THE global importance of regional stability in the Middle East is the pretense for U.S. military assistance to the failed government of Iraq. By definition, President Obama must be working to involve others in this mission.

Spread this assignment around. The U.S. pulled troops out of the country in 2011, and there is no good reason to deploy our forces again.

Basic to any response Obama might see necessary is the visible, demonstrable involvement of other nations. A united front that makes the point of condemning the Sunni insurgency under way.

One of the defining characteristics of U.S. involvement in the region, and, all too often elsewhere, is a failure to understand the local political and sectarian dynamics.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is in charge of a Shiite-led government that has aggressively consolidated power. A U.S. military presence right now would be in the name of helping whom to secure what?

One of the presumptions is that a U.S. return to Iraq would be with the permission and cooperation of the al-Maliki government. Is that the case? And toward what end?

Back when Vice President Joe Biden was U.S. Sen. Joseph Biden, he proposed the division of Iraq into three regions for Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds. The topic is back in play, in part because that is the emergent pattern of the insurgency.

Obama’s fundamental challenge is not to compound the stupidity of the initial U.S. presence in Iraq.

Strength in numbers is the key to any U.S. response. Get other countries to speak, contribute resources and be present around any bargaining table.

If this is about Middle East stability, then it is not the sole responsibility of the United States. We tried that before, and we are still mourning the human toll of that presumption.

Editorial board members are editorial page editor Kate Riley, Frank A. Blethen, Ryan Blethen, Sharon Pian Chan, Lance Dickie, Jonathan Martin, Erik Smith, Thanh Tan, William K. Blethen (emeritus) and Robert C. Blethen (emeritus).