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Much of the criticism levied against the Iraq War of 2003 may just as easily, and in some cases appropriately, be levied against the current announced campaign against ISIS?

First, there is value in a coalition particularly when here, unlike 2003, we have announced an intention not to use ground troops.  Who will do the ground fighting?  The Mehdi Army?  And how do we make sure we are not misled into becoming an accomplice to counter-atrocities by equally fanatical factions whose goal is simply the mirror image of iSIS’s, i.e., to make the world safe for Shia Islam and to destroy all who stand in its path?

Second, do we have a post-war plan.  We did not have a very good one in Iraq.  In Libya, for which Obama amazingly gets a pass, we did not as well, and that state has turned into an anarchic disaster even though Khadafi, unlike Saddam Hussin, was cooperating with the West and other global institutions right up until the moment we decided to bomb him.  What is our plan to “win the peace” in the broad swath of territory including Eastern Syria and Western Iraq?  And, besides degrading ISIS, which is undoubtedly a good thing, what do we hope to put in its place? I would say a more liberal and multiethnic Iraqi government and the Assad regime–not the Free Syrian Army terrorists–is the answer, but the former does not exist and we are also talking about maintaining our conflict with the latter.  We have, it seems, not even an explanation of what end state we’re seeking, let alone some coherent vision of how we will get there.

Finally, in Iraq,  America’s presence during the occupation to some extent unified disparate, otherwise hostile-to-one-another groups, such as Shia and Sunni militants.  Even ordinary Iraqis were understandably upset and sometimes hostile to America’s military presence, not least because language and cultural barriers undoubtedly created a great deal of friction that would not prevail in the case of a true, national, or even Arab, army conducting the same task.  Iraqis were unified against us by the deep appeal of nationalist anti-imperialism and Islamic chauvinism, which counsels unity and outrage in the face of Western interlopers.  We see a similar unity against Israel, which is hated by Sunnis and Shias alike, across the Arab world.  How do we avoid this problem as our bombs begin to drop and will undoubtedly hit schools, civilians, rivals to whom our bombs are directed by malevolent Iraqis with parochial scores to sell, and the like?  There seems no solution to this dimension, although a significant admixture of Sunni help from Jordan and Saudi Arabia would help. None appears forthcoming or reliable at the moment.

War is a serious thing, and it takes a lot of thinking not just for the first step, but the third, fourth, and final steps.  Obama inspires no confidence in this area, having neglected (indeed, ignored, and to some extent fomented, this ISIS problem), and now reacting emotionally to the murder of Westerners, which seems simply an unavoidable hazard of being a Westerner in the Middle East and not, by itself, a sufficient cause of war.  I think there are good reasons to strike millenarian Islamic terrorists whenever and wherever they coalesce, but there are also times to “wait and see,” particularly when they’re fighting our other enemies and rivals in the area, such as Iran and the  sectarian government of Nouri al Maliki.  Most important, nothing said or shown to date suggests that the very recent history lessons from Iraq and Libya have been internalized by Obama’s self-satisfied and amateurish foreign policy team.  Even if the cause is just, the proposed plan seems deficient in its ultimate concept.

Boehner Supports Obama on ISIS, in Rare Show of Unity

By JONATHAN WEISMAN and JEREMY W. PETERS1:12 PM ET

Speaker John A. Boehner endorsed the president’s plan, despite divisions within his Republican ranks, saying the House would likely vote next week to authorize training of Syrian rebels.

What the hell?  It’s like saying, House supports Roosevelt and British in fight against Nazis, likely to vote for funds next week to support anti-British rebels in India.

Assad is fighting ISIS.  ISIS is terrible.  Assad is less worse than ISIS and arguably the only force of stability in Syria.  We should support Assad, or at least not fight him, in the same manner we teamed up with Stalin in WWII, even if it means eventually we may tire of Assad and need to contain him.  The fact that only a year ago we were talking about bombing ISIS’s biggest enemy in the form of Assad shows how helter skelter and unstrategic our approach to the region is.

Two good columns on Obama’s Foreign Policy here and here.

