Monday, June 23, 2014

White House Seeks Input from Think Tanks on Iraq; CAP Wants Airstrikes

Top Obama Administration officials have reportedly been calling various Washington think tanks over the past few weeks in order to solicit advice and consultation on how to handle the worsening situation in Iraq.

The liberal Center for American Progress, a think tank that is extremely close to the Obama Administration, has come out in support of preparing for limited US airstrikes against Iraq.  You can read more from Josh Rogin at Daily Beast.  Here is the CAP report titled "On the Brink: Managing the ISIS Threat in Iraq."

More specifically, the CAP report says that the US should prepare for limited use of US - and if possible allied - air power on ISIS targets to degrade their ability to further destabilize Iraq and to protect US interests.

Here is more on Iraq from think tank land:
  • Frank Verrastro and Sarah Ladislaw of CSIS on Iraq and global oil markets.
  • CSIS's Nathan Freier on the crisis in Iraq and military options.
  • Kenneth Pollack of Brookings with questions about the deployment of American advisors to Iraq; and a blog post on oil and the Iraqi civil war.
  • Bruce Riedel of Brookings says Iran is the big winner in the Iraqi debacle.
  • Video from June 19 Brookings event "Iraq in Crisis: What Options Does Washington Have?"
  • Heritage Foundation on what you need to know about ISIS in Iraq and the Iraq meltdown.
  • John Bolton of AEI evaluating US options in Iraq.
  • CFR's Meghan O'Sullivan on Obama's two terrible choices in Iraq.
  • CFR's Leslie Gelb on a US playbook for Iraq and Syria.
  • CFR's Max Boot on what the US can do about Iraq.
  • Cato's Benjamin Friedman tells America to stay out of Iraq. 
  • Cato's Christopher Preble: GOP needs to stop being "stupid and proud of it" on Iraq. 
  • Bilal Saab of Atlantic Council: the hard questions on Iraq.
  • Barry Pavel of Atlantic Council: A strategy for Syria and Iraq.
  • Nora Bensahel of CNAS on why Maliki isn't the problem in Iraq, but oil is
  • Sirwan Kajjo on CEIP on the rise of ISIS - a golden opportunity for Iraq's Kurds. 
  • Judy Dempsey of CEIP asks: Is ISIS in Iraq bigger than Putin in Ukraine? 
  • Brian Michael Jenkins of RAND Corp. on Iraq observations.
  • Karl Mueller of RAND: Would US air power work in Iraq?
  • Patrick Johnston and Benjamin Bahney of RAND on Obama's Iraq dilemma.
  • Elie Abouaoun on USIP: Will politics deliver more after military response this time?
  • Robin Wright on Wilson Center: Iraq's House of Cards - The Primary Mission.
  • Aaron David Miller of Wilson Center: Who lost Iraq?
  • Jane Harman of Wilson Center: Don't let ISIS distract from al Qaeda threat.

But let us remember that think tanks do not always have all the right answers.  After all, Think Tank Watch can think of not one think tanker who publicly predicted the current chaos in Iraq.  Here is Richard Leiby of The Washington Post describing how think tankers were among those who had heard urgent warning about the situation in Iraq earlier in the year, but essentially ignored (or did not comprehend) those warnings.
In mid-January, a taciturn, chain-smoking Iraqi politician came to Washington to meet with powerful members of Congress, White House advisers and think-tankers and convey an urgent warning. Iraq is about to explode, he said, and the United States needs to pay attention.
He described a country poisoned by sectarianism, beset by a virulent Islamist insurgency and hampered by a divisive prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, a Shiite Muslim who had marginalized the Sunni sect, creating dangerous resentments.
But the visitor, Saleh al-Mutlak, Iraq’s deputy prime minister and a rare Sunni officeholder, soon realized that in official Washington, Iraq was old news, settled business. Mutlak says his takeaway after a week of discussion with U.S. foreign-policy makers was, “Good luck, you’re on your own.”
Well surprise, surprise.

The article quotes several think tankers, including Seth Jones of RAND Corp. who said that the lack of good predictions about Iraq is because "the world is very complicated."  Barbara Slavin of the Atlantic Council said that the intelligence community missed this because "they have no imagination."  How about the imagination of the think tank community?

Perhaps Think Tank Watch should emulate Chris Cillizza's "Worst Week in Washington" column and give the award to think tank land...Congrats, or something.