No one was beating the drums of war louder than I was in the weeks leading up to the attack on Syria. From the very first coverage of ISIL, I viewed them as the most decadent band of psychopaths to come along in recent history. The beheading of two Americans only reinforced my opinion that no military response to them could be sufficiently severe. I wanted to carpet bomb any area they occupied. The Monday night air campaign over Syria was fresh off a weekend of my watching a biography of Teddy Roosevelt. Roosevelt almost viewed war as sport. Such was his commitment to the fight that the loss of his son in WWI was compensated by his satisfaction that his boy had done his duty. Having just consumed large doses of Teddy-worldview, I actually imagined myself piloting one of those jets on Monday night and I delighted in dropping bombs on the little savages.
Then came Tuesday and the competing voices in the media started filling my head. The hawks and the doves have been out in full force, capably arguing both sides of the conflict and completely muddling my brain in the process.
This, my friends, is what bothers me. We can disagree on whether Obama handled the exit from Iraq appropriately. The one thing we cannot disagree on is that Iraq went from bad to worse in our absence. With my blood lust largely satisfied Monday night, I was left with the question, where do we go from here? Permanent occupation of Syria? Yes I know we don’t have ground troops there yet, but it will come. We all know it will. And once we are there, when do we leave?
Say what you like about Islam, it has proven in its modern incarnation to be unable to control its extremists. Our Muslim “partners” in the current war on ISIL won’t even fess up to what role they are playing exactly. The air strikes have been dominated by the United States. The Arab spring has taught us that when we leave a Muslim country “liberated” for its own people to run, they make a mess of things — a dangerous mess of things. The alternative is that we must stay to keep order.
I’m not sure I’m ready to sign up for that. Baby sitting every Muslim country in the middle east to ensure they don’t savage each other and terrorize the rest of us in their pursuit of a Caliphate, is unfeasible in both financial and human costs. Yet what are the consequences of our doing nothing? The debate on Morning Joe a day or two ago between Jeffrey Sachs (economist and Director of Columbia University’s Earth Institute) and Richard Haas (President of the Council on Foreign Relations) typifies the complexity of where we find ourselves. Both men made valid points. Sachs basically said what didn’t work in the past will not work in the future, citing examples from Vietnam through Afghanistan and Iraq. Haas countered with the danger ISIL presents to the region and eventually to the world at large.
I think ISIL has taken extremism a step too far to be tolerated by the civilized world. On the other hand I’m tired of perpetual war and until moderate Muslims dominate the conversation we will never be able to stop fighting. My initial bellicose approach was simplistic and short sighted. We face near impossible choices.
Farewell to a World Class Punk
Hamid Karzai left the world stage thumbing his nose yet again at the United States. It is the thanks we get for trying to get his country out of the Stone Age. Based on the profession of his thug brother, Karzai is probably too coked up to be held responsible for his actions. At least now he is gone, soon to be forgotten. Perhaps in his retirement he can go hunting with Dick Cheney.