Sunday, September 21, 2014

American Interventionism: Pangs of Guilt from a Bleeding Heart Moderate

THE LATEST CRISIS, AS IF THE WORLD NEEDED MORE, IN IRAQ with the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria and Levant or ISIS/ISIL has once again left America in a moral dilemma.  ISIS, I'll pick that one since I heard it first, has taken barbarism back when Romans use to crucify people at the drop of a hat, before there were Christians or Muslims..  Having read Bill Riley's book, The Killing of Jesus, I clearly understand how gruesome and horrendous a way crucifiction is to kill someone, and now ISIS has brought it back in vogue.  Of course they use more humane ways as well such as by simply lining up a few hundred people and machine gunning the down.  Now, like al Qaeda, from which they sprang like a bad seed, they claim to be Sunni Muslims, but they are not, they are simply barbaric killers hiding behind the name of Allah.

Last night, Aug 7, 2014, President Obama used his executive authority to approve limited air strikes against ISIS forces in Iraq for the purposes of protecting US State Department staff and support personnel in a single area in northern Iraq, actually in Kurdish territory.  Earlier, he also authorized a humanitarian air drop of food and water to tens of thousands Christians and Muslims surrounded by ISIS forces who were moving in for the kill.  This was in coordination with Iraq, Turkey, and with notification to certain leaders of Congress on vacation.  During his speech to the American people, the President used phrases suggesting that when America sees a terrible wrong and America has unique capabilities to help right that wrong IF asked be the host country, then we should act.  Which brings to this blog.

Over the 100 years or more America and American presidents have been faced with this moral dilemma many, many times.  The result is a large record of highly embarrassing hypocrisy.  In almost all cases, this not being one of them, America has intervened only because some national interest was involved or it is economically/politically beneficial to America.  Yet when we do intervene, we end up smiling proudly and pointing to how we are, stopping the genocide, saving the people, and establishing a stable democratic government ... and everybody knows that is rubbish.

There have been a few incursions by American regular troops (not just air power) where the outcome was as planned, more or less; Panama, Granada (the rational is very questionable), the first Iraq War, and the initial incursion into Afghanistan after 9/11.  Failures (or in one case a draw) that come to mind are Korea, Vietnam, Lebanon, Somalia, Iraq, and Afghanistan after the initial incursion.

So now, America is being dragged, rather than taking the lead, back into Iraq; back into a mess that is essentially one of our own making by first making the stupid decision to invade Iraq in the first place and then by bungling, in some cases criminally, the effort once we got there.  And dragged we must, for where our first aggression was not in America's national interest, this one clearly is.

Since I began writing this blog much has happened.  The initial air support to the Kurds was successful, ISIS advances were stopped there and in important areas reversed because it allowed Kurdish ground forces to retake lost territory; the exclusive al Maliki Iraqi government was voted out and a new, hopefully more inclusive gov't voted in (that in itself a major accomplishment of American diplomacy and a rare flash of Shi'ite rationalism); ISIS decided to teach the US and UK a lesson by beheading some of our nationals which only served to throw public opinion against them and reluctantly to Obama; Obama successfully putting together coalitions of both European states and Arab states to combat ISIS; and finally get Congress to vote on something he wanted, a bill authorizing him to train and equip moderate Syrian freedom fighters to battle ISIS on that front.

At this moment, we are simply waiting for the shoe to drop on ISIS, President has his target lists, his authorities, and his coalitions ,,, and he has never been afraid to use them when the provocation is sufficient.  He has made clear he is past the point of no return in responding to the ISIS threat.

Personally, I like to pick and choose when to throw America's mighty weight around.  I am a social liberal which means I am jam-packed with empathy toward others.  But, I am somewhat of a conservative when it comes to fiscal and foreign policy issues.  Further, I am a pragmatic idealist.  I know what the goals ought to be in a perfect world while understanding at the same time it is not, and never will be a perfect world.  The consequence of that knowledge is that I am aware my ideals will never be achieved, only approached.  Understanding that limitation drives a set of principles and actions which differ from those who think 100% of their ideology is achievable in the real world.

Consequently, that leads me to decisions to support President Obama's decision to ignore national boundaries when he went in to capture or kill bin Laden.  The same is true with his decision to ignore Syria's border in pursuing ISIS.  The leadership of both countries gave up their right for us to respect their borders when, in Pakistan's case, they were protecting our enemy, and in Syria's case, they are our enemy, for all practical purposes (there is that pragmatism again.)

Further, I am beyond happy that President Obama has figured out how to fight these kinds of "wars" properly.  First, he installed leadership in the Pentagon who understood asymmetric warfare rather than "cold" warfare (McCain) and how to take into account sectarian differences into their war plans. Next, he is executing plans that support that vision; by getting the effected parties to use the capabilities they have while we supply the capabilities they don't have and trying to get them to create the political environment which removes the civilian recruitment base of the terrorists.  In this case, that means convincing the Shi'ites and Sunnis to somehow get along (if Protestants and Catholics can do it, I suppose Sunnis and Shi'ites can as well).

The first sustained bombing has yet to start falling in ISIS, so I suspect I will be adding on to this blog when they do.

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