The current American war in Iraq is a struggle in search of a goal. It began in August as a humanitarian intervention, morphed into a campaign to protect Americans in-country, became a plan to defend the Kurds, followed by a full-on crusade to defeat the new Islamic State (IS, a k a ISIS, a k a ISIL), and then… well, something in Syria to be determined at a later date.
At the moment, Iraq War 3.0 simply drones on, part bombing campaign, part mission to train the collapsed army the US military created for Iraq War 2.0, all amid a miasma of incoherent mainstream media coverage. American troops are tiptoeing closer to combat (assuming you don’t count defensive operations, getting mortared and flying ground attack helicopters as “combat”), even as they act like archaeologists of America’s warring past, exploring the ruins of abandoned US bases. Meanwhile, Shia militias are using the conflict for the ethnic cleansing of Sunnis and Iran has become an ever-more significant player in Iraq’s affairs. Key issues of the previous American occupation of the country—corruption, representative government, oil revenue-sharing—remain largely unresolved. The Kurds still keep “winning” against the militants of IS in the city of Kobani on the Turkish border without having “won.”