TIME Iraq

Iraq TV: Airstrike Kills 60 Militants in North

(BAGHDAD) — Iraq’s state TV says a government airstrike in the militant-held northern city of Mosul killed 60 fighters from the extremists Islamic State group.

The TV says the strike at dawn on Wednesday targeted a prison in downtown Mosul used by the Islamic State as a religious court and detention facility.

The report says 60 militants were killed and about 300 people who were in the militants’ custody were set free. It cited intelligence officials but provided no further information.

A Mosul resident says families of the prisoners rushed to the site to help their kin. He spoke on condition of anonymity fearing for his safety.

Iraq is facing its worst crisis since the 2011 U.S. military pullout. Islamic militants have seized much of the country’s north and west.

TIME Iraq

Be Captured and Killed, or Risk Dying of Thirst: The Awful Choice Facing the Refugees of Sinjar

Thousands flee Iraq's Sinjar
Thousands of Iraqis flee from the town of Sinjar, near the city of Mosul, to Erbil and Dohuk after armed groups affiliated with the Islamic State seized the town early on August 4, 2014. Anadolu Agency—Getty Images

Tens of thousands of Iraqis are trapped on a barren mountain without water or aid. If they descend, they risk being massacred by Sunni militia

With the world’s focus on the conflict in Gaza, little international attention is being paid to an appalling humanitarian crisis unfolding in Iraq.

In the country’s far northwest, tens of thousands of people fleeing the Sunni extremist group Islamic State have been trapped on a mountain for days without water or other supplies. The refugees, primarily from the country’s Yazidi religious sect, have begun to die from dehydration and exposure, with no relief in sight.

They face an excruciating dilemma — attempt to flee and risk being captured and killed by insurgents, or remain on Mount Sinjar in the hope that aid will somehow get through.

“A humanitarian tragedy is unfolding in Sinjar,” said Nickolay Mladenov, special representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Iraq, in a statement released earlier this week. “The Government of Iraq and the Kurdistan Regional Government should urgently restore their security cooperation in dealing with the crisis.”

Humanitarian workers say there is no way to deliver supplies to the area outside of intermittent airdrops being conducted by the Iraqi Air Force.

“It’s not possible to get to them by road, obviously because ISIS controls the access roads, so nobody can go, they cannot leave,” Donatella Rovera, Amnesty International’s senior crisis response adviser, told TIME by phone from northern Iraq on Wednesday.

“It’s going to take a few more days before things coalesce into a more coordinated response.”

On Tuesday, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) reported that at least 40 children holed up on the mountain had died as result of dehydration.

“These children from the Yazidi minority died as a direct consequence of violence, displacement and dehydration over the past two days,” said Marzio Babille, a UNICEF representative, in a statement. UNICEF estimates that there are approximately 25,000 children still stranded in and around Sinjar.

Islamic State, which is notorious for its hatred of any group that does not abide by its fundamentalist interpretation of Sunni Islam, is particularly harsh on the Yazidi, who follow an ancient religion with resemblances to Zoroastrianism.

Reports and photos posted by Islamic State earlier appeared to show summary executions of Yazidi men.

The insurgents have “been behaving in a very brutal way with everybody,” says Rovera. “With the Yazidi, it’s worse, simply because the Yazidis’ religion [is] considered devil worship.”

Earlier this summer, Islamic State, along with a smattering of Sunni militias, launched a blitzkrieg throughout northern Iraq capturing large swaths of territory along both the Tigris and Euphrates rivers.

Since then, the militant group has enforced its brand of draconian rule over their territory — targeting religious minorities and destroying troves of prized cultural and religious artifacts deemed heretical.

On Sunday, at least 200,000 people fled the Sinjar region as militants loyal to Islamic State routed Kurdish forces.

Thousands of refugees have made it to the Kurdish Autonomous Region in the far north of the country, but supplies are being stretched by the day as the displaced crowd into refugee camps, cramped apartments and mosques.

In the absence of strong military support from Baghdad, Kurdish militia fighters, including troops from as far away as Turkey and Syria, launched a massive counteroffensive on Tuesday in attempt to dislodge the heavily armed ISIS fighters from the northwest.

