to war, by all means do so - arm yourself and the age-corrrect members of your family and friends and volunteer to be a participant in the attacks. Please do not encourage the use of other peoples' children as cannon fodder to achieve political aims. That is how we have ended up where we are today......

  91. So what would our incursion accomplish, more dead, more money spent and another temporary peace only to be reignited by opposing tribes at the first opportunity. Enough is enough. Let the chips fall well they may.

  92. "The facts are plain enough. The United States invaded Iraq in 2003 because of its weapons of mass destruction program. However Iraq did not have any weapons of mass destruction."

    Are we still repeating that joke with a straight face.

    The US invaded Iraq to make an example of Saddam and show our military strength to anti American terrorist friendly regimes after 9/11. In a word -deterrence.

    The world needed a brief reminder that the US could militarily, and more importantly, politically still do something like take out a dictator and his regime in a matter of weeks. The response to 9/11 was not going to be a stern looking Obamesqe speech that engenders guffaws and belly laughter among the world's dictators. Somebody, somewhere, was going to go down and we picked the most worthy and convenient Arab despot available. The reasonable suspicion of WMD's were a way to quite the UN and US far left so that America could go about the necessary and serious business of a response to 9/11 but they were not the main point.

    Saddam was the ultimate WMD. Gassing his neighbors, sending scud missiles at kindergartens, and pillaging oil rich neighbors, he certainly qualified.

    Seeing that we have not had a major attack on our home soil since then there is a strong case that the war in Iraq was the best military investment the US has made in recent times.

    Obama has surrendered this hard won deterrence in exchange for a few political points.

  93. "The invasion brought the Shiite majority to power, so advancing the interests of Shiite Iran, America’s enemy." This alone made the Iraq war a really stupid move (and there are many others) and was pointed out by a number of people *prior* to our invasion, Noam Chomsky among them.

  94. "Take Mosul Back." Ok. Take it back where? To whom are we to give it? Once we give it "back", how will they keep it, if having ISIS outnumber 20 to 1 (not to mention more weapons) wasn't enough?

    Once again, too much emotion ("betrayal"! "a plague on both their houses!") and not enough planning.

  95. The blame game doesn't miss the point. It is the point. As in walking point when a grunt in front leading a platoon down a trail steps on a Bouncy Betty. Former President George W. Bush was walking point after the 9/11 attacks. Like a CEO whose company needed a snappy tag line to launch a service, he and his neocon cohorts after much spit-balling in the war room settled on WMDs to sell to the American public. It was the art of manufactured consent. He thought, now I can invade Iraq. And he said to himself, I will be seen as presidential. So he decided on being a war president and went to makeup and put on hits warface. Then reality intruded on his advertising campaign. He stepped on a Bouncing Belt during the occupation. But in one of the great ironies of war, it was poor American grunts and Iraqi civilians who suffered dismemberment. Now their country is is being dismembered. The ISIS jihadists are merely exploiting this reality. We can bomb the jihadists in Mosul. We can bomb Mosul. We can bomb the entire country back into,the Stone Age and then get a broom, sweep up the ashes and start all over again. That's how we got where we are. It's just a tactic. But you can't bomb an idea out of existence or an insurgent movement whose time has come and attracts these jihadists. That ordnance is still on the drawing board at the Pentagon. Good luck with that one.

  96. Sunnis and Shiites have been at odds for centuries and there is nothing secularists from the West can do about it. As the first Gulf War was winding, down with the Highway of Death (the road out of Kuwait leading to Baghdad) lined with the bodies and destroyed equipment of the defeated Iraqi army, there were disappointments leveled by retired senior Army officers including Col. David Hackworth. Through an anxious media Hackworth told the country that U.S. forces should have kept going to Baghdad to, "pull the other tooth." However, Bush41 had to agree with his allies in that war NOT to continue on to Baghdad to finish the fight unless we wanted to go it alone. At least Poppy Bush kept his word with the European allies on that score.

    However, Bush41 also promised the majority Shiites to the south (also known as the Swamp Arabs at the time) that if they were to rise up against Hussein's minority-held Sunni dictatorship, the U.S. would provide all of the air power needed to win that takeover battle. That promise was broken as Hussein slaughtered the Shiites with his air power and ground forces.

    So who is the most angry with the U.S.? The Shiites for a catastrophic broken promise by Bush41, or the Sunnis for the botched invasion directed by Poppy's man-child and his mentors, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, to name just three of the neocon cabal?

    Cleaning up the china shop became Obama's task in 2009 and none of those rampaging bulls offered to help with the cleanup.

  97. NO Way, Mr. Cohen. US has no business to fix, essentially, the inevitable mess in that part of the world after the equally inevitable fall of the Ottoman Empire.

    UK created a nonsense state called Iraq, the French another non-viable state called Lebanon.

    Now the ISIS plans to have another state.

    All nations in the region except, lately, Israel want to kill as many perceived enemies as they can.

    We should NOT participate in that mess and, instead, rebuild our infrastructure.

  98. It is easy for a journalist sitting in a secure office in London, or some other civilized place, to urge taking back Mosul. He suffers nothing. The Americans pay with their lives and treasure to serve the interests of those who care only about themselves and their kind. I believe we should mind our business. Enough interference in other peoples business. The borders of the Middle East were artificial and imperialism-imposed. Let the Middle East deal with its problems and we deal with our own problems here at home.

  99. Cohen is delusional about the efficacy of US air power, the fall-back option of armchair hawks. Got a problem anywhere, send in the drones, B-2s and cruise missiles.
    But he is clueless in positing a credible political solution. The Kurds are the new darlings of the liberal elite. Not a peep from them about their seizure of Kirkuk. Wars of aggression always end badly, especially those based on lies and deception. The US smashed Iraq into bits, and installed al-Maliki. Later it fomented mayhem in Syria, arming the very militants it now contemplates bombing. Total chaos and disarray. Meanwhile, Cohen is counting range rovers and BMWs in parking lots.

  100. One correction: The U.S. did not initiate the mayhem in Syria, as it did in Iraq. Basher Assad's ham fisted response to non-violent, pro-democracy demonstrators in March of 2011 did that. While the U.S. is now providing weapons to the moderate "Syrian Free Army," it is too little, too late, to affect the outcome in Syria. ISIS has taken the lead and will determine the outcome against the corrupt Assad and al-Maliki regimes in both Syria and Iran.

  101. The Middle East has been at war for thousands of years and they never learn. They are still fighting over who should have been Mohammad's heir! We are not going to stop it and we should not be involved. Saying we should go back in to "Honor Our Dead" is the classic 'sunk capital' argument. Yes we've poured lives and money down a rat-hole, if you truly want to honor them, then stop wasting lives and money, do not go back into that rat-hole. Bring our people and money home. Let's invest in fixing our problems, let's make our lives better. Let the Middle East take care of itself, their slaughter does not have to be our problem. Some times you have to let people suffer the consequences of their actions before they will learn. We have been enablers, it is time to walk away.

  102. if we go in IRAQ and clean this mess than whowe are going to leave the country, somebody like MALIKI, look what happining in EGYPT , like SADDAM MUBARRIK was a dictator but their country was not in war and their country was not under Al Qaeda treat , but we send MUBARIK under the bus,free election but people chose MORSI was not good for western world so he goes to jail and here comes SISI another strong man, same thing has to be done in IRAQ, just forget the election and find the right person for them and for us ans end of this mess, this people killing each other last 500 years and will kill each other next 500 years, this is a religise war and democracy will not work , l am from middle east but it is what it is , those people doesnt like wester culter or political system so let them leave the way they want it

  103. Take Mosul Back thunders the headline from Roger Cohen's newest opus. Then Cohen goes on to declare that "Sunni Islamic fanatics who have overrun the city are slaughtering their enemies as if the Middle Ages never ended....." There's more, of course, but the key words are "Middle Ages." Yes, these people are still stuck in a medieval mindset and America hasn't done a particularly good job at winning hearts and minds. If Iraq continues to backslide into being divided up into warring religious fiefdoms along Sunni/Shiite/Kurdish factions who are we to interfere? Iraq is an artificial creation of the victorious allies after World War I anyhow. If these tribes want to to return to the Middle Ages so be it.

  104. Military intervention only inspires hate and creates more terrorists. To help shield Americans from terrorist it would be more effective if the U.S. stopped supporting corrupt governments that are not inclusive of all the factions they are supposed to represent, stop supporting dictators. Stop supporting colonizers, and occupiers. Maybe just absent ourselves from the Middle East and let the various tribal alleigences define their own borders and select their own leaders. There will be chaos for some time, but the U.S. will not be there for people to point fingers of blame at.. The U.S. can play a diminshed role except in unstable countries that are nuclear armed.

  105. Stop this insane use of our military in these conflicts. I'm really sorry for these people, but they have been at each other throats for thousands of years. They need to settle this themselves, among themselves and learn to live with one another somehow. Our country is broke, trillions of dollars in the hole. Fourteen years of war. We, as a nation are fed up dealing with these conflicts. Let the Iranian Quds force and the ISIS bleed each other dry. The area will be the better for it.

