I watched the President address the nation and announce a new strategy for dealing with the Islamic State (ISIS). It is not lost on me that as I write a response to it today on September 11, eleven years after this nation was attacked, it was an attack which was used to justify two wars and a dismantling of American values as we know them. By the time the president asked God to bless America (do you think ISIS asks Allah for the same thing?) it seemed there were more questions raised than answers given.
_____"...there will be no American combat troops in Iraq." "...we will not be dragged into another ground war in this area." We have over 600 troops in Iraq now and are flying hundreds of missions over the country. What will we do if these troops are attacked...get trapped...taken hostage...killed? Will we send in a rescue force and will we fight to get out people back?
_____"...Americans will train Iraqi troops." Didn't we spend over 10 years and $100 billion of our tax dollars training and arming the Iraqi army? At the first instance of a shot fired in anger, didn't they run like hell? Most of ISIS's weapons are American taken from the "well trained" (in the opinion of the Bush and Obama Pentagons) Iraqi forces? Why will they fight better this time? If they can't, or won't defend their own land, what can we do to help?
_____"...this is a long term commitment, but we will continue until ISIS is degraded and destroyed." The Powell Doctrine says you don't use military force unless it is overwhelming...you have a clear concept of what victory means...you have a clear and definable exit strategy...in other words you can define success and when you have won. What does victory look like in this case? If ISIS is pushed out of Iraq, but is still occupying Syria is that victory? If we attack ISIS in Syria and destroy its infrastructure, but it still exists as an Al Qaida-like guerilla force is that a win? How do we know we won and can stop this commitment?
_____"...we have a coalition which will bear some of the heavy lifting in this effort." Who is in this coalition? Will Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the U.A.E. (United Arab Emirates), Egypt and other Arab nations be putting actual boots on the ground in Iraq? Is this a coalition similar to the phony one Bush told us he had for the Iraq war? What about money? Who will help to pay for all of this? Iraq is producing millions of barrels of oil a day. Will they put up the billions necessary to save their own nation? (remember when Paul Wolfowitz testified to Congress how the Iraq war would pay for itself?)
_____"...we will attack anyone, anywhere who is a threat to our national security." If we attack and degrade ISIS in Syria, won't this allow the Assad regime to then turn their focus on the rebels and crush them? Will our actions help keep Assad in power thus benefitting Iran tremendously?
_____"...I will ask Congress for permission and funding for moderate Islamic rebels fighting the Assad government in Syria." What moderates? Recently, Farid Zachariah wrote a piece about the myth of the moderate Islamic fighter and movement. He says there is no such beast as a moderate Islamic fighter or militia or army. The "moderate" are consistently overpowered and chewed up by the extremists time after time. If we arm so-called moderates, how long before those same weapons are used against us or our allies?
_____The President says we also want to arm the Kurds. What do we do when these well-armed Kurdish militias are used to back up a demand for Kurdish independence in northern Iraq? Is this the beginning of another Iraqi civil war with us in the middle of it again?
_____What about Iran in all of this? If we "degrade and defeat" ISIS, doesn't this benefit Iran directly? Do we arm Hezbollah militias if they join us in fighting ISIS? If we prop up the government in Baghdad, which is still closely linked to Tehran, are we playing right into Iran's hands?
_____Can we "win" in Iraq if we don't get some sort of resolution between the Israelis and the Palestinians? Israel just announced it is illegally seizing more land on the West Bank for Jewish settlements. How is it we don't connect ISIS and Syria and Iraq with what is going on in Israel?
_____These are just some of the questions the President's speech raises. There are so many others. Will we demand that Germany, France, Italy, and the rest of the NATO countries increase their military budgets and shoulder some of the burden caused by Putin and Russia and Iran and ISIS? Can we afford to take on ISIS, Russia, put troops into Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland as a hedge against Russian aggression? If they won't pony up, what should we do?
Maybe the biggest question is raised by those who claim it is an incontrovertible fact that ISIS represents a direct, imminent threat to the security of the United States. Really? In what way? Well, Americans, or others with European passports could come to this country and commit acts of terrorism. I thought we already assumed this was a possibility we have to confront every day. Isn't this the justification behind the Patriot Act and the destruction of the 4th amendment? Isn't this the stated defense of the massive illegal actions of the National Security Agency? Don't they tell us they need to hear every cell phone call...read every email we send...see everywhere we go online in order to protect us from these fifth column assassins? We have lost most of our privacy and constitutional protections based on the premise we are being protected from the very attacks we say we now have to go back to war to stop, aren't we? What is the new threat ISIS represents to our nation? They can't attack us militarily. They can't send troops over here. They can't harm our institutions or culture or democracy. Yes, they killed two American journalists in horrific fashion and I would love to get the guy or guys who did that, but that is not a threat to the integrity of this nation.
We are told ISIS is a danger we have never seen before. Really? Wasn't that what we were told about Afghanistan...about Saddam Hussein and his weapons of mass destruction. Then, everyone was sure...there was no doubt...the threat was real...it was scary...we couldn't afford to wait for mushroom clouds over Manhattan remember? Aren't we told the same thing about Iran and its attempt to get a nuclear weapon? ISIS is a new immanent threat to us, yet Russia which has thousands of nuclear weapons and has directly threatened us and our neighbors...Russia which is invading allies and crushing democracies...Russia is a foe we can't even impose strict economic sanctions on and the president has completely ruled out any military action whatsoever to deter them. We soft peddle Russia's actions and the threat it represents and fan the flames of the more "serious" threat in the form of ISIS. Does this make any sense?
A new Wall Street Journal poll says more and more Americans want us to attack ISIS. Why? Is it the outrage we feel about what they did to the two journalists? What is the outcome Americans want? The same regressives who refuse to pass legislation to rebuild this country...repair our crumbling roads and bridges and an electricity grid which is one transformer away from blacking out half the nation...lower interest rates and principal on student loans...provide more money for basic research and job training for Americans, are the same regressives now calling for pouring money back into the War Department so we can ramp up our military efforts against ISIS just as they did when they wanted to go to war in Afghanistan and Iraq. The American people seem once again to have been frightened or steamrolled into agreeing with them.