The United States military has dropped almost 50,000 bombs on Syria and Iraq over the last two years. Most of that has been against ISIS targets in the desert regions between the two countries, but some, including President Trump’s airport bombings last week, were against the Assad regime itself.
The news out of the Perpetual War on Terror is pretty grim these days. The US military knowingly but “accidentally” bombed a hospital in Afghanistan, killing 22 doctors and patients. Just days later, the president decided not to draw down troops in the country as previously planned, but will instead keep nearly 6,000 of our sons and daughters in the country until at least 2017 when his term ends. At the same time, the inner workings of the president’s drone war, including questionable intel, lax target timeframes, and horrifying collateral damage ratios, have been brought to light by a whistleblower.
But you’d be forgiven for not noticing any of this. While it has been reported in the news media, there has been almost no secondary public reaction. I think that’s entirely because of one factor: Barack Obama won the last election, not Mitt Romney. If Romney had been elected in 2012 and in the year before his reelection campaign had bombed a hospital, decided to keep troops in Afghanistan, and had details of his robot assassin program leaked, things would probably look a little different today.
Despite already having the ability — as he has been more than willing to mention — to wage war without asking for Congressional approval, President Obama nonetheless is trying to get a new authorization for use of military force (AUMF) passed on The Hill, something that is proving controversial to both sides of the aisle.
From a three-year limit to a check on launching “enduring offensive ground combat operations,” lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are calling Obama’s proposal either too restrictive or too broad — but few are calling it just right.
Those on the right wonder if the three-year time frame — which will bleed over into the term of the next president — doesn’t tie the hands of the executive office (bearing in mind Obama has made great use of that same executive privilege he would limit after he leaves office). It also turns our engagement in the region into a very dispassionate drone war, assuming we still have an interest in the region at all. Those on the left actually — oddly — argue the exact opposite: that the new AUMF gives the president too much power to say how and who we fight.
The reaction to Kentucky Senator Rand Paul’s Wall Street Journal column on Middle East interventionism isn’t surprising. Jennifer Rubin at The Washington Post called Paul “ignorant” and suggests he could be lying about the arguments for and against. Adriana Cohen at the Boston Herald called him “clueless” and someone who should “wake up to reality.” Pema Levy at Newsweek says Paul is just trying to copy a page out of President Barack Obama’s 2008 playbook regarding opposition to the Iraq War. The Democrats called Paul’s foreign policy slogan “Blame America. Retreat from the World.”
This isn’t true at all. He told Breitbart.com on August 27 he was in favor of airstrikes against ISIS, but wanted to talk to Congress first. That’s the Constitutional stance because Congress has to approve war.
Americans are tired of war: Old Guard Republicans attacking Rand Paul show how truly out of touch they are
Power structures and ideological dynamics change quickly in Washington, and when a sea change happens you almost feel sorry for the losing side, who usually doesn’t realize it for a while, still clinging to their anachronistic worldview and thinking it’s mainstream. But there comes a time when you just have to point and laugh at people who have lost, and lost big, and don’t even realize it.
Politico has a new summary of all the defense hawk attacks on Rand Paul’s alleged “isolationism,” including Rick Perry, Dick Cheney, Elliott Abrams from the Council on Foreign Relations, and Mackenzie Eaglen from the American Enterprise Institute. In denouncing the freshman Senator’s skepticism of interventionism, they cite the current situation in Iraq, Afghanistan, and of course 9/11.
Yes, “it’s been a long time since 9/11,” as Cheney said, lamenting what he sees as forgetfulness about the threat of terrorism, but also, it’s been a long time since 9/11. At a certain point you have to stop buttressing your entire foreign policy narrative with the biggest failure of our national intelligence and defense systems since Pearl Harbor. We haven’t reverted to a pre-9/11 mindset, we’ve evolved to a post-post-9/11 mindset. The world has changed, again; global interventionists haven’t.
Perhaps sadder still than their reliance on the 9/11 shibboleth is the delusion that hawks are still the mainstream of public opinion or even the Republican Party:
Tonight marks the return of the smash TV hit 24, its first new production since the series finale in 2010. A lot has changed in the last four years, and while Fox looks to have another ratings success on its hands with this more limited run series, Live Another Day, is the world still a safe place for Jack Bauer’s brand of no holds barred counter-terrorism?
Fatefully, the first season of 24 began production in March 2001. Fox premiered it in November 2001, less than two months after the 9/11 attacks, when other media companies were still censoring their output to not offend America’s new sensitivity to all things related to commercial air travel, skyscrapers, patriotism, and terrorism.
Over the next eight seasons, television audiences were fearlessly treated to assassination attempts, nuclear attacks, internal coups, electrocuted nipples, and an unending stream of yelled demands and immunity agreements. And we loved every minute of it.
Over the past week, swelling protests in Egypt against the ruling regime boiled over, finally giving way to violence. Clashes erupted between secularists (who are aligned with the military) and Islamists (who are aligned with the Muslim Brotherhood); eventually Mohamed Morsi was ousted from the Presidency, exactly one year after he was democratically elected to the office. Egypt now stands on the brink of descending into full-blown chaos, and while Egyptians attempt to move the nation “back to democracy,” they risk losing their whole nation to civil war. This past week has left some wondering what Egyptian democracy even means anymore.
Much ado has been made over President Obama’s selection of U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice to serve as the next National Secrutiy Advisor because of her role in the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on the U.S. outpost in Benghazi, Libya. But Benghazi is only a symptom of a larger problem with Susan Rice: she’s a hardcore interventionist.
Since her involvement in the Clinton Administration’s response to the Rwanda Genocide - during which she served on the National Security Council - Rice has never objected to an American intervention.
Now seen as a “voice for intervention,” Rice was quoted in the aftermath of Rwanda::
“I swore to myself that if I ever faced such a crisis again, I would come down on the side of dramatic action, going down in flames if that was required.”
Eh, excuse me: Going down in flames?
What’s also concerning is that Susan Rice has viewed foreign policy as an extension of politics; in 1994, she is quoted as saying, “If we use the word ‘genocide’ and are seen as doing nothing, what will be the effect on the November [congressional] election?”
Yesterday, I read an article from the Council on Foreign Relations called “Reforming U.S. Drone Strike Policies.” The opening paragraph read:
Over the last ten years, drones have become a critical tool in the war against terrorist and militant organizations worldwide. Their advantages over other weapons and intelligence systems are well known. They can silently observe an individual, group, or location for hours on end, but take immediate action should a strike opportunity become available—all without putting a pilot at risk. This combination of capabilities is unique and has allowed the United States to decimate the leadership of al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and disrupt the activities of many other militant groups.
The paragraph seems to be a wholehearted endorsement of drones. But everyone knows what happens when you start peeling the layers of an onion. What appear to be reasons for drone strikes also happen to be reasons against them.
Before Christmas, amid the drama of the fiscal cliff, and before the horrible shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, President Obama announced that our government would recognize the Syrian opposition as the legitimate representative of the country’s people, stating:
“The Syrian opposition coalition is now inclusive enough, and is reflective and representative enough of the Syrian population, that we consider them the legitimate representative of the Syrian people in opposition to the Assad regime.”