The Donald made headlines last week by saying that Barack Hussein Obama founded ISIS, and his one-time Secretary of State, Hellery Clinton, was its co-founder. He said he meant it. Then he said he was speaking sarcastically, "but not too sarcastically". Perhaps that was going a bit far, but one can certainly make a good case that the IS "caliphate" has benefitted greatly from President 0's weak [non-existent? Ed.] foreign policy, and the ineptitude and general mismanagement of his administration in general, and Ms Clinton in particular.
Who knows why they've bungled the Middle East file so badly? Maybe the Prez really is a Muslim, as many people believe. Still, it's a bit much to give him credit for "founding" ISIS. At the beginning of the Obama-Clinton years, ISIS (or "ISIL", as they keep calling it) didn't really exist. All we had to worry about, the first eight years of this century, was Al-Qaeda and the Taliban. But it cannot be denied that ISIS sprang from Al-Qaeda, and from the mess the Paranoid States of America created in Iraq.
Who was responsible for the Iraq debacle? It wasn't Mr Obama, but a Republican. No, not Dubya -- except in the sense that he, as Supreme Commander, must bear the ultimate reponsibility -- but one his appointees, named and shamed by Gwynne Dyer in After Iraq (St. Martin's Press, New York, 2007). That would be... wait for it... Lewis Paul Bremer III, a former Managing Director of Kissinger and Associates. (Yes, that Kissinger.) Mr Bremer was appointed by President Bush II as Presidential Envoy to Iraq on 9 May 2003. His appointment declared him subject to the "authority, direction and control" of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. He led the American occupation of Iraq from 11 May 11 2003 until 28 June 2004. Here's what Gwynne Dyer says, with Walt's emphasis.
[Bremer] disbanded the entire Iraqi army and police force and banned all senior Ba'ath Party members -- and anybody in the top three management layers of government ministries, government-run corporations, universities and hospitals who was a Party member at all -- from future government employment. Bremer paid no need to arguments that, until his arrival, conversations had been underway with Iraqi generals for the reconstitution of the army, purged of its Saddam loyalists, and that in all the former ruling parties of post-Communist states in the early 1990s the majority of the "senior" members had been innocent professionals who had been compelled to join in order to do their jobs.
So far as it can be discerned these were Bremer's own decisions, not imposed on him by the White House, and they had catastrophic effects. With a couple of decrees he effectively gutted the Iraqi state apparatus and abolished the only other national institutions, the army and police, that at least in theory rose above mere sectarian, ethnic, and local concerns. He also abruptly three half a million people, most of them with weapons training, serious organizational abilities, or both, onto the street in the most humiliating way.
The Sunni insurgency began at once, led initially by ex-army officers and Ba'ath officials and public justified by incidents like the killings [by US soldiers of unarmed demonstrators] at Fallujah. These "dead-enders", as they were explained away in Washington, were soon joined in the insurgency by homegrown Islamist extremists who had previously been terrorized into submission by Saddam's regime, and by some foreign Islamists, mostly from Saudi Arabia, who made themselves useful by offering to carry out suicide attacks.
By the autumn of 2004, only a year and a half after the invasion, the US authorities wwere recording between two thousand and three thousand insurgent attacks per month. The shocking pictures taken by the American torturers at Abu Ghraib had a big impact elsewhere in the Muslim world, but in Iraq they caused no particular upsurge in the violence: most people had already chosen their side.
Walt doesn't always agree with Gwynne Dyer's politics, but reads his columns in the international (non-American) media regularly, and often quotes him here. Mr Dyer earned a Ph.D. in Military and Middle Eastern History from the University of London, served in three navies and holds acade3mic appointments at the Royal Military Academy (Sandhurst) and Oxford University. I think he knows what he's talking about.
In the Introduction to After Iraq, Mr Dyer argues -- as Ron Paul has for lo these many years -- that the USA has no skin in what is essentially a Muslim civil war, and should get out of the Middle East immediately, before things get any worse. (Maybe things couldn't get any worse. Mr Dyer was writing in 2007, before ISIS swept across Iraq and Syria.) Here's what he says.
What should the rest of the world do about this? Nothing. Just stand back and let it happen. Outsiders to the region have no solutions left to peddle any more (nor any credibility even if they did have solutions), and they no longer have the power or the will to impose their ideas. For the first time in a century, the region is going to choose its future for itself -- and it may, of course, make a dreadful mess of it. Even then, outsiders should not intervene, because foreign intervention generally makes things worse -- but also because it's none of their business.
Further reading: "Just How Much Should Paul Bremer Be Blamed for the Rise of the Islamic State?", in Foreign Policy in Focus, 18/3/16.