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
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Accounts Assistant - Part Time

£10500 - £14000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Part Time Accounts Assistant ...

Recruitment Genius: Accounts Assistant

£18000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company supply, install an...

Tradewind Recruitment: Reception Teacher

£120 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: An excellent three form entry scho...

The Green Recruitment Company: Commercial Construction Manager

£65000 Per Annum bonus & benefits package: The Green Recruitment Company: The ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
BoJack is the walking embodiment of why-the-long-face  

BoJack Horseman - the most depressing cartoon on TV - is thankfully back for a third Netflix series

Edmund Cuthbert
 

The world's population has reached 'peak youth'. This should be a wake-up call to world leaders

Perry Maddox
Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... again

I was once told that intelligence services declare their enemies dead to provoke them into popping up their heads and revealing their location, says Robert Fisk
Margaret Attwood on climate change: 'Time is running out for our fragile, Goldilocks planet'

Margaret Attwood on climate change

The author looks back on what she wrote about oil in 2009, and reflects on how the conversation has changed in a mere six years
New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered: What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week

New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered

What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week
Oculus Rift and the lonely cartoon hedgehog who could become the first ever virtual reality movie star

The cartoon hedgehog leading the way into a whole new reality

Virtual reality is the 'next chapter' of entertainment. Tim Walker gives it a try
Ants have unique ability to switch between individual and collective action, says study

Secrets of ants' teamwork revealed

The insects have an almost unique ability to switch between individual and collective action
Donovan interview: The singer is releasing a greatest hits album to mark his 50th year in folk

Donovan marks his 50th year in folk

The singer tells Nick Duerden about receiving death threats, why the world is 'mentally ill', and how he can write a song about anything, from ecology to crumpets
Let's Race simulator: Ultra-realistic technology recreates thrill of the Formula One circuit

Simulator recreates thrill of F1 circuit

Rory Buckeridge gets behind the wheel and explains how it works
Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation' over plans to overhaul reverse-chronological timeline

Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation'

Facebook exasperates its users by deciding which posts they can and can’t see. So why has Twitter announced plans to do the same?
Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag - but what else could the fashion house call it?

Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag

The star was shocked by a Peta investigation into the exotic skins trade
10 best waterproof mascaras

Whatever the weather: 10 best waterproof mascaras

We found lash-enhancing beauties that won’t budge no matter what you throw at them
Diego Costa biography: Chelsea striker's route to the top - from those who shared his journey

Diego Costa: I go to war. You come with me...

Chelsea's rampaging striker had to fight his way from a poor city in Brazil to life at the top of the Premier League. A new book speaks to those who shared his journey
Ashes 2015: England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

The biggest problem facing them in Birmingham was the recovery of the zeitgeist that drained so quickly under the weight of Australian runs at Lord's, says Kevin Garside
Women's Open 2015: Charley Hull - 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

Charley Hull: 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

British teen keeps her feet on ground ahead of Women's Open
Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkish President Erdogan could benefit politically from the targeting of the PKK, says Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Our choice is years of Tory rule under Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Yvette Cooper urged Labour members to 'get serious' about the next general election rather than become 'a protest movement'