Speed Reads

Foreign policy

The coming debate: Who lost Iraq?

While America's political class obsesses over Eric Cantor's stunning defeat, a perhaps more predictable — if dramatically more serious — defeat is taking place on the foreign stage. In this case, it is the Iraqi army that appears to be getting walloped. From The Guardian:

"Iraq is facing its gravest test since the U.S.-led invasion more than a decade ago, after its army capitulated to Islamist insurgents who have seized four cities and pillaged military bases and banks, in a lightning campaign which seems poised to fuel a cross-border insurgency endangering the entire region.

... Iraqi officials told the Guardian that two divisions of Iraqi soldiers — roughly 30,000 men — simply turned and ran in the face of the assault by an insurgent force of just 800 fighters. Isis extremists roamed freely on Wednesday through the streets of Mosul, openly surprised at the ease with which they took Iraq's second largest city after three days of sporadic fighting." [The Guardian]

For those wondering how the U.S. — after investing (wisely or not) so much in the region — could allow this to happen, the suggestion that Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki secretly asked the U.S. to consider airstrikes against the militants will surely be a sticking point.

That, coupled with New Yorker writer Dexter Filkins' prior reporting that, when it came to whether or not the U.S. should have left a residual force behind in Iraq, "every single senior [Iraqi] political leader, no matter what party or what group, including Maliki, said to them privately, we want you to stay," seems to buttress the argument that Obama dropped the ball on winning the peace.

Some, of course, will blame George W. Bush for starting the whole mess. But for a president who once seemed poised to reverse the Democratic Party's anemic foreign policy image, the potential question over "Who lost Iraq" would be yet another serious indictment of the "Obama doctrine."