When word filtered out yesterday that President Obama, on the heels of his reiteration of “no boots on the ground” to the military men and women at CENTCOM, had instructed the Pentagon that he was the final say on any individual airstrike in Syria (“…[to] better ensure the operation remain focused on his main goal for that part of the campaign: weakening the militants’ hold on territory in neighboring Iraq.”), pundits rightly began to ask questions. Allahpundit at HotAir had several, including the possibility that Obama must consider our new engagement a “counterterrorism” measure rather than a traditional 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:
Much was made of the Obama “apology tour,” and it could be argued that we’re reaping what was sown now, at least in the Middle East. And as the current administration is scrambling to figure out what to do next when it comes to the unrest in Iraq, Hillary Clinton is hot on the book tour trying to tell the people what she really thought when she was serving as Secretary of State.
On Benghazi, the new narrative is that Hillary didn’t actually buy into blaming the attack on a video. She was apparently jumping from one theory to the next, presumably in her own mind. Exactly how useful that is to anyone remains to be shown, but at least she got out there and said she wasn’t necessarily on-board with the “blame the video” meme that dominated the airwaves immediately following the attack.
As for Iraq, Hillary is now claiming that she was fighting with Obama in the background about pulling out in 2011. Also, she wasn’t a big fan of Nouri al-Maliki, and apparently considered him a thug.
A war weary American public may not be aware of what they’re in for if Hillary Clinton wins the 2016 presidential race. But Gene Healy, vice president of the Cato Institute and a columnist at the Washington Examiner, is shining some light on the former Secretary of State’s terrible foreign policy record.
Healy joined the Cato Daily Podcast on Wednesday to discuss Clinton’s approach to foreign affairs as it relates to her new book, Hard Choices, telling host Caleb Brown that she’s never met a war she didn’t like.
“[Clinton] has been getting a lot of questions about Iraq recently,” said Healy, “and that is as it should be, because her role in helping perpetuate the worst foreign policy disaster since Vietnam is certainly something that ought to be looked at in terms of her fitness for higher office.”
Clinton, he explains, was one of the most vocal cheerleaders for the war in Iraq, pointing to her comments from the floor of the Senate, in which she said parrotted talking points used by supporters to make the case for military intervention.
“She apparently says something very strange in the memoir. She says that, ‘I thought I had acted in good faith and made the best decision I could with the information I had,’” Healy notes. “It’s pretty clear she didn’t. She gave a floor speech in 2002 explaining that ‘the facts are not in doubt.” And among those facts, Saddam Hussein’s robust nuclear program, the idea that he’d harbored al-Qaeda operatives.”
Glenn Beck went into a lengthy, brilliant monologue on his talk show on Tuesday in which he offered a mea culpa over his support for the Iraq war and called on the United States to alter its approach to foreign policy and bring its troops home.
The conservative talk show host reflected on some areas of agreement in American politics, including the bipartisan outrage over the VA scandal, though he admitted that the United States is polarized, and suggested that “[m]aybe we could come together now on this nightmare in Iraq.”
“Now, in spite of the things I felt at the time when we went into war, liberals said: We shouldn’t get involved. We shouldn’t nation-build. And there was no indication the people of Iraq had the will to be free. I thought that was insulting at the time. Everybody wants to be free. They said we couldn’t force freedom on people,” said Beck on his show. “Let me lead with my mistakes. You are right. Liberals, you were right. We shouldn’t have.”
Beck, who sounded an awful lot like Ron Paul in the nearly 16-minute monologue, lamented the human cost, the deaths American soldiers and innocent Iraqis who were killed in the war, as well as the $2 trillion fiscal impact. But, he explained, the people of Iraq need to work the problems they face out for themselves.
The Obama administration based much of their hurried march to war in Syria on the conclusion that the Assad regime was responsible for the attack, and indeed was the only faction with the capability to carry it out. However, a new report based on classified defense intelligence documents directly contradicts those conclusions, in turn questioning the entire rationale for the forestalled military intervention:
The Hersh article is based in part on a four-page secret cable given to a top official at the Defense Intelligence Agency on June 20, one of a group of intelligence community documents allegedly stating that jihadi rebel group Jabhat al-Nusra has the ability to make sarin gas. Sarin is the chemical believed to have been used in the Aug 21 chemical attack in Ghouta that crossed Obama’s “red line” and prompted the administration to push for a strike on Assad’s regime. The story is sourced mainly to intelligence and military officers and consultants.
“When the attack occurred al-Nusra should have been a suspect, but the administration cherry-picked intelligence to justify a strike against Assad,” Hersh writes.
Oh, what a difference a few years make.
In 2009, Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize despite barely getting his seat warmed up in the Oval Office. In 2009 current Secretary of State John Kerry called Assad’s Syria “an essential player in bringing peace and stability to the region.” In 2011, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton described Syrian dictator Bashar Al-Assad as a “reformer.” In 2007, then-candidate Obama attacked President George W. Bush for considering military strikes against Iran’s nuclear capability without the approval of Congress, declaring it a violation of the Constitution.
A few years later Obama attacked Libya without congressional approval, and now seeks that approval to attack Syria, even while maintaining that he does not need it in order to act.
Obama, the anti-war candidate, called Iraq a “rash war” waged for political reasons, even while he acknowledged the brutality of Saddam Hussein, the president of Iraq who’d killed tens of thousands of his own people using sarin, mustard, and VX gas, primarily targeted at the Kurds of the northern provinces.
There is no debating that Saddam had launched dozens of such attacks, as well as used WMD against Iran in the Iran-Iraq War. He continually shot missiles at U.S. and Allied warplanes which were enforcing a No-Fly Zone, agreed to under the terms of surrender that allowed him to retain power.
Today is the 10 year anniversary of the beginning of the Iraq War. It is a good time reflect on what, if anything, was gained. It is also a time for those of us to learn about what, if anything, can we learn from the mistakes of the war.
I supported the Iraq War when it began. I looked at the evidence leading up to the war and I came to the conclusion, as most Americans did, that the regime of Saddam Hussein was in possession of weapons of mass destruction and that the status quo that was in place after the end of the Gulf War was simply unsustainable. Also, I was also intrigued by the possibility of bringing democracy to the Middle East to combat the appeal and vision of radical Islam. Furthermore, I do believe the Bush Administration sincerely believed that Iraq possessed WMDs. I do not think this was an attempt to steal Iraqi oil or other conspiracy theorist nonsense.
However, I was wrong. I’m enough of a man to look at the evidence that has emerged in 10 years and more importantly the results of the war and acknowledge that I was wrong to support the Iraq War. I do not believe the war has served the interests of the United States. I also believe that the high losses, in both blood and treasure do not justify the results achieved.
With the “fiscal cliff” behind us, it’s important to remember that in less than two months, the Congress will be dealing with another manufactured crisis: The budget cuts of the 2011 Budget Control Act known as “sequestration.” The Department of Defense will bear 41% of the prescribed cuts, eliminating an additional $492 billion over 10 years. Although entitlement spending will also be on the table, the initial fight will be over cuts to the Defense budget.
A new study by the nonpartisan RAND Corporation concludes that the defense budget cuts cannot be taken without altering our overall defense strategy, and that “the department should modify defense strategy to fit the new resource constraints and prepare its course of action sooner rather than later.”
The authors highlight three alternative strategies, which anyone interested in this topic should read and consider. An accompanying article by the authors states, “Reductions of the magnitude implied by sequestration—some $500 billion over the coming decade—cannot be accommodated without a re-examination of current defense strategy.”
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.”