It was reported yesterday that Barack Obama was considering demands from Baghdad and Washington for air strikes in Iraq to halt the advance of the militant group, ISIS.
The Guardian's Seamus Milne is right to point out that this is an extraordinarily bad idea. US intervention of any kind, even if it doesn't involve "boots on the ground," runs the risk of severely escalating the conflict.
If the last 11 years have taught us anything, it's that violent Western intervention feeds the fire of extremist backlash. As Milne points out, throughout the so-called "War on Terror," jihadist terror groups from al-Qaeda to the Pakistani Taliban have grown and spread throughout the Middle East.
The fact of the matter is that attempted American air strikes on ISIS are unlikely to curb the group's control of cities such as Mosul or Tikrit. The only thing air strikes will do is kill Iraqi civilians and exasperate a deadly conflict. And we all know that the US has done enough of that already.
Maliki was himself selected by the US as a suitable strongman to protect its interests. That's not to suggest that any transition from Saddam's dictatorship wouldn't have been painful, or that Iraqis have had no agency in what took place. But much of the western debate of the past week has glossed over the scale of the human and social catastrophe unleashed by the US-led war. The most recent US academic estimate of the death toll is at least half a million, while Iraq Body Count has recorded a minimum of 190,100 violent deaths as a result of the invasion – 4 million became refugees.