New Violence, Old Violence

Here we go, again, in Iraq. The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria has taken over the country’s second-largest city and is threatening a greater takeover. Iraq’s military and police forces appear to have rather easily given up, though they claimed a victory when they maintained control of Tikrit, Saddam Hussein’s hometown.

Foreign policy experts quickly said the current troubles in Iraq have been brewing “for years.” It would have been more accurate to say “for millennia,” though this most recent spate can be traced back at least 100 years. Iraq, in its modern form, is a Western invention. But government, religion, tribal loyalty and might-makes-right standards are mixed up in the Middle East in a way Western officials, despite decades now of education and experience, simply do not comprehend.

And, so, time and again, we send in troops. We withdraw troops. We send financial aid. We train our hand-picked governments’ militaries. And we react with surprise when men like ISIS spokesman Abu Mohammed al-Adnani tell forces to “Continue your march, as the battle is not yet raging. It will rage in Baghdad and Karbala. So be ready for it.”

So far, thank goodness, no one in Iraq has asked for the return of U.S. troops to the country. But they have asked for money, training, supplies and munitions. And, of course, Iraq’s government has said it would be “open” to the idea of U.S. airstrikes. All this while, according to the U.S. State Department, terrorist activity and violence in the country are at “levels unseen since 2007.”

Surely no one in Washington, D.C., will be tempted to put U.S. troops back in harm’s way after this most recent flare. No good can come of feeding another round of our young men and women to an ages-old conflict we have no hope of winning.

But the folks in charge may be tempted to continue to pour aid into Iraq, in an attempt to ease their consciences-$15 billion may be just the beginning. At some point, this too, must stop.

Iraq, if it is to survive, must stand on its own.