Last week we talked about half-measures. This week we get to discuss half-measures. That’s progress. And fairly typical of the snafu the country finds itself in as of September, 2014.

President Obama gave a speech Wednesday night. In effect, what he said was, “Because polls now register from 61 percent to 74 percent for action of some kind involving airstrikes in the Mid-East, we’re going to have air-strikes in the Mid-East.”

We are not going to war, he said.

Very re-assuring, on both counts. Decisions made by vocal adherents of distant mayhem, clean weaponry that does not involve collateral damage, produces no wounded or maimed veterans for whom we cannot care, and purported control of the skies above Iraq and Syria. All this in aid of a lethal band of revolutionaries whom we cannot identify, whose leaders are unknown to us, whose major goal is the reciprocal killing and maiming of other lethal revolutionaries on whom we seem to have drawn a sharper bead: men who just want to kill or, in the words of duck-hunting expert Phil Robertson, “Convert or kill.”

Commentators have pointed out ad nauseam how little stomach Obama has for this campaign. What they have not pointed out is the time-warp in which American citizens seem to be living, a time when only the US was paramount militarily, and against whom no power on earth could hope to fight and win. In those days we had a draft system, and we exercised caution and planning in our campaigns, lest we lose too many (how many is too many?) men and women we might actually know to the perils of war.

Perhaps we misheard what Senator John McCain said after the president’s speech. He seemed to be saying that the president was unwittingly ignorant of real life. But more importantly, he told us that three years ago, the president actually ignored the advice of the entire Joint Chiefs in refusing to engage in Syria when that country first imploded. Which, he said, just goes to show you how inexperienced and weak the president was.

Well, we had a thought that ran parallel to McCain’s but came up with a different scenario. If what McCain said is true, there should have been mass resignations from the Joint Chiefs of Staff. If all the military experts in our country came down on the side of action and were ignored, shouldn’t some of them have really cared about what they were reportedly saying and walked away, doing nothing more perhaps than alerting the nation to an untenable situation in which its Commander in Chief over-ruled his officer staff to do what he wanted, rather than what they wanted? That did not happen.

( A sidebar: when one achieves high status in the military services, one is closing in on retirement. One is holding a job when millions of others aren’t. One has a lot to lose.)

Look, basically we’re very comfortable in this country which allows us the time to be critical of others. Or fearful of others.

And there is a lot to fear in confronting ISIS. We are about to enter a long period of religious war. We think of ourselves as blessed, God-fearing, devout. They think of themselves as liberators, God-fearing and devout. We think of ourselves as merciful, cautious, a super-power not to be messed with. They think of themselves as vengeful, violent, brutal, unforgiving. No atrocity is beyond their imaginations.

We see ourselves as armed more completely and more lethally than any country ever in world history.
They see themselves as expanding their influence throughout the Mid-East, indeed throughout the world. They also see themselves as victims of the Western world and long for a return to the fifteenth century when Moorish influence was gigantic throughout Europe.

Despite the polls in this country, despite the deaths and capture of individual Americans, despite the amount of territory ISIS has managed to amass, there is no satisfaction on either front. McCain et al are still living in the era of Viet Nam. ISIS is not. McCain and company want to energize and set fire to the imaginations of Americans as freedom-loving upholders of a status quo that has long ceased to exist. ISIS wants to cut this off at the knees.

How could we have gotten ourselves in such a mess?

Well, by not recognizing the rabid threats of ISIS as it grew, thanks to our own near-sightedness. By not recognizing that ISIS does not, at this time, threaten the safety of Americans at home. (That may come later.) And most fatally, by imagining that the president’s staff of advisers, about whom we know very little, has information of value and import that we do not have. And by trusting them.

Clearly the president trusts his team enough to put aside his better angels. But he is also one hell of a poor poker player, not even beginning to know when to draw and when to fold. (He can be sensational at keeping secrets,from us,from the press.)

Within a fairly short time, our own stack of chips on that table is likely to be diminished. Without a real coalition “of the willing,” we’ll be standing naked and disarmed, firing what ammunition we have left at shadows and imagined threats.

Just as there is little reality in daily American life, there may be little reality to what the US still holds at the end of the 21st century.


2 thoughts on “WHO’S HAPPY NOW?

  1. Ah, the wonders of the Middle East. Almost a hundred years ago, the then Western powers of France and Britain divided up the Arabian Peninsula and sowed the seeds we reap today. One of the divided territories, today’s Iraq, ended up, after many self inflicted governing wounds, under the rule of the secularist Baath Party and its one time disciple, Saddam Hussein. The Sunni sect of Islam, never far from the mother ship of Saudi Arabia, made the Shiite sect of Islam’s adherents there a proverbial red headed stepchild.

    In 2003, the United States tore apart the artificial boundaries which kept Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds in a relative, albeit imperfect, peace. Iran then took the opportunity to help the Iraqi Shiites exact revenge on the Iraqi Sunnis. The Iraqi Sunnis adopted an affiliation with Al Qaeda to combat the newly insurgent Iraqi Shiites. Faced with an outcome which even the dimmest of wits could have predicted before the 2003 invasion began, The United States compounded the felony of invasion and destabilization by pouring money into the Iraqi Shiites coffers so that they would take up arms against their fellow believers who had joined Al Qaeda.

    Lebanon and Syria were carved up so that a disparate group of citizens, from various Islamic sects and Christian Churches, found temporary peace in both countries. However, In the later part of the 20th century, Lebanon exploded and by the early part of this century, Syria violently confronted the worst angels of its nature. Palestine, part of the League of Nations so-called British Mandate, was a breeding ground of terrorism long before the Iranian based Hamas planted its flag there.

    Today’s combatants are only nominally Iraq and Syria. The main combatants, Iran and Saudi Arabia, stoke the discontent and stand behind the terror of 9/11 (Saudi Arabia was the breeding ground of the terrorists who carried out the attack) and the terrorist destabilization of Syria, Palestine, Lebanon and Iraq (Iran). ISIL is an Iraqi Sunni group of less than 20,000 adherents. ISIL knows from its recent past as an Al Qaeda affiliate, that the United States will eventually pay off it or its coreligionists. ISIL is only the most recent mouse to roar.

    Air attacks? Boots on the ground? Stern presidential resolve? Votes in Congress? We can safely shelve all these goofy alternatives until we sit down with Iran and Saudi Arabia and work with them to bring stability to the Middle East. We most urgently need to have a “Come to Jesus” meeting the the Saudis who mistakenly think that buying enough of our F-15s will always give them a free pass to act irresponsibly. We don’t need their oil in the same way we did 30 years ago. And we need to recognize the legitimate aspirations of the Iranians. We don’t need to like the aspirations but we do need to recognize them.

    When Secretary of State Kerry comes to his senses, Iran and Saudi Arabia will be part of any peace process. Until that happens, get ready to waste a lot of money on jet fuel, bombs, and misguided political posturing.

    In 2003, the United States destabilizes Iraq.

    1. Thanks,Mike. Your views are always provocative, and usually on the money, as this one is. We can all only hope that our representatives at al llevels understand life as clearly as you do,and proceed. Thanks for being a “faithful reader.”

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