TIME Archaeology

Museum Finds Misplaced 6,500-Year-Old Human Skeleton in the Cellar

Ancient Skeleton
6,500-year-old human remains are displayed at the The Penn Museum, part of the University of Pennsylvania,, Aug. 5, 2014, in Philadelphia. The museum announced Tuesday that it had rediscovered in its own storage rooms a 6,500-year-old human skeleton believed to have been a man at least 50 who stood 5 feet, 9 inches tall. Matt Rourke—AP

But it had only been missing for 85 years, so

An archaeology museum in Philadelphia said Tuesday it found a 6,500-year-old human skeleton in its own basement.

Yes. Its own basement.

Researchers at the Penn Museum, which is associated with the University of Pennsylvania, said they found documentation for the human skeleton while digitizing old records. The remains are extremely rare and date to 4,500 BCE. They were unearthed by archaeologists around 1930 during an excavation of the ancient city of Ur in modern day Iraq beneath the city’s cemetery, itself dating back to 2,500 BCE, Reuters reports.

The skeleton, which scientists have named Noah, is roughly 2,000 years older than any other remains found at the excavation site. The find could give scholars a new depth of understanding into everyday life during the little-understood time period.

Noah’s remains indicate he was muscular, about five feet-ten-inches tall and died at 50 years old.

[Reuters]

TIME Iraq

Iraq Air Force to Back Kurds Fighting Islamists

Mideast Iraq
This image made from video taken on Sunday, Aug. 3, 2014 shows Iraqis people from the Yazidi community after arriving in Irbil in northern Iraq after Islamic militants attacked the towns of Sinjar and Zunmar. AP—AP

The Sunni militants have targeted minority communities in areas they have conquered

(BAGHDAD) — Iraq’s Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has called upon his country’s armed forces to help the Kurdish military battle a Sunni militant offensive in northern Iraq that has caused tens of thousands of people from the minority Yazidi community to flee their homes.

It was the first sign of cooperation between Baghdad and Irbil, the capital of the semi-autonomous Kurdish region, since Iraq’s second-largest city, Mosul, was taken over by the Islamic State group in June, signaling a degree of rapprochement in the face of the country’s deteriorating security crisis.

Iraq’s military spokesman Lt. Gen. Qassim al-Moussawi said Monday that al-Maliki has commanded the air force to provide aerial support to the Kurds in the first sign of cooperation between the two militaries sinceIraq’s second largest city, Mosul, was captured by the militants on June 10.

Iraq is facing its worst crisis since the 2006 civil war when the Islamic State group captured large swaths of land straddling the Syria-Iraq border with the goal of establishing a self-styled caliphate.

When it overran the cities of Mosul and Tikrit in June, Iraqi security forces virtually collapsed, with police and soldiers abandoning arsenals of heavy weapons.

The Islamic State captured the northern towns of Sinjar and Zumar on Saturday, prompting an estimated 40,000 from the minority Yazidi sect to flee, said Jawhar Ali Begg, a spokesman for the community.

The Sunni militants have targeted minority communities in areas they have conquered.

“Their towns are now controlled by (Islamic State) and their shrine has been blown up,” Begg told The Associated Press. The militant group gave the Yazidis, who follow an ancient religion with links to Zoroastrianism, an ultimatum to convert to Islam, pay a tax or face death, Begg added.

The United Nations said last month that more than 500,000 people have been displaced by the violence since June, bringing the total this year to 1.4 million, including more than 230,000 Syrian refugees. The group drove ethnic and religious minorities out of Mosul, and attacked mosques and shrines, claiming they contradicted strict Islamic teachings.

Kurdish forces have been battling with the militants for control of several towns stretching between the province of Nineveh and the Kurdish Iraqi province of Dahuk. At least 25 Kurdish fighters were killed in clashes with the militants on Sunday, and another 120 were wounded, according to Muhssin Mohamed, a Dahuk-based doctor.

A statement Monday by the Islamic State said it had captured dozens of Kurdish prisoners during the clashes and seized “large number” of weapons.

The authenticity of the statement could not be verified, but it was posted on a website used by the group.

Kurdish state-media reported late Monday that peshmerga units surrounded the town of Shangal and were able to capture it from militants seeking refuge there.

___

Janssen reported from Dahuk, Iraq. Associated Press reporter Vivian Salama in Baghdad contributed to this report.

