What’s happening in Iraq is a disaster and it is astonishing that the Iraqis and the Americans, who have been sharing intelligence, seem to have been caught flat-footed by the speed of the insurgent victories and the army defections.Jay Bookman at The Atlanta Journal Constitution:
[...] The United States simply cannot be sucked into another round of war in Iraq. In any case, airstrikes and new weapons would be pointless if the Iraqi Army is incapable of defending the country.
Why would the United States want to bail out a dangerous leader like Mr. Maliki, who is attempting to remain in power for a third term as prime minister? It is up to Iraq’s leaders to show leadership and name a new prime minister who will share power, make needed reforms and include all sectarian and ethnic groups, especially disenfranchised Sunnis, in the country’s political and economic life — if, indeed, it is not too late.
The tragic sequence of events now playing out in Iraq was set in motion by the decision of President Bush, Vice President Cheney and others to use the attacks of Sept. 11 as cover to carry out the invasion that they had long coveted. We ignited this inferno, even if others have since added fuel to it, and the claim that we did so out of humanitarian concern for the Iraqis is just as empty as those depots of WMD turned out to be.Fareed Zakaria:
...Who lost Iraq?More on this and the day's other top stories below the fold.
Whenever the United States has asked this question — as it did with China in the 1950s or Vietnam in the 1970s — the most important point to remember is: The local rulers did. The Chinese nationalists and the South Vietnamese government were corrupt, inefficient and weak, unable to be inclusive and unwilling to fight with the dedication of their opponents. The same story is true of Iraq, only much more so. The first answer to the question is: Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki lost Iraq. [...]But how did Maliki come to be prime minister of Iraq? He was the product of a series of momentous decisions made by the Bush administration. Having invaded Iraq with a small force — what the expert Tom Ricks called “the worst war plan in American history” — the administration needed to find local allies. It quickly decided to destroy Iraq’s Sunni ruling establishment and empower the hard-line Shiite religious parties that had opposed Saddam Hussein. This meant that a structure of Sunni power that had been in the area for centuries collapsed. These moves — to disband the army, dismantle the bureaucracy and purge Sunnis in general — might have been more consequential than the invasion itself.
Daniel Benjamin, former ambassador-at-large and coordinator for counterterrorism at the State Department from 2009 to 2012, writing in The Boston Globe:
THE NEWS from Iraq has been so bad for so long, it has become difficult to distinguish the merely depressing from the genuinely disastrous. But the fall of Mosul, the country’s second largest city, to jihadist forces this week provided a shock well above and beyond the quotidian misery — one that looks like a turning point, or even an end point, for post-Saddam Iraq. [...] What can be done? After 13 years of war, no one in Washington — rightly — will contemplate putting US boots back on the ground. The Obama administration will continue to provide Maliki with arms, now that his forces are again accepting help from the United States. For the future, it will require real imagination and effort to contain the demons now proliferating in the eastern reaches of the Fertile Crescent — at a moment when Americans would most like to look away.Fred Kaplan at Slate:
The collapse of Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, has little to do with the withdrawal of American troops and everything to do with the political failure of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. [...] Depending on what happens in the next few weeks, or maybe even days, we may be witnessing the beginning of either a new political order in the region or a drastic surge in the geostrategic swamp and humanitarian disaster that have all too palpably come to define it.Switching topics, the analysis is still pouring in on Eric Cantor's historic defeat this week, and despite the original spin, no, immigration reform wasn't the driving cause. From The Boston Globe:
If Speaker John Boehner and the remaining House GOP leadership accept the idea that Cantor’s defeat means they must abandon immigration reform, they’ll be misdiagnosing his demise. Cantor’s defeat isn’t a warning to Republicans to avoid immigration; it’s a warning to all politicians, of all parties, that getting too cozy in office and ignoring the basic duties of a lawmaker can lead to consequences that are sudden, swift, and brutal.The Los Angeles Times:
From all the hand-wringing over soon-to-be-former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor's astonishing defeat in a GOP primary Tuesday in Virginia, you might think he had been a conciliatory figure determined to keep the federal government on track even when it meant compromising on his conservative principles. That, he was not. So it strains credulity that some pundits and pols are predicting that Republicans will now be even less willing to strike deals with Democrats, and that conservatives will be more influential in the House. It's hard to imagine how Republicans in the House could have been less willing to strike deals, or how conservatives could be more influential there.Eugene Robinson:
The Republican Party’s reliance on tea party support is like an addict’s dependence on a dangerous drug: It may feel good at first, but eventually it eats you alive.Paul Krugman provides the final takeaway:
How big a deal is the surprise primary defeat of Representative Eric Cantor, the House majority leader? Very. Movement conservatism, which dominated American politics from the election of Ronald Reagan to the election of Barack Obama — and which many pundits thought could make a comeback this year — is unraveling before our eyes. [...]On voter ID, Bill Minor says that it's all myth and no fact:
So whither movement conservatism? Before the Virginia upset, there was a widespread media narrative to the effect that the Republican establishment was regaining control from the Tea Party, which was really a claim that good old-fashioned movement conservatism was on its way back. In reality, however, establishment figures who won primaries did so only by reinventing themselves as extremists. And Mr. Cantor’s defeat shows that lip service to extremism isn’t enough; the base needs to believe that you really mean it.
Why must Mississippi voters show an approved photo ID at the polls to vote?
Is there a crime wave of voters falsely identifying themselves? If that has been going on, why hasn’t anybody heard about it? Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann must be the only one who has.
So he has appointed himself protector-in-chief to stop the nonexistent scourge of voter impersonation.