Saturday, September 20, 2014

Our No-Fuss, No-Muss War in Syria

Who says we have a do-nothing Congress?  Who says that our men and women on Capitol Hill are completely polarized and can’t agree on anything?   Just this week, strong majorities of both parties decided after almost no debate to embrace a tiny rag-tag outfit of folks in Syria and lavish them with weapons.   We don’t need no stinkin’ debate when it comes time to littering the Middle East with weapons.  We’ve got ‘em, they need ‘em, so let’s just send ‘em and watch the killin’ begin!  Thank God our Congress is so decisive.

Honestly, I’m pretty confident that our Congress knows virtually nothing about the Syrian “moderates” who they’ve decided to arm.  My guess is that all Syrians have to do is announce that they’re willing to fight ISIS and aren’t supporting Assad, and they can claim a U.S. manufactured machine gun free of charge.  But who are these guys?   What gives us any confidence that this won’t be just another U.S.-botched adventure in an area where we seem to have a lower batting average than most pitchers?   If we arm “Group Good” thinking they will fight “Group Evil,” knowing that Group Good is likely to be disorganized, non-motivated and generally inept, won’t our weapons eventually end up in the hands of Group Evil?   It doesn’t take a genius to figure that out, and yet our representatives in Washington didn’t even think that scenario was worthy of debate.   It almost makes you long for the days of the Government shutdown.  At least then, we weren’t throwing gasoline onto fires. 

My friends, I’m not here to defend ISIS, which is obviously state of the art when it comes to depravity.   I’m also not here to call for isolationism, or to deny that a group that has been described as Al Qaeda on steroids cannot possibly threaten U.S. interests.  What I am saying is that if all the hype about ISIS is true -- if they truly are big, bad, and hell-bent on destroying Denver no less than Damascus -- we’re not going to defeat them merely with air power and an army composed of Billy Boy and his Droogies   (see  if you haven’t memorized A Clockwork Orange like I have).   You can take Billy Boy’s knife out of his hands and replace it with an Uzi, but that doesn’t mean he can defeat Isis.  It just means that soon enough Isis will get a brand spanking new Uzi.   

So, is ISIS a huge international threat or isn’t it?  If it isn’t, maybe we should think twice before we risk increasing its stock of weapons.  And if it is, maybe we should consider leading an army that will destroy it.   But that means that our soldiers would have to become part of that army.   We can’t simply watch the fight from the cheap seats.  Wars don’t work that way.   They get decided in villages, towns and cities.  And they get decided largely by boots on the ground.   Unless we’re prepared to do to Syria what Truman did to Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the victorious side will be the victorious army.   You don’t have to be Napoleon to figure that out. 

Unfortunately, Washington seems to run these days by politics.  No matter what part of Pennsylvania Avenue we’re talking about, the signals are all the same.  We don’t have the belly to fight a war that will risk American lives.  We care, but not enough to make real sacrifices.  That, at least, is the message I’m getting.  And you can better believe that this same message is being spun all over the Middle East by our enemies.  They’re saying that while the U.S. is happy to kill Arabs ourselves, and to assist one group of Arabs in killing another groups of Arabs, we aren’t willing to get our own hands bloody.    I fear that this message will be a nice recruiting tool for anti-American sentiment, as if they needed more such sentiment in that part of the world.

Perhaps the die is cast now.  Perhaps we have crossed the Rubicon in deciding to wage a no-fuss, no-muss war.  Perhaps our plan is to arm Billy Boy and his Droogies, see what happens, and if turns out that our troops are needed then we can send them.   But I don’t like the optics of what we’re doing.   I’m haunted by that old line, “If something is worth doing, it’s worth doing right.”  If that “something” is fighting a war, I think it requires sending in some troops.   And if we don’t think it’s worth sending troops, then why we getting so involved in the first place?    Something here is just not adding up.

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