Some of us may struggle with speechlessness, but there are many things to say about President Obama’s decision to widen his Iraq War with his new bombing campaign in Syria. The most important extends far beyond the shocking mess Washington has done so much to make in the Middle East, and it is this: Our wars deliver us to our turning point. In the blindness of our leaders, we Americans are being set up for an era of tragic, unnecessary decline.
It starts to look angelic, to put this point another way, to suggest that America still has a chance to correct some of its costliest and most destructive errors in the 20th century as it proceeds into the 21st. One guards optimism as a precious gift, but I confess mine now flags.
There is so much wrong with Iraq War III it is hard to know where to begin. The purported strategy, the what of it, will get us going.
There is next to no chance that Washington will “degrade and ultimately destroy” the Islamic State, to take Obama’s noted words for the mission. There is next to every chance that, as in Afghanistan and during Iraq Wars I and II, the military presence will win ISIS support because they speak for the perfectly well-grounded anti-Western resentment that spreads wide and deep across the Middle East.
The thought that the American presence in the Islamic world produces diametrically the opposite of the announced intent — the greater the military success, the greater the long-term failure — is not new. Neither is the observation that the “moderate rebels” the White House and Congress will now fund in Syria simply do not exist.
Neither am I alone in noting that the “coalition” Obama claims to draw near is no different from the scanty cover Bush the Younger cited during Iraq War II except in one respect: It is more heavily dependent for its head count on the repressive monarchies that make brutality a Middle Eastern commonplace.
These things cannot be lost on Washington. It therefore becomes more difficult to accept the mission as stated and easier to understand why many Iranians, not all of them far-right Islamists, think the U.S. may have invented ISIS: Is the mission, after all, to reestablish a long-term presence in the region now that Iraq War II is over and the Afghanistan campaign is all but?