Posted January 7, 2015 on 9:13 pm | In the category Iraq, Obama, syria, U.S. Foreign Policy | by Jeff

Why was Iraq in 2003 not a “vital American interest” while in 2014 it is. Bush certainly made an awful mistake in his judgment, no doubt aided by lousy advisors, but the US is once again attacking in Irag – and Syria -, and did not leave Afghanistan during most of the Obama presidency – and actually still hasn’t. This time it is on Obama’s orders. How come Bush was a fool while these military actions are (still?) supposed to be considered wise diplomacy?

Comment to earlier blog from Flaming Bombadier

Hey Flamer: Whoa!! take a deep breath and sit down. Fan yourself and relax. And consider some history and some contemporary events.

1. Iraq invasion in 2003 was an illegal invasion of a country, based on fabricated intelligence which led to the dismemberment of an (unpleasant, but recognized) government to satisfy the wet dreams of Dick Cheney and possibly W. Bush. It involved over 200,000 American troops, killed nearly 4000 of them, added hundreds of thousand of Iraqis to the death list, sent some 4 million Iraqis to refugee camps and cost the U.S economy between 2 and 3 trillion dollars. In terms of national interest it was an enormous deficit and we continue to pay the price., Which brings us to number:

2. U.S. troops sent into Iraq by Obama were and are sent specifically to support the currently existing Iraq government – not a terribly difficult to understand difference from sending in troops to overthrow a government – but it is a government produced by the Bush/Cheney war. It is a great example of the consequences of stupidity, but Obama has sent 1500 – soon to be 3000- and maybe more later – in response to a real threat. Ask The Parisians. Ask London, Ask Madrid. There is – in my view- a threat to not only our national interest, but the interests of all Western liberal democracies iby a theocratic, existential movement opposed to Western ideals and our right to hold them.

3. It has taken a long time (too long) to get out of Afghanistan, but to say the U.S. is ttacking Syria is a rather bizarre comment. Obama has been butchered in the U.S. by McCain, Lindsey Graham and their ilk for not invading Syria. He is holding back and resisting anything more than plane attacks on ISIS. And it is very hard to argue in favor of letting ISIS go its merry way unmolested.

It is an ugly world out there and today’s murder of journalists in Paris, and the beheadings of American and British journalists and the random bombings of innocent people every day, yes, every day, makes this battle one of national interest for us all.

Obama has been criticized for 6 years for being who he is – a thoughtful, careful, rational leader who has led America out of most of their foreign battles. It has become easy to just criticize him without thinking about what came before, what he was left with and what he has accomplished. Perhaps Flaming Bombadier would have been happier with a McCain or a Chamberlain, but I think not. There are always disappointments but in these issues Obama has acted wisely and with restraint.

Maybe Flaming Bombardier has some thoughts on how best to negotiate with ISIS, Al Queda, et alia and how to bring diplomacy to the process. if not maybe a bare chested Putin can do it. We shall see. But probably not


Strange Bedfellows

Posted September 3, 2013 on 3:55 pm | In the category McCain, Obama, syria, U.S. Foreign Policy, Uncategorized | by Jeff

The weird new Bromance between President Obama and John McCain surged (so to speak) over the weekend as they agreed to a general strategy over Syria. This after everyone’s (except my) favorite cranky uncle, Joe Lieberman, reminded us of the importance of bombing something, anything, anytime something happens in the Middle East. This morning we find that Speaker of the House John Boehner is also supporting Obama’s plan for intervening in Syria. So for the first time in his presidency Obama has the support of Republican leaders – although Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell might be holding out. One might think that Obama would give pause to the source of his support, but it appears this train of battle has virtually left the station.

But the fundamental issue of whether such action is in our national interest – and whether it can do anything but harm – seems to have been skipped over to become now a struggle for political support in the Congress, regardless of the quality of the basic decision and regardless of the judgment of the American people. There seems to be no doubt that the Assad regime has used chemical weapons against its own people and this time it is seen to qualify for a military response, while the 100,000 plus earlier deaths by other means did not.

So far there has been only vague lip service given to whether it serves our long term strategic interests to get involved. There are comments to the effect that if we do not do something we will lose prestige, but with whom, and so what? There is also fear that the President will lose personal prestige because he drew the “red line” and now must respond regardless of any collateral damage to our interests. The talk shows on Sunday were all focused on what kind of military response is needed – how robust, how long, what targets, etc. The issue of WHETHER we should do something has been pushed aside and now we focus on the process of gaining political cover for the decision from the Congress.