TIME Iraq

Sunni Insurgents Seize Small Towns in Iraq’s North

Mideast Iraq
People pass by the damaged Bab al-Tob police station in central Mosul, 225 miles (360 km) northwest of Baghdad, Iraq, on July 15, 2014. AP

After pushing out Kurdish forces, Islamic extremist militants have expanded territories under their control in Iraq by capturing the small northern towns Zumar and Sinjar.

(IRBIL, Iraq) — Militants with the Islamic State extremist group on Sunday seized two small towns in northern Iraq after driving out Kurdish security forces, further expanding the territories under their control, officials and residents said.

The fresh gains by the Sunni extremist militants have forced thousands of residents to flee from the religiously mixed towns of Zumar and Sinjar, toward the northern self-ruled Kurdish region, the United Nations said. Some of them were trapped in an open rugged area, it added.

Mosul Governor Atheel al-Nujaifi, who fled to the largely autonomous Kurdish region when the Islamic State group and allied Sunni militants seized Iraq’s second-largest city of Mosul in June, told The Associated Press that the two towns fell after fierce clashes that erupted the day before.

A resident in Sinjar said the militants blew up a small revered Shiite site and two Yazidi shrines. Yazidis are a Kurdish-speaking sect and religious minority. Another resident in Zumar said they took over at least two small oil fields. Both spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution.

The U.N. mission in Iraq, known as UNAMI, said as many as 200,000 civilians, mostly Yazidis, have fled to a nearby mountain but were surrounded by militants and endangered.

Iraq is facing its worst crisis since the 2011 withdrawal of U.S. troops. The Islamic State, an al-Qaida breakaway group, captured large swaths of land in the country’s west and north in a lightning offensive earlier this year.

When it overran the cities of Mosul and Tikrit in June, Iraqi security forces virtually collapsed. In most cases, police and soldiers simply ran, abandoning arsenals of heavy weapons.

The Islamic State group has carved out a self-styled caliphate in a large area straddling the Iraqi-Syrian border.

The fighting in Zumar and Sinjar was widely reported to have spread to the nearby Mosul Dam on Sunday, however Jabar Yawer, the spokesman for the Peshmerga, the Kurdish military in semi-autonomous northern Iraq, said late Sunday that Kurdish forces are still in control of the dam, emphasizing that the Islamic State group has not been successful in an attempted takeover.

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the United States “is actively monitoring the situation” in northern Iraq and is “gravely concerned for the safety of civilians in these areas.”

The U.S. “is supporting the Iraqi Security Forces and Peshmerga Forces working to defend these areas,” Psaki said in a statement, adding that the U.S. Joint Operation Centers in Irbil and Baghdad are sharing information with Iraqi security and Peshmerga commanders.

She said U.S. Ambassador Robert Beecroft met Sunday morning with Iraqi President Fouad Massoum and a U.N. representative “to discuss a coordinated approach to the humanitarian situation.”

In the early days of the Sunni militant offensive, the Kurdish fighters did not fight the group but instead pushed into disputed areas with majority Kurdish population to protect them. But, they found themselves fighting the militants across the northern fronts from time to time.

The U.N. special envoy to Iraq, Nickolay Mladenov, said Kurds and the federal government “should urgently restore their security cooperation in dealing with the crisis.”

Meanwhile Sunday, military spokesman Lt. Gen. Qassim al-Moussawi said clashes continued between Iraqi security forces and militants to retake the town of Jurf al-Sakhar, which fell to Sunni insurgents last week.

Al-Moussawi said a number of airstrikes hit the militants in the center of the town, though he did not offer casualty figures. Dozens of militants and nine troops were killed Saturday in clashes in Jurf al-Sakhar, located some 50 kilometers (30 miles) south of the capital.

___

Associated Press writers Sinan Salaheddin, Sameer N. Yacoub and Vivian Salama in Baghdad contributed to this report.

TIME Australia

Bloodcurdling Images of Australian Jihadists Puts ‘Lucky Country’ on Edge

Australians protest Israeli attacks in Melbourne
Thousands of people stage a demonstration to protest the Israeli ongoing attacks in Gaza on July 26, 2014, in Melbourne, Australia. Recep Sakar—Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Shocking photos emerge amid fears that the worsening conflict in Gaza will only prompt more young radical Muslims to enter the fray

The phenomenon of Australian jihadists fighting in the Middle East took a disturbing new turn last week when photos of a Caucasian man in mujahedin fatigues holding decapitated heads were posted on Twitter.

