Winnipeg Free Press - ONLINE EDITION

U.S. must send military help into Iraq quagmire

  • Print

Watching the whirlwind of violence sweep across Iraq, most Americans would doubtless prefer to leave Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and his countrymen to face their fate alone rather than have the United States bail them out.

That’s not merely a reflection of the public’s fatigue with Iraq, but rather the cumulative impact of waging a decade-long war alongside a government that repeatedly proved unwilling to make the sacrifices and compromises necessary to establish political stability and harmony. If Americans are in no mood to extend help to Iraq, they have ample reason:

  • Al-Maliki and his Shia majority brought this on themselves by playing sectarian politics instead of being inclusive. That’s why Iraq’s Sunni soldiers fled the battlefield last week rather than fight.
  • Al-Maliki’s government refused to make a deal allowing a residual U.S. force to remain in Iraq in exchange for a grant of sovereign immunity, a minimal demand from U.S. President Barack Obama. Any administration would have required the same.
  • Even with all that, the Pentagon has continued to provide help in the form of a $14-billion aid package that includes F-16 fighter jets and Apache helicopters.

All good reasons to stay out of it — if only they could.

The renewed conflict in Iraq is part of the larger war for control of the Middle East. So is the war in Syria, the catalyst that has drawn militant fighters into the area and sparked the wider conflagration. On Tuesday, the UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria told the Human Rights Council in Geneva the conflict in Syria "has reached a tipping point threatening the entire region." A victory for militants in Iraq would shift the balance of the region in their favour, as well as create a safe haven for terrorists eager to wreak havoc in Europe and the United States.

The Obama administration has no choice but to deny power to the Islamic militants because they are a direct threat to the United States, even if it means propping up al-Maliki’s undeserving government. It cannot do so unless Obama gives his full attention to the problem and makes the case for commitment, short of sending combat troops to the region. Tuesday, he ordered 275 troops to Iraq to provide security.

Greater U.S. involvement in Syria, an idea Obama has resisted for too long, must be part of the effort. Earlier help for the moderate opposition might have made a big difference in the war to topple Bashar al-Assad. There can be no solution for the region without draining this swamp.

Providing direct military help in Iraq is a requisite part of any effort, like it or not, but it must be properly planned and executed. Airstrikes could stop the extremist advance, but only with careful direction. They could do more harm than good if U.S. forces have no intelligence to guide the munitions to the proper targets. Indeed, many civilians have fled Iraqi cities more out of fear of bombardment by the Iraqi government than out of fear of the invaders.

Perhaps most important, the Obama administration must take an active leadership role to unite anti-extremist forces in the region. The Saudis, Jordanians, Turks and others are willing to help, but only the United States can convene all the parties and create a coherent strategy to defeat the militants.

That will not entail a short-term investment of time and effort. Solutions in the Middle East are neither painless nor cheap. Americans know that by now. They also know that turning a blind eye to danger spots, as we once did in Afghanistan, invites disaster.

Editorials are the consensus view of the Winnipeg Free Press’ editorial board, comprising Catherine Mitchell, David O’Brien, Shannon Sampert, and Paul Samyn.

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes


  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.


Make text: Larger | Smaller


Janice Filmon humbled to be appointed lieutenant-governor

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • A young gosling flaps his wings after taking a bath in the duck pond at St Vital Park Tuesday morning- - Day 21– June 12, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • JOE BRYKSA/WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Local-(Standup photo)- A wood duck swims through the water with fall refections in Kildonan Park Thursday afternoon.

View More Gallery Photos


Do you think Doug McNeil is the right choice for CAO?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google