By Christian Stellakis
The hard truth about Iraq can be pretty difficult to accept. It requires admitting mistakes, identifying fault and, perhaps worst of all, recognizing futility. But only when we face the reality of a situation can we fully comprehend it, and only then should we attempt to solve it. It is for that reason the tragedy of the Iraq crisis must be stated plainly: the situation in Iraq is a complete disaster, it is deteriorating fast, solutions are few, and the United States is at least partially culpable.
Seemingly everyday the extremist terrorist organization known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (or ISIS for short) tightens its hold over the Iraqi people and government. The ISIS, renowned for its brutality so much so that Al-Queda has disavowed the organization, continues to push deeper into the heartland of the Sunni nation on its murderous campaign to conquer Baghdad. Seizing cities such as Mosul, Tikrit and Tal Afar, the ISIS is now poised to capture the strategic city of Baqouba, only some forty miles from Iraq’s capitol. The Iraqi military is evaporating due to poor leadership and desertion whereas as the ISIS has gained legitimacy, strength and resources, becoming the richest terrorist organization to have ever existed.
It now appears to be only a matter of time before the extremists claim the capitol of Baghdad and dismantle the democratic Iraqi government that the United States tried so hard to establish. Unabated, the ISIS will almost inevitably seek to create a radical Islamist regime, erasing any previous progress toward liberty and equality, and making the nation-building efforts of the US for naught. This situation, though, is about much more than America’s wounded pride. A foreign policy failure is not nearly as important as the blood and treasure that was sacrificed in an attempt to ensure Iraqi liberation; America spent billions of dollars and, more than that, lost the lives of thousands of brave men and women deposing a ruthless dictator and instituting a democratic government. Though many in the international community doubt America’s intentions and goals in the Iraq War, none can doubt the integrity of those fallen soldiers who gave their lives in service to their country. It is a tragic truth that, given the situation as of today, there is the very real possibility their deaths were in vain.
Worse yet, it is all too likely that the US is somewhat to blame for the crisis in Iraq. Though responsibility to protect its borders, establishments and people ultimately falls to the government of Iraq, America’s actions undoubtedly left Iraq in a vulnerable position. President Barack Obama both announced and carried through with a timeline for troop withdrawal in Iraq. This, as well as the fact that the US did not leave a residual military presence in Iraq, betrayed both weakness and predictability on the part of the United States. Their exodus left the ill-prepared Iraqi military exposed, creating a power vacuum in America’s absence. Unsurprisingly, this power vacuum was eventually filled by ISIS, an organization that is both well-funded and powerful enough to threaten the entire democratic system that America and the Iraqi people fought to establish.
Yet despite the United States’foreign policy failure and the Iraqi military’s incompetence, it is the citizens of the collapsing state who are truly suffering. The populace remains terrorized by the ISIS, which is known for committing the grisly atrocities of public beheadings and crucifixion of “nonbelievers.”Reports state that captured Iraqi soldiers as well as citizens are being summarily executed by the radical terrorist organization. On just one street in the conquered city of Mosul, a total of seventeen civilians were executed last wednesday. It is estimated that hundreds have been killed while several thousands have been injured.
The reality of the situation in Iraq is hard and unforgiving and, unfortunately, solutions are few and far between. The United States and its allies, given the apparent failure of the previous US-lead occupation of Iraq, are unlikely to support action that would involve boots on the ground. Drones and tactical airstrikes are a second option. Though at first glance, certainly appealing, this option becomes frustratingly complicated due to the nature of the ISIS. Not a conventional military, the ISIS exists primarily within city borders, shielded by civilians. Tactical airstrikes therefore carry the risk of endangering the lives of innocents, a possibility that should be avoided as much as possible. One final solution would be the use of noncombatant “special forces”to gather intelligence and aid the Iraqi government.
The hard truth is that there is no perfect solution, no silver bullet. But by confronting the reality of the situation and setting politics aside, the world may be able to solve the crisis in Iraq.Christian is a Junior at Hamilton College in Clinton, New York. As an honors student and member of the Dean’s List, Christian is pursuing a degree in Economics and Government. He was accepted into Hamilton after graduating Valedictorian of Chittenango High School, where he served as the Opinion Editor for the school newspaper. Christian is an avid member of the Hamilton College Debate Society and a frequent contributor to the political discourse at the college.