Tuesday, November 17, 2015

GOP Sillly Season Leaks Into "War Against Terrorism" ... by gimleteye

The late Gore Vidal ridiculed Democrats and Republicans. He saved his most trenchant observations for old age, looking back at 9/11. This snippet from an interview in Progressive: "(Ours) is an eternal war against terrorism. It’s like a war against dandruff. There’s no such thing as a war against terrorism. It’s idiotic. These are slogans. These are lies. It’s advertising, which is the only art form we ever invented and developed."

In the past few days, since the attack on Paris, the government of France -- whose atrocities in Algeria are forever part of the historical record -- declared war against ISIL, or, Daesh. In the U.S., once again, the GOP candidates to represent the party in the 2016 election have clambered over each other to be the most war-like: stop the Syrians from immigrating (Steve Jobs' father, by the way, was a Syrian immigrant), pile more American soldiers into hardened bunkers in the Mideast, etc. etc.

We needed to recall the costs of our misadventures in the Mideast since an earlier war on terrorism was launched by George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. Tom Engelhardt writes:

At $109 billion by 2014, the American reconstruction program in Afghanistan was already, in today’s dollars, larger than the Marshall Plan (which helped put all of devastated Western Europe back on its feet after World War II) and still the country was a shambles. In Iraq, a mere $60 billion was squandered on the failed rebuilding of the country. Keep in mind that none of this takes into account the staggering billions spent by the Pentagon in both countries to build strings of bases, ranging in size from American towns (with all the amenities of home) to tiny outposts. There would be 505 of them in Iraq and at least 550 in Afghanistan. Most were, in the end, abandoned, dismantled or sometimes simply looted. And don’t forget the vast quantities of fuel imported into Afghanistan to run the US military machine in those years, some of which was siphoned off by American soldiers, to the tune of at least $15 million and sold to local Afghans on the sly.

The human cost can't be quantified. Every time you hear a story about the inadequacies of the Veterans Administration and unkept promises to soldiers injured and maimed, think about Congress and its leadership that failed in the first place to adequately account for the costs of war. Remember, "Mission Accomplished"? The annual cost to fund the Pentagon is more than twice the cost of interest paid on the national debt.

Although a diplomatic solution may emerge to transition Syria to new leadership, providing conditions to stabilize Syria and the region so Daesh can be marginalized, Americans must accept that asymmetrical warfare by murderers, thugs, and sadists is here to stay.

In response to 9/11 -- fifteen years ago -- the United States government launched a national security apparatus that acts as a fine sieve that catches up everything and everyone connected by telephone or computer. And still, after the Paris attack, it is not enough. Crazily, one of the narratives catching hold after Paris is that we need to empower nation states to control all encryption technologies.

The global village is immune to political grandstanding. The United States can't segregate itself behind high walls and fences. The bright fact is that we have to do two things at once: withdraw our dependence on oil and provide leadership toward economic growth in regions whose populations are so scarred by war, they can't see daylight.

The real enemy is not terrorism: it is hopelessness.

Why won't Republicans like Senate Armed Services Chair John McCain address the issue of hopelessness? On NPR this morning, Senator McCain lobbed more tired rhetorical grenades at President Obama arguing, for what? More troops on the ground to create "safe zones". What, we ask, would happen in those "safe zones"?

The hopelessness engendered by our propping up dictators to protect Mideast oil supplies is vaporizing our multi-trillion dollar investments in military adventures. Now, to top that off, climate change is scrambling economies in drought-prone regions of the world where terrorism is a more appealing opportunity to many young than faith.

President Obama's calming words and caution don't use such blunt language. Before the GOP candidates for president run off with our heads, voters should remember how little our military interventions have achieved, how much blood and treasure we have spent, and how important it is to redouble efforts to persuade and encourage moderate Muslims to address the infection in their midst.

If Western nations and Russia turn the Mideast into places where only rats can survive, the more rats there will be to aim for easier colonization outside their own safe zones. The paradox is that we can't kill them all without creating more. Our bombs and drone strikes still create more.

The United States can't close our borders and expect our allies in Europe to be our proxies. Isn't that the lesson of the past fifteen years? We ought to learn from our mistakes rather than rush to repeat them. First, address the hopelessness.


Anonymous said...

To be sure gimleteye, the "war against terrorism" has not been a military failure. The DoD is simply a tool that must be supported by diplomatic efforts to improve a region to the benefit of those who live in that particular region.

A review of history will show that WW1 was a success militarily. The restrictive treaty requirements led to WW2. As an allied force, the Soviet Union contributed much to the success of beating back German expansion and bringing an end to WW2. Remember, it was the Soviet Army that captured Berlin in 1945.

The USA has the largest and most well-funded military in the world. Many believe simply bombing a region and sending in ground troops will fix everything. It will not.

We fought the Vietnam War. Vietnam, and the surrounding countries, are a mix of socialism. We fought the Korean War. Korea is still divided between north and south.

While it may seem easy for a President to say, "we're going to bomb them" and certainly that will garner much support from Americans because it seems like the easy thing to do, bombing is never an ultimate solution. Without a clear and achievable diplomatic exit strategy, the war machine is wasted.

Trump says, "I would bomb the shit out of them." Sounds great. Applauded by many. What happens when we run out of bombs?

cyndi said...

excellent APA research on the subject. I heard part of this presentation in Guatemala. Moral of the story: Nothing beats human kindness.