So who’s up for round 4 of the never ending Iraqi quagmire?

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Some people sure appear to be.

In fact, as counterterrorism expert Brian Fishman explained, truly defeating ISIS would require full-scale war that would involve fighting in both Iraq and Syria. *

So let me get this straight. We invaded Iraq in 1990 and pinned Saddam down. We flew over Iraq for 12 years, we kept him from getting WMDs, and also had a semi-stable thug strongman who as vile as he was kept the peace, kept the lights on, and kept Hamas and Iran from really getting together. Round 1.

Then we invaded Iraq again and caused all holy hell to break lose in the country because we wanted to establish ourselves in the heart of Middle Eastern oil country post 9-11. Plus we had worn out our welcome (we were never really ever welcome) in Saudi Arabia so we needed a new base of operations.

We find Saddam and let the wannabe warlords string the guy up. (No tears shed here.) We shrug as the Iranian friendly Shiites consolidate power in Baghdad. Violence ebbs just enough for a moment that we think we might see an exit door. Then things start blowing up in the street again when everyone doesn’t just embrace a “newly democratic Iraq.” Round 2.

Soon Iraq is on fire in a big way, again.. IEDs begin taking their toll on our troops. As do repeated deployments. Iraq slips back into serious chaos – again. Enter General Petraeus and the “Surge.” After even more brutal fighting than usual, and with even more American troops, things go back to moderate simmer from full scale boil. There is some hope that against all odds some sort of peace will hold. It kind of does for a while. We “leave.” Round 3.

But now it looks like some American hawks would like to get back in the ring full on as ISIS (The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) has quickly asserted itself, emerging from the chaos we helped to create in Syria and onto the world stage. It has quickly gained ground in the northern Middle East and that has some people, especially the neoconservatives, who are worried about access to hydrocarbon reserves and Israel’s security, beating the war drums. Round 4?

We’ve started dropping bombs already. But how long until people seriously start floating the idea of a new “surge” in Iraq? Or even more than that?

And who’s supposed to go? The soldiers who have already sacrificed so much?

“Sorry son, but you need to deploy on your 10th tour in that God forsaken place. We gave the bad guys guns and lots of press and well surprise, now we – I mean you – have to go fight them – again. Good luck!”

I am not saying that ISIS isn’t a threat. It could very well be. However, we need to take a deep breath and realize that we keep creating these messes and that we can’t afford to create any more. Rounds 1, 2, and 3 all ended badly for the USA. But round 4 will set everything right?

I’m sorry but I doubt that seriously.

I think the more likely possibility is that things will get even worse and that the medium scale war raging from Libya to the Ukraine to Azerbaijan might escalate. We can’t afford another open ended large scale military involvement in the Middle East. We literally can’t afford it.

And yet some policy makers are still angling for war.

We need to be very smart about our next step. We may have a problem on our hands but we need to put away the hammer and consider using other tools in the tool box. We need to think strategically over the long term. How about we don’t make things worse. How about we act deliberately and with prudence. How about we make sure we are operating from a position of strength and not spreading ourselves across the desert wasting lives and money just because some policy wonk in DC thinks we should.

The folks who don’t like us want us to engage. They want to bleed us. We may have to deal with ISIS (in some way) but we need to be very sharp eyed and shrewd. ISIS and the like count on us thrashing around militarily, economically, and diplomatically. Let’s not give them what they want.

* Fishman works for The New America Foundation. Interestingly George Soros’s son is a board member. Here is also is an interesting list of funders

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