A bipartisan consensus among the foreign policy elite holds that America needs to maintain its de facto overseas empire. This includes both preserving stability, as well as fomenting deliberate instability, including regime change in places like Syria. This consensus among elected officials, defense contractors, general officers, talking heads, and various experts is not shared by the vast majority of Americans, who elected Barack Obama and Donald Trump on their promises to end “stupid wars” and put America first.
The American people have good instincts on these matters.
Suddenly, I’m reminded of River Tam’s great quote from the great movie Serenity: “We meddle. People don’t like to be meddled with. We tell them what to do, what to think. Don’t run, don’t walk. We’re in their homes and in their heads and we haven’t the right. We’re meddlesome.”
Just that one paragraph covers so much ground. Anyways.
In response, we hear what amounts to word salad. We need to ensure stability, protect the Kurds, shore up Israel, remain on scene for contingencies, protect Iraq’s western border (while we neglect our own), lest we “pull defeat from the jaws of victory.”
This is all unpersuasive. Wars should be fought to protect our people and further their interests. The world is too big and complicated for us either to ensure peace everywhere, or to reform the deep pathologies of the Islamic world.
Part of the reason Republicans fall over themselves in deference to generals is that they have not had an intelligent foreign policy since the end of the Cold War. On this, mainstream Republican thinking is a mash, amounting to a more unilateral and kinetic expression of the “sole superpower” concept that unites both parties.
One thing that is frustrating about the consensus of the wise men is how parochial it is. It does not ask intelligent questions about why the United States has not decisively won a war since the first Persian Gulf War, why the military was so ill-prepared to fight a counter-insurgency in 2001 (even though almost all wars since 1945 have had this feature), or how we can realistically address friction with China, Russia, the Middle East, and Latin America all at the same time.
While Mattis may be impressive, the generals and other members of the defense establishment are not, generally speaking. Consider such dim lights as Tommy Franks, who neglected to give much thought to the challenges of Iraq’s occupation, or Ricardo Sanchez, who spent most of his tenure in Iraq denying the nascent insurgency, when he wasn’t bullying his subordinates.
Almost none of the experts seems to have considered whether intervention in the Middle East advances the goal of protecting America, which is blessedly distant from this tar pit, and whose resources can be more effectively applied on shutting down the open gates through which terrorists enter to do us harm.
Of the many controversial things Trump said during the campaign, none seemed to grate more than his suggestion that he “knows more about ISIS than the generals do, believe me.” It turns out, that’s true.
Odd, innit? Roach’s conclusion reiterates a good point made in one of the articles I excerpted in last night’s posting on this topic, bolded below:
When we look for answers, we should look beyond our parochial and conflicted elite to the wisdom of the past. For all the study of Clausewitz in our military academies, one wonders if our strategists have forgotten his advice on the general superiority of defensive measures as a strategic matter: “What is the object of defense? To preserve. To preserve is easier than to acquire; from which follows at once that the means on both sides being supposed equal, the defensive is easier than the offensive.”
In other words, we are better off securing our border, building a wall, limiting immigrants from hostile lands, and avoiding the Middle Eastern cul de sac, than playing whack-a-mole with terrorists. Trump’s decision to withdraw from Syria is the most courageous and controversial manifestation of his broader promise to put America first.
To repeat the suggestion I made last night: do Afghanistan next. Far as I’m concerned, the only American military personnel who ought to even be laying eyes on the hopelessly barbaric sewer-drain that is the Middle East at all are our strategic bomber pilots, from no less than 10,000 feet AGL.
Update! Mo’ bettah backup for the proposition, from an old hand who surely knows whereof he speaks:
Unlike the bipartisan foreign policy swamp, which has been consistently proven wrong about nearly every major military decision of the last decade, President Trump has overseen a clear, steady and realist foreign policy, focused on putting America First. From re-building America’s military, destroying ISIS, ending the Iran deal, de-escalating tensions with North Korea, he has consistently proven the naysayers in the foreign policy swamp wrong.
Those who have led us down the failed and dangerous path of endless wars in the Middle East, Southwest Asia, and beyond, are the last people who should be listened to in regards to Syria. In fact, many of those people attacking President Trump today over Syria, are they themselves responsible for the chaos we see currently in the Middle East.
And nobody needs look any further for a reason why that would be so: My God, man, our gravy bowls, reputations, and phony-baloney jobs are at stake! Sorry, but you’ll have to forgive me when I continue to insist that the blood of those who carry the rifles and pay the ferryman maybe ought to matter just a bit more than that, fellas.
The members of the foreign policy swamp can’t even account for why it’s in America’s national interest to keep 2000 American soldiers and intelligence officers in Syria after they’ve already completed the mission the President gave them two years ago, to destroy and defeat ISIS. Could it be that that the foreign policy swamp was never actually interested in defeating ISIS and instead want us to stay in Syria because of their misguided and dangerous fetish for more regime change in the Middle East?
They scream that there will be chaos if we leave, conveniently ignoring the fact that most of the chaos we see in the Middle East is a direct result of their policies of regime change Libya and Iraq. Furthermore, do we really want to turn Syria into another Afghanistan, where we stay there for 17 years with no real purpose and no actual American interests at stake?
We’ve seen that script before and it hasn’t ended well for the United States. But that matters little to the foreign policy swamp, as they don’t even pretend this is about our national interest, but rather about their impossible dream for liberal Democracy in the Middle East.
Once more with the salient point, and the real issue the Establishment types are in a lather about:
The President understands what I understand: The Middle East will never be a liberal democracy and our foreign policy should never be guided by grand ideological goals, but rather by a simple doctrine that asks: What is best for America and its people?
Bingo. And amen.