August 08, 2014

CNAS Scholars React to U.S. Military Action in Iraq

WASHINGTON, August 8 - Five experts at the Center for a New American Security (CNAS) offer analysis and commentary on the Obama administration’s decision to authorize U.S. military action in Iraq. Below are links to each expert's biography as well as recent posts on the topic.

EXPERT: Richard Fontaine is the president of CNAS and previously served as the foreign policy advisor to Senator John McCain for more than five years.
Obama has crossed the Rubicon in Iraq
“The actions undertaken thus far should be part of a broader campaign to roll back ISIS gains, one that includes arming and assisting Kurdish and moderate Sunni Arab forces in Iraq, carrying out additional airstrikes when appropriate, and working to build a more inclusive, post-Maliki Iraqi government.”


EXPERT: LTG David Barno, USA (Ret.) is a senior fellow and co-director of the Responsible Defense Program at CNAS and the former commander of all U.S. and Coalition Forces in Afghanistan from 2003-2005.
Avoiding the Slippery Slope
“While the current U.S. mission is limited and eminently justifiable on humanitarian grounds, its risks are immense. It opens the door widely to a growing American role in a regional sectarian conflict pitting the militarily potent Sunni ISIL against their Kurdish rivals in northern Iraq and Shia adversaries who control the Baghdad government and the south.”

EXPERT: Dr. Dafna H. Rand is the deputy director of studies and the inaugural Leon E. Panetta fellow at CNAS. Prior to joining CNAS, Dr. Rand served on the staff of the National Security Council, where she was responsible for global U.S. assistance efforts in support of democratic transitions, good governance and the rule-of-law.

When the F-18s Leave, Iraqi Government Formation Will Still be Unfinished
“Let’s hope that American warplanes are an accelerant, rather than an excuse for delay, of Iraq’s government formation. Only a new, legitimate and inclusive Iraqi government can oversee the political and military efforts required to stop ISIS’ advance.”


EXPERT: Dr. John Nagl is a member of the Board of Advisors at CNAS and was previously the president of CNAS.
Your War, Mr. President
“The president promised that 'As commander in chief, I will not allow the United States to be dragged into fighting another war in Iraq.' Dropping bombs from airplanes is, of course, an act of war; the United States is not fighting another war in Iraq, but the same one that began in 1990, escalated dramatically in 2003, and did not end with the departure of American troops in 2011. Wars do not magically end when the United States redeploys ground troops from the combat theater; they end when the political objectives of the combatants are achieved, or when the combatants acknowledge that their goals are unachievable.”

EXPERT: Dr. Nora Bensahel is a senior fellow and co-director of the Responsible Defense Program at CNAS. She is also an adjunct professor in the Security Studies Program at Georgetown University.
Defending the Kurds, Not Iraq
“President Obama was right to make this decision, but now his challenge will be keeping this intervention limited. He must resist pressure to intervene elsewhere in Iraq, or to expand the military goals to directly attacking ISIL’s leadership.”


  • Dafna Rand

  • John A. Nagl

    Member, CNAS Board of Advisors, Associate Professor of Warfighting Studies at U.S. Army War College

    Dr. John Nagl is the ninth Headmaster of The Haverford School in Haverford, Pennsylvania and a member of the Board of Advisors at the Center for a New American Security. He wa...

  • Nora Bensahel

  • Richard Fontaine

    Chief Executive Officer

    Richard Fontaine is the Chief Executive Officer of CNAS. He served as President of CNAS from 2012–19 and as Senior Fellow from 2009–12. Prior to CNAS, he was foreign policy ad...

  • David W. Barno

  • USA (Ret.)