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Something to Consider Going Forward

A simple point needs to be remembered as we go forward in the aftermath of the Paris attacks:  there would be no ISIS (or, if you prefer, IS, ISL, or Daesh), if there had not been a massive mistaken military action by the United States after the 9/11 attacks.  We can draw a rather direct line from the Iraq war to the rise of ISIS.

This strikes me as something to keep in mind as we consider the next policy steps.

I point this out not to lay blame but to point out that there are always consequences for military action, and what seems like a straightforward solution to a problem is rather likely to spin off serious unintended and unanticipated consequences.

Let’s just remember that the consequences of military actions are not as easy to control or predict as many are going to pretend is the case in the coming days, weeks, and months.

The connections between the dismantlement of the Iraqi state by the US and its poor job of helping build a new one is worth remembering as well when there are simplistic statements made by politicians about how ISIS could have been dealt with in recent years.

And the policies in Libya and the dismantlement of that regime have to be taken into account as well.

(It seemed worth saying, for what it is worth).

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About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is Professor of Political Science and Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Troy University. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. DrDaveT says:

    Well said.

    When was the last significant US military action with something resembling victory and closure? World War 2,which was itself the sequel to WW1 and an extreme outlier in the history of warfare?

    Our military can easily defeat almost any other military on the planet, and can defend us from absolutely all of them. That isn’t worth nearly as much as many Republicans seem to think, when it comes to being able to get the rest of the world to behave the way we want them to.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  2. Avgosto Trombolino says:

    @DrDaveT: I totally agree, except…we could be destroyed in the process,as the “enemies” today own nuclear arsenals, and means of delivery!.But so far we were very lucky, we have very competent president OBAMA!.let’s support him in a quest for peace.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 3

  3. An Interested Party says:

    This is an especially important point to consider when we listen to anyone who supported the Iraq Debacle coming forward to offer advice about how we should deal with this latest event…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 0

  4. M. Bouffant says:

    Stand by for OPERATION OVER-REACTION.

    To be followed by OPERATION OVER-OVER-REACTION, after OPERATION OVER-REACTION has the same result as 13+ yrs. of idiocy in the Middle-East has already had; increased radicalization, more & deadlier attacks, &c.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  5. DrDaveT says:

    @Avgosto Trombolino:

    except…we could be destroyed in the process,as the “enemies” today own nuclear arsenals, and means of delivery!

    Who exactly are you thinking of? The only agent with both the will to attack the US with nukes and some vague semblance of an ability to do so is North Korea, and that’s pretty far off-topic for this thread…

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  6. Gustopher says:

    @DrDaveT: Pakistan has the bomb, a wildly unstable government, and a populace that kind of hates us.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  7. Grewgills says:

    @Gustopher:
    Pakistan might someday have the will, but they don’t have the ability to deliver it to us. Russia has the ability to deliver it to us, but absent major unforeseen events won’t have the will. I can’t think of any power that is likely to have the will anytime soon AND either has or is likely to have the ability to deliver it to the US. NK comes closest, as they might be able to deliver a nuke to HI or CA. Even the current, admittedly unstable leadership, has to understand that doing so would end them without coming close to ending us.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  8. Ron Beasley says:

    I don’t often agree with Pat Buchanan but he was right on target when he said the people in the middle east “don’t hate us because of who we are but where we are.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  9. Lit3Bolt says:
  10. Guarneri says:

    I find this type of argument to be rather weak. Does the board of a corporation give a pass to the current CEO for actions taken by his/her predecessor some 10-15 years ago, after being in charge for roughly half that time? I don’t think so, if the board is competent. Not in my world anyway.

    What next. It’s all the fault of Adam and Eve??

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  11. An Interested Party says:

    Does the board of a corporation give a pass to the current CEO for actions taken by his/her predecessor some 10-15 years ago, after being in charge for roughly half that time?

