In the ‘Obama-vs-History’ contest, Obama and America are sure losers

I started out to write a piece about the whole of President Obama’s predictable and deceitful speech last night about Iraq. On reflecting a bit more, however, I came to focus on the president’s phrase: “It is time to turn the page on Iraq,” a phrase which underscores how woefully ignorant Obama and his colleagues in both parties are about the power of history and the world that exists outside of their closed minds and Washington, D.C.

Obama can say what he wants, but he and our governing elite will find that history’s pages are not that easy to deal with. You can turn the page, blot the page, and tear out and shred the page, but history remains clear, vibrant, pertinent to all human affairs, and potentially fatal if ignored, suppressed, or forgotten. At best, you can run from history for a time, but, as Mr. Lincoln said, you cannot escape history. This is especially the case when the page-turning is unilateral and the others involved in the history you are fleeing have it graven in their minds and hearts.

The Iraq war will henceforth be seen as having set several historical trends in motion:

  1. The invasion and occupation of Iraq by a U.S.-led coalition will be remembered by Muslims as the perfect Koranic predicate for a defensive jihad: An infidel state invaded a Muslim nation without provocation and installed man-made, not God-made laws and government. As years pass, the U.S.-led invasion will be seen as the most important and durable legitimizing agent for the defensive jihad Osama bin Laden declared in 1996. Washington and London did for bin Laden what he could do not do for himself: They invaded Iraq and thereby made the jihad a worldwide phenomenon.
  2. The U.S. military lost the war in Iraq. It came home in defeat, suffering from a near-complete lack of credibility amongst its Islamic enemies, and in dire need to somehow defeat someone, at some time, on some battlefield. Because they authored the defeat, Mr. Obama, his party, and the Republicans are doing all they can to praise the military for being completely successful. But soldiers and Marines — except for most of their generals — are hard-headed. They know defeat and uselessly killed-and-crippled colleagues when they see them, and they saw both as Iraq steadily slipped toward a regionally destabilizing sectarian civil war as they marched out. Thus, the Islamists will perceive — and perception is reality — that they have defeated the second superpower after having beaten the USSR in Afghanistan. All told, the one thing more damaging to the United States than starting the Iraq war, was the Bush-Obama decision to deliberately lose it. This can only yield positive results for the Islamists in terms of morale, recruits, donations, and admiration across the Muslim world, and especially among young Muslim males in the United States and its three most important allies, the UK, Canada, and Australia.
  3. Washington destroyed the single most important U.S. ally against the forces led and inspired by Osama bin Laden: Saddam Hussein. So long as Saddam ruled Iraq, the Islamist mujahideen were stuck in South Asia and the Persian Gulf and they were not coming west in any great numbers. Yes, Saddam was murderous toward his own people and helped Palestinians kill Israelis, but neither of those activities had the slightest negative impact on U.S. security. Indeed, the cost of those activities was a small price to pay — and one that did not have to be paid by Americans — for keeping the jihadis locked in South Asia. (And, as was shown in 1991 and 2003, Saddam and his army could be easily destroyed at any time by U.S. forces, so there was no harm allowing him to serve as the cork in the neck of the jihadi bottle for as long as he kept performing that service.)
  4. By removing Saddam, U.S. and UK political leaders built a westward-bound jihadi highway from South Asia through Iraq: Bush and Blair roughed it out, and Obama, Brown, and Cameron paved it. To date, this roadway has given Sunni Salafi fighters a base in Iraq from which — for the first time — they can enter Turkey, the Levant (Jordan Syria, Lebanon, and Israel), and Saudi Arabia with only moderate difficulty. And in what is a delicious, nearly sublime irony, the Neoconservatives and Israel Firsters who forced the unnecessary invasion of Iraq to make Israel more secure have ended up ensuring Israel’s demise. Israel now faces a scenario in which battle-hardened Sunni Salafists are joining Islamist Palestinians to form an enemy that cannot be bribed, intimidated, and corrupted as was/is Fatah. Israel’s U.S.-supplied advanced-conventional and nuclear weapons are useless against such a face-to-face enemy, and Israeli attacks on Iran, Syria, or Lebanon would only strengthen the Salafi Sunnis. By starting the Iraq war, Israel’s U.S.-citizen “best friends” signed its death warrant.
  5. U.S. defeat in Iraq ensures — if any more assurance was needed — that the United States and NATO will lose in Afghanistan. How so? The Afghans know they defeated the Red Army and believe they are in the midst of a winning campaign against the U.S.-NATO coalition; the West, after all, has pledged to leave without winning. For the Taliban and its allies, this adds up to complete confidence in God’s promise of victory over Islam’s enemies if the believers keep fighting in His name. Having seen the Iraqis realize God’s promise by their efforts, the Afghans will not be outdone in making sure they notch the defeat of the second superpower into the stocks of their AK-47s.

These five points add up to a sixth: From here out, America’s war with militant Islamists will increase in cost, ferocity, and bloodiness, and will be fought at home as well as overseas. Under Presidents Bush and Obama, Washington has proven that it and most of its generals no longer know how to fight and win wars; that is, they have neither the manliness nor historical acuity to know that wars end once and for all only when enough of the enemy and his infrastructure, supporters, and families have been killed to convince those remaining that game is not worth playing. This fact is invaluable knowledge for Islamist enemies who are willing to pay any human or material price in a war meant to defeat the enemies of God.

And if you doubt more bloody-and-losing wars are coming because of our easy willingness to be beaten in Iraq and Afghanistan, think about the lures the Islamists are now dangling in front us in Yemen and Somalia. The U.S. Intelligence Community has said — wrongly I think — that al-Qaeda in Yemen is more dangerous to U.S. interests than its counterpart in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and yesterday the media reported that the Western- and UN-backed Somali regime is on the brink of losing Mogadishu to the pro-al-Qaeda group al-Shabbab. The Islamists are betting that Washington will eventually gulp down both lures, begin interventions in both places, and thereby add to the overwhelming U.S. debt, further debilitate an exhausted, undermanned, and little-feared military, and create more political dissension in the United States.

President Obama may have turned the page of history in the sheltered, unrealistic world in which he and his advisers think and reside, but for America’s Islamist enemies the page is still being written, and they will keep using the blood and taxes of non-elite Americans to write the story of what now increasingly looks like their eventual victory.

Author: Michael F. Scheuer

Michael F. Scheuer worked at the CIA as an intelligence officer for 22 years. He was the first chief of its Osama bin Laden unit, and helped create its rendition program, which he ran for 40 months. He is an American blogger, historian, foreign policy critic, and political analyst.