  106. Adam Smith clearly said in "Wealth of Nations" to never start a war during a trade deficit. Advice like this is still valid 200 years later; but then, history does repeat itself.

  107. The date certain for the withdrawal of ALL U.S. troops--both combat and training--was established by the Bush administration--and signed into formal agreement by President Bush--and that efforts by the Obama administration to modify that agreement and extend the U.S presence there were stymied by the steadfast Iraqi refusal to shield U.S. forces from trial in Iraqi courts.

  108. From what I've been able to tell, the ISIS forces in Iraq consist of maybe as many as 10,000 men. The Iraqi Army consists of hundreds of thousands of men - I've seen soldier ratios as high as 50-1 Iraqi to ISIS. The Iraqis are well-armed, well-equipped, and well-trained, although not well-led. If the Iraqi Army can't hold off an advance of a force a few percent of its size, then Iraqi problems are way too big to be solved by a quickie American intervention in Mosul.

    In fact, Iraqi problems center on the historic emnity between Sunnis and Shiites, and a belief by each that its group must rule or its members will die.

    Iraqis elected Al-Maliki in a close parliamentary election, and he has spent his time in office consolidating Shiite power and Sunni exclusion. He had a historic opportunity to create a new narrative in Iraq, one in which Sunni and Shiite strive for community, share power, and stop trying to subjugate each other. He failed.

    Those are problems that can't be fixed by drone raids on Mosul.

    politicsbyeccehomo.wordpress.com

  109. "If the Iraqi Army can't hold off an advance of a force a few percent of its size, then Iraqi problems are way too big to be solved by a quickie American intervention in Mosul."

    Wonderful summary. Exactly. Our media seems to see everything but that.

  110. Thls repeats the myth that Obama had a real choice in the pull out from Iraq. The Bush-Maliki agreement of Nov. 2008 paid out the schedule and Maliki made it clear--iincluding in a WSJ interview in 2009--that there could be no changes. If Obama left troops in Iraq, they would lose all immunity and be subject to the Iraqi judicial system. Had Obama accepted that, the Reps. would no doubt have started impeachment procedures.

  111. "blame game"? There is no blame game. There is blame. We all know who to blame for the fact that Iraq is imploding, Iran is stronger than ever, and the Sunni Shiite balance of power has been upset. And it wasn't Hilary or any of the other craven Democratic Senators and Congressmen who were bullied into supporting the war. They were gutless, but it wasn't their war or their fault. So who's to blame? I won't even tell you bacause you already know-- even if you're a Republican who hates Obama. You know too.

  112. Any further US military action in Iraq and Syria will only bring more instability to the region. We "liberated" Iraq and were attacked by the Iraqis. We "surged" Iraq only to leave the country in the hands of the murderer al-Maliki. We should intervene now in Iraq and side with Iran, Maliki and Hamas? I think not.
    The inter religious/tribal blood bath that was inevitable from Bush's invasion and dismemberment of Iraq is best handled by the broader Arab/Persian Islamic states in the area - and not by another non-Muslim christian Crusade to help save the world.

  113. Roger, this has become a familiar theme of yours recently. Obama should initiate military action in Iraq. Again. Only a little action, just enough action. What action? Bombing and strafing insurgents? Commando raids? Battalions of U.S. soldiers manning a front? And after the initial "surge," what do you suppose we'll have to do to maintain our gains? Play it out, Roger. Wait, it's already been played out. We've been there and done that. Let Iraq wrestle with becoming Iraq. We should be strategizing with allies on how to provide humanitarian aid. Period.

  114. part of this is, imo, wrong
    "There was no Al Qaeda in Saddam’s Iraq. The United States birthed it through the invasion. It then beat Al Qaeda down, before allowing its affiliates to regroup by leaving and doing nothing about Syria’s disintegration."

    The wrong part is beat Al Qaeda down; what happened is that Gen Petreus made a *political* decision to involve sunni tribesmen; when we left, the Prime MInister - al Malaaki - did not continue this policy, but rather made it clear to Sunnis that they were not part of Iraq's gov't or power structure.

  115. As any economist will tell you, sunk costs are not a reason to keep doing anything. The right question is "Where do we go from here and what will it cost us from now on?" So far I haven't seen any good answers from the right, which wants to absolve Bush and Cheney for the greatest foreign policy blunder since WWII and blame it all on Obama. When McCain advocated firing Obama's national security staff and replacing it with people who knew what success was in Iraq I realized that the inmates had taken control of the asylum. What success was that, again, Senator McCain?

