By Jessica McBride Special to Published Dec 09, 2015 at 3:16 PM

The opinions expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the opinions of, its advertisers or editorial staff.

Some liberals go wild every time a person says the obvious: President Obama lost the Iraq war. So repeat after me: It’s time to admit reality. President Obama lost the Iraq war.

That means we lost. Let’s start there.

Yes, it’s a war he inherited. And, yes, it’s a war he certainly didn’t want. And, yes, it’s a war that (with the benefit of hindsight) we probably shouldn’t have started at all. However, I still expected him not to lose it, especially through surrender.

We can "re-win" it, but why should we think we can win something we’ve already lost with the same strategy as before?

It’s indisputable that Obama lost the war, unless you really think ISIS controlling swaths of Iraq and massacring civilians (and some Americans) is winning a war. They control territory. We don’t.

We withdrew the troops prematurely before the Iraqi government was strong enough to stand on its own, woefully underestimating how the vacuum we left might strengthen those groups already creating sectarian strife (i.e., the Sunnis we gave basically no ability to integrate back into the new power structure). This seems obvious in retrospect. To some degree, it boils down to Sunni versus Shiite rivalries.

We then underestimated how the Syrian civil war would fuel this all the more, and how the sectarian groups would morph into an even more odious religious theology (ISIS). ISIS has its roots in an American prison and the Sunni disenfranchisement, as well as the sectarian strife that was, then, at least somewhat fomented by Russia-backed Syria. Was it a proxy war all along?

I’m not meaning to let President Bush off the hook either; he went into a country that had not invaded us with what we now know is faulty intelligence, and then bumbled the aftermath of the invasion. We are still paying the price for the disastrous decision to disband the Iraqi Army and disenfranchise the former Sunni elite, giving them limited pathway into the new power structure. That’s the roots of ISIS, if you read up on it.

On what planet did it make sense to withdraw our troops so precipitously, though? Heck, how long did we stay in Germany after WWII? Think about it.

Yet the president went on TV the other day and, in a speech to the nation in the wake of San Bernardino, completely skipped over this point. Then, he expected us to embrace his "stay the course; more of the same" plan.

Mr. President: It is not working.

The president admits we’re in a new phase, yet he is still downplaying the nature of our enemy and refusing to admit his previous policies have been disastrous on the foreign stage. He thinks ISIS is contained; he thinks America is safe from ISIS (said right after an attack by ISIS sympathizers in California); his Attorney General says she isn’t sure which ideology motivated the California attackers (seriously?); and he once called ISIS the JV team.

The time to destroy ISIS was while the group was STILL the JV team. Obama’s air war is not working. Go read some of the brave citizen media reports out of Raqqa. One site reports continually that the American (and British, French, Russian) air strikes are killing a lot of civilians (women and children) and aren’t all hitting their targets (ISIS fighters).

Yet, Obama pointedly ruled out ground troops (even if he doesn’t plan on sending in ground troops, it’s hard to see why it benefits us to assure our enemies of that. You’d think we would at least want them to wonder what we are capable of).

I can’t stand Donald Trump (and, if he’s the Republican nominee, I will vote for Hillary. His latest "plan" to stop all Muslims from entering this country, initially including American citizens, is loathsome, unconstitutional, frightening and as racist as David Duke). The president’s ineffectual, inert leadership is scaring some people into turning toward a demagogue (not excusing it; people need to THINK).

Some liberal commentators actually tried to dispute (or started ranting about George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and calling me generalized names) the comment that Obama lost the Iraq war when I first made it on my Facebook page. 

Yet, the fact is not disputable. President Bush didn’t lose the Iraq war; he started it. When he left office, we were on shaky terrain there, no doubt. However, remember the "surge"? Things were starting to look better. And then we suddenly left. Things aren’t going much better in Afghanistan now, either, where recent reports had ISIS launching training camps and toppling a Taliban leader.

What we do now is, however, the $68,000 question. We’ve lost. That’s water under the bridge. Do we withdraw and retreat further into an isolationist bubble? Regretfully, I don’t think we have that option. For one, if you don’t fight terrorists in their homelands, the problem shows up here (just witness San Bernardino). Imagine ISIS with nukes. Or chemical weapons. So it’s a national security question. Ironically, we are back to preemptive war. At least the Bush approach kept them bogged down overseas (but many of our young men and women paid for that with their lives).

We shouldn’t be in this situation. We wouldn’t be if we hadn’t relinquished the territory we took. But now this is where we are at.

It’s also a moral question. The world can no longer stand by while gay people are tossed off roofs, people (including many Muslims) are executed, religious minorities are ruthlessly purged, women are raped and enslaved, and our citizens are beheaded on TV. We couldn’t look the other way from Hitler; we can’t look the other way from ISIS, either.

Sending in ground troops would be a perilous, awful thing, but perhaps it needs to be on the table and at least discussed. Ground troops would target ISIS fighters, whereas airstrikes are more indiscriminate. All of the world’s powers are on our side. You mean to tell me that all of the global powers of the world (Russia, Britain, Jordan, France, us, etc.) can’t amass the world’s largest ground force to go in together and take this land back from these repulsive murderers? What about the other Muslim countries in the region? ISIS is ruthless toward Muslims who don’t share its extremist ideology. We all have a stake in it now. Then, partition Iraq AND Syria, like we did with East Berlin. It’s a thought, anyway.

I also think the president could have talked tougher about Russia and others in the region. There are reports Russia is bombing the anti-Assad rebels we support. Either Russia is with us or it isn’t. Who’s funding ISIS? Call them out.

Bring back Petraeus. Get new military leadership. Anything but more of the same.

Instead we got mealy mouthed gobbledygook from a president who won’t admit he’s already lost this war, and who telegraphed to our enemies that we’re not planning anything new and, don’t worry, there are limits to our response. We handed them our non-battle battle plan. Just great.

What would they say about that at West Point? No wonder people are scared.

Jessica McBride Special to

Jessica McBride spent a decade as an investigative, crime, and general assignment reporter for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and is a former City Hall reporter/current columnist for the Waukesha Freeman.

She is the recipient of national and state journalism awards in topics that include short feature writing, investigative journalism, spot news reporting, magazine writing, blogging, web journalism, column writing, and background/interpretive reporting. McBride, a senior journalism lecturer at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, has taught journalism courses since 2000.

Her journalistic and opinion work has also appeared in broadcast, newspaper, magazine, and online formats, including, Milwaukee Magazine, Wisconsin Public Radio, El Conquistador Latino newspaper, Investigation Discovery Channel, History Channel, WMCS 1290 AM, WTMJ 620 AM, and She is the recipient of the 2008 UWM Alumni Foundation teaching excellence award for academic staff for her work in media diversity and innovative media formats and is the co-founder of Media, the UWM journalism department's award-winning online news site. McBride comes from a long-time Milwaukee journalism family. Her grandparents, Raymond and Marian McBride, were reporters for the Milwaukee Journal and Milwaukee Sentinel.

Her opinions reflect her own not the institution where she works.