Once upon a time, long ago, a speechwriter named Pat Buchanan, an ethnically Irish Roman Catholic and proud of it — as opposed to JFK, who was about as sincere a Catholic as Adolf Hitler was — ran for President.
At that time, some two or three decades ago, Mr Buchanan was labelled a “paleoconservative”: conservatives would not, as the political wisdom went, ever adjudge support for the Zionist State of Israel unwise or contrary to the interests of the U.S.
Since then, industrious fellow that he is, Mr Buchanan has continued to comment rather publicly on the national and international scene, becoming something of a fixture in US political discourse. He’s the “paleoconservative,” a real dinosaur, so far to the right he’s untouchable (in the Hindu caste sense).
So. The purportedly totally crazy weirdos of ISIS having achieved another improbable victory against a numerically superior, heavily-armed column of the Good Guys, the U.S. puppet Iraqi army, Mr Buchanan commented today on the Significance of the Fall of Ramadi:
The fall of Ramadi, capital of Anbar, largest province in Iraq, after a rout of the Iraqi army by a few hundred ISIS fighters using bomb-laden trucks, represents a stunning setback for U.S. policy.
When President Obama declared that we shall “degrade and defeat” the Islamic State, he willed the ends, but not the means. The retreat from Ramadi makes clear that the Iraqi army, even backed by 3,000 U.S. troops, cannot drive ISIS out of Anbar and Mosul and back into Syria.
Well, although the Iraqi Army numbers might well have exceeded by an order of magnitude the number of ISIS fighters, a knowledgeable expert quoted by the Washington Post opined: “Ahmed al-Sharifi, an Iraqi political analyst, cited corruption as a major reason why the Iraqi army performed poorly in Ramadi. He estimated that there were as many as 23,000 ‘ghost soldiers’ on the government payroll in the province — people listed as drawing salaries but who were not actually performing military service. The actual number of soldiers who fought to defend Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province, was closer to 2,000, he said.”
So we’re not talking about 200 guys routing 20,000. They only whipped 2,000. Nice to know. Let’s continue with the Paleoconservative columnist.
Baghdad cannot alone reunite Iraq.
Republicans are almost gleeful in charging that Obama’s withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq created the vacuum the Islamic State has now filled.
Blaming Obama for ISIS in Iraq is shaping up to be the 2016 GOP attack line. But when it comes to the critical question — do Republicans favor reintroducing U.S. ground troops to retake Ramadi and Mosul and drive ISIS back into Syria? — no credible GOP presidential candidate is clamoring for a return to Mesopotamia.
None of the mice wants to bell that particular cat.
You see the reason Mr Buchanan is unwelcome in any of the Major Parties. It is not only his rejection of the Great and Good State of Israel; he also calls out the poseurs of the Republican Party. Even the Democrats find that a threat.
Yet, absent American leadership and U.S. troops, who is going to expel the Islamic State? The only forces in Iraq able to attempt that are the Shiite militias whose sectarian barbarity is exceeded only by that of ISIS itself.
For the Sunnis of Anbar to be liberated by Shiite militias is like the Catholic Poles being liberated by the Red Army in 1945. Many Sunnis fear a rescue by Shiite militias more than they do the domination of the Islamic State.
Well, the Catholic Mr Buchanan might find it unpleasant to recall, but the Polish people were pretty positive about the atheist Red Army, who, bad as they were, compared quite well with their purportedly Christian Nazi predecessors in the conquest of the lands between the Vistula and the Bug. So the Shiite militias may well be, on balance, a desirable outcome.
But would that outcome promote US national interests? Mr Buchanan, who has some doubts about the ability of the so-called United States of America to police the Known World, continues.
America’s choices in Iraq, none good, come down to these:
One: Reintroduce 10,000 ground troops and Marines to retake Ramadi and Anbar, and thousands more to retake Mosul and cleanse Iraq of ISIS. Another surge, like 2007.
Yet that does not solve the problem of the Islamic State, which would retreat to Syria and wait for the Americans to leave Iraq again.
Two: Adopt a policy of degrade-and-contain by continuing air strikes on the Islamic State in Iraq, while training and backing the Iraqi army and Kurds in keeping ISIS out of Baghdad and Irbil.
Three: Accept the inevitable — that the Shiite-led Iraq we created by dethroning Saddam and smashing his Baathist state and army is going to be in the orbit of Iran. For we cannot now, without a major and indefinite reintroduction of U.S. forces, alter the existing balance of military and political power in Iraq.
Get out of Iraq.
And stay out.
Ah, the fresh air of someone unable to pronounce shibboleth.