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Refugees in Iraq. 'Liberator must chaperone and guide the liberated during the transition period' Photo: AP
Refugees in Iraq. 'Liberator must chaperone and guide the liberated during the transition period' Photo: AP
 
 
Rabbi Levi Brackman  

 

Immorality of 'no boots on the ground' strategy

The biblical exodus story should be instructive for anyone who wants to help a subservient society transition into a free one. Obama’s major mistake was pulling all troops out of Iraq and then telling Iraqis to complete transition on their own.

Published: 10.15.14, 17:01 / Israel Jewish Scene

The alarming success ISIS has had in conquering territory in Iraq and Syria, coupled with our current inability to confront or hold them back, is deeply troubling.

  

 

Early this year, many of us watched in horror as ISIS carried out acts of unspeakable evil and posted them to Facebook and other social media sites. Many of us asked why the United States government was silent when it came to this horrific group. We were alarmed when State Department statements and briefing papers made no mention of this threat.

 

Jihadist Group
Islamic State takes over Iraqi town after soldiers flee  / Reuters
Fall of town in Anbar province is seen as a step by Islamic State to isolating the pro-government forces defending the Haditha dam, which controls the flow of the Euphrates to southern Iraq.
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While Israel was fighting a war against Hamas early in the summer, the Obama administration and the rest of the "civilized" world were busy condemning Israel for excessive force while they were silent about the barbarism of ISIS.

 

President Obama now wants us to believe that while those of us with a Facebook account were aware of what ISIS was doing, the Unites States intelligence community was not. It seems to me that there is more to it than that: This was a case of willful ignorance and that ignorance continues to this day.

 

This article is not meant to be an attack on the president of the United States and neither am I a partisan, but this administration has made some critical errors that has led directly to the frightening situation we currently find ourselves in.

 

Worst of all, however, it is unaware that is it is making these mistakes and thus continues to make them. To be clear, the logic that leaving the Iraqis to their own devices will force them to defend their country against radicals like ISIS is flawed.

 

Here is why: Subservient societies do not easily transition to become autonomous. Freedom is not just a state of being, it is a state of mind. One can be physically free yet mentally enslaved. One cannot just take societies that have been enslaved to a dictator for centuries and give them democracy in the belief that freedom will reign and that the newly liberated society will put their lives on the line to defend their liberties.

 

The biblical story of libration is instructive here. According to the biblical account, it took 10 miraculous plagues and the splitting of a sea for the Israelites to be freed from Egyptian slavery. But that was not the end of the saga. The Israelites then spent 40 years in the desert before the transition from slaves to free people was complete.

 

As part of commemorating this, each year Jews celebrate the festival of Sukkot (celebrated this week), where temporary outdoor huts (sukkot in Hebrew) are erected for one week. Meals are taken in the huts during the festival.

 

The God-given reason for the holiday is because "I caused the Israelites to sit in sukkot (literally huts) when I took them out of Egypt" (Leviticus, 23:43).

 

Most commentators explain that "sukkot" refers to miraculous pillars of fire and clouds that protected the Israelites while they sojourned in the desert. Yet the Talmudic sage Rabbi Akiva disagrees. To him the festival of Sukkot celebrates the fact that God caused the Israelites to dwell in physical huts while they wandered in the desert for four decades (Sukkah 11b). This begs the questions: Why is dwelling in huts something worth celebrating for generations?

 

One may answer that the biblical phrase “I caused (the Israelites) to sit in sukkot” connotes the idea that although the Israelites were in transition, living in huts, they were still settled and civilized – sitting. This progression from slavery to civilized societal living could not have occurred without Divine guidance and imputes – "I caused them to sit," says God, even while they were in huts.

 

This, I submit, is what we celebrate each year on Sukkot, for without a relatively successful transition period, guided by the Divine liberator, the entire enterprise would have failed.

 

It has long been my argument that the biblical exodus story should be instructive for anyone who wants to help a subservient society transition into a free one. The lessons are clear: The transition takes time and the liberator must chaperone and guide the liberated during the transition period – they simply won't transition successfully on their own.

 

This was the Obama administration’s major mistake. He pulled all the troops out of Iraq and then told the Iraqis to complete the transition into a stable democracy on their own. The disastrous results of this erroneous strategy are now plain for all to see. The fact, however, that he insists on continuing this failed policy is unconscionable.

 

Instead of reversing course now, Obama continues to insist that there will be no American boots on the ground, in effect leaving millions of innocent people to the whims of brutal and merciless barbarians. To maintain that this is the fault of the Iraqis, because they did not transition into a democratic society on their own or quickly enough, is as wrong as it is immoral.

 

Let’s be clear: America has a moral obligation here and it involves more than just supporting moderate Iraqis and flying sorties. We need to get back in the game and see the transition through till the end. Anything less not only hurts our security here at home it does violence to our moral standing.

 

Levi Brackman is founder of Purposes Inc and creator of a scientifically proven online purpose finding tool Next Stage Purpose . He is currently doing a PhD focused on learning how people can develop purpose and meaning in life. He is also a rabbi and best-selling author.

 

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