    The region is a mess and US meddling has only made it worse. These people have to fight out their centuries-old grievances and will do it whether we're involved or not. The only thing we gain by being involved is adding US interests to their target list and helping various factions unite against a common enemy. Let's let the Arab world sort itself out without our help. The best we can hope for is to contain the blowback. Maybe we'll get a little help from our European allies on that. Oh, that's right, they don't want to spend any money on military budgets even though only a bit of water separates them from the conflagration.

    There's enough blame for how we got here to share with everyone but let's not make it worse. Let's not spend any more lives or money on this medieval conflict now being fought with modern weapons unfortunately supplied by us and other so-called first world powers.

  116. So, let's send your kid over there to die in a Sunni/Shiite religious war. What do you think about that?

  117. Try this fact: The authorization for war in Iraq was that the administration presented to congress proof that Saddam Hussein was involved in the 9/11 attacks. Another fact being glossed over: the Iraqi Parliment voted for the US to leave. Maybe I'm just confiused over who's country Iraq belongs to.

  118. "The United States invaded Iraq in 2003 because of its weapons of mass destruction program."

    So much for truth, and so much for ever taking Mr Cohen seriously again. When will The Times have the courage to reject trying to conform to Fox's "fair and balanced" nonsense by employing such fact-free pundits.

  119. Ah, Roger Cohen wants to pour gasoline on the conflict to put out the fire. Good plan. He says target those Islamic fanatics. But didn't the Obama Administration just wink as Saudi Arabia and Qatar armed those same fanatics in Syria? Didn't the Administration blindly support the al-Malaki government that answered months of peaceful Sunni (but not only Sunni) protest with hails of bullets? Now the Administration wants to wag its finger at al-Malaki for not being "inclusive"? Here's a counter to Cohen's plan: 1) deal with ISIS by breaking with its biggest cheerleader, Saudi Arabia. Suspend all arms sales, 2) Bring home the thousands of troops, diplomats and "consultants" from the Iraqi "Green Zone" 3) Stop listening to the Israeli Lobby as it asks the U.S. to use force against one Middle Eastern country after another and 4) Put on trial U.S. leaders who committed war crimes against Iraq and who got 4,500 Americans killed for a lie. A graphic for your use at www.TheStruggle.org

  120. AIPAC is unlikely to tell the Obama administration what to do in Iraq. Whatever the ultimate outcome, as Israel has no dog in the Sunni - Shia conflict, Israel is far more likely to be focused on real national security concerns, rather than intervening unnecessarily in Iraq.

    The Palestinians seem to be satisfied with what Professor Richard Falk termed a "long term normalization agreement," which has existed since 1967, rather than work toward a "two-state" solution to their conflict with Israel. The so-called "unity government" appears to be dissolving at the seams, but if by some odd chance, the upcoming Palestinian wide elections result in a unified entity dedicated to statehood and peaceful relations with Israel, events could change rapidly early next year.

  121. The U.S. invaded Iraq because Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and George W. Bush wanted to invade Iraq. They lied about WMD. It is their fault.

    It's not complicated.

  122. Why are we "helping" the Iraqis? Is it for the same reasons we were "helping" the South Vietnamese?
    Those guys over there, the Sunnis and the Shiites, are fighting over territory. We civilized human beings have been doing this since the beginning of 'civilization'. Do you imagine that using your logic this is going to end?
    And do you believe that we Americans are not also fighting over territory? Does that Iraqi oil belong to us?
    Those logical people who drew the maps of the Middle East were also so reasonable and forward-thinking as Mr. Cohen.
    Good luck.

  123. The situation is blowing-up before our eyes. The chaos spawned by Isis
    is so paralyzing because of the paradoxical consequences of intervention.
    The Iranians' & the Saudis' dilemmas are also profound &
    perplexing. Whatever actions are taken by intervention & for stability come with almost certain futility of unintended consequences. An alleged 1700 soldiers braggingly executed is Isis' insane open challenge to ... decent civilization, portending (mutual) inter-dynamic doom.

  124. One of the many unintended consequences of the ill-advised invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the removal from power of Iraq's secular dictator was the establishment of a government dominated by sectarian and ethnic concerns. That, in turn, helped to trigger the start of a much larger sectarian war that is being played out throughout the Middle East.

