By David J Beilstein
Politico, that proxy of The Washington Post, reports David Petraeus, former Commanding General of Iraq and Afghanistan, and a former C.I.A. director, has released a four-sentence statement supporting President Barack Obama’s planned strike against Syria.
Urging Congress to vote in favour of Obama’s proposal, Petraeus warns that no response by the United States in the face of Basher el-Assad’s alleged use of chemical weapons would embolden America’s enemies, including North Korea, and the broader Middle East.
There is no doubt truth to such statements, however much one might desire to observe Obama go down in flames politically. But it is also true, to my mind; Obama’s planned attack will do nothing. It seems, though I could be wrong, to amount to shooting a Grisly bear with a BB gun.
Much of the War on Terror, especially in the Iraq and Afghanistan Theater, proves my basic belief that tit for tat violence simply induces more violence. It is total war — never proportional — and total and resounding victory, which puts an end to aggressors and their capacity to wage war.
My sense is America’s politicians and the American public at large does not understand this; it has not been a tactic the United States has used since World War II. Sadly, the Second World War is the last war American won without debate; garnering a more peaceful and free world across God’s vast oceans.
Since then, America has fought scores of what Pres. Dwight D. Eisenhower called brushfire wars to little avail. This is not to say all military conflicts America has engaged in since World War II have been wrong, or unwise, but many have been fought with less than prudent ideas about the nature of war and what war as a political tool can achieve.
Frankly, I think the same problems exist in the Obama administration’s comprehension of the Syrian debacle. Far larger predicaments await the United States in Iran and Syria — to which the Obama administration has greeted with a degree of unseriousness, which might be deemed scary. And now, after 1,200 women, children, and men have been murdered, the Obama administration desires authority to act with the smallest of pinpricks.
It just does not make a lot of sense. And one has to acknowledge the ideological history of this cadre of Democrat leftists. In 1982-1991, Saddam Hussein gassed an upwards of 50,000 people, including Iranians, yet nothing was done. And leftist Democrat’s are still crying about the removal of Saddam Hussein.
But Saddam was one of those names on a very short list (Adolf Hitler & Basher el-Assad) that Secretary of State John F. Kerry blasted while testifying before the congressional leadership last week. And in 2004, then Democratic Presidential nominee, Sen. John F. Kerry reported for duty precisely on the idea Iraq was the worst of all possible decisions.
The threat of Iraq and its history in 2004 was not Bush’s crowded hour, but the worst stumble into horseshit an American president ever made, according to Sen. Kerry.
Look, I get it. WMDs were not found. Well, they were — just not to the level advertised by the C.I.A. and foreign intelligence estimates.
Nevertheless, the Bush administration (against the wisdom of the late Christopher Hitchens) pinned the Iraq invasion on WMDs only; in a sense, when there was ample reason WMDs should have been but one reason for invasion following the death from above of 9/11.
Still, instead of Republicans and conservatives being hypocrites — for supporting Bush in Iraq, and not Obama on Syria — it seems to me the hypocrisy is much stronger aroma on the left.
Also, it is unfortunate to say “conservatives” supported Bush in Iraq. Many did not. And as stated before, Patrick J. Buchanan’s magazine, The American Conservative, was an ideological rebuke of Bush administration policies published before the Iraq War invasion began.
The idea the Iraq War was “conservative” (agree or disagree with the war) fails to understand the ideological contours of classical liberal ideas about foreign policy.
Sure, lots of mainstream pop conservatives supported the Iraq War. And many of those same personalities now are disgusted they did. Not simply because the consequences of the war elected Barack Obama to the presidency, but more importantly, because of ideological reflection.
Is Democracy projects “conservative?” Is going “abroad seeking tyrants to destroy” consistent with conservative foreign policy even after World War II?
A quick study of the late Sen. Barry Goldwater, who ran against Pres. Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964, and late, great Ronald Reagan’s actually presidency, affirms “no.”
