“If you live long enough, you’ll see that every victory turns into a defeat,” goes the quote attributed to the French philosopher Simone de Beauvoir. It’s a quote that could grace the presidential seal.
On Thursday, as ISIS fighters continue to maraud across Iraq and target strategically vital facilities in that country including airports and oil refineries, President Barack Obama announced that he is prepared to send up to 300 American military advisors to Iraq to train and equip local forces.
But Obama’s goal is not a war in Iraq, said Bloomberg reporter Jean Cummings. In fact, the White House’s primary objective is to remove Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki from office as the administration believes his treatment of the country’s Sunni minority helped facilitate this insurgency.
“The president instinctively doesn’t want to send in troops,” Cummings said. He doesn’t want to get back into a war. He does want to change the government in Iraq, and this presents that opportunity for some diplomacy.”
So, regime change? Not if al-Maliki has anything to say about it.
“A spokesman for the Iraqi prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, has said he will not stand down as a condition of US air strikes against Sunni militants who have made a lightning advance across the country,” The Guardian reported on Thursday.
And why wouldn’t the Iraqi government think the president will abandon his desire for a change in government in Baghdad? Obama has specifically ruled out the pursuit of regime change in unfriendly capitals like Damascus and Tehran. The White House even ruled out regime change as a goal of the mission in Libya. While al-Maliki is not the most competent actor in Baghdad, he is at least a nominal ally of the United States (though he could also accurately be described as an Iranian proxy).
But the president does have a habit of treating American allies like adversaries, doesn’t he?