When the Iraqi Army’s 2nd Division fled Mosul earlier this summer they left behind a mountain of U.S.-supplied military equipment including hundreds of Humvees, small arms ammunition and as many as 52 American M-198 howitzer mobile gun systems which are now being used by ISIS

Obama gave the green light for strikes anywhere in Iraq where U.S. citizens were in danger, so CENTCOM commander Lloyd Austin gave the order to strike on Friday when it was determined that the city of Erbil was in range of the American-lost guns. All of the Americans being protected in Erbil are there because the U.S. government put them there, including U.S. Consulate staff and Special Forces. Presumably those personnel could have been moved out, thus avoiding this whole thing.

Now the good news here is for the U.S. defense industry, which has achieved the state of karmic perfection. The weapons they once sold to the U.S. are now being destroyed by other weapons they sold to the U.S., which will need to be replenished. Why, it’s a win-win situation for nearly everybody!

We Told You So

The U.S. knew ISIS had control of the howitzers from at least mid-July. But it is not like any of this couldn’t have been foretold long before mid-July.

Professor of Economics at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University Chris Coyne, in an interview with me, predicted this exact scenario much earlier this summer:

“The U.S. government provided significant amounts of military hardware to the Iraqi government with the intention that it would be used for good (national security, policing, etc.). However, during the ISIS offensive many of the Iraqis turned and ran, leaving behind the U.S.-supplied hardware. ISIS promptly picked up this equipment and are now using it as part of their broader offensive effort. This weapons windfall may further alter the dynamics in Syria.

“Now the U.S. government wants to provide more military supplies to the Iraqi government to combat ISIS. But I haven’t heard many people recognizing, let alone discussing, the potential negative unintended consequences of doing so. How do we know how the weapons and supplies will be used as desired? What if the recipients turn and run as they have recently and leave behind the weapons? What if the weapons are stolen? In sum, why should we have any confidence that supplying more military hardware into a country with a dysfunctional and ineffective government will lead to a good outcome either in Iraq or in the broader region?”

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Peter Van Buren writes about current events at blog. His book,Ghosts of Tom Joad: A Story of the #99Percent, is available now from Amazon

Photo by Jayel Aheram under Creative Commons license