Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Iraq War II?

I'm starting to worry that the US may get pulled back into the Iraq War.

Gene Lyons has it right in Too Many Americans Want Victory Without Sacrifice In Iraq National Memo 06/25/2014 when he writes:

Above all, the president needs to heed Gen. David Petraeus’s warning that the U.S. not let itself be manipulated into serving as a Shiite air force.

Politically speaking, however, here's [the] catch: The more President Obama does what Americans say they want done in foreign affairs—i.e. pulling back from insane Middle Eastern ethnic and religious conflicts—the worse his polling numbers get.

It's almost as if people yearn for a make-believe, action-figure president like the one George W. Bush impersonated until the roof fell in. Or possibly like Ronald Reagan, who got the hell out of Lebanon after a Beirut terrorist strike killed 287 Marines, but who talked tough and invaded tiny Grenada.

Basically, too many Americans want victory without sacrifice. They like to chant "We're Number One!" but with lower taxes and no fatalities.
The mainstream media are still horrible on the topic. Exhibit A: they allow Dick Cheney on television without identifying him as either a lying warmongering, a war criminal involved in torture, or a man distinguish by rotten policy judgment, especially on Iraq. Joan Walsh has a good analysis of The ghoulish trollery of Dick Cheney Salon 06/25/2014.

Speaking of ghoulish entities, Digby asks The right’s scoundrel returns: Why is Elliott Abrams allowed back in polite company? Salon 06/25/2014. Another reminder that the Reagan Administration Central American policy was a very ugly episode in American history with long-lasting repercussions, some of which could have been prevented by diligent prosecution and sentencing of those who committed serious crimes in designing and implementing it. Digby notes, "Recall that under indictment in the Iran Contra scandal, Abrams was pardoned by George HW Bush on his way out the door in 1991." You know, Old Man Bush. The "moderate" Republican.

Juan Cole's Informed Comment blog remains an invaluable resource for news and politics from Iraq. He features this post by William Polk, who co-authored an anti-Iraq War book with the late George McGovern, “Ready, Fire, Aim!” Are We Stumbling into another War? 06/24/2014:

So the war looked easy. Wars often do to those who want to start them. But as Clausewitz warned, warfare is always unpredictable. Moreover, it changes those who fight: once the “dogs of war” are unleashed, they often turn rabid. They attack the good and the bad, the adults and the children, the people and their organizations. Thus, chaos almost always follows. We see this clearly in Iraq. Saddam was a ruthless dictator who refused to share political power and did some terrible things; however, in some spheres his regime functioned constructively. He used much of the increase of Iraq’s income that resulted from the removal of British control of oil to fund economic and social development. Schools, universities, hospitals, factories, theaters and museums proliferated; education became free and nearly universal; the citizens benefitted [sic] from the one of the best public health systems then in operation; employment became so "full" that a plan was developed to siphon off some of Egypt’s vast peasant class to work Iraq’s fields. Iraq became a secular state in which women were freer than in most of the world. True, Saddam suppressed the Kurds and the Shiis, but we don’t object much to the practice of similar policies against minorities in Asia, Africa and parts of Europe and Latin America. [my emphasis]
Cole himself provides considerably more background on the Shi'a/Sunni conflict in Iraq than you're likely to hear in 1000 hours of watching CNN, Neo-Zangid State erases Syria-Iraq Border, cuts Hizbullah off from Iran 06/22/2014.

TomDispatch continues to be a good source on foreign-policy issues. Tom Engelhardt writes in Don’t Walk Away from War: It's Not the American Way 06/10/2014:

So here are five straightforward lessons -- none acceptable in what passes for discussion and debate in this country -- that could be drawn from that last half century of every kind of American warfare:

  1. No matter how you define American-style war or its goals, it doesn’t work. Ever.
  2. No matter how you pose the problems of our world, it doesn’t solve them. Never.
  3. No matter how often you cite the use of military force to “stabilize” or “protect” or “liberate” countries or regions, it is a destabilizing force.
  4. No matter how regularly you praise the American way of war and its “warriors,” the U.S. military is incapable of winning its wars.
  5. No matter how often American presidents claim that the U.S. military is “the finest fighting force in history,” the evidence is in: it isn't.

