Tag Archives: Iraq

Working with an enemy … or a friend?

Good grief. My head is spinning over this bit of news out of the Middle East.

Iraq’s crisis — with Sunni Muslims seeking to overthrow the Shiite government in Baghdad — has prompted the possibility of the United States working (get ready for this one!) the Islamic Republic of Iran to find a possible diplomatic solution.


How does that saying go, the one about “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”?

The Sunnis want their country back. They ran Iraq for decades under the ham-handed rule of Saddam Hussein. The United States invaded in March 2003, overthrew Saddam, who then was hanged.

Iraq then elected a Shiite government, friendlier to next-door neighbor Iran.

The Sunnis now have erupted, vowing to retake Iraq. Iran doesn’t want that, of course. It fought a bloody war to a stalemate against Saddam Hussein’s forces in the 1980s. The Shiites in Tehran oppose vigorously any idea that the Sunnis would take control in Baghdad.

Oh, and then there’s little issue of Iran despising the “Great Satan,” which in Tehran is also known as the United States of America. We’ve had no bilateral relations with Iran since those “students” overran our embassy in November 1979 and held those Americans captive for 444 days.

But in this instance, there might be some mutual advantage in seeking to stop the Sunni advance in Iraq. The Iranians want the Sunnis to fail, as does the United States, which has a serious stake in preserving the government it helped form in Iraq.

Should the United States reach out to its current enemy, Iran, in trying to broker a deal that ends the crisis in Iraq?

Yes, but only if the Iranians can be held to the tightest terms possible to ensure that they deal in good faith. Is that possible? Give it a try to make that call.

No troops to Iraq? Good news

Imagine for a moment a situation in the White House, around April 1975.

North Vietnam is sending thousands of troops into South Vietnam. The United States has ended its role in that country by pulling its troops out. The South Vietnamese are left to defend themselves. They’re doing a lousy job of it.

NVA forces are storming toward Saigon and other key cities in the south. Gerald Ford’s national security team comes to him and says, “Mr. President, we have to send our troops back into South Vietnam to save that country from being conquered by the North. What’s your call, sir?”

Do you think the president ever would have given a moment of serious thought to such an idea? Hardly. President Ford didn’t do any of that. Heck, I seriously doubt that option ever was on the table.

It shouldn’t be now as Iraq fights to preserve its hard-won transition from ham-handed dictatorship to some form of democratic rule.

And that is why President Obama is correct to assert that our future involvement will not involve sending troops back to the battlefield.


The president today laid down an important marker for Iraq. “Over the past decade, American troops have made extraordinary sacrifices,” he said. “Any actions that we may take to provide assistance to Iraqi security forces have to be joined by a serious and sincere effort by Iraq.

The chaos “should be a wakeup call to Iraq’s leaders,” he said, and “could pose a threat eventually to American interests as well.”

Are there some military options available? Perhaps, but they should involve air power only and perhaps only in the form of unmanned aircraft, drones, that could be deployed to fire heavy ordnance at the bad guys who are seeking to take control of the country.

Americans’ “extraordinary sacrifices” included thousands of dead and wounded. The country has no appetite for more war. However, we must do “our part,” as the president said, in trying to secure a country that may be headed for the brink.

Hey, didn’t Russia invade Georgia … in 2008?

The criticism of President Obama’s handling of the Russia-Ukraine crisis of 2014 ignores the Russia-Georgia crisis of 2008.

Six years ago, Russian dictator/president Vladimir Putin invaded Georgia, another one of those former Soviet satellite states. The U.S. president at the time, George W. Bush, let it happen. What could President Bush to stop Putin? Nothing. What should he have done? Go to war? That’s a tough call, given that the United States was already involved in two shooting wars at the time, Iraq and Afghanistan.

I’m left to wonder: Where was the criticism from the right back then? It was silent.

Move forward to the present day. Russian troops are sitting in Crimea, a region of Ukraine. There might be more military involvement from Russia, which is nervous over the ouster of pro-Russia president by insurgents in Ukraine.

What’s President Obama supposed to do? What can he do? Does he go to war with Russia? Well, of course not.

Yet the criticism is pouring in from the right, from the likes of Sen. John McCain, former defense boss Donald Rumsfeld, former half-term Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, every right-wing talking head this side of Sean Hannity. They’re all bemoaning the “invasion” of Russian troops of a sovereign country, Ukraine.

Oh, but wait. Didn’t this country invade a sovereign country, Iraq, in March 2003 because — we were told — the late dictator Saddam Hussein had this big cache of chemical weapons?

President Bush told us once that he peered into Putin’s “soul” and saw a man of commitment and integrity. Well, that soul also belongs to a former head of the KGB, the former Soviet spy agency.

I’m thinking another key Republican, former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, has it right. He’s telling his fellow GOPers to tone down the criticism while the president tries — along with our allies — to manage a dangerous crisis.

Falling gas prices a boon or a bust?

A Bloomberg News Service columnist is issuing a warning about the falling gasoline prices.

They aren’t necessarily good for the nation’s economy or its long-term energy policy.

Pump prices in Amarillo now stand at about $2.92 per gallon for regular unleaded gas. That’s “cheap,” yes? And who would have thought $2.92 would be considered a bargain for gas?


Barry L. Ritholtz, writing for Bloomberg.com, thinks the price reduction is going to produce a spike in driving. We’re going to forget that we have a limited supply of fossil fuels used to produce gasoline. It happens every time we see these dramatic dips in gasoline prices, as Ritholtz has noted.

Then comes the sticker shock when the next overseas crisis erups in an oil-producing region — Syria, Iran, Egypt, Libya, Yemen … they all come to mind.

I don’t want to sound like a know-it-all, but my wife and I have recently invested in a hybrid automobile. It runs on electricity and gasoline. Our Toyota Prius is our No. 1 in-town vehicle, and so far the investment is paying tremendous returns for us. We’re averaging about 47 miles per gallon and filling it up about every two weeks for a mere pittance of what we normally have paid for fuel.

Our 3/4-ton diesel-fueled Dodge Ram pickup, the one we use to haul our fifth-wheel travel vehicle? That’s another story. Won’t go there. Suffice to say it stays parked most of the time.

We’re all enjoying the relatively cheap fuel at the moment. However, I intend to take Ritholtz’s warning to heart.

Waiting on Mac Thornberry to weigh in on Syria

Has anyone seen or heard from U.S. Rep. Mac Thornberry lately?

I know that’s a rhetorical question. Some folks have seen and/or heard him as he travels through the vast 13th Congressional District of the Texas Panhandle, which he has represented since 1995.

But here’s the deal: The nation is roiling at this moment over whether President Obama should order missile strikes against Syrian military forces in retaliation for their use of chemical weapons, but Mac Thornberry, a senior Republican member of the House Armed Services and Permanent Select Intelligence committees, has been all but silent on the matter.


I spent some time this morning perusing Thornberry’s website. I looked for press releases, issues statements, “white papers” on national security. Nothing in there about Syria.

I’m waiting for Thornberry to offer some wisdom on this matter, given that so many members of Congress have weighed in already.

I am acutely aware that much of the public commentary on Syria has come from the usual cadre of Democratic and Republican legislative blowhards. Thornberry isn’t one of them. He’s been a quiet and fairly studious member of Congress since winning the House seat in that landmark 1994 election.

However, he’s also had a ringside seat on some difficult national security issues. As a member of the House Armed Services Committee, Thornberry has been required to study diligently issues relating to the use of our massive military might. What’s more, as a member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, he has had access to some of the most sensitive national security material imaginable. The late U.S. Rep. Charlie Wilson, D-Lufkin — who also served on that panel — once told me that committee members saw virtually everything the president saw. I’m quite certain Thornberry has access to a lot of information about Syria and its possession of deadly nerve agents.

The nation has entered the most serious national security debate since President George W. Bush sought authorization to go to war with Iraq, citing dictator Saddam Hussein’s supposed cache of chemical weapons — which we learned later did not exist.

President Obama’s national security team has presented what appears to be compelling proof that Syria has used the gas on civilians and it has more of it stashed away. He wants to hit those stockpiles in a series of air strikes. The military says it’s ready to go.

Mac Thornberry, our elected representative, has had time to digest the information.

I’m waiting to hear whether he supports striking at a seriously evil dictator.

Talk to us, Mac.