But first, a reader “couldn’t resist making a few alterations to ‘Bill O’Reilly’s Dumb Plan to Defeat ISIS’”:
But many readers think I’m the one being dumb by comparing Obama to Bush:
Andrew, you really let your emotions dictate your judgement. I mean REALLY. Let’s start by clearing something up, this isn’t a war. It is a military operation. There is a difference. You wrote: “It is true we are not sending in 140,000 troops into another country. We are sending almost none…” Ok cool, so can you stop calling it a “war” please? You’re sensationalizing this in the same manner Fox News does.
To my more important point, the first time I heard the name ISIS was on The Dish earlier this summer. Those early stories you posted were about ISIS killing thousands of people and burying them in mass graves. You remember that right? If so, then what the fuck is the problem? Dude, they’re killing shitloads of people and they’re not going to stop. Ok? Can you please stop acting like some Ron Paul college kid?
It’s not a war; it’s just a kinetic military operation that just dropped a huge amount of bombs on another sovereign country! It’s not dead; it’s just pining for the fjords! Dude, of course it’s a fucking war. Sometimes I wonder if Americans would regard it as a mere “military operation” and not a “war” if another country started carpet-bombing Atlanta. You think? Another reader:
That headline – Is Obama Pulling A Bush? – is a tremendous insult to your readers. Obama isn’t embarking upon regime change; he’s hoping to tamp down a rogue organization through airstrikes. That’s a compelling difference. We’re not completely destabilizing an existing government and forming a new one from scratch; we’re providing cover while an effete government refreshes itself politically.
If that were all the differences, it would be enough to find the equating of these wars insulting. But also, the White House isn’t using The New York Times, the Secretary of State and the United Nations to employ a bait-and-switch this time. There’s no setting up of an all-powerful bogey man to discredit rebuttals. This time, the ISIS situation is pretty clear to anyone who can tune into 60 Minutes or Newshour.
Let me take those points one by one. Obama did explicitly callfor “regime change” in Syria, the country we are now bombing, and is now training and arming some Syrian rebels who are the dictator’s foes. As for the notion that we are “providing cover while an effete government refreshes itself politically” – really? The core problem in Iraq is that we replaced a Sunni minority’s despotic rule with a Shiite government backed by militias after a period of extraordinary sectarian blood-letting between the two. Despite a new prime minister, there are very few signs that the government in Baghdad has achieved anything like a “refreshing”.
It still does not command the trust of the Sunnis, cannot fill its interior and defense ministries because of sectarian division, and its army, after huge sums spent on it by the US, turned and fled when it came to operating in Sunni areas. This is the core issue – and we have not resolved it, and we have gone to war without settling that core question. I don’t know how many times the US is going to support a counter-insurgency campaign by a government without broad legitimacy and still hope for success. But at this point, one might have a smidgen of hope that we have learned something from the past. But it appears we haven’t.
I wonder how you can veer between Obama’s Nobel comments you posted the other day and your desire to criticize this campaign against ISIS as a panicked fool’s errand. There is evil in the world. ISIS planned a genocide of an ethnic minority in Iraq, kills en masse (villages, police cadets), rapes and enslaves young women, beheads innocent journalists, an aid worker and now a hiker – but this is none of our business. When does it become our business? What about that Nobel speech and evil that cannot be negotiated with and tramples our most cherished values? What country is still the most admired in the world because of those values? And if we don’t act on them, what does it say about us?
Ah, but that is sentiment and we’re dealing in hard realities here. This is not our fight. They are not an imminent threat, you say. How far do you let these people go and grow before it qualifies as your “imminent threat”? I’d like to see the punditry offer constructive solutions instead of constantly criticizing.
You’ve never underestimated Obama. Why begin now?
The Syrian war killed 200,000 people and we stayed out – for good reasons. Why was my reader not demanding a new war in Syria before now? The only answer is the rise of ISIS, and its grotesque media strategy. And my deeper point is simply this: even if we should do something to counter this kind of evil, what if there’s nothing we can actually do that doesn’t make the situation worse in the medium and long-term? What if we are indeed helpless to do anything other than direct Jihadist terrorism more squarely at the US and the West? Another points out:
Look at what Obama’s already accomplished.
Avoiding the slaughter of thousands of innocent Christians who were stranded with almost certain death at their doorstep, but for our air strikes. Of course if he was 100% determined to wipe ISIS out, then he’d have to send in troops, but my thinking is that by kicking things off in this manner, he’ll massage the other countries in the area to actually provide the ground troops. He realizes the US doesn’t support sending troops in – yet – so is doing what he can with air strikes. Maybe with a few more American beheadings they just might support them. And I would too.
I still hope the other countries figure out a way, since they’re more directly involved, but if they don’t? You’d be fine with just sitting back and watching ISIS keep up their derangement?
In a word, yes. I do not believe ISIS can sustain itself for very long. No such group has managed to do such a thing before without its own insanity and brutality creating a backlash. We have just swallowed their hype – and elevated them in the eyes of the Arab and Muslim world. You have to remember: however disgusting ISIS is, the Arab-Muslim world will always regard the US as worse. Always. Another sees a long game:
How exactly do you ask someone to fix a problem that cannot be fixed? You buy time. And that is precisely what Obama is doing. He is slowing the Islamic State, stopping their forward movement, and spending his time behind the scenes working with all the nations in that area to get them to deal with it. Because that is the only solution that works.
It is messy. It is not clear. It is not guaranteed in any way to be successful. But it is responsible, and what a clear thinking leader does when there isn’t a better option. Isolationism is no better than neoconservatism or being an interventionist; they are all extremes and wrong. Reality requires, in my view, the ability to modulate between the two poles when assessing and dealing with current circumstances. A “doctrine”, as Bush had, is the scariest and worst possible method of dealing with this as it implies that there is a universal strategy that will fix the situation … like when you heard that we would be greeted as liberators – because the doctrine says so.
That’s by far the most potent criticism I’ve yet read. I can only say that I hope my reader is right. Another puts me on the couch:
Your rhetoric on this “reckless” war and implicit and explicit suggestions that what’s happening now is no better or different than 2002-03 all over again have mostly been off-base at best and an embarrassment at worst, and if I was an armchair psychologist, I’d say it’s some weird attempt at atonement for your (admitted) idiocy with respect to the invasion of Iraq. Oops, too late. I said it.
In any event, stop, breathe, and try to take a more balanced look at what’s going on.
I read the e-book collection you put together – “I Was Wrong” – and it was hysterical between 2001-2003. Don’t fall into that rabbit hole again.
Earlier dissents here. And more to come.
(Photo by Getty)