    Actually, it’s more like understanding the corporation’s f@ck-ups from the past and making sure that no more mistakes of that magnitude are made again…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 1

  12. al-Ameda says:

    @Guarneri:

    I find this type of argument to be rather weak. Does the board of a corporation give a pass to the current CEO for actions taken by his/her predecessor some 10-15 years ago, after being in charge for roughly half that time? I don’t think so, if the board is competent. Not in my world anyway.

    By that reasoning one could blame FDR for the Great Depression.

    The facts stand, had Bush not decided to go to war in Iraq in 2003 it is highly doubtful that ISIS would exist today, nor would the balance of power in the region be shifted to Iran. Republicans are desperate to pin both the financial collapse of 2008 and the ongoing fallout from the fatal decision to go to war in Iraq on the current administration.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 2

  13. Stonetools says:

    A big problem with US pundits and the American public is that they seem to hanker for a ” short, victorious war” ending with a big tank battle somewhere, which the US would naturally win. It’s time to just forget about those sorts of wars. They ain’t happening again.
    The war against Islamic jihadism – and it IS a war- is an ideological struggle, like the Cold War, and such wars are long, messy affairs in which the military power plays only a part. It’s not survival of the biggest, so much as survival of the SMARTEST, those who can use their soft power, like economic power and media power, as well as military power, to achieve victory. Like the Soviet Union, victory won’t be achieved so much by marching into the enemy capital but rather by so totally discrediting the enemy ideology that the people fighting you will simply give up and lay down their arms. That’s not easy to do, and won’t be accomplished by just a bombing campaign. I’m not sure how to defeat ISIS, but we can’t do it by simplying capturing or destroying their capital. Until we can figure it out, containment still remains the best policy.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  14. @Guarneri: I think you are going to have to specify what you are trying to say.

    If you are trying to argue that Obama is to blame and that the Bush actions are just the distance past well, that is ridiculous. (And that is a different conversation in any event).

    However, my point was that one very serious overreaction helped get us where we are and that needs to be taken into consideration as we reaction to current events.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 1

  15. Bookdragon says:

    Amen, sir. Amen.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  16. Bookdragon says:

    Amen, sir. Amen.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  17. BrooklynDave says:

    @Guarneri Hmmm … an observer might almost think you had a guilty conscience or something.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  18. Mr. Prosser says:

    @Stonetools: I agree but part of the effort is to recognize the support given to these groups by Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States. Until the money and tacit support is dried up this will go on. http://www.esquire.com/news-politics/politics/news/a39727/paris-attacks-middle-eastern-oligarchies/

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  19. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    I suspect that the most important conclusion that we can draw may be that nations that are so inclined should stop trying to remake the world in their own image, but then, I’m just an ignorant cracker.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  20. R.Dave says:

    There would be no ISIS (or, if you prefer, IS, ISL, or Daesh), if there had not been a massive mistaken military action by the United States after the 9/11 attacks. We can draw a rather direct line from the Iraq war to the rise of ISIS.

    That’s all well and good, but I’m not sure it’s a particularly helpful point given where we are now. Please pardon the Nazi invocation, but this kind of advice strikes me a lot like someone in 1940 arguing that we should be circumspect in our approach to Germany given that “there would be no Nazis if there had not been a mistaken reparations regime by the Allied powers after WWI.” Well, yes, that’s probably true, but at the moment, they’ve invaded Poland, started bombing London, and, oh, by the way, they’re committing genocide. So, you know, what do you want to do about that?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  21. Robin Cohen says:

    Obama agreed, I belive, NOT to prosecute Bush/Cheney for Iraq. Idiot. They and their lying associates should all have paid for their self-serving lies. Instead we have a series of crooks who intentionally lied to drag us into War. We have intentionally misled by people who should never been in positions of leadership. Time for those responsible to pay up. They should not be permitted to continue to be rewarded for their part in the War and the tarnishing of America’s reputation.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  22. Robin Cohen says:

    Time to prosecute Bush/Cheney for Iraq. No statute of limitatons on murder regardless of the promise that Obama may have made to Spain.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  23. david7134 says:

    @al-Ameda:
    I hate to break this to you, but FDR was directly responsible for the Depression. Hover had instituted policy that would have corrected the economic slump, and recovery was on the way. FDR then changed multiple economic factors resulting in a continuation of the bad economy until the 1950’s when the Republicans began dismantling his social programs and taxes. FDR was as destructive to the US as WWII was to Europe.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 13

  24. al-Ameda says:

    @david7134:

    hate to break this to you, but FDR was directly responsible for the Depression. Hover had instituted policy that would have corrected the economic slump, and recovery was on the way.

