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Thursday, June 12, 2014

Update on ISIS/Iraqi Conflict

Obama has no problems using drones in Yemen and Afghanistan, but he wants Iraq to remain Bush's fault. According to the New York Times:
As the threat from Sunni militants in western Iraq escalated last month, Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki secretly asked the Obama administration to consider carrying out airstrikes against extremist staging areas, according to Iraqi and American officials. 
But Iraq’s appeals for a military response have so far been rebuffed by the White House, which has been reluctant to open a new chapter in a conflict that President Obama has insisted was over when the United States withdrew the last of its forces from Iraq in 2011. 
The swift capture of Mosul by militants aligned with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria has underscored how the conflicts in Syria and Iraq have converged into one widening regional insurgency with fighters coursing back and forth through the porous border between the two countries. But it has also called attention to the limits the White House has imposed on the use of American power in an increasingly violent and volatile region.
Meanwhile ISIS pushes toward Baghdad.  The London Times reports that Iran has sent special forces troops to Iraq to assist the Iraqis:
Iran has sent special forces and a unit of elite troops to Iraq to bolster floundering efforts by the Iraqi government to halt the advance of militants from an al-Qaeda splinter group. 
A 150-man unit of the Quds Force, the elite section of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, has deployed to Iraq, supported by a team of Saberin, Tehran’s equivalent of the SAS. 
To my unpracticed eyes, it appears that the Administration's goals are two-fold: (1) destroy any semblance of influence that the U.S. has in the region, and (2) support Sunnis in their war against Shiites. (Obama was likely raised as a Sunni, since most Muslims in Southeast Asia are Sunni).

However, there is a broader theme here, as well. In Tainter's work on the collapse of complex societies, he concluded that the interconnection between societies made it impossible for a complex society to collapse, because other nations would step in to fill the vacuum and prop it up. We have seen this in many cases, on of the most recent being the financial support Egypt is receiving from other Arab countries to prevent its total collapse.

But Tainter also indicated that in order for modern society to collapse, it would have to all collapse. I don't know if Tainter believed that it would all suddenly collapse (a house of cards) or that once one society collapsed, collapse would spread to other societies and be neigh unstoppable (dominoes). What we have seen in many situations on the periphery of modern civilization, such as Africa and Central Asia, are smaller societies collapsing into "failed states." But, rather than effectively intervening, the great nations are simply walling these societies off--largely isolating them from the outside world--because they lack the political will and physical/financial means to intervene. It is too early to predict whether Syria and Iraq will join the failed states category. But we may be seeing the first dominoes falling.

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