Civil war and political implosion: the fruits of the ‘Obama Doctrine’ in Iraq

During the 2008 presidential campaign, Republican candidate John McCain told the story of an American mother whose son had died whilst fighting in the Iraq War. Far from being bitter about US involvement in the conflict which ultimately took her son’s life, this woman pleaded with McCain to ensure that her son’s death wouldn’t be in vain.

Ultimately, John McCain was unsuccessful in his bid for the White House, losing out to Barack Obama who ran on a largely anti-war ticket (despite the fact that his running mate, Joe Biden, had been one of a number of senior Democrats to support George W Bush’s decision to invade Iraq in 2003). One of President Obama’s first decisions was to end US military involvement in this particular conflict, announcing in February 2009 that there would be an 18-month timetable of withdrawal of US forces.

How foolish and premature this decision now seems. Obama’s anti-war stance may have been a vote winner in 2008, but ultimately it has undone all the good work achieved during the Bush years. The subsequent rise of al Qaeda and other terrorist groups in Iraq following US withdrawal has caused chaos, anarchy and bloodshed, and the worst thing about this crisis is that it could have been avoided.

John McCain warned in 2008 that an early withdrawal of all US troops would leave Iraq’s fledgling democracy highly vulnerable, accelerating the threat of civil war and terrorist insurgency. Despite his defeat on election day, Senator McCain has since continued with these warnings throughout the Obama presidency, opposing the administration’s plans for Iraq at every turn, but he and his fellow Republicans have ultimately proven to be powerless to stop what the president had always set out to do as an immediate priority.

Barack Obama and the Democrats therefore can’t be surprised at the Iraqi insurgency which has risen to prominence in the last week, as this is simply the fruits of their passive approach. President Obama has now declared that no options can be ruled out in fighting the insurgency, including the use of military force, but yet he cannot admit that a more measured approach on his behalf five years ago could have prevented the chaos seen today.

Let’s not underestimate the threat that such anarchy in Iraq poses for the USA either. Senator Lindsey Graham, a prominent foreign policy hawk and neoconservative, has described how the rise of al Qaeda in Iraq could mean that ‘the next 9/11 is in the making,’ and so it is in the interests of US national security that Iraq is stabilised and the terrorist insurgency is defeated. The Bush administration’s War on Terror was criticised by many, but yet these policies ensured that another terrorist attack on US soil did not occur after 9/11. President Obama may be proud about the number of troops he has brought home, but the long-term fruits of his softline policies will be the deaths of US civilians and the eventual collapse of Iraq’s young political structures.

George Reeves

Originally published on my blog:


15 thoughts on “Civil war and political implosion: the fruits of the ‘Obama Doctrine’ in Iraq

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