It follows the uploading last month of a YouTube video by the extremist Sunni group known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) of two men with thick Australian accents calling on Westerners to join their violent quest to create a Muslim caliphate.

One of the pair, a teenager from Melbourne identified in the video as Abu Bakr al-Australi, later detonated an explosive belt in a crowded Baghdad marketplace, killing five people and wounding 90 more. He was the second Australian suicide bomber praised by ISIS in recent weeks; an estimated 200 Australian jihadists are currently fighting in Syria and Iraq.

The figure puts Australia in the unenviable position as the highest foreign per capita contributor to the conflict in the Middle East, and providing the largest contingent of foreign fighters from a developed nation. And there are fears that the worsening conflict in Gaza will only prompt more radical young Muslims to enter the fray.

“The government is gravely concerned by the fact that Australian citizens are heading to Iraq and Syria not only to fight but to take leadership roles,” Australia’s Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said in parliament last week. She paused before adding, “There’s a real danger that these extremists also come back home as trained terrorists and pose a threat to our security.”

The man holding the decapitated heads in the Twitter feed turned out to be Khaled Sharrouf, a boxer from Sydney who was jailed for four years in 2005 for his role in planning the most serious terrorist plot Australia has ever seen. Despite his notoriety, Sharrouf managed to flee while on parole in January by using his brother’s passport to board a flight from Sydney to Southeast Asia from where he made his way to Syria.

The security breakdown has made Canberra redouble efforts to protect the nation from jihadists in the event they return home. Earlier this month, the attorney general’s office added ISIS to its list of terrorists organizations, making it a crime for an Australian to join them punishable with up to 25 years imprisonment.

On advice from intelligence agencies, the Foreign Ministry has canceled the passports of 40 Australians suspected of extremist links. More than $700 million in additional funding will be injected into customs and border patrol over the next six years. In 2015 the service will be streamlined under a tough new national-security agency named the Australian Border Force.

Professor Gary Bouma, acting director of the Global Terrorism Research Centre at Melbourne’s Monash University, agrees that returning jihadists pose “a very serious problem, as they will be ideologically energized.” But he adds some will have been pacified after witnessing the “hideous gore of battle and the unrighteousness of all sides.”

“The first thing that needs to happen is those people need to be reintegrated into society,” Bouma says. “That means counseling, getting them a job and ensuring their cultural and social needs are met. It’s a much healthier approach than isolating them.”

The leader of an Australian Muslim organization who spoke to TIME on condition of anonymity says calling foreign combatants in Syria “terrorists” was wrong, as many had gone there to protect family members from President Bashar Assad’s repressive regime, which has unleashed torture, mass killings, starvation and chemical weapons upon Syrian civilians.

“The idea of them being terrorists just because they go to fight overseas, that is not a fair thing to say,” he says. “It’s also unreasonable to say just because they fought in Syria that they’re going to do the same thing when they come back home. There will always be one or two crazy fanatics among them, but they’re a minority. They’d have to be really misguided to try something here.”

Another community leader, Samier Dandan, president of the Lebanese Muslim Association, has accused the government of double standards by outlawing those who fight in Syria while allowing others, namely members of Australia’s Jewish community, to join the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).

“It’s hard when you say something to one side, and they look and say ‘How come we’re not being treated the same?’ The law should be across everyone,” Dandan told the Australian Associated Press.

However, Rafael Epstein, author of Prisoner X, a book about an Australian lawyer who fought with the IDF and worked as an operative with Israel’s spy agency, Mossad, before going rogue, insists Dandan’s comparison is flawed.

“What he is saying is someone who fights for Israel will be just as radicalized and have just as many [warring] skills to pose a security risk to Australia,” Epstein says. “But the values under which someone would fight for Israel, a democratic country with the rule of law, are very different to the values someone would fight for under ISIS, and they’d be much closer to Australia’s values than ISIS’s.”

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott agrees. “The best thing we can do … is to ensure that jihadis do not come back to this country,” he said last month.

Whether that will be enough to maintain Australia’s record as one of the few major U.S. military partners in Afghanistan and Iraq to not have suffered a terrorist attack on its own soil remains open for discussion.