And here's a bonus lesson: if as a polity we were to take these five no-brainers to heart and stop fighting endless wars, which drain us of national treasure, we would also have a long-term solution to the Veterans Administration health-care crisis.

Bob Dreyfuss looks at the complexity of whose side the US should/would/could take in Syria Joins War in Iraq on US Side, Even as US Battles Syrian Government in Syria The Nation 06/25/2014.

Tom Hayden has spent decades opposing unnecessary wars. He has been sharing some of his thoughts on the current situation at his Peace and Justice Resource Center. Like South Vietnam All Over Again? 06/24/2014:

It's becoming more apparent by the hour that ISIS is transforming its liberated zone into a new Islamic state. A US military intervention will be the major factor in unifying the insurgency into its new identity and overcoming serious internal factional divides with Al Qaeda and other jihadists.

US intervention also makes it even more likely, not less, that a victorious ISIS will see the US as their main enemy, for our support of the bloody regimes in Damascus and Baghdad.

What started as a vicious circle has begun its downward spiral.
And he quotes George McGovern from late in the Vietnam War, "Those who provoke the bee hive need to be ready for the sting."

Consortium News has been carrying informative pieces on the current war drive, including this one by Robert Perry discussing one of the downsides of Obama's pursuit of bipartisan harmony, Obama’s True Foreign-Policy ‘Weakness’ 06/23/2014.

Since the start of his presidency, Obama has let the neocons and their “liberal interventionist” allies push him into militaristic and confrontational policies – even as he is criticized for not being militaristic and confrontational enough. There was the futile “surge” in Afghanistan, the chaotic “regime change” in Libya, excessive hostility toward Iran, intemperate demands for “regime change” in Syria, and hyperbolic denunciations of Russia for its reaction to U.S.-backed “regime change” in Ukraine.

The end result of all this U.S. “tough-guy/gal-ism” has been to get a lot of people killed without actually improving the lot of the people in the countries where the neocon-driven policies have been applied. In each of those cases, a more pragmatic approach to the political and strategic concerns represented by those crises could have saved lives and averted economic pain that only has fed more disorder.
William Pfaff weighs in from Truthdig, It’s Too Late, Mr. Kerry 06/24/2014:

The exhortations in Washington that Barack Obama “do something” about the crises in the Middle East rest on the illusion that the United States already possesses the powers to which the Pentagon has aspired in its program to create a global system of regional commands that already cover Europe, the Americas, the Middle East and Central Asia, the Pacific, and now finishing off with “Africa Command”—all with the means to deploy American strategic ascendancy in every corner of the world.

Ready to be deployed to do what? Rescue the schoolgirls being kidnapped in Nigeria? Stamp out jihadism? Build a modern state for the separatist Tuareg people of the Sahara? Recover the flood of modern weapons looted from Libya by tribal and jihadist groups after the U.S. joined France, Britain and Qatar in liberating Libya from Colonel Muammar Gaddafi? That was at the behest of the French “philosopher” and self-publicist Bernard Henri Levy, who convinced his pal Nicolas Sarkozy that the people of Benghazi were at risk of a “holocaust” in 2011 if France did not get NATO to save them. Americans are not the only people who formulate their foreign policy on what fools and fantasists think.
This column from Tom Engelhardt provides some more real-world commentary on the disaster known as the Iraq War, Who Won Iraq? Lost Dreams, Lost Armies, Jihadi States, and the Arc of Instability TomDispatch 06/19/2014:

It was all to be a kind of war-fighting miracle. The American invaders would be greeted as liberators, the mission quickly accomplished, and “major combat operations” ended in a flash -- as George Bush so infamously announced on May 1, 2003, after his Top Gun landing on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln. No less miraculous was the fact that it would essentially be a freebie. After all, as undersecretary Paul Wolfowitz pointed out at the time, Iraq “floats on a sea of oil,” which meant that a "liberated" country could cover all “reconstruction” costs without blinking.

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