The Dish

The Jubilation Of The Hegemonists

They’re back in charge in Washington, they will always despise Obama, and they will demand, in the end, ground troops. Wieseltier takes a victory lap:

New varieties of half-heartedness would be disastrous. Shall we not do stupid stuff? Fine, then. Not bombing ISIS in Syria would be stupid stuff. (Where is the border between Syria and Iraq?) Not transforming the Free Syrian Army into a powerful fighting force would be stupid stuff. Not armingand in every other way standing behindthe Kurds would be stupid stuff. Andhere comes the apostasy!not considering the sagacious use of American troops would be stupid stuff.

The obsolescence of the American army is not a conclusion warranted by the war in Iraq. In our determination not to fight the last war, we must not pretend that it was the last war. If the president’s ends in his campaign against ISIS are justified, then he must not deny himself the means. The new government in Baghdad may work out or it may not. Our allies may agree to share the toughest burdens of the campaign or they may not. The outcome of this multilateral effort will depend on the United States. It still comes down to us. Why are we so uneasy with our own moral and historical prominence?

No more half-heartedness! Just go to war in the Middle East again – actually attempt to reconstruct two now-imaginary countries, Iraq and Syria – but with one proviso: we’re all in. No ground troops should be ruled out – which means their involvement becomes inevitable. The multi-sectarian, complex forces and counter-forces in the civil wars of what was once Iraq and what was once Syria can all be mastered by American military power – just like the last Iraq war, remember?

Note this line:

In our determination not to fight the last war, we must not pretend that it was the last war.

But we are going to war in the same place we just left! And we are doing so for the very same reason we were the last time around – because a Sunni insurgency does not trust the Shiite-dominated government that we installed and still support. We have no new capabilities that make all our previous mistakes avoidable again. We are once again trying to control the uncontrollable and manage the unknowable in places we know far less about than our enemies, just as we once did – and without any clear, tangible threat to the US. This “last war” began in 1991, it was extended in 2003, it is now being extended again, after the briefest of lulls, for the indefinite future. America is becoming nothing but a war machine, forever fixing the conflicts we create, supported by a Beltway elite with no accountability for anything they have ever said or written in the past.

For some, a forever war against evil everywhere on earth is what gets them up in the morning. I understand how this is genuine, even admirable in its compassion and care. But it is not prudent; it has been proven a failure already; it has cost us a trillion dollars and countless lives and limbs. To believe it will be different this time is the definition of insanity.

Update from a reader:

You wrote:

For some, a forever war against evil everywhere on earth is what gets them up in the morning. I understand how this is genuine, even admirable in its compassion and care. But it is not prudent; it has been proven a failure already; it has cost us a trillion dollars and countless lives and limbs. To believe it will be different this time is the definition of insanity.

I understand trying to ascribe non-malevolent motive here, but I want to make a point that I am somewhat loathe to make, given how the term is often abused: this is chicken-hawking at its most extreme.  The group of neocons and establishment Washington pols (with the media right behind them) that perpetually agitate for war and “boots on the ground” give up NOTHING by their clockwork bellicosity.  They won’t spend years of their lives living in a tent in the desert, their families won’t feel the stress of multiple deployments, their children won’t be blown up by an IED.  Someone else’s will, and they’ll go on agitating for endless military engagement all around the world, forever.

It is inappropriate to cry “chicken-hawk!” every time America decides it needs to use force.  That would be illegitimate – a country can’t function that way.  But at what point do we need to look perpetual-war agitators in the eye and say, “If you really think evil is taking over the world, if you want America to fight constantly, then it is your turn.  Go enlist.  Bring your son and your daughter with you.  Then come back and tell me if you think we need to fight over there.”

I won’t hold my breath.