The New Isolationists

The idea that the Iraq War is about to “begin again” is as absurd a notion now as it was in 2003 when people were concerned of “starting” it.  Since at least the Gulf War of 1991, prompted by Saddam Hussein’s illegal annexation and invasion of Kuwait, the United States of America, and many other nations, have been at war “with” Iraq.  Prior to that, Hussein was relishing his own war against the Iraqi people through several genocidal campaigns.  Indeed, it seems the region is quite accustomed to war, not to say weary of it; and while to many Americans (especially those in my own, college-age demographic) the conflict is an annoyance brought on by George Bush Jr., there are millions in Iraq who suffer something greater than an itch.

Thus, whether through the dispatch of troops directly on the ground, the aid of air strikes or drones, the arming of the Iraqi government or Kurdish forces, or the employment of a few hundred “advisers” as now seems to be the plan, the United States government will be playing a role in the two-decade-plus “War for Iraq.”  The question is only what role and how large.  The question is not should America be involved at all.

What is scary, then, is not the current strategy of the President of the United States — one of both reservedness and intent — but that swath of his base which still sees in Barack Obama anything resembling the figure of a dove and, likewise, wishes it were so.  As Slate’s Jamelle Bouie outlines in what is meant to be a critique of Hillary Clinton’s hawkishness relative to this same base, when asked the question, “Does the U.S have a responsibility to do something about Libya?”, 64% of Democrats said, “No” — a percentage roughly equating a 1995 poll posing the same question during the Bosnian genocide.  Notice the phrasing of the question inquires not what ought to be done, but whether the United States has any obligation at all to do something.  A similar poll asked its audience if they were against U.S. intervention “of any kind”, to which a majority said, “Yes.”   Following the marching orders of popular opinion, a recent Congressional vote on whether to bar any funding of Iraqi combat operations, produced 142 House Democrats on the affirmative side.

This is not a Democratic public which mirrors the cautionary steps of its President while recognizing both the threat and its own responsibility in combating it, but one which has thrown its hands in the air and given up.  A mere decade’s worth of conflict that most had no significant part in or sacrifice for and the American left is neither accustomed to war nor willing to overcome its weariness of it.  “Not our fight!” is the mantra, as if that made it disappear.  “No blood for oil!” the cry, as theocrats with global ambition spill blood for precisely that reason and more.  Though Western involvement in the Middle East has produced its share of blow-back and, rightfully so, cynicism, that outlook should plague the victims in the struggle and not the comfort of bourgeois intellectuals who imagine themselves removed from it.  Yet the former remain steady-eyed by necessity, while the latter freely fold their arms.  It appears the democratic interests of our fellow humans in Iraq are no better served by the American constituency than its politicians.

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