The crisis unfolding in Iraq is the first real test for the new American foreign policy President Obama announced in late May — but it’s unlikely to end well for the administration.
Speaking in front of a graduating class of West Point cadets last month, the president announced a shift away from full-on military confrontation and toward cooperation with foreign governments to combat terrorism worldwide. At the time, he pointed to proofs-of-concept in the Middle East and Africa: arrangements to train opposition fighters in Syria; to cooperate with counterterrorism forces in Afghanistan; and to build up elite troops in Libya, Niger, Mauritania, and Mali.
But in Iraq, the White House must find a way to implement its partnership-focused foreign policy in the face of a rapidly unraveling situation.
The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria took a key crossing on the Iraqi-Syrian border on Sunday through which it can easily ferry military supplies and reinforcements between territory it controls in both countries. Meanwhile, ISIS fighters draw nearer to Baghdad every day.
Obama announced on Thursday that the U.S. will send up to 300 military advisers to Iraq to help stop the ISIS advance. Some of these advisers will set up “joint operation centers” in Baghdad and northern Iraq to share intelligence with Iraqi forces and coordinate planning. But the president emphasized that the move is limited in scope and that American troops would not get involved in combat. Ultimate responsibility, he said, lies with Iraq’s political leaders, who “must rise above their differences and come together around a political plan for Iraq’s future.” Secretary of State John Kerry traveled to Iraq over the weekend to meet with some of these leaders.
The situation in Iraq “underscores the importance of the point that I made at my West Point speech: the need for us to have a more robust regional approach to partnering and training,” said Obama earlier this month.
In line with the proposed foreign policy shift, the U.S. is partnering with Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki and the Iraqi army to address the ISIS threat. But Maliki and Iraqi forces are unlikely to be valuable partners: Military experts have determined that about a quarter of Iraq’s military is “combat ineffective,” and its leadership is rife with corruption.
In his May speech, Obama said, “Today’s principal threat no longer comes from a centralized al-Qaida leadership. Instead, it comes from decentralized al-Qaida affiliates and extremists, many with agendas focused in the countries where they operate.” In the statement, Obama may have misread the future of terrorist threats. ISIS was once an Qaida affiliate, but al-Qaida cut ties with the group in February because of its extremely violent tactics. Now, ISIS functions much more like the state it purports to be than a “decentralized” terrorist group with local interests. Its military strength, funding, and organization have allowed it to best government troops at every turn.
If the partnership between the U.S. and Iraqi forces sees some success, it could vindicate the foreign policy pivot the president put forward last month. But if it fails to check the advance of ISIS troops and to help Iraq regain lost territory — and this is the more likely outcome, given the current state of Iraq’s beleaguered military — the president’s focus on diplomacy and collaboration will likely look out of touch.
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Before we get to the specifics of this exposé about escorts working the Iowa and New Hampshire primary crowds, let’s get three things out of the way: 1.) It’s from Cosmopolitan; 2.) most of the women quoted use fake (if colorful) names; and 3.) again, it’s from Cosmopolitan. That said, here’s what we learned:
- Business was booming: one escort who says she typically gets two inquiries a weekend got 15 requests in the pre-primary weekend.
- Their primary season clientele is a bit older than normal—”40s through mid-60s, compared with mostly twentysomething regulars” and “they’ve clearly done this before.”
- They seemed more nervous than other clients, because “the stakes are higher when you’re working for a possible future president” but “all practiced impeccable manners.”
- One escort “typically enjoy[s] the company of Democrats more, just because I feel like our views line up a lot more.”
No matter where you stand on mandating companies to include a backdoor in encryption technologies, it doesn’t make sense to allow that decision to be made on a state level. “The problem with state-level legislation of this nature is that it manages to be both wildly impractical and entirely unenforceable,” writes Brian Barrett at Wired. There is a solution to this problem. “California Congressman Ted Lieu has introduced the ‘Ensuring National Constitutional Rights for Your Private Telecommunications Act of 2016,’ which we’ll call ENCRYPT. It’s a short, straightforward bill with a simple aim: to preempt states from attempting to implement their own anti-encryption policies at a state level.”
Much has been made of David Brooks’s recent New York Times column, in which confesses to missing already the civility and humanity of Barack Obama, compared to who might take his place. In NewYorker.com, Jeffrey Frank reminds us how critical such attributes are to foreign policy. “It’s hard to imagine Kennedy so casually referring to the leader of Russia as a gangster or a thug. For that matter, it’s hard to imagine any president comparing the Russian leader to Hitler [as] Hillary Clinton did at a private fund-raiser. … Kennedy, who always worried that miscalculation could lead to war, paid close attention to the language of diplomacy.”
The New Covenant. The Third Way. The Democratic Leadership Council style. Call it what you will, but whatever centrist triangulation Bill Clinton embraced in 1992, Hillary Clinton wants no part of it in 2016. Writing for Bloomberg, Sasha Issenberg and Margaret Talev explore how Hillary’s campaign has “diverged pointedly” from what made Bill so successful: “For Hillary to survive, Clintonism had to die.” Bill’s positions in 1992—from capital punishment to free trade—“represented a carefully calibrated diversion from the liberal orthodoxy of the previous decade.” But in New Hampshire, Hillary “worked to juggle nostalgia for past Clinton primary campaigns in the state with the fact that the Bill of 1992 or the Hillary of 2008 would likely be a marginal figure within today’s Democratic politics.”
At first, “it was pleasant” to see Trevor Noah “smiling away and deeply dimpling in the Stewart seat, the seat that had lately grown gray hairs,” writes The Atlantic‘s James Parker in assessing the new host of the once-indispensable Daily Show. But where Jon Stewart was a heavyweight, Noah is “a very able lightweight, [who] needs time too. But he won’t get any. As a culture, we’re not about to nurture this talent, to give it room to grow. Our patience was exhausted long ago, by some other guy. We’re going to pass judgment and move on. There’s a reason Simon Cowell is so rich. Impress us today or get thee hence. So it comes to this: It’s now or never, Trevor.”