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President Obama’s High-mileage, Stupid New War

3_presidentsWould you purchase a used war from one of these men?

Three previous American presidents, Bush the elder, Bill Clinton and Bush the younger have all bombed Iraq, declared victory and moved on to lucrative post-presidencies.

President Obama, who called it a “dumb war” long before he developed the foreign policy doctrine, “Don’t do stupid shit,” has now purchased the stupid Iraq war.

Is this war really necessary?

After watching this war repeated over and over, so many things now seem familiar. Remember the bipartisan hype about Saddam’s “Weapons of Mass Destruction,” and how the proof of it could come from a mushroom cloud?

Compare to this:

But as President Obama prepares to send the United States on what could be a yearslong military campaign against the militant group, American intelligence agencies have concluded that it poses no immediate threat to the United States. Some officials and terrorism experts believe that the actual danger posed by ISIS has been distorted in hours of television punditry and alarmist statements by politicians, and that there has been little substantive public debate about the unintended consequences of expanding American military action in the Middle East.

Daniel Benjamin, who served as the State Department’s top counterterrorism adviser during Mr. Obama’s first term, said the public discussion about the ISIS threat has been a ‘farce,’ with ‘members of the cabinet and top military officers all over the place describing the threat in lurid terms that are not justified.’

With each successive administration’s military interventions in Iraq, the place seems to become increasingly unstable. After seeing the similar instability left behind in Libya, which is for most intents and purposes a failed state and the decline of Syria, it doesn’t instill much confidence in Mr. Obama’s similar proposed strategery for Operation Son of the Return of the Monster from the Land Between the Rivers.

As Andrew Bacevich put it in a recent post:

Destroying what Obama calls the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant won’t create an effective and legitimate Iraqi state. …

All the military power in the world won’t solve those problems. Obama knows that. Yet he is allowing himself to be drawn back into the very war that he once correctly denounced as stupid and unnecessary — mostly because he and his advisers don’t know what else to do. Bombing has become his administration’s default option.

Rudderless and without a compass, the American ship of state continues to drift, guns blazing.

This war is headed for failure

Why is it that President Obama is the fourth consecutive American president to declare wa…er, military action on Iraq? Why is it that Obama and the previous 3 presidents just can’t seem to get the job done there?

Consider this wisdom from Aristotle:

It is not enough to win a war; it is more important to organize the peace. — Aristotle

A century ago “peace” was organized in the Middle East by the colonial powers. Britain and France organized in a way that perpetuated their power and allowed them to loot the region. Their power was maintained by defeating any movement toward independence and self-determination by the people of the region – especially secular nationalist regimes. This article has an excellent summary of the history, including this:

In 1915, the imperial powers’ major goal in the Middle East was to smother any expression of Arab nationalism and prevent any unified resistance to the designs of Paris and London. …

The French put the minority Christians in charge of Lebanon to keep down the majority Sunnis and Shiites. They recruited the minority Alawite Shiites in Syria to head up the army that ruled over the majority Sunnis, while the British installed a Sunni king in Iraq to rule over the country’s majority Shiites. In Palestine the British used Zionism much as they were using Protestantism in Northern Ireland to keep down the native Catholic Irish and keep both communities divided. Communities ended up fighting one another rather than their imperial masters, which, of course, was the whole point of the matter. […]

But chaos has always been an ally of imperialism. ‘The agenda has always been about imposing division and chaos on the Arab world,’ wrote long-time peace activist Tom Hayden. ‘In 1992, Bernard Lewis, a major Middle East expert, wrote that if the central power is sufficiently weakened, there is no real civil society to hold the polity together, no real sense of common identity…the state then disintegrates into a chaos of squabbling, feuding, fighting sects, tribes, regions, and parties.’ And that is just the kind of disintegration that foreign powers have sought to exploit.

