It may not be what you think.
In assessing President Obama’s latest escalation in Iraq, it’s worth asking a few basic questions.
1. Is it constitutional? Only Congress has the right to declare war. Under what authority is President Obama sending U.S. warplanes back to Iraq?
2. Has he followed the War Powers Act? This 1973 law says the President can send the armed forces into action only by "statutory authorization" or in case of "a national emergency created by attack upon the United States, its territories or possessions, or its armed forces." Neither of those applies here. Also, the War Powers Resolution requires the President to notify Congress within 48 hours of committing armed forces to military action. Has the President done that?
3. Is the bombing legal under international law? The U.N. charter says that no country can attack another country except in self-defense. The Islamic States, as repulsive as it is, has not attacked the United States.
4. If U.S. personnel at our embassy or in our consulates are in danger in Iraq, as Obama has said, why not pull them out instead of sending in the bombers?
5. President Obama cites the humanitarian crisis of the Yazidis. And yes, it is a crisis. But there are other humanitarian crises around the world—in Syria, in the Congo, in the Ukraine. Why Iraq and not the others?
6. If the United States couldn’t subdue enemy forces in Iraq with 170,000 soldiers and Marines on the ground, how will it be able to do so with none on the ground?
7. What role is oil playing in all this? As Steve Coll writes in The New Yorker, “ExxonMobil and Chevron are among the many oil and gas firms large and small drilling in Kurdistan under contracts that compensate the companies for their political risk-taking with unusually favorable terms.”
8. President Obama on August 9 said, “Ultimately, only Iraqis can ensure the security and stability of Iraq. The United States can’t do it for them. . . . Ultimately there’s not going to be an American military solution to this problem.” Well, then, how long is “ultimately”?
9. Though the Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki was, by almost all accounts, corrupt and extremely divisive, what right did the United States have to muscle him out of power?
10. What credibility does the United States have to claim it’s now on a humanitarian mission in Iraq to save innocent lives when it killed hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqi lives from 2003-2011?
Matthew Rothschild is the senior editor of The Progressive magazine.