First, he is not a realist, but someone who went from being a pacifist anti-interventionist, who thought making nice would save the world.  Then he transitioned to an idealist interventionist, as exemplified by the idiotic moves we took in Libya and Egypt and nearly Syria.  Now he’s wallowing in incoherence, and he, our military, and the American people are exhausted by the ways our forces have been wasted to little effect in Afghanistan, Libya, and elsewhere.

Far from being a realist, Obama has no appreciation for the ways diplomacy must be backed up by force, credible threats of force, and the “fact of life” that diplomacy only work as a means of persuading another nation of some common interest or as a means of changing their perceived interests by the threat of imposing real harm.  Finally, in all three phases of his foreign policy, he has never shown himself to have a coherent view of the US’s role, the limits of our power, and the times when our power may be called indispensable.

In short, he is an arrogant idiot who is harming the country.

ISIS is a group of really bad actors.  It’s hard to overstate how truly Satanic this organization is.  Their strength has been brewing for years in a cauldron of real and imagined grievances, fueled by the messianic aspects of Islamic theology. I note that Obama has been asleep at the switch, hoping against hope the Middle East did not need much tending after we left Iraq, and that we could declare victory over al Qaeda.  He should have known better.  Since 1979, there is almost always something of moment there that we cannot easily ignore.

Regardless of the trajectory of any particular organization, Islamic extremism is the problem for our friends in the region and for the broader Western concern of anti-terrorism. So, while I’d rather the Iraqis stand up and do their job and not become a welfare basket case, I don’t have a philosophical opposition to the US helping Iraq push them back, or bombing ISIS when we find them, and the like.  I view all organized militant Islam as something that it is in our national interest to eradicate.  Of course, I’m reluctant to take sides in any Shia-Sunni War where extremists on both side are fighting to exterminate the other, where there is no principle involved.  That said, ISIS appears to have graduated into the looming global threat category unlike, say, al Shabab in Somalia.

I do, however, have a philosophical problem with Obama, McCain, Lindsey Graham, and all of the morons who gave us Libya, Egypt, and nearly Syria last year.  All were conceived as operations against secular strongmen–the proven antidote to Islamic extremism–in favor of unreliable democracy among a radicalized, pro-Islamist group of people.  In two out of three of those countries we actually put Islamists in power or set the conditions for them to do so.  In Syria, we have opposed the one force that is fighting against Islamic extremism.  That anti-secular-strongman policy, our policy as recently as 2013, is not serving our interests at all.   The inherent lunacy of that position reaches its apotheosis in this piece by a neoconservative author who argues we should fight both Assad and ISIS.  My God, these are truly defective people.

It is not comforting that the Western Press has now decided to simply pass along the frenetic Ukrainian government’s claim of a “Russian Invasion” now that the latter is losing its punitive expedition in the East.  Ukraine’s army has lost through a variety of missteps, poor morale, and other factors, but the facts show that it has been nearly completely pushed out of its positions in Eastern Ukraine and suffered significant losses and is on the verge of collapse.

Its performance has been surprising in recent weeks, considering its superiority in arms, equipment, and organization. It previously appeared to have pushed the rebels to the brink of extinction in mid-August.  To explain matters, the government has decided to call this reversal a “Russian Invasion.”  It is no more a Russian Invasion than Ukraine’s use of Chechen, Belarusian, and Georgian volunteers is an invasion of the Donbas region by those countries. The evidence of invasion–satellite photos and about 10 out-of-uniform Russian soldiers captured by Ukraine–do not suggest anything on the scale of what occurred earlier in Crimea.  This evidence is consistent with organizational and material help, and the occasional presence of volunteers and adventurers.  Most important, even if reports are completely believed, they suggest at most 1,000 Russian troops are involved.  There are 20,000 plus belligerents or more on either side of this conflict.  Russian troops might be well equipped and professional, but 1,000 of them cannot defeat an army of 20,000 in several weeks.  Let’s use common sense.

Most of what one sees–and it is obvious from any perusal of news reports, photographs, and other social media–is a ragtag rebel army consisting of old men, Soviet and Russian veterans presumably, mostly armed with light equipment, APCs, a handful of tanks, and a handful of mortars and artillery pieces.  In recent weeks, Russian probably lent, sold, or gave the rebels the assistance of self-propelled artillery, but this is partial help, not so unlike the help provided by NATO states in the form of uniforms, intelligence support, body armor, MREs, and the like.  Everyone is getting help, receiving foreign fighters, and other forms of visible and invisible support.   What one has also seen is a well-led and relatively disciplined rebel force that flourished to a greater degree as the Ukrainian Army alienated more and more people with its tactics, shelling, and obvious disregard for the citizens of its East.  That said, the whole war is an unfortunate, if not altogether preventable, tragedy.

The tragic situation has been evident at every stage of events.  First, the Ukrainian government’s existence was brought about through a violent coup, even as the ink was still wet on a negotiated settlement with the Yanukovich government. Second, Ukraine thereafter stood up an armed force with minimal training and support, and populated it with patriots and also extremists. It then proceeded to shell civilian areas of Donetsk and Lugansk, the main cities in the East, with nary a peep from the West.  We are told “Putin in like Hitler” when the actual uniforms of these volunteer organizations in Eastern Ukraine have Nazi symbols incorporated into them.  Then, the generals of Ukraine have abandoned whole units, and we see significant desertions, massacres, low morale, and surrenders among them.  Finally, the rebels, fortified no doubt by some Russian help, proceed to beat the pitiful Ukrainian government troops and volunteer battalions, and now the West wants to pretend this is some grave injustice and proof of how evil the Russians are.  

This war is an incredible tragedy for Europe and the Ukrainian and Russian people, who are fraternal nations that share the same religion, much of a common history, and common ancestry.  But it is not a morality play with Russia as the chief villain.

In truth, Ukraine in its present form likely cannot continue and cannot be governed.  The Russophone East and the Ukrainian-speaking West do not trust one another, they have spent much of the last few months at war with one another, there is much love lost and distrust, and the manner in which the Poroshenko government has conducted the war has alienated both its supporters and its opponents.  A peaceful, negotiated settlement, perhaps with a demilitarized zone and UN peacekeepers, is far preferable for everyone involved to this continued, brutal war.

There are real threats out there to our collective safety and well being, whether in the field of economics, foreign policy, or in the case of deadly diseases like Ebola.  But our leaders mostly ignore these things because they’re difficult to address, or require moral courage, or, in the case of Obama, require him to get off the links.  Not only do they do nothing about these real problems, but they address fake ones, such as the alleged “militarization” of police or phantom racism.

Of all the dumb, fake, made up controversies of all time, the brouhaha over the Redskins has to be the dumbest, and no one addressed it more spectacularly than former Chicago Bears coach, Mike Ditka:

Former Bears coach and current ESPN analyst Mike Ditka isn’t one to pull punches often. He certainly didn’t when asked about his opinion of the Redskins name controversy.

Ditka, as transcribed by Seth Allen of the Washington Post, told RedskinHistorian.com during an interview he thinks any debate about the name is “so stupid it’s appalling.”

“What’s all the stink over the Redskin name?” Ditka said. “It’s so much [expletive] it’s incredible. We’re going to let the liberals of the world run this world. It was said out of reverence, out of pride to the American Indian. Even though it was called a Redskin, what are you going to call them, a Brownskin?

“This is so stupid it’s appalling, and I hope that owner keeps fighting for it and never changes it, because the Redskins are part of an American football history, and it should never be anything but the Washington Redskins. That’s the way it is.”

Ditka is a notorious conservative; he recently said he regrets not running for Senate because it would’ve prevented the President from being in office.

It’s not surprising he doesn’t want the name changed or that he doesn’t want the name changed because it’s been that way “since the beginning of football.”

“Its been the name of the team since the beginning of football,” Ditka said. “It has nothing to do with something that happened lately, or something that somebody dreamed up. This was the name, period. Leave it alone. These people are silly — asinine, actually, in my opinion.”

Ditka then took his boldest stance of all, saying he “I admire” Skins owner Dan Snyder.

“I admire him for it,” Ditka said. “Really, I think it’s tradition, it’s history, it’s part of the National Football League. It was about Sammy Baugh and all the guys who were Redskins way back then. I didn’t think that Lombardi and Halas never had a problem with it, why would all these other idiots have a problem with the name? I’m sorry.