    Just as every police officer learns that the greatest danger of getting involved in a domestic dispute is that both combatants are likely to turn against the outsider, we need to keep in mind that any attempt by the United States to get involved in the sectarian strife between Sunni and Shiite, regardless of whether that strife is in Iraq, Syria or Bahrain, is likely to cause both groups to turn against the US.

  125. You're right, except that we messed up Iraq. We bear a tremendous amount of responsibility for the mess in that country. I definitely don't think we should back Maliki much. Western Iraq probably should be a Sunni country, independent like Kurdistan. But making it easy for ISIS to establish itself in the west is probably a big mistake. The Sunnis of the area will suffer, and it will become a terrorist haven.

  126. There is one constant about all of Roger Cohens articles proposing military action.
    He never mentions that he has never worn a uniform, never been in a war, announces he's enlisting or that his children are enlisting for this new, desparately needed, war.

  127. Chicken hawks never do any of those things. They Just Squawk.

  128. Dead wrong. They were betrayed by their government that sent them to their deaths to fight an unwinnable, illegal war over oil. In the timescale of history, the Middle Ages weren't that long ago. The human beings who brutalized one another in the Middle Ages are the same human beings that brutalize each other today. People haven't changed, just their ways of killing each other. Why don't we actually advance civilization by opting out and refusing to participate in the violence of others? It takes a truly evolved and intelligent person to ignore the cacophony of blood-lust and accomplish this. We are already led by one: his name is Barack Hussein Obama.

  129. Mr. Cohen might want to read the article on Mosul in today's Daily Beast, on the current situation in Mosul--before he decides to "take back Mosul" . We are seeing a complete remake of the Middle East map and there is little or nothing outside forces can do to prevent the the fight for territory and power that is taking place....One thing is clear the --U.S. may have some very limited roll to play BUT --military intervention is sheer foley at this point.

  130. Cohen, as usual, cherry picks his facts. He completely ignores the fact that it was the BUSH administration that made the deal in 2008 with their own chosen puppet, Maliki, to leave in 2011. The Obama administration, in contrast, wanted to stay, but the Maliki government steadfastly refused a SOFA to immunize American forces from Iraqi law, necessary for military operations in country. The right simply says that the Obama Administration "should have tried harder. Look, it is total nonsense. Cohen thought this was a good idea from the beginning, and perhaps he can convince his boys in Israel to step in. I'm sure they'd love the chance. Our chance is over and done, as it should have been at Junior Bush's "Mission Accomplished" boast.

  131. Israel has no dog in the Sunni - Shia conflict and is unlikely to intervene, unless the ultimate victor becomes a significant threat to Israel. Given the mass destruction resulting in Iraq, as is happening in Syria, neither nation is likely to become a significant threat.

  132. That should be US policy too.

  133. If the latest developments show anything, it's that U.S. intervention is meaningless in the long run. If ten years of trying to assist in the development of democratic institutions and train a competent fighting force have failed so miserably, what makes you think that "just one more airstrike" would do any good? We could keep 250,000 American troops in Iraq for a hundred years, but if the Iraqis themselves can't build a state that their own troops would be willing to fight and die for, then the insurgency will never end.

  134. When I see Roger and his family at the recruitment office to fight those cruel mean people in the Middle East, when the Veterans are taking care of when they come home dead and wounded, than I may read a little more about the Middle East. Until them, we are locked and loaded here in the USA and ready to fight to keep them out of America.

  135. The facts are plain enough. The United States invaded Iraq in 2003 because of its weapons of mass destruction program.

    [ I do not even begin to understand this passage, since the passage is false. There was no weapons of mass destruction program in Iraq. No program, none at all. We invaded Iraq and caused endless suffering for Iraqis and so many American soldiers for no moral reason. How can such a passage be written in 2014? ]

  136. My "facts" do not agree with your "facts". The United States invaded Iraq because W. wanted, and got, revenge against Saddam Hussein. Prior to the Bush/Cheny/Rumsfeld invasion, George W. referred in public several times to Hussein as "the guy who tried to kill my Dad. Then he had an army to carry out his plan. You know the rest of the story, and the price we are still paying for revenge.

  137. Can't you read? The very next sentence says clearly : "However Iraq did not have any weapons of mass destruction." He should have written a modifier in that sentence you object to, such as "Bush invaded Iraq with an excuse of a purported (or lie) about Iraq's nonexistent nuclear weapons" Anyway, the next sentence does to job of clarifying his meaning -- read it: "However Iraq did not have weapons of mass destruction,"

  138. Anyone aware of news events in American politics in the 1990's saw a great procession of Washington, D.C. politicians to microphones to call for investigation and punishment for Iraq's successful poison gas - Thousands Killed! - and nuclear weapons labs. Saddam killed many Kurds and Iranian soldiers with poison gas - WMDs.