And if we go even further back to Pres. Calvin Coolidge, we would discover the same thing. All had a restrained foreign policy, but a tough and prepared posture.
Pres. George W. Bush’s reasons (at the time) to invade Iraq might have been wise given what had happened (9/11) and what the intelligence was at the time. It has been reported numerous places the intelligence on Iraq’s WMDs was better — much better — than the intelligence on whether it was Osama Bin Laden’s hiding away in the compound in Pakistan. Does anyone think sending SEAL Team Six into get Bin Laden was seriously unwise? I get it. Results matter. The intelligence on Bin Laden was accurate, the intelligence on Iraq’s WMDs was not. Not far, but true. But the intelligence on Iraq’s WMDs was also better than what intelligence existed before the 9/11 attacks. And we heard from the left routinely, how the Bush administration dropped the proverbial football on that.
Is it reasonable to assume — and remember, Saddam used chemical weapons to kill tens of thousands of people — that George W. Bush should have ignored the consistency and type of intelligence there was on Iraq?
It’s easy for the arm-chair president to say, “Hell yeah.” Especially after we find out the C.I.A. drove the car off a cliff. Still, I’m not so sure that if Pres. Bush ignored that intelligence, at that time, whether that would have amounted to a dereliction of duty.
I am being quite serious.
Needless to say, wherever one comes down on Iraq, it is difficult ideological to simply pin Bush foreign policy as “conservative.”
Overall, George W. Bush did a handful of conservative things; he also did a handful of big government things.
When it comes to the planting of democracies, Bush’s foreign policy was hardly marked by conservatism. Though confusing, because in the second debate with Al Gore Bush laid out a very restrained and conservative foreign policy. Still, 9/11 converted Mr. Bush from a restrained vision to a more Wilsonian internationalist vision.
Therefore, the history of American classical liberalism would give a stark reply of “no” to Bush’s foreign adventures as “conservative.” And it did not help that the ideological athematic of the American press is woefully bad.
The idea that “Bush is conservative,” thus any policy coming out of the Bush White House was conservative fostered an overwhelming sense in the public and elsewhere that Bush foreign policy was “conservative” foreign policy.
Though in favour of the Iraq War until his death in 2011, Christopher Hitchens argued quite severely such statements could not be more inaccurate. That’s because agree or disagree with the late Mr. Hitchens, the British lover of cigarettes and bourbon knew his ideological philosophy.
We face a challenge. And we must remember our priority must be what is good for America, not what is bad for Obama. But such verity gets to the heart of why competent leadership and wise policy is so important in American politics.
It might be safer for America to answer Syria’s chemical weapons abuse. Just like it would have been wiser to either win Iraq in a year, thus remove our forces once victory was obtained, quickly and viciously, or never invaded.
But because Iraq unfolded as it did — as did Afghanistan — right policy may not be doable because of the public stance on American use of force in these years.
We were burned, and so, we want to stay the hell out. Makes perfect sense.
Such sentiments do not obfuscate reality, though. And despite Obama’s inept woefully unserious leadership whatever choice is made could have repercussions into the unseen light of the future. And that does not even consider the less important, but still relevant aspects of political discourse.
I am myself against attacking Syria. Especially with the impotent plan attack the Obama administration plans. But I do think we need to be postured toward Iran and other aggressors. We need to understand and admit what kind of world we do indeed live in.
It is an irony worthy of literature. Obama spent campaign after campaign, essentially bemoaning the notion American threats existed because of Republican leadership. There was a sense he actually believed the way of the world would change once he was elected.
After downplaying threats throughout his almost five years in office, Obama now understands the world has grown up; it is a severely dangerous place; and it does not give a flying bleep and a rolling donut whether a leftist petard with coffee-coloured skin is president — or whether a swaggering, Iraq-invading cowboy like George W. Bush occupies the White House.
We occupy dangerous lands, all. And there is no sprinting from reality.