The debate over the attack against Iraq by ISIL seems to revolve around our specific Iraq policy of the last ten years. Republicans argue that President Obama's abrupt and complete departure from Iraq left that country unprepared to fend off impending invasions from Al-Qaida-linked terrorists, while Democrats continue to blame any and all outcomes on George Bush who led the war to remove Saddam Hussein.
Too many, I fear, are missing the real point. Had we never attacked Iraq back in 2004 and even if Saddam Hussein was today still in power, this attack against Iraq, the attempt by Islamists to take over that country, would still be happening. Consider for a moment: ISIL has attacked Syria and its leader, Bashar al-Assad, even though no war or leadership vacancy was caused by America in Syria.
Further, ISIL Islamists and the Muslim Brotherhood, both Caliphate-shariah enterprises, have tried to remove leaders in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, and other countries in the region. Whatever the particular name of the group, be it an Al Qaida variant or a Muslim Brotherhood backed group, the intent has been to remove leaders who are not considered part of the Islamist movement.
The attacks are coming from the pan-sharia armies against anyone seen as too western. Bashar al-Assad, though Moslem, is not an Islamist intent on instituting across-the board shariah. He is a Baathist, as was Saddam Hussein. Hence, both have been targeted by the Caliphatists. Mubarak and Khaddafi were not Islamists, rather, leaders willing to work with the West and whose tastes were considered too western. The same in Tunisia. All countries were thus attacked.
Who set in motion this whole toppling of the old, non-Islamist guard and leadership? Who spoke glowingly of a new Islamist, Muslim Brotherhood replacement of the old Arab leaders? None other than President Barack Obama, who in his first world-tour speech in Cairo in 2009 rebuked and rebuffed Egypt's Mubarak and invited and gave his stamp approval to the Moslem Brotherhood and its goals. Mr. Obama helped the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood gain power after conspicuously refusing to help Mubarak retain power. Obama spoke as if he were formally announcing the ushering in of a new Arab/Islamic era. He has acted that way also. He has still not given his support to the non-Caliphate, non-shariah government of General Sisi.
Does Mr. Obama support any existing Mideast leader from before his 2009 speech? Yes, the one in Iran, the "Supreme Leader" as Mr. Obama prefers calling the Ayatollah.
Obama would not help Kaddafi, though Kaddafi had told us he was ready and willing to cooperate with the U.S. and the West. Instead, Obama helped the rebels, the Islamists, the topplers of the old guard, who eventually killed our ambassador in Benghazi. To Barack Obama, those who cooperate with the West betray the anti-colonialist cause and are not true liberators for Islam. This is vintage Obama. For him, Islamism is the authentic voice of the region, as was Malcolm X, for him, the authentic voice of Black liberation.
Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Assad in Syria and now Maliki in Iraq. The Islamist forces have been unleashed and would be going after Saddam Hussein today if he was still in power. Saddam was evil and ruthless, an America foe, but he was a Baathist, not an Islamist; he was a dictator interested in spreading himself, not the Caliphate nor instituting pan-shariah. He was bound to be on the Islamist's hit list.
Soon, ISIL or some other variant of Al Qaida will go after Jordan's King Hussein. And yet, George Bush never attacked Jordan or tried to remove its king. What is happening today in the Arab/Moslem world is separate from the decision George Bush made a decade ago. Rather, it is the direct result of the Obama Doctrine, which set in motion the Arabic assault against the old guard led by the shariah, Muslim Brotherhood types Obama considers more authentic. He just didn't figure it would happen so quickly in Iraq or on his watch.
What we are seeing in Iraq is not a consequence of 2004, but 2009. Iraq's trouble is rooted more in what Obama did in Cairo than what Bush did in Baghdad.
Editor's Note: Rabbi Spero is author of Push Back and president of Caucus for America.