This is astonishing. On a radio show, Republican Congressman Mike Coffman effectively called for yet another Iraq War.
On KNUS Radio, Coffman said, when asked if he wanted to see combat troops back in Iraq: "Certainly an advisory role, but certainly not anything beyond that. And that's if requested. I think we have to be very careful once out about reentering that particular conflict. I would say, in terms of regular troops on the ground, absolutely not."
There are three points why, despite his moderate wording, Coffman is calling for yet another war.
First, there is no such thing as "advisory, or "non-regular troops," when it comes to Iraq. As soon as an American service member enters Iraq, they are a target. If attacked, they will respond, and thus are combat troops. In a 360-degree battlefield, where any innocent looking person may actually be an insurgent, those troops must always keep a combat posture, for their own defense.
As an adviser to the Iraqi Army, myself, in 2011, I can tell you that when you're embedded with the Iraqi Army, you never feel completely safe -- whether it is from attacks on them, or attacks from within (what we call "Green on Blue").
So, simply put, any boots on the ground, in Iraq, would be combat troops. It isn't even a debate.
To the same point, to have the proper scope and reach to advise the expansive Iraqi Army, it would require what Coffman sees as "regular troops," anyway. Taking on a true advisory role, right now, in Iraq, would mean sending parts of the regular Army that aren't advisors.
Second, Iraq is in the midst of a civil war and always has been. Interestingly, it's the same civil war that Syria is now seeing -- namely, Sunni versus Shia, fought between proxies, including Iran. That was true when we were there, and is now that we've left. That was always going to be the case. What is also true is that this civil war would never end until Iraqis fought it out amongst themselves, either in a political settlement, or in battle.
Our troop presence actually delayed that, and kept the cork on the bottle. But now, it is fully raging, as the radical Sunni group, the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI), has taken Fallujah, and Iraq's government is poised to take the city back. To put American troops back in at this juncture, on the side of the government, makes them instant participants in Iraq's and Syria's Civil War, no matter how "advisory" we want to say they are.
Third, as with the last Iraq war, Congressman Coffman offers up no end-state, and no exit strategy. Just toss troops back in there, and see how it goes. We've been there and done that, and I think we all know how it goes. If things go badly, the answer from the right is "more troops." Ten thousand troops becomes 20,000, and 30,000. And next thing you know, we're back in conventional war, complete with the "regular troops," that Coffman says he wouldn't send.
Finally, it should be noted that the status of forces agreement with Iraq, which would have left a residual force there, never came to pass, for one reason. That reason had little to do, as Coffman charged, with the lower number of residual forces that President Obama proposed. It had nearly everything to do with the fact that the Iraqis were never going to give our troops immunity, because doing so would have caused the hardcore Shia to pull out of the governing coalition that elected Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
No immunity means troops could be prosecuted in Iraqi courts, and held in Iraqi prisons. The only way our troops would be let back into Iraq, now, is if they are not given immunity. That is a non-starter -- just as Congressman Coffman's proposal should be.
At the end of the day, responsible public officials, and folks in the media, ought to expose Coffman's position for what it is -- the path to a third Iraq War. At the same time, they should pay some attention to folks on the Hill like Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, and others, who are saying the exact opposite, and even have introduced legislation that repeals the authorization for the use of force in Iraq, that was passed leading up to the last Iraq war.
This should have been a settled debate long ago, but apparently it is not, for folks like Congressman Coffman. So let's do our troops and America a huge favor, and end talk of Iraq War III right now.