    He made these himself in factories. Where did you THINK all those Arab chemical engineering students in U.S. colleges went home to do?

    We all watched a string of U.N. inspectors going to see Saddam and then trying to get inside his labs where everyone knew nuclear materials were being worked with. From satellites we watched trucks covered with tarps leaving the back of plants being entered from the front by the inspectors.

    Abu Abbas, the terrorist who led the Achilles Lauro attack, was hiding in Baghdad when the Americans found him, and other terror leaders had been in and out of Iraq going back to the Reagan years.

    When ever writers for the Times show a lack of information concerning Iraq's terror and WMD history, it stresses to us that info has to be searched for under the odd circumstance when politicized news outlets limit the public's right to know.

    It wasn't an article of the Liberal faith that info about Iraq had to be hushed up until the fighting by insurgents in Iraq (aided by other countries) became the main theme of our actions there just before the 2004 Presidential campaign - which I am SURE was purely coincidental.

  139. June 16, 2014

    Millions or a billion or so, know that the Middle Ages is over: but in mind is one matter but in practice there's the rub. Unless the modern educated electronic world of communications becomes forward for pervasive meaningful mind and spirit then the struggle for territoriality and water earth air and fuel goes about the driving fears of vast populations that are near panic.....

    jja Manhattan. NY

  140. And drive them back to where, exactly? Syria. Also, airstrikes are generally ineffective and risk serious civilian casualties when the enemy is dispersed and difficult to distinguish from the population at large. And with nobody (well, nobody competent) on the ground to direct the airstrikes, that makes it even less likely that they will be effective.

    At this point we need cooler heads to prevail (and one thing we can say about Obama is that he is cool). That means refraining from any precipitous action until the situation clarifies somewhat. ISIS cannot take Baghdad; they lack the numbers no matter how pathetic the Iraqi army has become.

    More than unconditionally aiding a corrupt and thuggish Iraqi government, we need to put whatever influence we have into figuring out a way to (again) turn moderate Sunnis against the ISIS extremists. The problem is the antipathy understandably felt by Sunnis towards Maliki. This is where America may have a role.

  141. From the subhead:
    "Iraq and Syria were rotten to the core before America's mistakes."

    Well! Isn't THAT special! Considering every time one see the word "Baathist" you're seeing the name of a Middle Eastern political party groomed and brought to power by the US State department and the CIA BBC, also see these docs from the National Security Archives).

    Of COURSE they're rotten corrupt murderers, and sellouts to Western business interest. But the deal in the long run wasn't good enough to keep the looted extractive resources flowing so we hire people like CIA's al-qaeda-in-suits (currently seen on the Turkish border of Syria denying they know the 'heart-eaters' they fostered, like denying they released jinis that won't return to the bottle), fighting CIA groomed government

  142. “...Ferraris and Bentleys being driven by students at the American University of Iraq in Suleimaniyah, and at the only five-star hotel in Erbil, the car park was filled with new BMW’s and Range Rovers. The few international restaurants in Erbil cost approximately $90 per person for a meal with a beer. The city’s shopping centers carry international brands...”

    Now THAT sounds like real nation-buildin' to me, yessir!

  143. A US win too often ends up with a description like this. We are fighting for a tiny wealthy elite, drunkenness, and prostitution. Joy.

  144. while i tend to agree with your analysis, except for concern about your urging of our "targeted military force". after (assuming that it would end sometime) this use of military force, then what?

    first thing: i'd demand the "bomb, bomb, bomb iran" faction of republican senators vote to increase taxes to pay for any use of military force. second thing, i'd use our airforce (and drones) only to assure the fanatics (of course, many of them are fanatics) didn't advance beyond sunni areas.

    third thing: i'd discuss with iran and saudi arabia whether it was time that they address their sunni/shiite divide and become involved in partitioning iraq--for it's certainly not a viable country anymore.

    finally, your suggestion that a goal for our involvement is to "prevent a betrayal of the thousands of american lives lost since 2001".

    what a terrible suggestion! those lives were lost because our government wasted them. yes, wasted them. harsh words, but true. the greater "betrayal" would be to lose more lives for some equally dumb and unattainable purpose.

