Speed Reads

Crisis in Iraq

The slippery slope of bombing Iraq

The American military effort in Iraq — which officially ended years ago — has begun once again, with today's bombing of ISIS artillery equipment near the Kurdish capital of Erbil in northern Iraq. President Obama has tried to limit the scope of this mission — saying that airstrikes may be necessary to protect U.S. personnel in Erbil, and invoking the humanitarian imperatives of aiding the 40,000 Yazidi Iraqis who face slaughter at the hands of the Sunni jihadist group ISIS.

Still, as John Cassidy writes at The New Yorker, it's not clear when and how the U.S. can declare this mission completed.

Once the U.S. bombing starts, when will it stop? That is one of the many tough questions that Obama and his colleagues will have to answer. Are the sole goals of the mission to help out the Yazidis and prevent Erbil from falling? Or is this the beginning of a U.S.-led effort not merely to halt the advance of ISIS on its eastern front, in the Kurdish region, but to roll it back everywhere in the country? [The New Yorker]

And even though Obama seems loathe to expand America's mission in Iraq, this week's intervention represents a marked departure from Obama's long-held stance on Iraq.

Already, though, one Rubicon has been crossed. A president who came into office on a promise to pull the United States out of Iraq, and who followed through on his pledge, has just ordered more combat operations in, or over, Iraq. [The New Yorker]