Last week C2 looked at what Vladimir Putin and the Russians wanted out of meddling in the Ukraine, actions he knows will not make him popular with Europeans, whom he likes to trades gas and oil to, and from whom he gets access to the financial markets to keep the nation solvent. It was about the Russian world view and a strategy for facing the rest of the world as a people. Like it or not, they have one.
|Are we going to be all in against these|
morons with Daddy Issues?
This week, after all the uproar about missing strategies, ISIS be-headings, tweets of another World War and a lack of forceful response to any of it, it's right to ask ourselves what we want of this world as a people. If we confront Mr. Putin and in particular ISIS, as direct threats to the United States, what should be the outcome – that’s the question we need to ask ourselves in every situation that may call for American power, economic or military. After 9/11, two foreign wars and an ongoing struggle with Islamic extremists, C2 thinks we still don’t have a consensus on America’s role in the new millennium or what we want as a country from a military action.
As individuals, we all know what we want: our kids to be respectful, our parents proud, our neighbors jealous, a new car every four or five years…and Netflix for $10 a month. It’s coming together on a world view that has been a real stickler since Vietnam (I remember it, just barely – my mother cried when it was announced that the war is over, it meant her brother was coming home, and nothing more). Well, here’s a few thoughts of my own on how and when we should use our military, and what a uniquely American foreign policy should look like if I were King of America:
First, it's very clear Americans are tired of war and the cost of the neo-conservative Pax Americana experiment – in human and financial terms – was too much for the nation to keep absorbing. What did we accomplish in Iraq? Did we provide kindling to the Arab spring? No. I wouldn’t say the downfall of Saddam Hussein was predictive of something that was bubbling for at least a decade before our invasion. So, eleven years, 100,000 dead Iraqis, 4500 KIAs, $3 Trillion (and counting) later, and a “JV terrorist group”, ISIS, was able to capture one-third of Iraq and all the military treasure we provided the Iraqi Army to help “build a stable and safe Iraq for all Iraqis”; and knowing we will need to do something about ISIS, what was accomplished?
|Is this what we'll leave in Iraq?|
Do we have a responsibility to them?
When that question is asked in front of Iraq and Afghan War vets people are quick to say, “Our military did their job and fought bravely” (keeping the Vietnam homecomings in mind), but never answer quite answer the question, except to say, “Saddam was a bad guy, regardless”, but was he bad enough for what came after “shock an awe”? A troubling question that I doubt will not be answered fairly until the objectiveness of time informs historians. So, what do we do now, without an answer? What do we want to accomplish now if we “follow ISIS to the gates of hell”? Is it safety and stability in the Middle East? Let’s get real. It’s the be-headings that moved us, not the deaths of Syrians or Iraqis (although I’m hopeful the needle started to move when the Yazidis were forced to climb that mountain). That place won’t be safe or stable in my daughter’s lifetime, let alone mine – so what will we accomplish with our direct involvement. I think Mr. Obama is right and proper to take his time answering that question. We want to be safe here, by the way, and that’s our dirty little secret. Anything else will be gravy.
|When it came to leading the American people, these guys|
knew how to talk us into anything - and sometimes we need to be
talked into doing the right thing. Take note Mr. Obama
On a different level, to wit, this has to be said folks: whether right wing or left wing, we all want our presidents to at least sound strong. One can manage the Pentagon or even Russian or Chinese expansionism in a Cold War sense. What one cannot do is manage terror. You fight it. Even if one cannot fight it physically for a time, you fight it with the words you choose. Our presidents need to be president of all Americans – and when we’re at war we are the baddest m***erf***ers on the block – talking soft but carefully using our words, emphasizing that big stick of ours. That is what the vast majority of Americans want when the wolf is at the door. Take note, Mr. Obama.
|We ARE the baddest m***erf***ers on the block,|
but how do we use this power?
Second, the Navy has a great line in their recruitment commercials: “…a force for good”, we want our military to be a force for good. Saving Yazidi’s or Kurds or minorities are an easy example of what “a force for good” is what force for good does. Regime change is not on that list. Regime changes should be organic to the locals. If we left out the adventurism of cowboy diplomacy we could even have enough moral authority to stop the occasional massacre in sub-Saharan Africa…wouldn’t that be nice?
|How do we use that power?|
If we use our military, it should do as least harm to “small folk” as possible. Invasions or acts of “shock and awe” have evil results on the indigenous of the area, and I hear little about this fact of life from our outraged punditry. If we fight ISIS, the model should be Afghanistan – where we use massive force only when needed, and keep a small footprint for the most part. Let the locals fight it out on the ground when things get intimate. It cannot be said enough: the invasion of Iraq is not a viable model, so let’s leave “shock and awe” to the dustbin of history.
|Putin is a bully and needs to be|
confronted, but how?
Dealing with Russia and Vladimir Putin is a different thing. Is he an existential threat or even an immediate one? No, but he may be building a Russia that may once again rely on force to further its aspirations rather than frank discussion. Again, Mr. Obama’s choice of words and tone has done more damage than NATO and EU actions (or lack thereof). Telegraphing groups and people like ISIS and Putin that any option is off the table is a weakness in itself – we come to the table with one less tool and already conceding something.
We all know that Americans will not die in Ukraine or for Ukraine (right now at least), but our allies, especially our Eastern European ones, need to know that we honor our treaty commitments and be prepared to commit our young folks to die along with theirs if need be. Treaties work too. The threat of bringing the full might and power of the baddest m***erf***ers on the block won the Cold War and is the only thing keeping Mr. Putin from re-establishment of Russian hegemony in Eastern Europe. We need to strengthen and expand NATO, and expand its role in the world, bringing Europe kicking and swinging into the reality of an America that cannot and will not do everything anymore.
|Preventing acts of barbarism is good|
for the soul - we can't just watch when we
are ABLE to help.
I’d also like to remind folks that treaties are not only in the interest of smaller nations who need protection from larger aggressors, they provide a stable world for free markets which has always been in our interest – and that goes to the heart of who we are and what we are, people who believe a job is the answer to most issues in the world. Food, water, shelter – then a new car and Netflix at $10 a month – C2 imagines is the dream of most people around the world, if you think about it. Just like a large corporation or wealthy person has the responsibility to pay their fair share of taxes because they are the ones who benefit most from stable conditions for economic growth, we, as the baddest m***erf***ers on the block, have a responsibility to help those we work with, or in some cases work for us. NATO hasn’t done a very bad job of keeping the peace in Europe, expanding it and the way we use it isn’t a bad idea.
|Not an American value|
This brings me to my last point; America does stand for something and is a product of Western culture and thought. To dismiss that or try and denigrate it for politically correct reasons is not only wrong and divisive but futile as well. We continue to change and when appropriate acknowledge a wrong, also incorporating the good of other cultures as times change, but again, this is the foundation on which everything was built on, the good and bad.
C2 approved of the mini-apology tour that Barack Obama conducted after his first election. Someone needed to be out there saying America had changed its stance on foreign involvement. On the other hand, we do stand for democracy as a fundamental value, tolerance of minorities (hey, we try, and that counts for something), and freedom of thought, speech, beliefs, association and movement are vital to the basic good of a society and the individual – it’s not only right, but a responsibility to promote our ideals and values throughout the world in word and action, not as a pushy cowboy nor a patronizing parent, but as good citizen of the world. That’s not too bad a way to look at our role in the world or history, brief that it may turn out to be. Thank you for your time.