September 21, 2014

Sunday Morning Sermon: We've Always Been at War with Mideastasia

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The text for this morning's homily is furnished by Andrew Levine, who frequently writes amusingly and disparagingly about the incumbent President:

Now that Barack Obama the dove has metamorphized into Barack Obama the hawk, the President and his people are more than usually in over their heads.  It isn’t just that their past and present enemies in Iraq and Syria – Iran and the Assad government – are now also their de facto allies; or that those “Syrian moderates,” who haven’t exactly panned out in past iterations of American meddling, are now, again, their great Islamic hope. They are so confused by the situation they helped bring about that, at first, they couldn’t even decide what to call their enemy.  Nor could they figure out whether to call this latest phase of the Bush-Obama perpetual Middle Eastern war a “war” or something that public opinion might find more congenial.
Yes, that sounds about right. I was, as always, utterly bewildered by last week's prime time speech by Mr. Obama, where he informed the American public that we were going to bomb ISIL or ISIS or IS or the Islamic Bad Guys or whomever.  And if we have to, we'll bomb them in Syria (heh heh), because these terrorists, you see, they can run but they can't hide. This last bit was a more or less conscious repetition of Bush's old "smoke 'em out of their holes and get 'em running," but then Bush would finish with "and bring 'em to justice."  How far we've come.  Justice is now meted out by the Drones themselves, thus freeing up valuable docket time in the American court system. Also, not incidentally, we now have the "casus belli" for conducting overt war operations in Syria, which we abjured last year because Vladimir Putin came up with the preemptory tactic of convincing the despotic Bashir Assad to dispose of his chemical weapons, the ones we were going to use as an excuse to topple him which we wanted to do because he's friends with Putin, and as you know, we don't like Putin anymore.  Anyway, if we can get the right stooge in power in Syria then that Arab natural gas pipeline through Syria can be under our control and we can pry Putin's death grip loose from Europe's gas meters. 

Does any of this sound like it could really work? You see what Mr. Levine means about the Obama Administration exceeding its competence.  We need to "destroy and degrade" ISIS/ISIL so that it doesn't threaten the Iraqi government which we just installed to replace the failed replacement government of the prior-installed Ungrateful Nouri al-Maliki, who was moved in to take over from Saddam Hussein, whom we toppled for as yet unspecified reasons.  Destroying and degrading ISIS/ISIL will probably breathe second life into the despotic reign of Assad in Syria, since ISIL is also his enemy, but that's okay for now, because we'll get around to toppling Assad in due time and replace him with a group of new religious fanatics, although the question arises: can that be done without boots on the ground, the very boots that Mr. Obama said emphatically would never touch the bomb-cratered sands of the Levant?

As Mr. Levine notes: are the Syrian "moderates" really a reliable Great Arab Hope?  Do they actually exist in Syria, a country of 22 million people where 9 million are now displaced refugees because of the civil war that's been raging since 2011?  Can anyone be moderate in such a place?

General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, sees the possibility of boots on the ground, even if his nominal superior doesn't like the idea.  Suppose, for example, we want to take Mosul back from ISIL?  Can we rely solely on the 250,000 Iraqi troops we spent $25 billion training not so long ago to defeat ISIL, which has nearly 1/8th as many troops?  Of course not.  So as General Dempsey told Climate Change/Reality Denier Senator James Inhofe at a recent hearing (do you see how hopeless this all really is?):

It's good when subordinates set the record straight.  Mr. Obama wasn't being serious, after all.  Of course we're going to use combat troops; did you see those beheading videos?  If that ain't a casus belli, then George Bush ain't a pickup-driving brush-clearer.

Pundits even more cynical than Andrew Levine suggest the real "strategy" is to make the Middle East and all of North Africa into such a chaotic mess that the conditions are somehow more advantageous for American control of its natural resources.  I don't completely follow that; it seems another Rorschach reading of a bumbling Administration that is simply trying to appear tough and militaristic to avoid a Republican takeover of Congress in the fall, which will probably happen anyway because, after all, it's time to change again back to the other system that doesn't work.

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