Some random related thoughts:
- How on earth did the combined intelligence apparatus of the U.S., Iraq, and their allies managed to be taken completely by surprise? Nobody seems to have known that ISIS had acquired the depth and material that allowed them to run over Mosul about like the U.S. led forces overran Kuwait in Gulf War I.
- Early reports are that the Iraqi army commanders all evacuated before the attack on Mosul and other points. The army regulars were left without leadership and without command communications to Baghdad. In such a circumstance, it's no wonder that the ISIS forces prevailed. It's a perfect illustration of the depth of corruption in the Maliki government – which is not substantially different than the depth of corruption anywhere else in the Middle East, with the exception of Israel and (to a lesser extent) Turkey. I don't know any solutions to this corruption culture other than leveling the whole Middle East and starting over.
- The events of the past few years in Syria, Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Iran, and Libya abundantly demonstrate (to me, at least) the need for a “world policeman” – and, unfortunately, there's only one effective candidate for that role: the United States. The rest of the world is unwilling to pay the price in either blood or treasure, and increasingly (at the moment) so is the U.S. That may change when the rest of the world deteriorates enough to present a direct threat to us – which is the pattern for the past 150 years or so as we (the U.S.) oscillate between isolationism and activism on the world front.
- Establishing a democratic government is not the same as establishing the rule of law. Iraq and Afghanistan are painful object lessons in this. History's lesson here is particularly distasteful to most Americans (myself most definitely included): the only successful establishments of non-corrupt democracies that have ever occurred happened after countries were utterly conquered and new institutions were established – with transitional governments run by the conquerors. The two most recent examples are Germany and Japan after they were defeated in WWII. The Allies were much less involved with Italy's post-war government, and the result is notably less successful.
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