The role of the press has been largely reactive, focusing on process issues rather than substantive strategic concerns. One exception was the appearance of John Mearsheimer on the PBS Newshour Monday night. He argued convincingly that the U.S. does not have a central strategic concern in Syria, that if we get involved we will likely suffer unpleasant consequences in the future, that we really have no idea what kind of government we would end up with in Syria if Assad is driven out and that our track record when getting involved in the region is a miserable failure. As for the moral case, it is not America’s job to be a kind of global moral force, given our own record in places like Vietnam, Chile, Nicaragua, Iran, Iraq – even Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Obama may have wanted a working relationship with the Republicans for lo the past 5 years, but this smacks of his going away from some core American values in search of love in all the wrong places.

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Obama prepares for War

Posted August 30, 2013 on 4:34 pm | In the category Obama, syria, U.S. Foreign Policy | by Jeff

“Political realism refuses to identify the moral aspirations of a particular nation with the moral laws that govern the universe. …All nations are tempted — and few have been able to resist the power for long — to clothe their own aspirations and action in the moral purposes of the universe. …There is a world of difference between the belief that all nations stand under the judgment of God, inscrutable to the human mind, and the blasphemous conviction that God is always on one’s side and that what one wills oneself cannot fail to be willed by God also.”
― Hans J. Morgenthau

Morgenthau’s comments (above) are useful reminders of some of the realities in play as the United States stands on the threshold of using military force in Syria.

Morgenthau was driven out of America’s foreign policy establishment because of his disapproval of America’s folly in Vietnam and some 10 years later when – after some 58,000 American and over a million Vietnamese deaths – Morgenthau turned out to be right, we walked away from the war while one of its last main architects, Henry Kissinger, stayed on as Secretary of State until 1977. Today Vietnam is a favorite stopover for American tourists.

The lessons of Vietnam lingered until the early 2000’s when the 9-11 attack on the World Trade Center opened a Pandora’s Box of national self pity, false belief in America’s omnipotence, and a belief that we know how to help other countries move toward re-inventing themselves in our image.

We went into Afghanistan originally to seek revenge for the 9-11 attacks and in a short period drove the Taliban into a relatively short-lived exile, installing in its place our almost comically corrupt ally, Hamid Karzai as President. But almost at once, the George Bush administration saw 9-11 as an excuse to do something neocons had wished for some time – the removal of Saddam Hussein from the world stage. There is no need to review the fiasco that became the Iraq War, nor its dreadful consequences. The decision to invade Iraq was built at least partially on the delusions that we were doing God’s work in bringing democracy to Iraq, that Saddam was an evil person that we needed to punish, and that we would easily carry the day. Today Iraq has an ongoing civil war, lacks democratic ideals, is unable to function even as well as it had under Saddam, and thousands of American troops and millions of Iraqis, have died or suffered irreparable damage.. If that is not enough, we can reflect on the results of over ten years’ effort to bring democracy to Afghanistan.

But here we are, trying to figure out the best way to punish the president of a country who has done something of which we disapprove and on the other hand wondering how best to help countries, including Syria move toward “democracy”.

President Assad of Syria is a nasty person and his apparent use of chemical weapons on his own people is a despicable act. But does it really warrant a military intrusion by the U.S.? Or, more importantly, is it in our national interest to intervene militarily in a civil war in which we do not have anyone to support, that we know that the rest of the world does not support our getting involved, and that the only American support for getting involved rests with the same tired, old neocons and internationally naive warriors like Senators McCain and Graham. I see nothing good coming from this unless you count Obama’s polishing his power credentials as worth the present and likely future costs. It is perhaps useful to remember that the chemical attack killed ca. 1000 civilians, the more traditional and “acceptable” weaponry like bombs, shrapnel, bullets, etc. have killed upwards of 100,000 Syrians. Dead is dead, whether by chemical or bomb, or bullet and there is considerable recent evidence that whenever we get militarily involved in that part of the world we make matters worse. (It is instructive to remember our complicity in Saddam’s use of chemical warfare on Kurds in 1988 – go to the link for more detail). The immediate result of U.S. bombing in Syria would be to add to the dead. We can only guess at the long-term results but might reflect on life in Iraq today for some suppositions.

Today it seems that the administration has decided to intervene in Syria in some way and is putting together a rationale to support a decision already made but apparently based on our God given right to punish sinners and not on America’s core national interests.

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