America's Military Power Can't Save Iraq

Newly displaced people wait to receive food supplies at a processing center for displaced people in Qayyara, south of Mosul, Iraq, October 21, 2016. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra

The Trump administration must resist the temptation to believe that U.S. combat power can bring enduring stability to Iraq.

And four years after that, according to USA Today, “Sunni insurgent groups have battled Kurdish militias for control over the city, Iraq's third largest . . . Hundreds of Christians, Yazeedis and members of other minority groups have been driven out Mosul in recent years as militants used violence and intimidation to tip the ethnic and religious balance into their group’s favor.”

From 2004 through ISIS’ capture of Mosul in 2014, there have been numerous iterations of violent eruptions followed by U.S.-supported government efforts to restore order. Yet in no case were the root causes of the instability resolved—namely religious and governing differences between Shia and Sunnis. Those differences remain unresolved.

Without major changes in how Baghdad chooses to govern Mosul (and indeed all the other cities liberated from ISIS), as has been the case since 2004, the end of this battle will most likely mark the beginning of the next. I saw no evidence in my travels to suggest any such fundamental changes are forthcoming. By now it should be painfully clear that American military power is excellent at destroying identified targets, but a wholly inappropriate instrument for solving political and religious problems.

Daniel L. Davis is a senior fellow for Defense Priorities and a former lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army who retired in 2015 after twenty-one years, including four combat deployments. Follow him at @DanielLDavis1.

Image: Newly displaced people wait to receive food supplies at a processing center for displaced people in Qayyara, south of Mosul, Iraq, October 21, 2016. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra

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