  145. I don't think targeted military force is just not going to cut it, Mr. Cohen. Once we start it will be one thing after another. This is a very intractable problem. We just can't afford it and we, as outsiders, cannot create the peace there. History should have taught is all that by now.
    I think you were much nearer the mark when you said that the borders of Syria and Iraq were ripe to be moved.
    I think we need to get over the enmity with Iran and move on a little. I think that the stable powers of the region and the Kurds should be allowed, even encourage to take over these lawless nearly former nations.
    The best solution would be to attempt to pre-draw the new borders aligning them with the affiliations of the people who are there and then allow the Middle East to do it.
    If we go in there, this could easily become World War III, if we don't and we leave it to the nations of the region, it's a nasty regional conflict.

  146. The problem with moving borders has never been lack of reasons to move one. It has always been: Where do we stop?

    There are some people of great influence in American policy in the Middle East who have some very specific desires about moving borders, and people too. This is just the excuse they need to start moving things.

    That is a sure recipe for massive bloodletting and extensive war.

    That is why we did not do it before, despite the lousy borders. That is not some new thing that surprises anyone.

  147. We went to Iraq, without understanding the dynamics, culture and the power structure. We won the war but failed miserably in nation building. We pulled out of Iraq without thinking through the impacts and ramifications of that withdrawal. We have intervened in many parts of the world in recent years, lost many american lives and have little to show for it. I sure hope we start at some point to learn from our mistakes. Intervention in a foreign country without an in-depth understanding of the dynamics of the situation rarely succeeds. We think the whole world operates like we do. Unfortunately they do not.
    Having said that, where do we go from here. I think, for a change, the administration is being smart. Politics of inclusion in Iraq must be a precondition to our involvement. Secondly. our involvement cannot be a unilateral one. Iran Turkey and our NATO allies all have big stakes in not allowing ISIS to gain a foothold in Iraq. So we must act together. Finally, we need to solve the Syrian mess. Let's hold our noses, work with Russia, and find a strongman who can replace Assad and bring back order in Syria. That way ISIS will not be able to use Syria as a a staging point for raids into Iraq.

  148. We need to recognize that we are not the main players in this game.
    The Saudi's are supporting the Sunni rebels while the Iranians are supporting the Shi'ites.
    If we go in, who do we support, and why do we support them?
    Having Iraq fracture into Sunni, Shiite, and Kurdish territories might be the best of all possible outcomes.

  149. I guess html isn't allowed so.

    BBC link to US involvement in bringing the baath party to power
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/adamcurtis/posts/the_baby_and_the_baath_water

    National Security Archive with docs and glowing reports on how "Our boy(snigger) in Baghdad" was doing
    http://www2.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB107/

    I'll reiterate:
    Of COURSE they're rotten corrupt murderers, and sellouts to Western business interest. But the deal in the long run wasn't good enough to keep the looted extractive resources flowing so we hire people like CIA's al-qaeda-in-suits (currently seen on the Turkish border of Syria denying they know the 'heart-eaters' they fostered, like denying they released jinis that won't return to the bottle), fighting CIA groomed government

  150. The oil fields, the oil fields, the oil fields. . . it's simplistic, I agree, but having the oil fields controlled by a stable, sane government has to be a priority. Along with the humanitarian crisis of innocent civilians as collateral damage.

  151. For Mr. Cohen, the "facts are plain enough." The United States destroyed al Qaeda in Iraq and then "allow[ed] its affiliates to regroup by leaving and doing nothing about Syria’s disintegration." This is based on an unexamined assumption, namely that we had the ability to prevent the regrouping or "Syria's disintegration." Has Mr. Cohen really learned noting in the years since we tried to thwart the Viet Cong? If we had given anti-aircraft weapons to some Syrians, what would he be saying when they were used to shoot down Western aircraft?

    The old truism that those who forget history are bound to repeat it needs repeating here. The "blame game" is reasonable and necessary; an objective and responsible post-mortem can provide a sounder basis for future policy decisions. (And that is not accomplished by trying to show that one is "balanced" and non-partisan by making sure that there is never a criticism of one side without making a parallel criticism of the other.)

  152. "It would be a betrayal of the thousands of American lives lost since 2001 and of the millions in the Middle East who view the Middle Ages as over."

    Before you write your next column, please Google "sunk cost fallacy."

  153. Cohen ends his article with the same prescription he doubted earlier, that of US military intervention. Not a good idea. This region needs to take care of its fires in its own way. A reckoning between Sunnis and Shiites should be allowed to play out once and for all. It is already proven that America cannot solve this.