As the years have passed in the century since the ascendant imperialist powers organized the peace, new western powers have risen to compete for dominion and resources in the region. Puppets, dictators and nationalist regimes have come and gone and representatives of various sects have strived for and acquired power, but the division of the Middle East created by the colonial powers has remained:

Until now, the post-Ottoman order, fashioned by wartime exigency, imperialist ambitions, and ignorance of local identities, has survived a century of independence, revolution, and war. A political map of the region from 1930 looks nearly identical to one from 2013. Middle Eastern borders have become an inviolable and sacrosanct principle of Western international relations. Americans and Europeans have even shed blood to ensure that these borders remain unchanged: in Lebanon in the 1950s and again in the 1980s, Iraq in 1991 and 2003, and Mali in 2013. Western intervention in Syria would likely have the same goal. Even as the ongoing Arab revolt tears at the modern Middle Eastern order, Washington, Paris, London, and Moscow remain committed to defending the status quo. …

Even after giving up direct regional control over the Middle East, external powers have repeatedly intervened in order to prevent ethnic violence from destabilizing the regional order. President Eisenhower ordered 15,000 U.S. soldiers into Lebanon in July 1958 after Maronite-Sunni clashes. In 1982, a multinational force again intervened to keep the parties separated. This time, the fighting also included the Jews (Israel) and Alawites (Syria). After the Gulf War, no-fly zones imposed in northern and, later, southern Iraq sought to protect the Kurds and Shia from Sunni Baathist attacks. French and U.S. forces are now in the process of rolling back a secessionist Tuareg state in northern Mali. Meanwhile, Washington flatly opposes Kurdish independence, criticizing strategic cooperation between Turkey and the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) in northern Iraq, while supporting the central government in Baghdad. U.S. and European officials agree on keeping Syria intact, even if they disagree on how to do so. Whatever the consequences, Washington, Paris, and London have clung to the century-old order they created after World War I.

How much chaos is the right amount?

The boundaries drawn so long ago for the purpose of causing enough internal strife in the various countries of the Middle East by competing factions are still doing their job and are still considered expedient by the imperialist powers such that they are willing to spend blood and treasure to maintain them and their hold on the region’s resources. Those lines and the puppet regimes whose power is maintained by westerners are arguably one of the largest obstacles to peace in the Middle East.

President Obama described American interests in the Middle East:

‘The United States of America is prepared to use all elements of our power, including military force, to secure our core interests in the region,’ Obama told the General Assembly in New York.

The nation, he said, will confront external aggression against allies and partners in the region.

‘We will ensure the free flow of energy from the region to the world,’ Obama said.

Recently in pursuit of American interests, President Obama staged an intervention in Libya that is remarkably similar to what he proposes to do in Iraq and Syria:

Almost three years after the overthrow of Moammar Gadhafi, oil-rich Libya is in utter chaos, as militias fight for control of the country and its elected government has fled along with tens of thousands of citizens. …

As occurred in Libya, U.S. intervention to remove an anti-U.S. regime could lead to another failed state and more instability in the Middle East. …

President Obama’s plan involves partnering with pro-Western elements of the Syrian opposition. They would provide ground troops, bolstered by U.S. training and air power, to defeat the Islamic State. …

The strategy is similar to the one used in Libya in 2011, when a U.S.-led bombing campaign with NATO and Qatar saved anti-government militias from being overrun in the city of Benghazi and helped them overthrow an erratic dictator who ruled for 42 years. That effort also relied on partnering with supposed moderates so U.S. ground forces would not be needed.

It seems quite likely that like the previous, similar efforts President Obama’s new war will create more instability and a greater vacuum of power in the Middle East. Whether ISIS is destroyed or not, where there is a vacuum of power another group like ISIS will come forward to fill that vacuum.

In the wake of a century of western imperialist destabilization of the Middle East, westerners still have no apparent ability, nor interest in organizing a just peace – the kind that leaves the people of the Middle East with workable states, political independence, civil rights and dignity.

It’s time for grasping, greedy imperialist powers to get out and let the people of the Middle East arrange their own peace.

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