Thursday, September 11, 2014
War! What is it good for?
What David Frum says.
Speaking for myself -- and I've sort kinda said this before -- yes, these Islamic State characters are evil doers. But so are our Saudi and Qatari "allies" (when they aren't actually financing al Qaeda and similar) and so, for that matter, are we. I suppose you could say it's a matter of degree and that counts for something, but still it must be acknowledged.
That acknowledged, the following perhaps less controversial points.
1) The only substantively interesting statement in Obama's speech last night was that we are going to arm Iraqi and Kurdish forces. In diplomatic terms, that is extremely significant because it explicitly admits that the peshmerga are not part of the Iraqi armed forces and Kurdistan is not part of Iraq. That said . . .
2) It is ridiculous to pretend that this has anything to do with protecting the territorial integrity of Iraq or the preservation of national borders more generally. That ship done sailed. Which is inevitable because these are borders drawn arbitrarily by European colonial powers 100 years ago. Nature is taking its course . . .
3) And, since the Iraqi army is in fact a sectarian Shiite army, we are also going to arm and train Sunni Arab militias, which means we're just going to further encourage the breakup of Iraq because we know the Sunni Arabs aren't about to join the Iraqi army, since it's not their army and that's the whole reason IS has been successful in Iraq in the first place .. .
4) That said, this bullshit about an "inclusive" Iraqi government is obviously just that.
5) The Islamic state is a threat to the region, to be sure -- and mostly immediately to regimes we claim not to like, i.e. Iran, Bashar al-Assad, and the totally non-inclusive Baghdad regime. Obviously they also make the Kurds and Turks nervous, but Turkey has already said it's not going to join the coalition of the willing. They make the Saudis nervous but that's their own blowback, now isn't it? So . . .
6) We now find ourselves in a weird alliance with Iran, the Shiite Baghdad government, the Saudi and other gulf monarcho/theocracies, and a motley crew of ideologically diverse warlords in Syria, plus the Kurds, for the purpose of protecting the interests of all of them at our expense.
This is completely nuts. IS is 7,000 miles away from the closest point of the U.S., which I believe is Provincetown, Massachusetts. This is a problem, and it's partly our fault, so we owe people something. But it's not a problem we can fix, and it's certainly not a cause that the U.S. can lead.
We owe humanitarian aid to the refugees. I'm not knee-jerk averse to a bit of bombing here and there at the request of the Kurdish or Baghdad governments to avert further catastrophe and maybe help them roll back IS where they can. We do owe them any help that will actually be useful. But a war between the United States and Muslims of any kind is just playing into the hands of IS. That's the world they want to portray, and the last thing we ought to do is make it real. The Saudis and Iranians actually have powerful militaries with plenty of air power. Yeah, they hate each other. That's not our problem either. Let them do what they think is best.
Also too. According to the sacred Constitution of the United States, the Congress has the sole power to declare war. Anybody still remember that little detail?