    Also, the term jihadi has so much evil connotations that it can never be perceived as legitimate. This is not fully correct, imho. These people truly believe in their worldview, and who are we to say that it is not legitimate. If they want to impose sharia law and oppress their own peoples then let them defend it in the eyes of the world. The west should allow them to have their own way, just as it defends every peoples right to freedom and pursuit of their own paths.

  154. Iraq and Syria were the frankenstein creations of UK and France after WW1.
    Niether so-called "nation" ever made any sense in the modern world.
    The Ottoman system of vilayets, created tax farms in each diverse tribal group, each carefully monitored and controlled by the Sultans generals.....pretty effective for almost 500 years.
    The Frankenstein european nation-state ideal didnt even last 80 years.
    Now, in the 21st century, the core of the Ottomons, the new Turkish nation-state, becomes the key to surviving and thriving in the Middle East once again.
    Is Turkey willing to sacrifice an Islamic identity in order to prosper inside the EU?
    Will Turkey find a way to work with co-religionists along the Mediteranean Coast of Syria....homeland of Assads Alawi tribes? They control the port cities where oil is transported.
    Will Turkey find a way to assuage the Kurds? the Armenians? As these multi-tribal groups control important oil pipelines across turkey to the Mediteranean also.
    Will Turkey provide a bridge of peace between Europe/USA and Iran??

  155. "The facts are plain enough. The United States invaded Iraq in 2003 because of its weapons of mass destruction program." Really? WMD is why the Bush administration SAID it invaded. I do not believe they believed it and that was their unforgivable sin.

  156. President Obama demand for unity in Iraq will never work.
    A more sensible but perhaps more difficult solution is to create three autonomous regions along the ethnic and religious lines with loose federated state like Swiss federation. Following that the Kurds and Shiite should help
    moderate Sunni to defeat ISIS with the help of American Air Power.

  157. The Sunnis in Iraq are embracing the ISIS invaders. The US should stay out. Its involvement will only gens the more dead and more hatred for the US without any benefit. The SUNNI AND THE SHIA have been killing each other for centuries. Unless we intend to install a strong man to control these warring "religious orthodoxies" we don't have a change of changing anything. The presence of BMWs or any other luxury care in parking lots says nothing.

  158. Mr. Cohen,

    I have to hope for your sake that some unhinged NYT headline writer put "Take Mosul Back!" at the top of your column.

    Take Mosul Back? How? By Whom? Where to put the Sunni/ISIS fighters who now seem thoroughly entrenched there and through vast sweeps of Iraq?

    Will you and John McCain and Lindsay Graham personally drive Humvees into Fallujah and Mosul and Tikrit to "take them back?"

    You've usually struck me as a reasonable man who writes about reality more clearly than your comrade, Tom Friedman, but you must be drinking his leftover Kool-Aid from 2003 by mistake because even the benighted Mr. Friedman says "stay out."

    You don't want to play counterfactual history but then explain that Iraq and Syria would be where they are today without "America's hapless intervention?" No, sirree, you can't have it that easily, Mr. Cohen...the US bears a great and terrible responsibility for what is playing out now in the apocalypse of Syria, Iraq and the Middle East (and by the "US" I mean both Presidents Bush and Obama).

    "Targeted military force" to drive back the ISIS fanatics? What, drones, cruise missiles? They were very effective during our first two wars in Iraq--why would you expect them to save the day in a third war in Iraq?

    Oh, Mr. Cohen, you blew this one big time. You will surely regret this column, sooner than later, and when you do I hope you'll be a better man than your Kool-Aid purveyor and freely admit your error.

  159. I find it very disturbing that people like Mr. Cohen still seem to somehow still believe that there is a military role for us over there beyond containing the disruption to the region. There isn't. It would just be good lives and money after bad.

    It's a complete waste and it is exactly what the enemy wants us to do. They want to bleed us dry just like Bin Laden was able to do with the old Soviet Unions. When I say the enemy, I mean al Qaeda/ISIS but Mr. Cohen means Iran. He's going to have to accept the fact that Iran is going to have to play a very large role in any solution in this region that is going to last.

  160. "President Obama should use targeted military force to drive back the fanatics of ISIS."

    Drive them back to where? After they are driven back, how will they be kept back, where ever "back" is? By an Iraqi army that has received billions of dollars in training and equipment, yet flees? The writer's conclusion is baffling.

  161. Send in Cliven Bundy and the Duck Dynasty Crowd. They are armed and spoiling for a "righteous" fight. When our intelligence can prove Canada and Mexico are about to send Al Qaeda or ISIS operatives across our borders, I am all for military intervention. Until then, keep us out of a medieval tribal fight we cannot win.