    Nice revisionist history, thank you. Hoover had no such policy prescription that would have provided enough stimulus to begin to bring us out of the Great Depression.

    Are you saying that the post-WWII economy, throughout the 1950s, was a ruinous mess, and all of this under the stewardship of 2-term Republican socialist president Dwight Eisenhower?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  25. An Interested Party says:

    @Mr. Prosser: Pierce is spot-on…this is the dirty little secret that few people seem to want to talk about…how can countries like Saudi Arabia be our “allies” when they directly support these terrorists…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  26. Lit3Bolt says:

    @An Interested Party:

    Well, it’s a secret to Americans.

    The sad thing is, as bad as the House of Saud is, we’ve now seen what happens when this little brutal Muslim dictatorships fall apart. Thousands of little terrorist tribal kingdoms would pop up, with no objective other than a chance to scream “Allah Akhbar!” because these losers couldn’t find a job or a wife.

    Eventually most Western buildings will be designed like those in Israel, with man traps and security checkpoints.

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  27. @R.Dave: Well, no, as the situations are quite different. The point is that the dismantlement of the Iraqi state without replacing it with a functional alternative directly unleashed sectarian divisions and conflict that can be linked specifically to the emergence of ISIS. Indeed, it was the US war that helped bring in al Qaeda in Iraq.

    It is a wholly different scenario, especially because it was foreseeable that the lack of a functional state in Iraq would help extremist groups to flourish. The US bears a great deal of responsibility because the US government went into the war not considering these factors (and in hindsight it is clear that there was precious little consideration for the existing sectarian differences within Iraq).

    We have seen a similar set of problems in post-dictator Libya.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  28. @david7134: FDR is not relevant to this discussion, I have to say.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  29. david7134 says:

    @al-Ameda:
    Sorry, totally wrong and not revisionist.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 4

  30. DrDaveT says:

    @david7134:

    FDR was directly responsible for the Depression

    Also, this just in — Eisenhower caused WW2.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  31. m u ncho el box says:

    The point is that the dismantlement of the Iraqi state without replacing it with a functional alternative directly unleashed sectarian divisions and conflict that can be linked specifically to the emergence of ISIS.

    No it was replaced and backed by US force and presence. Obama undermined it as much as he could..pulled us out and did everything he could to enable his muslim brothers.
    …quote from the “interesting” link

    But there are no logical connections of ideology, identity, or interests that should link Iran, the Taliban, and the Baathists to one another or to ISIS.

    . ….uh yes there is …it’s called Islamic supremacy. The lapdogs are so willfully blind. Professor did you hear they(anti vaxxers of course) loaded an ambulance with explosives in Germany today?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  32. @m u ncho el box:

    No it was replaced and backed by US force and presence.

    You need to go back and review your history.

    A great book along these lines: Squandered Victory: The American Occupation and the Bungled Effort to Bring Democracy to Iraq .

    We went in without a plan to rebuild the state and it was evident at the sacking of Baghdad.

    The Bush years were no picnic in terms of territorial control.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  33. al-Ameda says:

    @david7134:

    Sorry, totally wrong and not revisionist.

    Thanks for the extremely compelling argument that Hoover had policy prescriptions that would have provided the stimulus that would have ended the Depression.

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  34. M u N c H boxoxo says:

    The Bush years were no picnic in terms of territorial control.

    Probably a little bit better then this…no?

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