US President Barack Obama made the right choice in providing military assistance to Iraq’s troubled government. Putting aside the question of whether America should have engaged in Iraqi nation-building in the first place, the reality is that the actions of the past decade have already occurred and that America must nurture the democracy it has helped to conceive.
The insurgent group ISIS does not respect the rule of law, democracy, the conventions of war, or even human life. Iraqi soldiers and civilians captured by this repugnant group have been dehumanized for propaganda purposes and summarily executed. This group cannot exist in a democratic Iraq. And while ISIS must be stopped and brought to justice there are clear concerns that Iraq’s government cannot resolve the crisis.
Iraq’s government has not developed as quickly as many had hoped. The incumbent prime minister has been ineffective in building a unity coalition among sectarian groups. It’s now up to Iraqis to determine their own government, while it’s the responsibility of their friends and neighbors in the international community to provide counsel and assistance where it is needed. Prime Minister al-Maliki has asked for help to protect Iraqi citizens and the country’s fragile democracy. Considering the barbarism of ISIS, it would be a stunning repudiation of America’s own efforts to decline al-Maliki’s request.
For the US, providing military assistance to Iraq’s fragile government may seem unsavory, but so too is the disgraceful alternative. Nearly 4,500 Americans were killed in Iraq over the span of a decade-long fight for a free democracy with liberty for all citizens. There can be no greater insult to the sacrifices and memory of these soldiers than to allow the progress made possible by their bloodshed to be undone. At the same time, the Obama administration is embroiled in a scandal about its failures to adequately care for returned and injured veterans. Imagine veterans’ frustration in the face of a reality in which their government does not properly care for them following military service, and in which their government allows that service to be rendered all but purposeless.
Iraq’s request is reasonable: reconnaissance flights, tactical advisers, and perhaps limited air support to eradicate a barbaric horde of homicidal would-be theocrats. For a country that has already given thousands of its sons and daughters and billions of dollars, this action is a drop in the bucket to preserve all that has been gained. What is necessary to protect the innocent from the reprehensible is infrequently ideal; yet in this case, it is a necessity nonetheless.