In 2008 and 2012, Americans voted for a “fundamental transformation” of our peace through strength foreign policy. And we got it. What does it look like?
ABC News reports:
Hundreds of Iraqi men, women and children crammed into vehicles have fled their homes, fearing clashes, kidnapping and rape after Islamic militants seized large swaths of northern Iraq.
The families and fleeing soldiers who arrived Thursday at a checkpoint at the northern frontier of this largely autonomous Kurdish region in Iraq were among some half-million people who have fled their homes since Monday, according to a U.N. estimate.
Workers were busily extending the Khazer checkpoint in the frontier area known as Kalak, where displaced women hungrily munched on sandwiches distributed by aid workers and soldiers rushed to process people.
The exodus began after fighters of the al-Qaida breakaway group, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, seized the northern city of Mosul in a stunning assault Monday. Since then, the militants have moved southward toward the capital, Baghdad, in the biggest crisis to face Iraq in years.
“Masked men came to our house and they threatened us: ‘We will get to you.’ So we fled,” said Abed, a laborer who abandoned his home on the edge of Mosul Thursday. “They kidnapped other people. They took away some people for interrogation.”
The young man said rumors were quickly spreading that Islamic State fighters — as well as masked bandits taking advantage of the chaos — were seizing young women for rape or forced marriage.
It looks like a civil war.
More from the Wall Street Journal:
The Sunni insurgents’ lightning offensive in the past three days has sparked the biggest crisis Iraq has faced since it plunged into sectarian violence following the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.
ISIS overran Tikrit, the birthplace of former dictator Saddam Hussein, on Wednesday. But early Thursday government forces fought back, said Ali Muhammad, an official in Sunni-dominated Salah Al Din province, where the city is located.
[...]The group aims to set up a state in a continuous stretch of territory from Sunni-dominated Anbar province in Iraq to Raqqa province in northeast Syria. Since capturing Iraq’s second-largest city, Mosul, on Tuesday it has advanced south along the Tigris River toward Baghdad.
In another indication of the increasingly sectarian contours of Iraq’s turmoil, ISIS on Thursday issued a threat against Baghdad as well as Karbala and Najaf. The latter two cities, along with Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia, are considered sacred to Shiites, who make up 60% of Iraq’s population.
[...]U.S.-armed and trained Iraqi security forces put up almost no fight throughout the militants’ rout, witnesses said.
Who is to blame for this? Did it all happen by accident?
The UK Telegraph explains:
The takeover of large swathes of Iraq by Islamist militants should be seen as a damning indictment of Obama’s ill-judged decision to abandon the country to its fate so early in his presidency.
Throughout his tenure at the White House Mr Obama has made much political capital out of his claim to be an anti-war president: the man who brought America’s decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan to an end.
But in his desperation to distance himself from the Bush administration, Mr Obama made no real effort to understand the implications of authorising a wholesale American withdrawal from Iraq three years ago.
There were many Americans – including many prominent Democrats – who took the view that, after the terrible cost that the US had paid for ridding the country of Saddam Hussein and establishing Iraq’s first democratic constitution, the White House owed it to the American people to make sure Iraq continued to develop as a functioning democratic state.
But for that to happen, Washington needed to make a commitment to maintain a residual military presence in Baghdad to ensure that Nouri al-Maliki’s government did not renege on his commitment to reconcile his political differences with the country’s Kurdish and Sunni minorities.
But after Mr Obama lost patience with Mr al-Maliki, and ordered a unilateral withdrawal of American forces three years ago, Mr al-Maliki felt he was no longer under any obligation to honour his commitments. Instead, he cultivated deeper ties with neighbouring Iran, thereby further inflaming Sunni tribal leaders who felt increasingly disfranchised in post-Saddam Iraq.
The result is the current crisis, which has seen the radical Islamist group, the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), seize control of large areas of the country, including Mosul – the country’s second largest city – and Saddam’s hometown of Tikrit.
For a more pessimistic commentary on these events, see this Investors Business Daily editorial, which tries to predict where this will all end. It’s not a good prediction, if you like freedom and peace.