Online Opinion Outpost: June 24

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The Online Opinion Outpost features opinions and commentary on the latest hot topics from national news sources. As much as you love hearing from The Universe, we thought you might like to hear from journalists around the nation.

Iraq: The next move

Anne-Marie Slaughter, New York Times

Deciding that the Syrian government, as bad as it is, was still better than the alternative of ISIS profoundly missed the point. As long as we allow the Syrian government to continue perpetrating the worst campaign of crimes against humanity since Rwanda, support for ISIS will continue

President Obama should be asking the same question in Iraq and Syria. What course of action will be best, in the short and the long term, for the Iraqi and Syrian people? What course of action will be most likely to stop the violence and misery they experience on a daily basis? What course of action will give them the best chance of peace, prosperity and a decent government?

The answer to those questions may well involve the use of force on a limited but immediate basis, in both countries. Enough force to remind all parties that we can, from the air, see and retaliate against not only Al Qaeda members, whom our drones track for months, but also any individuals guilty of mass atrocities and crimes against humanity. Enough force to compel governments and rebels alike to the negotiating table. And enough force to create a breathing space in which decent leaders can begin to consolidate power.

Max Boot, Los Angeles Times

So what should we do? To stop the advance of ISIS, Obama should immediately offer to send into Iraq a limited number of special operations forces and military trainers who can call in airstrikes and buttress the battered Iraqi security forces. At the same time, the president must get personally involved — this isn’t a job that can be delegated — in pressing the Iraqi government for serious political reforms that include embracing Sunni tribes, ending the persecution of Sunni leaders, curbing the prime minister’s authority and weeding out political hacks and sectarian actors from the security services.

It is unlikely that Maliki would agree to such reforms, so the United States needs to work behind the scenes to ensure that he doesn’t win a third term in office.

Obama must act fast, and he must disregard the bad ideas now floating around Washington.

Daniel Byman, Washington Post

Quite often, the allies we’re seeking to help are themselves deeply flawed: corrupt, sectarian and repressive. And even worse, they are so by design — their problems are fundamental to the functioning of their politics. In such cases, U.S. assistance can help only on the margins. And that is precisely the case with Iraq today.

By encouraging democratic reforms in these circumstances, the United States threatens the national government’s power. By encouraging minority rights, we undermine the privileges and biases of the dominant community. By calling for an end to corruption and for transparency in government, we threaten the leader’s ability to control and reward his base. And by pushing military reform, we risk making the military the only functioning institution in a weak country and making a coup more likely.

However, if the allied government does not reform, the insurgency is likely to continue, and the United States is accused — correctly, if unfairly — of supporting a dictator.

Yes, the United States can and should offer more help to Iraq in exchange for social and electoral reforms. In the end, though, such efforts are likely to fail.

Obama has made scaling back U.S. military involvement in the Middle East a key achievement of his presidency. If he chooses to involve the United States in Iraq once more, he should recognize that he is choosing between bad guys and a bad government.

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