Americans have been called a nation of sheep, easily frightened and quick to look for a leader who will promise to conquer those fears. They have an even more troubling tendency and that is how they refuse to learn from history and keep repeating the same mistakes with the misguided belief this time America's military might can defeat the boogey man and everyone can get back to watching men beat themselves into an early grave on Sundays and beat their significant other or progeny on Monday.
I want to scream. 5,000 dead in Iraq and a couple hundred thousand wounded and broken. 1,000 dead in Afghanistan and tens of thousands wounded or broken. Iraq and Afghanistan are dysfunctional and failed nations where religion and tribe are more important than nationalism. We were told after September 11, the way to conquer our fear of terrorists...the way to strike back at those who attacked us...the way to prevent the bad guys from getting over more deadly weapons was to invade and conquer Afghanistan and Iraq. We were told we could turn them into western democracies and that the people would welcome our assistance. We were told the citizens of those two nations just needed our help to train them and then they would be able to defeat their enemies.
Over 70% of Americans now say Afghanistan and Iraq were not worth the effort. Pundits declared a new period of isolationism in this country. Americans want problems here at home fixed...create more jobs...open up access to college...a payroll tax holiday...rebuild our crumbling infrastructure..stop being the world's policeman. President Obama has been using this playbook for the last six years. What a maroon! Americans now say the President is too soft, and not aggressive enough in his foreign policy. He is weak and after being horrified by videos of some gruesome executions by ISIS, the majority of Americans now want us to strike back. Being no fool, Obama declares a long, open-ended campaign against the terrorist threat. We are even told these terrorists represent a direct threat to this nation's security. Lest anyone get too concerned, despite this imminent threat, we are told we aren't going to start Iraq War 3.0...no boots on the ground by the president. Really? Do you believe him? Have you ever heard of the concept of incrementalism?
It started with extra soldiers to guard American embassies and consulates in Iraq. (150-300) Then, we needed troops on the ground to coordinate air attacks, identify targets, liaison with Kurdish and Iraqi forces. (400?) Then we are told about Special Forces being used to identify more targets and help train Iraqis (300) and all of a sudden there are as many as 1,000 American combat soldiers in Iraq. They are there to defeat ISIS despite the fact no one can define what either victory or defeat would look like.
Now, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey, has testified in front of the Senate that if the fighting in Iraq grows more difficult, we will need to put more combat troops on the ground in Iraq serving on the front lines alongside Iraqi military forces. Gee. I wonder what will happen then?
What will John McCain, Lindsey Graham, every Republican presidential candidate, Dick Cheney and the gang say if ISIS kills American soldiers? What will the American people do if an American soldier is executed horribly by ISIS? If a battle is going badly, will the Pentagon hesitate to send in the cavalry? How many? For how long? At what cost? If ISIS retreats into Syria with American prisoners will the military be ordered to invade to get them back and defeat ISIS? Are you sensing a pattern yet? Regressive Republicans are frothing at the mouth at the thought of another fight...another bite at the Iraqi apple and they will clamor for another use of force vote in Congress. Remember the last one? Remember how Hillary, John Edwards, John Kerry and all but 23 Democratic senators voted?
The Pentagon has issued an assessment of Iraqi military forces and essentially says they are useless. They couldn't beat the Little Sisters of the Poor at Parcheesi. They won't fight to save their own country. (Much the same situation exists in Afghanistan) Dempsey says American boots may be needed on the ground in Iraq "...if the fighting grows more difficult." What do you think are the odds ISIS will kick Iraqi ass and we will be told the only thing that will save them, and of course save the United States, is for American combat troops to turn the tide. This would be great satire if it wasn't so tragic and a recipe for disaster...again.
The cherry on the top of this particular cake is a statement last week by Moqutada Sadr saying if American troops return to Iraq, his Sadr brigade will fight them again. American soldiers would be caught between Sunni ISIS and Shiite Sadr and once again would be in the middle of an unwinnable civil war.
You have it in your power to stop this in its tracks now. It's an election year. American politicians have to be gob smacked about the head and arms by constituents telling them there will be no vote on the use of force. Obama has to hear loud and clear there is no grey area...no wiggle room...incrementalism will not be allowed. Will Americans once again be frightened into wasting blood and treasure on a fool’s errand?
Stop it now! Write, call or email Hillary and ask her what her position are vis-à-vis Dempsey’s comments. Will she once again cave to political expediency like she did in 2002? Is she afraid of being accused of being soft on ISIS? Didn't she say in an interview in the Atlantic Obama is too soft and not aggressive enough and she would arm "moderate" Syrians (whatever that means) and support a more focused Iraqi response? Let the White House know how dangerous this incremental ratcheting up of force truly is. We already know what the Republicans will say. Are we going to stumble and bumble and create monsters in the night so that once again we will commit America to an unwinnable strategy?
I sit here amazed, aghast and agog to be writing about a new military adventure in Iraq because Americans are pissed at the brutality and immorality of ISIS. Is it possible they have publicized all of this brutality just to evoke this exact response and lure us into an intractable situation? Are they using Iraq and Syria as a tar baby? When will we ever learn...when will we ever learn?