In a move anti-war critics and foreign policy experts are certain to call simply an extension of a policy that has proved a failure, the New York Times reports the Obama administration is planning to build a new military base in the western part of Iraq and send additional ground troops in an attempt to turn the tide against Islamic State (ISIS) forces who have continued to take and hold ground on sides of the Syrian border in recent weeks.
After recent advances by ISIS that allowed them to capture the city of Ramadi in Iraq’s Anbar Province, the Pentagon is talking openly about sending what it calls “additional trainers” to bolster the Iraqi army in the Sunni-dominated region that skirts Syria.
As the Times reports:
Though there are already approximately 3,000 U.S. soldiers on the ground in Iraq, President Obama made headlines on Monday when he spoke from the G7 summit in Germany and admitted that the U.S. did not yet have a “complete strategy” for dealing with ISIS.
However, as Jason Ditz writes at Anti-War.com, the idea to send additional U.S. troops to Iraq was not entirely unexpected,
But according to critics of Obama’s foreign policy and war strategy in Syria and Iraq, everything the administration is doing “right now is making the situation worse” – not better.
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That is the sentiment of Phyllis Bennis, senior fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies, who in a recent interview with the Real News Network said the Pentagon’s plan to send more weapons and troops (whether you call them “trainers” or “advisers” or something else) will only prolong the violence in the region. Describing the situation as “whack-a-mole,” Bennis said the outcomes over the last year have been terrible and that a continuation of the strategy would predictably create more chaos and death for the people of Iraq and Syria.
“We suddenly have the challenge of dealing with ISIS in Ramadi in Iraq,” she explained, “so we’re going to send a huge amount of resources, soldiers and new weapons and whatever, to Ramadi, where in the meantime whether it’s in Syria, whether it’s in Iraq, there are other crisis zones that are being created, even as we speak. And the more weapons that get sent, the more weapons end up in the hands of ISIS. That’s true in Iraq, it’s true in Syria.”
Meanwhile, in a lengthy article published in The Nation, Sherle R. Schwenninger, director of the Economic Growth Program at the New America Foundation and a senior fellow at the World Policy Institute, argues that the disaster fostered by the U.S. in Iraq and Syria proves without question the overall failure of Obama’s foreign policy mindset. Though he acknowledges that the prevailing criticism in Washington, D.C.—from liberal interventionists and the neoconservatives that drove and supported the failed policies of President George W. Bush—is that Obama has been too timid in his handling of the war in Syria and Iraq, Schwenninger says the reality, in fact, is that “the administration has been too quick on the draw.” If Obama had not worked to funnel supplies of weapons into the region or “done more to restrain our allies from supporting foreign jihadi fighters in both Syria and Iraq,” says Schwenninger, it is possible that “ISIS would not be on the march to the degree that it is today.”
However, he continued, “by helping to open the floodgates for both weapons and fighters, the administration is now looking at an endless new war that will only bleed us morally as well as financially. If Obama had actually acted with the restraint that his critics accuse him of, can anyone seriously say we would be worse off?”
Importantly, Schwenninger points out that among those saying that Obama’s policy is not aggressive enough when it comes to Iraq and Syria, are the same people—including Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham and other prominent war hawks—”who cheered us into the war in Iraq.” The credentials of these critics, he argues, should have thoroughly discredited them, “but over the last several years, they have had a disproportionate influence in shaping a narrative of US foreign policy that is almost as misguided as the one they spun in the lead-up to the Iraq War.”
And while the fighting continues and the war expands with the sending of more foreign weapons and troops, who benefits?
According to Bennis, it’s certainly not the Iraqi or Syrian people.
“The people who benefit,” she told the RNN, “are the CEOs and the shareholders of these giant corporations who make the planes and the bombs and the bullets and the teargas, and all of the weapons that are being sold to all the different sides. They are the ones who are a huge stumbling block.”
But if more weapons and an expanded military footprint by the U.S. are not the answer, what is? Bennis says the answer to that question has always been the same: a call for both a cease fire and a regional arms embargo, followed by serious diplomatic efforts. Explaining what that might look like, she said:
In the end, Bennis concluded, an arms embargo may be the hardest part to imagine, because “that’s where people are making money off of these wars.”
Watch the full interview: