There are however plenty of bad guys in Mesopotamia, and you can’t tell who’s who even with a scorecard. Here’s Pamela Engel on the “dark reality” of Iraq:
Arming Sunni tribes to fight the Sunni extremists in the Islamic State terror group (also known as ISIS, ISIL, and Daesh) would likely be America’s best option. But, as Aaron David Miller noted in The Wall Street Journal, this could undermine Iraq’s central, Shia-dominated government and make Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi look weak to his Shia constituency.
Consequently, Baghdad has not agreed to arm Sunni tribes.
On the other hand, Shia militias backed by Iran have so far proven to be the most effective fighting force against ISIS, but many fear that they are pursuing a sectarian agenda and committing atrocities against Sunni civilians in the areas they liberate from ISIS.
The Middle East has reached the point where our least-bad option is to hope the Shia and Sunni are too busy killing each other to kill us. That’s not much of a hope — it doesn’t take much to launch a 9/11-type attack, and it takes even less to pull off something like the Boston Marathon Bombing. More realistic is the hope that we can manage the problem with weapons shipments and airstrikes, endure the occasional attack, and perhaps eventually they’ll kill enough of one another that they’ll grow sick of bloodshed. Then, maybe something like peace will break out.
I know that’s the direction Spengler has been leaning for a long while now, and lately Richard Fernandez, too. But we’ve seen this show before. Syria has been festering for four years, with hundreds of thousands dead, millions displaced — and still no sign of slackening bloodlust. A similar story is being told in Libya, albeit on a smaller scale. And now the big prize is nearly within the Islamists’ grasp: Baghdad. Palmyra was peanuts compared to the looting and carnage Baghdad would afford them.
Maybe, tragically, events must follow Lenin’s formula, “The worse, the better.” Lenin of course meant that the worse things became for Russian soldiers and farmers during the First World War, the better his chances of leading a communist revolution. For us it means that the more of each other the Shias and Shiites kill, the fewer of them there are to wage jihad over here.
It’s a callous worldview to say the least, and one fraught perhaps with just as much risk as any other other. But it requires less vision, effort, or leadership than this White House seems willing to offer, and would seem to be a nice fit for our nation’s short attention span.
But we’d better have strong stomachs, because if this is the road we follow, then the Syrian Civil War has just been the warmup act for what’s to come.