Maybe it's unfair to quote Vice President Joe Biden on how Iraq would be "one of the great achievements" of President Barack Obama's administration. That was back in 2010, when the president was preparing to withdraw American forces from the country as rapidly as possible.
Certainly, it would be hard to find anyone who would agree with that assessment today, when al-Qaida-affiliated Islamic militant forces have seized 12 Iraqi cities since the beginning of May and are clearly pushing toward Baghdad.
If anything, the conflict is intensifying, and threatens to draw the United States back into it.
The Islamic State of Iraq and el-Sham, or ISIS, as the advancing rebels are known, operate from secure areas they have carved out in Syria, where President Obama has declined to back up his previously tough talk against the brutal Assad regime.
As the rebels advance, Iraqi security forces flee, abandoning their weapons. The Iraqi troops have American advisors who have repeatedly said that the government forces are not yet ready to defend against serious attacks.
Meanwhile in Baghdad, Shia militias aligned with Iran are preparing for house-to-house fighting against ISIS. They cannot rely on the Iraqi security forces to defend the city.
President Obama offered this murky response Thursday at the White House when reporters asked him about the rapidly developing crisis: "What we have seen over the last couple of days indicates the degree to which Iraq is going to need more help - more help from us and more help from the international community. My team is working around the clock to identify how we can provide the most effective assistance to them. I don't rule out anything."
President Obama added: "But this should be also a wake-up call for the Iraqi government that there has to be a political component to this."
How about a wake-up call for the U.S. government on how a lack of American resolve emboldens our enemies?
President Obama did inherit daunting challenges in Iraq and Afghanistan from President George W. Bush, who launched lengthy U.S. military missions in both nations. But 5½ years into his presidency, our current commander in chief bears considerable responsibility for the deteriorating situation in both war-torn lands.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest offered this awkward assessment of the administration's aspirations for Iraq and Afghanistan on Tuesday: "I think the president would describe as one of his most important national security priorities, which is ending the war in Iraq and winding down in a responsible fashion the war in Afghanistan."
One lesson of the current debacle is that President Obama sounded far too optimistic about the benefits of his swift withdrawal from Iraq. That case of misplaced optimism should raise questions about his current plan for the relatively swift withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan "in a responsible fashion."
Another lesson suggested by the shockingly rapid rise of ISIS is that Mr. Obama's strategy has been too narrowly focused on fighting what he has called "core" al-Qaida's relatively elderly and isolated leaders and their regional allies in Pakistan and Yemen. And his primary reliance on drones that often kill innocent bystanders is a powerful recruiting tool for the Islamic radicals.
President Obama's rush to disengage from the Mideast and South Asia has given our foes in the region a new lease on life while sharply depleting America's psychological and material resources for sustaining a complex, long-term conflict against the forces of Islamic terror.
And it looks increasingly likely that our next president will inherit a more dangerous world because of Mr. Obama's muddled and feckless policy.
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