Promise Me, Dad by Joe Biden

Promise Me, Dad by Joe Biden

Author:Joe Biden
Language: eng
Format: epub
Publisher: Flatiron Books


Calculated Risks

Prime Minister Abadi needed serious military assistance in the new battle for Tikrit, he told me on the phone that day, March 4, 2015, and he needed it in a hurry. Abadi was in danger of losing control of a pivotal fight against the vicious new malignancy of terror growing in the Middle East, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL. His ask was a big one, consequential both to Iraq and to the United States. And beyond the global implications, this was an issue of great personal import to me. The majority of Americans had surely wearied of our costly twelve-year slog in Iraq, and many had tuned it out like so much annoying background noise. I could not. Having worked since 2003 to help build a functioning, inclusive government in Iraq that might develop into a real democracy, I was deeply invested. I had traveled to Iraq more than twenty times, first as ranking member and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and later as vice president, after Barack announced to me in a 2009 meeting of senior officials in the Oval Office, “Joe will do Iraq.”

Iraq had arguably been the most frustrating issue of my forty-year career in foreign relations. Relations among the three main factions in Iraq—Shia Arabs, Sunni Arabs, and Kurds—were characterized by anger and paranoia, and punctuated by spasms of outright violence. The three factions nursed grudges both ancient and modern. The modern borders of the country were carved out of the Ottoman Empire following the first World War. Saddam Hussein’s Baathist regime favored the country’s Sunni Arab minority, while the aspirations of the majority Shia Arab population, concentrated in central and southern Iraq, and the Kurdish minority in the north were brutally repressed. The 2003 American invasion overturned this order, disenfranchising the Sunnis, empowering the Shia, and rekindling Kurdish dreams of independence. A dozen years trying to persuade the political leaders in Iraq to see the benefits of a government based on something other than raw power and sectarian dominance had been time-consuming, draining, and ultimately nearly impossible. But I wasn’t ready to give up on it. Beau had risked life and limb serving a yearlong deployment in Iraq. He saw death and destruction there, though he didn’t talk about it much. But he always insisted that what the United States was trying to do was noble. If there was a reasonable chance to get it right in Iraq—for the long term—Beau believed we should try. We had sacrificed too many good people already to give up. And on the day of Abadi’s call, I thought we finally had a chance. The irony of all ironies was that the very outfit that intended to tear the country apart, ISIL, was actually bringing Iraqis together, at least temporarily.

The strength of ISIL in Iraq had caught not only the United States but the entire coalition by surprise in the summer of 2014, when its forces made a lightning offensive in the north and west of the country.


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