Saturday, September 20, 2014

Another Doomed Attempt at Middle East War Making

It will come as no surprise to regular visitors to this page that I am not a big fan of our current POTUS. It would be fair to say there is little I find of merit in his presidency, and I am waiting for it to come to a merciful end for America at home and abroad when his second term expires.

I must confess I am baffled by his "management" (if it can be called that) of foreign policy and his almost continual array of missteps in the Middle East. For example, only a month ago he was saying that the ISIS (or ISIL) threat was little more than a bunch of "JV terrorists" who posed no serious threat. He also called it a "fantasy" to think we could arm, train, and field an opposition army to confront them composed of "Islamic moderates" and that he had "no strategy" to deal with ISIS.

And then they started beheading American journalists. Evil, pure evil, was once again presented before us. We now had to take action of some kind, but what? If the intent of the terrorists is to draw us back into the region again, then so far so good. It's working.

Fast forward to this week, as Congress hastily passed yet another "Continuing Resolution" without debate to keep the government running and managed to tack into that bill funding for arming, training and leading what amounts to a bunch of mercenaries who are comprised of the very "moderates" he said a month ago were nothing more than a "fantasy." The most disturbing fact about this week's hastily crafted piece of legislation to confront the threat of ISIS is that it passed overwhelmingly in both the House and Senate.

The legislation is designed "to train, arm and fund the elusive 'moderate' Muslim rebels" fighting to overthrow the Assad regime in Syria. It's astounding, isn't it? Nobody, least of all Barack Obama, wanted to do it when Assad was gassing his own people, and now it's our US "strategy" in the region.

This latest fantasy now calls for the US to somehow discern who the "honest brokers" who stand in opposition to Assad might be, and then start supporting between 3,000 and 5,000 rebels in the Free Syrian Army. Here we go again. . . that's the centerpiece of an authorization to spend $500 million through December 11, 2014.

Stunningly, the bill passed both houses with barely a moment of debate, and it received more support from Republicans than Democrats. We must be living in the twilight zone now, when Democrats sound like they're more responsible than Republicans.

There were a few "notables" in the President's own party who opposed the plan, like Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA). She called it “lame.” Speier wasn't the only one who noted that former generals are also expressing their opposition. The generals, and even Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) point out the obvious fact that the plan does nothing to cut off funding for ISIS. Said he:

"On Thursday, I voted against the Continuing Resolution that is a product of a dysfunctional law-making process. This resolution tied the authorization for military intervention in Syria to a bill to temporarily fund the entire government. One of the most important and solemn duties we have as members of Congress is to authorize the use of military force and ask the brave men and women in our armed services to put their lives in harm’s way.

"It is a gross dereliction of that duty – and an insult to those men and women – to tack on a military authorization to a must-pass spending bill, just so members of Congress can hurry back home." (Emphasis mine).

The terrorist group earns about $3 million per day on oil income from facilities they now control. What, any reasonable person might ask, does the latest plan do about disrupting that stream of income? Would we blow up oil wells and the roads they use to get the oil tankers to shipment?

Another Democratic Congresswoman, Loretta Sanchez (D-CA), claimed “We simply don’t know if somewhere down the line it will turn our guns back against us.” Ask anyone who knows about what happened in Iraq when we left. Who now controls millions of dollars of our military equipment? We gave it to the Iraqi army, and it's now in the hands of the Islamic State being used to kill the innocents.

Nobody can accurately identify what “moderate” Muslim fighters might look like. Whose definition of that term will we accept before we turn over a half billion US dollars to arm and train them? The Iraqi army threw down their weapons and ran in the face of ISIS.

I heard a comment last week from former U.S. ambassador to Syria, Robert Ford, who said the rebels are not focused on fighting ISIS. He said, “Their priority is not the Islamic State; it is the Bashar al-Assad regime. We need to know that going in.”

Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) said he has “seen no evidence that the Syrian rebels we plan to train and arm will remain committed to American goals or interests."

Who would doubt Assad has a track record of supporting terrorism and is a brutal dictator? Certainly, he is in the same class as Saddam Hussein in Iraq and Muammar Gaddafi in Libya. So what does America do in the face of new dictators rising to power? Do we intend to take out everyone anywhere they emerge? Our track record so far suggests that when we take down a dictator, the country we "liberate" then falls under the control of even more radical Muslim terrorists. Iraq and Libya are classic examples.

There are still a few Republicans who opposed the President’s “lame” plan. Even though a vast majority (78) in the Senate) favored authorizing the funding, Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Rand Paul (R-KY) joined Mike Lee (R-UT) in vocal opposition about the funding of Syrian rebels.

Once again, the Constitution provides that the military will always be controlled by the civilian population. That is wise. However, politics tends to trump good policy making when it is not accompanied by robust debate over the decisions to send American forces abroad into foreign intrigues our Founders warned about. So, acting in response to the horrifying images of their beheadings of the journalists that ISIS broadcast for all the world to witness, Congress acted to "courageously" stand up against the obvious evil. Congress can now go home and say they "did something," even if the plan seems doomed at the outset to fail.

And so the onward march of war in the last days continues unabated, it seems. More money, more lives lost, more treasure squandered, and more havoc wreaked.

For a POTUS who started his presidency by proclaiming he was elected to "end wars, not start them," we are now launched on yet another misadventure in policing the world against brutality, evil, and tyranny. May God help us all in that elusive quest.

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