“U can’t stop me and trust me if I wanted to attack aus [sic] I could have easily,” tweeted convicted terrorist Khaled Sharrouf in a message taunting Australian federal police posted from the battleground in Syria. “I love to slaughter use [sic] and ALLAH LOVES when u dogs r slaughtered.”

TIME Iraq

Islamist Militants Raze Ancient Shrine in Mosul

The monument to the purported burial place of the prophet Younis was erected around 1393

+ READ ARTICLE

The Islamist militants who now control a large swath of northern Iraq destroyed a centuries-old shrine purported to be the tomb of the Biblical figure Jonah Thursday.

Militants from the group Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) rigged the Nabi Younus mosque with explosives and leveled it in front of a large crowd, AFP reports. The shrine was built at the purported burial place of Younis—known in the Bible as Jonah—and once displayed a tooth believers held to be that of the whale in which Jonah survived for a time.

The Sunni militant group ISIS, who subscribe to an austere form of Islam based on a strict interpretation of Shariah law, has declared a caliphate in northern Iraq after overrunning much of the country in recent weeks. The group has razed or damaged 30 shrines and 15 additional sites in and around Mosul, an anonymous official told AFP.

“But the worst destruction was of Nabi Yunus, which has been turned to dust,” he said.

The Nabi Younus mosque was erected atop the ruins of an old Christian church, which itself was built at the site of an ancient palace once located near the town of Nineva, located just across the Tigris River from Mosul.

 

TIME Iraq

UN: ISIS Orders Women and Girls in Mosul to Undergo Genital Mutilation

"This is not the will of Iraqi people," U.N. humanitarian coordinator says

Islamic extremists who control parts of northern Iraq have ordered girls and women in and around the city of Mosul to undergo female genital mutilation, a United Nations official said Thursday.

Nearly 4 million girls could be affected by the “fatwa” issued by the militant group that refers to itself as the Islamic State (formerly the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria), U.N. resident and humanitarian coordinator in Iraq Jacqueline Badcock told reporters in Geneva via videolink from Iraq.

“This is something very new for Iraq, particularly in this area, and is of grave concern and does need to be addressed,” she said according to Reuters. “This is not the will of Iraqi people, or the women of Iraq in these vulnerable areas covered by terrorists.”

[Reuters]

TIME foreign affairs

Malaysia Airlines Ukraine Crash: Tragedy Fuels the U.S. Intervention Machine

John McCain
U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., criticizes the Obama administration during a Jackson, Miss., runoff rally in support of Republican U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran at the Mississippi War Memorial in Jackson, Miss., June 23, 2014. Rogelio V. Solis—AP

Whatever happened in Ukrainian airspace doesn’t immediately or obviously involve the United States.

Apart from the probable cause of its destruction, we know almost nothing about the Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 that was “blown out of the sky” yesterday over eastern Ukraine, according to Vice President Joe Biden. President Obama confirmed today that one American was among the dead and that separatists with ties to Russia are allowing inspectors to search the wreckage area. In today’s press conference, Obama stressed the need to get real facts — as opposed to misinformed speculation — before deciding on next steps.

Yet even with little in the way of concrete knowledge — much less clear, direct ties to American lives and interests — what might be called the Great U.S. Intervention Machine is already kicking into high gear. This is unfortunate, to say the least.

After a decade-plus of disastrous wars in Afghanistan and Iraq that resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people (including almost 7,000 American soldiers) and constitutionally dubious and strategically vague interventions in places such as Libya, it is well past time for American politicians, policymakers, and voters to stage a national conversation about U.S. foreign policy. Instead, elected officials and their advisers are always looking for the next crisis over which to puff up their chests and beat war drums.

Which is one of the reasons why Gallup and others report record low numbers of people think the government is up to handling global challenges. Last fall, just 49 percent of Americans had a “great deal” or “fair amount” of trust and confidence in Washington’s ability to handle international problems. That’s down from a high of 83 percent in 2002, before the Iraq invasion.

In today’s comments, President Obama said that he currently doesn’t “see a U.S. military role beyond what we’ve already been doing in working with our NATO partners and some of the Baltic states.” Such caution is not only wise, it’s uncharacteristic for a commander-in-chief who tripled troop strength in Afghanistan (to absolutely no positive effect), added U.S. planes to NATO’s action on Libya without consulting Congress, and was just last year agitating to bomb Syria.

