Obama shouldn’t ratchet up war on terror

by H.B. Koplowitz

Goaded by neocons and alarmist media, President Barack Obama appears to be ratcheting up the war on terrorism. Bad idea.

Reversing an earlier decision to not arm Syrian rebels because it was too hard to tell the good guys from the bad guys, the president has asked Congress for $500 million to train and equip “appropriately vetted” factions of the Syrian opposition, whatever that means. Last month at West Point, he told cadets he wants $5 billion more for counterterrorism activities, especially in the Middle East, in addition to the 300 military advisers he has sent to Iraq.

According to The New York Times, Obama’s moves reflect “increased worry about the spillover of the Syrian conflict into Iraq.” The Daily Beast reports that in a recent classified briefing, senior Obama administration officials told senators the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, a Sunni extremist group that was part of the Syrian opposition until it began fighting other factions and invaded Iraq, may be moving into Jordan, which could drag Israel and the United States into an expanding war. In other words, the old domino theory.

So ISIS, whom nobody had heard of a month ago, has suddenly become the latest bogey man to threaten America’s security. No doubt these guys are a particularly brutal strain of Islamic extremists. But why is it that whenever something bad happens in the Middle East, America gets involved? For once, why don’t we treat Arabs and Muslims like adults and let them sort it out for themselves, ugly as that may be? Call it tough love.

The impending collapse of Iraq can’t help but remind Americans of the fall of Saigon nearly 40 years ago. And as the media parrot Dick Cheney and other neocons’ latest round of scaremongering/warmongering, it is instructive to remember what happened to America after we got out of Southeast Asia — nothing. Life went on. The only wound was to our pride, and the only domino to fall ended up being the Soviet Union.

Obama deserves credit for the measured way he has handled the turmoil throughout the Middle East, and nowhere more so than in Syria, where he resisted calls to arm the rebels and instead held discussions to rid that war-torn country of the last of its known cache of chemical weapons. As Steve Clemons reported in The Atlantic, Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham urged the Saudis to give arms to the Syrian opposition, which they did, and many of those weapons ended up with ISIS.

Another story that has received less attention than Hillary Clinton’s book tour is that Ahmed Abu Khattala, the suspected ringleader of the 2012 Benghazi attack, was captured by Special Forces. The improbable success of diplomacy in Syria and a special operation in Libya have received scant coverage in the media, which instead have beat the war drums to reinvade Iraq. But why? From America’s point of view, none of the rationales for getting involved in the fighting make any sense. For example:

— Oil. Whoever gets the oil will sell it, and we’ll buy it, which is no change from the status quo.

— We broke Iraq so we should fix it. But the way we broke it was by trying to fix it with military force, and the definition of insanity is doing the same thing again expecting a different result.

— A power vacuum in Iraq might lure Iran and even Russia into the quagmire. Let them try.

— As then-Sen. Joe Biden suggested in 2006, Iraq could split into Sunni, Shia and Kurdish states. SFW.

— A civil war in Iraq might destabilize the region. Hello. The Middle East is already destabilized by the Arab Spring, and so far that hasn’t affected everyday life for most Americans. True, the Arab Spring has become a humanitarian disaster, creating millions of refugees and casualties, and no functioning democracies. But the unvarnished truth is that when radical Sunni and Shia are killing each other over there, they aren’t killing us here. To paraphrase Donald Rumsfeld, revolution/civil war is messy. It’s also self-determination.

— Allowing ISIS to occupy Iraq will provide a base for terrorists who want to attack the homeland. Except ISIS and al-Qaida don’t get along, and any Americans who want to join ISIS should be free to go, and good riddance. If they aren’t killed and do return to create havoc, instead of going all 9/11, we ought to respond to domestic terrorism like we do to school shootings and other crimes: cluck our tongues and bemoan a sad fact of American life, while law enforcement hunts down the perpetrators. In other words, buck up.

It’s hard to avoid Vietnam flashbacks hearing Obama talk about sending “advisers” back to Iraq, which is how America got sucked into Southeast Asia in the first place. It’s especially sickening hearing Vietnam War veteran turned war opponent and current Secretary of State John Kerry defend sending advisers. He should know better. In addition to their stated mission of collecting intelligence and assisting Iraqi security forces, the advisers’ real mission may be to figure out how to get the remaining American diplomats and civilian contractors out quickly and safely when the poop hits the fan.

As America’s sobriety from its addiction to war is challenged yet again, we should all be reminded of the Serenity Prayer — “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.” Obama has done an excellent job of knowing the difference so far, and hopefully he won’t miscalculate now.

© H.B. Koplowitz 6/2914

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