“I’m not very tolerant when it comes to the liberals who complain about everything.”

Ferguson Farce

While I find this story interesting, we have seen this movie before in Watts, the LA Riots, and in Crown Heights:  a shooting under murky circumstances, a leftist media that creates more confusion, and the protest-industrial-complex that exploits aimless, angry minority youth as the source of its power.  It’s Trayvon Martin Part 2, complete with the “victim’s” propensity for violence.

Three important facts have emerged since the initial shooting.  Brown was a violent crook, who earlier that day assaulted a shopkeeper and stole some cigars.  (Even if the arresting officer did not know this, it says something important about who initiated the violence of their encounter.)  Two, Brown may have charged at the policeman who shot him and had earlier been involved in some kind of confrontation in the officer’s car.  Three, Brown was not shot in the back, contrary to his criminal accomplice’s initial statements.  As with so many shootings, rumor and speculation have done much to fuel increasing unrest, but the emerging facts have undercut that narrative.

Of course, it is not beyond belief a policeman had a bad shoot.  They can make mistakes, and in some cases they may even be bad people.  Every shooting should be investigated, and criminal shootings, even by police, should be prosecuted. But here the facts suggest that, while the shooting may not have been an absolutely necessary, it wasn’t a lunatic decision. When you carry a gun, every fight is a gun fight.  And why is that?  Because someone–in this case a 6’4 300 pound someone–can easily take your gun and kill you.

I do find it pitiful that the release of the strong arm robbery video was criticized and attempted to be suppressed by the Holder Justice Department.  Not only is the government trying to perpetrate a cover up, but it is doing so openly and shamelessly.  We have a classic situation of local communities dealing with tangible problems like robberies, shoplifting, and disorder fighting a two front war against criminals and the civil rights establishment that is woefully indifferent to law and order. Instead of these two law enforcement agencies being on the same side, the federal government is on the side of the instigators.

From the other side of the spectrum, certain conservatives and libertarians have suggested that this episode is a phenomenon arising from “miltiarized policing.”  I completely disagree. Officer Friendly or not, police depend on authority and at times force to use their job.  In spite of their “militarization,” police shootings have gone way down since the early 70s. Further, the militarization is related mostly to the “guerrillaization” of criminals, whose weapons, tactics, and support from dysfunctional communities make the police’s jobs very difficult in decaying urban areas.  Even the “peaceful protesters” embrace a way of thinking that leads to more crime and disorder, namely, failing to give the police some background respect and benefit of the doubt in the dangerous, crime-ridden world we live in.  When people cooperate with police and reject the antisocial “snitches get stitches” thinking of the ‘hood, we can live in a safer world where police use less force, and we all benefit from less crime.  Instead, in a world where the chief threat to young black men is other young black men, we focus disproportionately on the rare and preventable episodes of violence where whites are involved, while implicitly sanctioning the background violence from which those events arise.

Probably the most sad thing about this whole episode is that America was promised Obama would do something to support the cause of racial peace.  That his very presence would tamp down the alienation, violence, and disorder that characterizes so many minority neighborhoods.  Instead, we see as much mutual hostility as ever, and we see arrogant people who have little exposure to the anarchic disaster of the inner city, waxing eloquent about “how policing should be done,” while remaining conspicuously silent about the way “life should be done” by those who populate these ruined communities. 

As I wrote at the time of the Trayvon episode:

The one potential positive of the Obama presidency, the one that I think led many moderate whites to vote for him, has never been exploited at all.  He could have, like Nixon going to China, called out all the charlatans, frauds, flatterers, phonies, and crooks that have demoralized and brought shame to America’s troubled black community.  Instead, and perhaps reflecting an insecurity of identity due to his mostly white upbringing, he has only stated the party line or remained silent on these issues.  At the same time, he has done little to show he cares or understands America’s whites.  So he has become a leader of a coalition of the alienated, and an alienator of the rest of the nation.  Like Mayor Dinkins and Mayor Washington, he may unwittingly unify the very whites who were so hopeful that he would do something to reverse the festering dysfunction and hostility of “urban” America.

 

Obama is a failure, in other words.  And this episode is just the most salient proof to date.

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