More War Still Again
As the Islamic State, which appears in reality to be neither, continues to post horrific beheadings of captive Westerners on the internet, the Washington establishment comprised of the government and media pundits who report on it seem intent on an ever-escalating new war in the Middle East. The ever-vigilant voices of the GOP hawks in Congress see this as an opportunity to bash the President for actions he took to scale down the Iraq War bequeathed him by his predecessor and use the convenient fact that ISIS exists in both Iraq and Syria to allow new activity by US forces in the latter country as well (something they strongly encouraged last year, but couldn’t cajole enough support from the American public to start operations then).
For his part, President Obama has remained true to his promise not to let the situation escalate to the point where American armed forces are engaged in major combat operations of the sort seen in the last rendition of the Iraq War or that in Afghanistan. American boots on the ground can be replaced by drones, missiles and manned air attacks with ground forces supplied by a refurbished and better led Iraqi military/government, assorted militias in Iraq and Syria, and foreign forces to be determined at some unspecified time in the future. A somewhat similar approach was used by Clinton in Yugoslavia, and it worked out alright, didn’t it? In terms of American ground troop casualties, it did. I doubt the people on the receiving end of the bombings would agree. There was also a far larger coalition involved, and it wasn’t cheap.
The reports of atrocities by the ISIS forces wherever they have fought are indeed awful. The broadcasting on the internet of how they deal with those they conquer achieve their goal of terrorizing and enraging those who see them. I would not choose to live under their rule, and cannot imagine that many others would. How will our bombs and drones and supplies of weapons for non-American ground troops solve the situation? The solution being put forth by the Administration at this point does not seem very different from what we have been trying to forge in many countries in that region for decades. Are Yemen, Libya, Pakistan or Somalia currently any better off for our military interference and drone strikes? True, we have achieved a modicum of success when it comes to eliminating individual terrorist leaders and planners. Bin Laden will not be plotting another 9/11 to the best of my knowledge. But if anything, the terrorist groups and ideology has seemed to spread to more places since our response to 9/11 began that it ever was prior to then.
All the talk of WMD that preceded W’s wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and that now clouds all efforts at diplomacy with Iran, pales in comparison to the damaging escalation of conventional weaponry that only promises to get worse if we continue pumping weapons into the fray as we seem to be proposing now and have been doing since the end of the “last” Iraq War. Adding new recipients to our lethal aid who are of questionable reliability is not a recipe for increased stability – especially in light of the fact that such weapons have had a history of ending up in the hands of those they are intended to repel in that part of the world. How much of ISIS’s military might is ultimately courtesy of American weapons manufacturers and at the expense of American taxpayers?
It appears that the President is trying to act responsibly and with humanitarian considerations at the forefront. The same cannot be said of many of his critics, particularly those in Congress. The two-day theater in the House and Senate that we just witnessed is a case in point. A brief discussion and a vote that included what seemed to be the only way Congress would avoid another shutdown right before the midterm elections was straight out of the same political script we’ve all come to expect from this group in recent years. They slapped together yet another short-term band-aid solution to a long-term problem in a manner that served only their individual short-term goals of gaining another term to serve for 2 or 6 years pretending to govern in our interests – or not, as the case may be. The welfare of the American people they were elected to represent never entered the equation.
The worst offenders are those who protest so strongly that the President is exceeding his authority that they actually sue him for it, yet act like craven fence-sitters when it comes to actually performing as the Constitution mandates. Doing your job under such circumstances needs to take precedence over attending fundraisers and making campaign stops just to keep a job you refuse to perform. If the members of the US military took their jobs as seriously as most of Congress takes theirs, this country would cease to exist. Somebody somewhere would figure out we can’t be bothered to delay vacations or forego holidays regardless of whatever else may be going on in the world.
Using drones, air power and guided missiles to blow people and things to smithereens half a world away may enable the appearance of accomplishing much at little cost in terms of American lives. Such a strategy does little to nothing in the way of improving living conditions in the country/countries we are tearing apart. Radicalization of increasing numbers of people in this and other Western countries is undoubtedly decreasing security here as well. Short of a regime more totalitarian than any yet seen by humanity or desired by anyone not envisioning themselves as the rulers, we cannot put the genie of warfare back in the bottle by building more and better weapons. We need to stop using them as the answer to every conflict for the sake of expediency.
Our mucking around over there the past two decades or so has resulted in many regime changes, some intended and some not foreseen, but none of which seems to have improved the lives of many of the people living under them. There are other regimes our country has stated a desire to remove which will also have a role to play in the near future, as well as some not-so-nice regimes that we’ve helped to prop up. We don’t seem to be winning very many friends in the region using conventional military attacks and occupation or more surgical strikes using intelligence assets, precision munitions/missiles and drones. The war is endless because our government chooses not to end it. The people here let the government keep it going – largely because it does a good job of making lemons seem like good cars. Eventually, we catch on to the lies, however. The media likes to spin it that we are war-weary, but how many times does one need to hit his/her head against a wall before deciding to stop so it won’t hurt anymore?
ISIS needs to be stopped. Nobody should be allowed to treat others in the manner they have publicly broadcast as their preferred operational method. Neither should our people be providing the means by which people abroad are being ruthlessly slaughtered by such rulers. Most of us are gaining nothing from the exchange. Arms manufacturers, other private defense contractors and some large multinational energy conglomerates seem to be gaining the most from all of this carnage. We just foot the bill and provide some of the cannon fodder, all the while losing more of our liberties in the pursuit of an illusory sense of safety and security. Real diplomacy must be used, rather than dropping bombs first and asking questions later. The US does not rule the world. It certainly has proven its incapability of acting as an impartial policeman. Below are some links to examples of other alternatives that would be more likely to achieve meritorious results than those so far put forth either by the Administration or by the McCain/Graham wing of the GOP.
Further Suggested Readings: