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Hullabaloo


Sunday, November 22, 2015

 

Had enough of you!

by Tom Sullivan

Salon's headline is more satisfying than the text, but Bill Curry's prescription for Democrats not being Republican punching bags on foreign policy again after the Paris attacks cuts to the heart of it:

Democrats have been losing the national security debate for years. Most aren’t any good at it. Some don’t even try. Few have the courage or conviction to challenge failed doctrines. So they crouch in the cellar praying the storm will soon pass. If this one doesn’t, its blood-dimmed tide may sweep a Republican into the White House and the country into a limitless, trackless war. To keep that from happening Democrats must find the courage and skill to lay out a clear, credible alternative to the reflexive militarism of the past. As things stand, they aren’t even close.

[snip]

After 9/11 Democrats should have played every point. When Bush said “they hate us for our freedom” Democrats should have said, “No, they hate us because we arm rulers they are at war with’.”When he said “we fight them there so we don’t have to fight them here” they should have said, “No, they’re here because we’re there, propping up petrol states with guns and bribes.: When he said “the world’s a better place without Saddam in it,” they should have said “not for the hundred-thousand Iraqi dead or hundreds of thousands of Iraqi Christians who fled their homes; not for our killed or wounded soldiers or their loved ones. Nor is America better off as a bankrupt, nor is the Middle East better off in a permanent state of bloody chaos.”

Bush was wrong about everything. When experts told him the key to defeating Al Qaeda was law enforcement not military power, he presumed to ridicule their “pre-9/11 thinking.” Iraq laid bare the vulnerability of our military to the asymmetrical tactics of jihad, but 13 years later Democrats have yet to make a solid case for junking what we no longer need. The reorganizations of intelligence and homeland security were bipartisan boondoggles. The tragic mistake was of course the invasion of Iraq. It’s worth recalling that a majority of Democrats voted against it, but also that most did so quietly.

Democrats stay away from foreign policy because it is seen as Republican turf. But it would not be, writes Curry, "if Democrats challenged them on it relentlessly, with facts and fearless logic." Instead, they allow Republicans to preen and posture as if they actually know what the fuck they are doing (as they do with pretty much everything else). Left unchallenged, Republicans will tickle America's lizard brain into more knee-jerk, emotionally driven idiocy. Like sending the Marines into Syria.

Steve Coll at New Yorker considers case studies on why a swift military victory in a civil war never seems to yield a long-term solution. Coll points out how deploying the same-old in Syria is a recipe for turning American "liberators" into targets (emphasis mine):

If President Obama ordered the Marines into urgent action, they could be waving flags of liberation in Raqqa by New Year’s. But, after taking the region, killing scores of ISIS commanders as well as Syrian civilians, and flushing surviving fighters and international recruits into the broken, ungoverned cities of Syria and Iraq’s Sunni heartland, then what? Without political coöperation from Bashar al-Assad, Russia, Iran, Hezbollah, Iraqi Shiite militias, Turkey, the Al Qaeda ally Al Nusra, Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States, and others, the Marines (and the French or NATO allies that might assist them) would soon become targets for a mind-bogglingly diverse array of opponents.

Syrian rebels overwhelmingly regard Assad’s regime as their main enemy, and for good reason: his forces have killed more Syrians than anyone else has. In the absence of a political agreement with Assad or his removal from office, it is impossible to conceive of a Muslim-majority occupation force that would be able and willing to keep the peace after the Marines departed. Some may argue that it would be worthwhile, nonetheless, to wipe out the Islamic State on the ground and deal with the fallout later. After Paris, such an approach may hold emotional appeal. After Afghanistan and Iraq, however, it is not a responsible course of action.

Then again, whether it is war crimes or financial ones, Team Personal Responsibility has a real knack for avoiding any, especially when it has an itch that needs scratching. Consequences are for losers. And "every human life is precious and has potential" until it belongs to The Other du jour.

In not pushing back, in not holding the bullies accountable for the damage wrought by privileged irresponsibility, Democrats are complicit in it. "Punch the lying bullies in the nose: Trump, Cruz and GOP know-nothings only win when Democrats cower — or provide an echo" reads Salon's headline for Curry's critique. Frankly, the Democratic base would respond to that punch at least as strongly as the Republican base would respond to punching ISIS. Lefties have lizard brains too. This one, frankly, hears in that headline the satisfying echo of Captain Kirk dispatching a Klingon officer in Star Trek III:

Kirk: [stomping on Kruge] I have had... enough... of YOU!
[Kruge falls screaming into the lavascape below]