Monday, August 11, 2014

...then what?

“There is a vacuum of American leadership in the Middle East…the consequences of our failure to leave a residual force and our announcement that we are leaving the area in a vacuum of leadership, especially in that part of the world, we are paying a price for it…I predicted what was going to happen Iraq. And I’m predicting now that if we pull everybody out of Afghanistan, not based on conditions, you will see the same movie again in Afghanistan…I would be rushing equipment to Irbil. I would be launching air strikes, not only in Iraq but in Syria against ISIS.”
Senator John McCain

“He (Obama ) trying to avoid bad news on his watch…the homeland is threatened by the presence of ISIL in Iraq and Syria. To change that threat we need have to have a sustained air campaign in Syria and Iraq. We need to go on the offensive…If he does not go on the offensive against ISIS, ISIL—whatever you want to call these guys, they are coming here.”
Senator Lindsey Graham

“I lost hundreds of constituents on 9/11. I never want to do that again. For the president to say we’re doing air strikes, we’re not doing anything else. What kind of leadership is that?”
Congressman Peter King

Two things strike me when I hear our elected leaders engage in this type of rhetoric. First of all it amazes me how casually our leaders in congress embrace the idea of engaging in military operations in foreign countries. Second, I always wait for the answer to the next obvious question…the follow-up question that never comes… “After those military operations are completed…then what?”

In the aftermath of 9/11, the CIA along with a rag tag bunch of handsomely compensated Afghani war lords drove the Taliban and al Qaeda militants out of Afghanistan. George W. Bush redirected the country’s focus onto Iraq. As soon as America’s back was turned the Taliban returned to Afghanistan and American forces were called in to drive them out again. Now with the withdrawal of American combat troops by years’ end there are signs that the Taliban will return once more.

Under “W’s” direction, US military forces routed Saddam. A democratically elected government was installed…a new Iraqi constitution written…$25 billion American tax dollars spent to train and arm the Iraqi military and police. Mission accomplished…the historic seeds of democracy sewn in the Middle East. US military forces withdrew.

The democratically elected Iraqi government ruled at the pleasure of the minority at the expense of the majority. Unrest ensued and a centuries old Shia/Sunni civil war reared its ugly head once more. Islamist extremists entered the chaos. ISIS was born.

Throughout all of this Middle East turmoil American interests at home and abroad were in danger of attack. The insertion of America’s military might, not to mention its western morals and beliefs, added more fuel to a centuries old conflagration. The resulting threats to our homeland have been real and plentiful. It is a testament to our national security services that another 9/11 has not already occurred.

Now comes ISIS; by all accounts a terrorist organization more dangerous than either the Taliban or al Qaeda. They have promised to strike us here at home. The president’s detractors would have him ignore history once more, and execute the same military strategy that failed so badly in Iraq and Afghanistan.

John McCain is right in this regard. The events that are occurring in Iraq were predictable. The future of Afghanistan is equally clear. When US forces exit Afghanistan the Taliban will most certainly return. So do we learn from history or do we go blindly forward and repeat the same mistakes? IF we drive ISIS from Iraq through the use of military force is it not likely they will return. If we follow ISIS into Syria, destroy its command and control, eliminate them as a player on the chessboard, are we certain that another bad actor fueled by the death and destruction that we have wrought will not rise from the ashes? Does our mere presence in the region only serve to fan an already burning flame?

So let us ask the question that nobody ever asks… After the American military has eliminated ISIS…then what?


There is only one military solution in the Middle East…occupation. The only way to keep the death of one bad actor from spawning the birth of another is to turn the Middle East into an American territory. It is a horrible, unreasonable solution. It is the solution that neo-cons like McCain and Graham dream about.

The unrest in the Middle East is not America’s problem. It is a world problem. America’s long term interests will not be served through unilateral military intervention. Recent history has made that clear. The only real long term solution is a diplomatic one led by someone other than the US. The sooner learn from our own history in the region the better off we will be.

The next time McCain or Graham or some other hawk beats the war drum someone might want to ask the question that nobody ever asks…then what?

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