Despite his immediate comments, there’s no question that the downing of the Malaysian plane “will intensify pressure on President Obama to send military help,” observes Jim Warren in The Daily News. Russia expert Damon Wilson, who worked for both the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations, says that no matter what else we learn, it’s time to beef up “sanctions that bite, along with military assistance, including lethal military assistance to Ukraine.” “Whoever did it should pay full price,” Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), the head of the Senate’s Armed Services Committee, says. “If it’s by a country, whether directly or indirectly, it could be considered an act of war.”

The immediate response of Arizona Sen. John McCain, the 2012 Republican presidential, was to appear on Fox News’ Hannity and fulminate that America appears “weak” under the leadership of President Obama and to imply that’s why this sort of thing happens. If the Russian government run by Vladimir Putin or Russian separatists in Ukraine are in any way behind the crash — even “indirectly” — said McCain, there will be “incredible repercussions.”

Exactly what those repercussions might be are anybody’s guess, but McCain’s literal and figurative belligerence is both legendary and representative of a bipartisan Washington consensus that the United States is the world’s policeman. For virtually the length of his time in office, McCain has always been up for some sort of military response, from creating no-fly zones to strategic bombing runs to boots on the ground to supplying arms and training to insurgents wherever he may find them. He was a huge supporter not just of going into Afghanistan to chase down Osama bin Laden and the terrorists behind the 9/11 attacks but staying in the “graveyard of empires” and trying to create a liberal Western-style democracy in Kabul and beyond.

Similarly, he pushed loudly not simply for toppling Saddam Hussein but talked up America’s ability to nation-build not just in Iraq but to sculpt the larger Middle East region into something approaching what we have in the United States. Over the past dozen-plus years, he has called for large and small interventions into the former Soviet state of Georgia, Libya, and Syria. He was ready to commit American soldiers to hunting down Boko Haram in Nigeria and to capturing African war lord Joseph Kony. In the 1990s, he wanted Bill Clinton to enter that Balkan civil wars early and often.

In all this, McCain resembles no other politician more than the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, whose hawkishness is undisputed. Like McCain, Clinton has long been an aggressive interventionist, both as a senator from New York and as secretary of state (where her famous attempt to “reset” relations with Russia failed spectacularly when it turned out that the “Reset” button she gave her Soviet counterpart meant “overcharged” rather than the intended conciliatory term). In the wake of Flight MH17 being shot down, Clinton has already said that the act of violence is a sign that Russian leader Vladimir Putin “has gone too far and we are not going to stand idly by.”

For most Americans, the failed wars in the Iraq and Afghanistan underscore the folly of unrestrained interventionism. So too do the attempts to arm rebels in Syria who may actually have ties to al Qaeda or other terrorist outfits. Barack Obama’s unilateral and constitutionally dubious deployment of American planes and then forces into Libya under NATO command turned tragic with the death of Amb. Chris Stevens and other Americans, and we still don’t really have any idea of what we were trying to accomplish there.

No one can doubt John McCain’s — or Hillary Clinton’s — patriotism and earnestness when it comes to foreign policy. But in the 21st century, America has little to show for its willingness to inject itself into all the corners of the globe. Neither do many of the nations that we have bombed and invaded and occupied.

Americans overwhelmingly support protecting Americans from terrorism and stopping the spread of nuclear weapons. They are realistic, however, that the U.S. cannot spread democracy or preserve human rights through militarism.

When the United States uses its unrivaled military power everywhere and all the time, we end up accomplishing far less than hawks desire. Being everywhere and threatening action all the time dissipates American power rather than concentrates it. Contra John McCain and Hillary Clinton, whatever happened in Ukrainian airspace doesn’t immediately or obviously involve the United States, even with the loss of an American citizen. The reflexive call for action is symptomatic of exactly what we need to stop doing, at least if we want to learn from the past dozen-plus years of our own failures.

President Obama is right to move cautiously regarding a U.S. response. He would be wiser still to use the last years of his presidency to begin the hard work of forging a foreign-policy consensus that all Americans can actually get behind, not just in this situation but in all the others we will surely encounter.

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