Bush and Blair’s hubris in Iraq means the West is now powerless to act against a genuine threat

Not only are Isis’s extremists capable of the most bestial acts of cruelty, they are also, from what little we know of them, capable of destabilising the entire region

Share

“Mission accomplished” was, briefly, a slogan associated with President George W Bush and it has come to be synonymous with the high noon of American hubris in Iraq a decade or so ago. We all know what happened next.

Soon the slogan could be adopted by Isis, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, and Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, a brilliant military commander apparently as well suited to the arts of insurgency as Mr Bush and his forces were not.

Isis troops are an hour’s ride from Baghdad, and while the capital may prove a harder target than Fallujah, Mosul and Tikrit, no one would be surprised if the Iraqi government and its military soon suffer a complete collapse. That the country’s parliament could not gather sufficient strength to back Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s call for a state of emergency tells us all we need to know about the state of Iraqi democracy. Only the Kurdish areas can be deemed secure, for the time being.

That such an apparently small force with so little popular support could command such vast tracts of Iraq and Syria in such a short time is remarkable as well as terrifying. In its way, it is impressive, but Isis’s tactical skill has been more than matched by the long-term incompetence, feebleness and corruption of the Iraqi government. Commanding less popular support in some areas than Isis because of its myopic exclusion of the Sunni minority from power, Mr Maliki’s Shia state is ill-equipped to ask anyone to lay down their life for it.

Not only are Isis’s extremists capable of the most bestial acts of cruelty, they are also, from what little we know of them, capable of destabilising the entire region, using their modern-day caliphate as a base for international terrorism, and generally taking over from where Osama bin Laden and al-Qa’ida left off. How the neighbours of the new Isis “nation” in Iran, Turkey and Israel react will be crucial; none is famed for its easy-going approach to existential threats.

It is easy to blame “Bush and Blair” – their names will be forever conjoined – for all this, and justifiably. There is also a case for saying that some sort of decisive Western action in Syria, famously defeated in the House of Commons, might have prevented Isis from gaining the strength it has. However, such speculation is not greatly productive. The West has to put its past mistakes behind it, and should analyse the situation as it stands. Would intervention now work? If Isis continues its winning streak, armed intervention, mainly on the part of the US, may become inevitable because of the threat to Israel and Turkey, a Nato ally. With such a prospect might it be better to act now? Or would American intervention merely repeat the mistakes made after 2003?

To a large degree, as with the earlier debate on Syria, such questions may prove academic, at least in the short term, because recent history does haunt us. The memories of the loss of life and treasure in Iraq and Afghanistan remain fresh in the minds of the public, and there is no appetite for intervention anywhere, no matter how compelling the arguments.

Our failures in Iraq have inoculated Western electorates against any desire to repeat the experiment, no matter that an invasion of Iraq now could be more truthfully termed a “liberation” for the Iraqi people, and an act to save many more lives throughout the Middle East, than the one Mr Blair and Mr Bush presided over 11 years ago. Their failures do mean we cannot act now. Mission accomplished indeed.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SAP Project Manager

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP PROJECT MANAGER - 3 MONTHS - BERKSHI...

SAP Project Manager

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP PROJECT MANAGER - 3 MONTHS - BERKSHI...

Senior Investment Accounting Change Manager

£600 - £700 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Senior Investment Accounting Change...

Microsoft Dynamics AX Functional Consultant

£65000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: A rare opportun...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Children of a bygone era  

Kids these days aren't what they used to be — they're a lot better. So why the fuss?

Archie Bland
A suited man eyes up the moral calibre of a burlesque troupe  

Be they burlesque dancers or arms dealers, a bank has no business judging the morality of its clients

John Walsh
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash