By Sal Bommarito
There are several troublesome issues relating the president’s decision to double the U.S. soldiers in Iraq. An article in the New York Times addresses some of them.
The timing of the announcement is noteworthy and suspicious to say the least. Yet, the administration said it did not intentionally delay the announcement until after the mid term elections. Such an action before voters went to the polls might have spooked the electorate and resulted in a worse fate for Democrats. It is difficult for some to accept the administration’s response.
Is the new mini-surge a precursor to a greater deployment of troops in the near future? The president insisted that the latest manpower increase does not represent any change in his previous edict that the U.S. would not provide ground support in the fight against ISIS. The article indicates that the new soldiers will be operating in the field not in protected areas. What level of U.S. troop deployments would represent a change in policy, 2,000, 5,000 or 10,000 more troops?
The cost of this latest adventure in Iraq is expected to be over $5 billion, $1.8 billion of which will be dedicated to training Iraqi soldiers. It should be noted that the U.S. spent $60 billion per year during the highpoint of the previous occupation. After all that military assistance, the Iraqis were totally ineffective against ISIS in their initial encounters. Are Americans supposed to believe $1.8 billion will be sufficient to convert Iraqi soldiers into a lean and mean fighting machine? Ironically, the administration found a third party to blame for the decline in battlefield readiness of Iraqi forces- the former Iraq administration led by Nouri al-Maliki.
The president is walking on a dangerous constitutional line. The U.S. invaded Iraq and Syria using the War Powers Act. But, the country has been engaged long enough to require a mandatory approval of the military operations or a declaration of war by Congress. When is this going to happen? Or, will the president continue to prosecute the war on his own authority? Congress has an obligation to oversee the mission, costs, deployment of troops and materiel and a timetable for the end of hostilities.
Exacerbating the situation is an impending deal with Iran, in which the U.S. is likely to eliminate or reduce economic sanctions in exchange for Iran’s help in fighting ISIS. If this deal enables Iran to move closer to a nuclear capability, the current skirmish in Iraq and Syria will become a much larger confrontation.