Barack Obama has authorised targeted air strikes against Islamic militants in Iraq. This airborne operation will bring relief to thousands of minority Iraqis driven to a mountain-top. The US is going to be criticised all around, no matter what it does, and as a globally accepted hegemon it should be. Questions come to the fore: Would anybody be breathing a sigh of relief at an American intervention if Israel was not attacking Gaza? Does the timing of this "help" within the world's current conflict- narrative prompt us to react with a degree of idealism?
One can hope that just this once, the phrase “America is coming to help” will not make things worse. And one can argue that the motivations behind that help shouldn't even matter. But they always do. Though there are attempts in the media that simplify the US decision into an "either they watch 40,000 people die, or bomb the ISIS to the ground" scenario, the reality is far more complex. The motivations are murkier. By what process of moral selection does the United States make its decisions on international intervention? Can they ever even be veiled in a grand moral narrative? How did bombing the Taliban work out, when the great Afghan freedom war began? Is the US decision fair? Is it even strategically sound? ISIS is a result of the chaos US policies have caused in this area.
The US planes have delivered food, water and medical supplies to some 40,000 Iraqis of the minority Yazidi religion who have fled into a mountainous area in north Iraq for fear of being slaughtered by the ISIS forces. US and European officials had earlier expressed concern that a human catastrophe could occur if no one intervened. However, Gaza is the more important question in the minds of the media and the Muslim world right now and Obama's “help” will be taken with a gallon of cynicism. Obama is anxious to assure Americans that his decision did not mean a full re-engagement by the United States with Iraq. Yet this remains to be seen. Bush left a legacy of destruction in the region and Obama has not been able to clean up the mess in two terms. Any strikes will nonetheless mark the first time the US has taken a combat role in Iraq since 2011. The Iraq War, clearly, is not over. A more realistic mind will be led to think that this is only the perfect marriage of US vested interests and a humanitarian imperative. At some point, sometimes, the two do meet. But let us not confuse the issue- if the White House had no strategic interests in Iraq today, the Yazidis could have starved on that mountaintop for all they cared.