Meet the new war, same as the old war

I echo Chris Hayes’ incredulity, expressed last night, at Barack Obama’s long strange trip: from his rise to political stardom as an opponent of the (second) Iraq invasion, to his devolution as a born-again interventionist, proposing to reinject the U.S. into the very same war he originally opposed.

It looks like the same war because the U.S. enemy in Iraq was Saddam Hussein and his base in the Sunni population. The Shiites and Kurds had nothing but hatred for Saddam. So this was a war on the Sunni. This onslaught continued in the person of the Shiite-dominated, U.S.-backed Iraqi puppet government.

The newest Hitler-of-the-month, the so-called Islamic state or ‘ISIS,’ is nothing but the reemergence of the Sunni under a distinctly less wholesome leadership. We traded Saddam for a group that looks worse than Al Qaeda, from the standpoint of non-Sunni minorities in Iraq, and possibly for the U.S. too, eventually.

The exploitation of the execution of American journalists as an excuse for war is patently ridiculous. I have no less regard for the victimized Americans than anyone else who doesn’t know them. But the U.S. government doesn’t start new wars because Americans are murdered. After all, the USG murders Americans all on its own. It needs better reasons, by its own lights. I wouldn’t get stuck on the beheading thing either. A U.S. ally does beheadings, recently for the criminal offense of “sorcery.” This particular ally will be enlisted to join against the barbaric ISIS.

The more important reason the executions are an insane pretext for war is because that was precisely their purpose. ISIS is saying, please attack us. They are smart enough to know the U.S. is dumb enough to oblige them.

My standard approach starts with the question of efficacy. Can some kind of escalated U.S. assault on  ISIS accomplish its objective? If it can’t, all the moral considerations pro and con are irrelevant. If you listen to area experts, rather than rabid baboons in pin-stripe suits, the efficacy is dubious. You might be able to blow up all their new toys (courtesy of the U.S. government, via the Iraqi joke army). But their grip on the population will remain. This is a population that is disaffected from the U.S., ISIS or no ISIS. In the past there are cases where the USG has conquered unfriendly populations and pacified them. This is not going to be one of those cases.

The U.S. was not greeted as a liberator in Iraq. What combination of other countries would receive a more congenial reception, if it put ground troops onto the field against ISIS? The great oil sheikdoms, lead by the great beheading nation of Saudi Arabia? Other white folks from Europe? Shiite Iran? Will Kurdish or Shiite troops be willing to fight ISIS on turf in which they have no political interest?

I can’t get upset if the U.S. helps the Kurds, with anything they need, including air support. But what is in store may go well beyond that and contain its own dynamic of escalation. In the end, the question may still remain, who will march into Sunni territory, extirpate the opposition, and construct the political basis for a new Sunni politics? I don’t see it.



Meet the new war, same as the old war — 9 Comments

  1. The consequences of this new shiny adventure will be unintended, but no reason to consider any of that now. It’s business usual and full speed ahead. We’ve people to kill and shit to blow up.

  2. Obama’s main concern is terrorism and an “attack on the homeland.” The ISIS state will be a base like the Taliban’s Afghanistan where then can after the main sponsor of the proxy states they’re fighting.

    Now Obama won’t put troops on the ground and overflow the VA again as Bush did. Voters don’t like that. He’ll go the Libya route, but look how well that turned out.

    For the region to stop churning out terrorists – who are really nothing more than hopeless, brainwashed gangbangers on steroids* – you really need regime change in Syria, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Egypt, Iran etc and a Marshall Plan times 1000. That’s never going to happen so what can you do?

    Obama just wants to prevent an attack or be able to say he tried to do something when an attack comes. This sort of bombing which doesn’t solve the issue will just make an attack more likely as more gangbanger-terrorists are created. The Iraq war and the Libya war didn’t solve the issue.

    So Hayes is wrong, Obama isn’t being inconsistent. The second Iraq war involved ground troops and he won’t do that. But he does want to respond to the potential creation of a terrorist base and to the humanitarian crimes – like the almost genocide on the mountain and the slaughter of 1700 Iraqi troops who had surrendered. But short of massive regime change in the region and massive financial aid, which will never ever happen, bombing won’t help and will just make things worse.

  3. That’s what I was hoping you could tell me!

    Help the Kurds, blow up their heavy weapons, and hang back is all I can think of. No solution, no problem.

  4. And American foreign policy isn’t really helping when it comes to Israel or sanctions on Iran or selling weapons to everyone in the region, etc.

    If Scotland leaves the UK, Hillary won’t have much of a coalition of the willing for ground troops. Just a rump England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Most of Obama’s coalition isn’t for ground troops.

    The only thing to do is the long game. Make American, European and Japanese economies and societies prosperous and democratic. Pull Russia and China to the light side. Avoid total war. Fund the democratic oppositions in the region.

    In Northern Ireland you once had gangbanger Catholics blowing up Pubs instead of Mosques. But no more. That’s what you need to do. That’s how you “drain the swamp” of terrorism.

  5. Pingback: Eye on Williamson » Iraq War III – No Good Options

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