Monday, July 04, 2016

"Oh! what a lovely war ..."

Homage to past glories on our national day.
Since we're celebrating "rockets' red glare, bombs bursting in air" today, it seems like a good moment to check in on our wars. It's not a pretty picture.

Bombs have sure been bursting in Istanbul, in Dhaka, and in Baghdad.

Our governments (I'll include among that "us"not just U.S. allies, but also governments at the scenes of carnage) blame ISIS. And I don't think ISIS is denying authorship of these horrors.

Peter Beinart points out the killers are not without pretexts for their atrocities, even though there is no excuse for random murder.

The mid-20th century theologian Reinhold Niebuhr once wrote that, “America was menaced as much by its own pretensions to virtue as it was by world disorder.” Niebuhr was no pacifist, nor did he draw a moral equivalence between the U.S. and Hitler’s Germany or Stalin’s USSR. But he urged American leaders to acknowledge that even in just wars, “tyranny [is] defeated with instruments tainted by evil.”

The United States has intervened militarily to prevent ISIS from conquering Iraq and Syria. In that effort, it has carried out more than 10,000 air strikes—strikes that kill many people but go largely unnoticed in the American press. America’s current war may be justified. But America is not innocent. By pretending it is, [Marco] Rubio and other politicians [including Ms. Clinton] mislead Americans about the reasons for ISIS terrorism. And they prevent an honest debate about the costs and benefits of America’s war.

We would rather look away, but we could do with some reminding. The Soufan Group says ISIS is being defeated militarily, but that only points to more suffering and butchery.

Over the past two years, the West has focused on this phenomenon: the persistent and rising threat of attacks such as those in Istanbul, Paris, Tunis, Brussels, San Bernardino, and Orlando, altering policies, laws, and tactics. As the Islamic State enters its third year as a self-proclaimed caliphate, this phenomenon—in which the Islamic State inspires people around the world to act in its name—has completely detached itself from the physical group. This threat to the West will remain, and perhaps grow, as the group suffers increasing losses on the ground. 

But to the millions of Syrians and Iraqis who experience the Islamic State less as a phenomenon and more as a daily existential threat, the announcement of a caliphate was the weary culmination of a long-term corrosion of governance and stability. Life in Raqqa, Mosul, Fallujah, and many other cities and villages was dreadful in the years before the announcement and remains dreadful two years on. Only in the West did the events of June 2014 come as a surprise. 

... As Syria and Iraq mark the second anniversary of the Islamic State, there is reason to hope that a third will not come; however, there is little reason to hope that the group will not re-emerge in some shape or form in the future. The scale of the problem in Iraq—and, even more so in Syria—is beyond comparison and beyond the current capabilities of local, regional, and international actors to resolve. 

Meanwhile, we've got 51 State Department officials calling for deeper U.S. dabbling in the Syrian civil war. Nothing in likely-President Hillary Clinton's past or present pronouncements suggests she knows better. In fact she'd likely embroil us all more deeply. (And yes, we do have to elect her; this is no time for purism.) And then comes word that the Syrian faction allied with al Qaeda has captured the leader of a U.S.-favored "moderate" combatant group -- and presumably all those lovely weapons we've sent him.

Mother Jones blogger Kevin Drum got it right when contemplating our leaders' prescriptions:

This stuff never stops. Everyone wants a miracle cure in the Middle East: the mythical "just right" military response that doesn't involve ground troops; won't get any Americans killed; and doesn't take very long — but that will be magically effective anyway. It's nuts. ... It's snake oil.

Very deadly snake oil, mostly for other people.


Rain Trueax said...

Who knows what Trump would do when it comes to wars. No clue. We do know though with Hillary and many are eager for her to start. I always think-- if it was your grandson/granddaughter being sent there? Then would it be okay? Most of the time, it's not theirs.

And the idea of American empire and us running the world to create a Utopian-one-world- government, good for all should have been disproven by how easy terrorism is to import war to anybody, anywhere in the world. Bombs bursting in air indeed!

tina a Lebanese in Beirut said...

Seen from Lebanon and by a Lebanese who has suffered for decades wars created by the USA Empire, I don't understand your stand about voting for Hillary Clinton. You don't seem to realize that in voting for a warmonger you will be responsible for every killing and destruction done thanks to the USA.
It has become clear to me that people who never went through a war, i.e. not only to be afraid for one's life but for the life of one's loved ones, cannot and will never understand what war is and thus could vote for a warmonger.
Why is it that there is no movement in the USA who would take a stand for a clean leader?! I guess that the Empire while it destroys the lives and countries of the non-citizens, kills the minds of its own citizens.
I was accused of "moral superiority" by a US citizen who also wants to vote for Clinton. Something is definitely wrong in the USA :(

Rain Trueax said...

A lot of us are asking that question, Tina. How did we end up with Trump and Clinton? I know on the Republican side, there was no better alternative for me (not that I get to vote there). The rest were christianist ideologues and frankly that is not Christian as in followers of the Jesus way. On the left, there was Bernie and I voted for him in the primary but there was no real chance he could win over the don't-rock-the-boat crowd.

If Hillary really puts boots on the ground, as many of her followers want her to do, and we end up in more messes, more deaths of innocents, more terrorism, and more debt, maybe next time we'll have a better choice. I always want to think that is possible. This election cycle though is very disillusioning for someone like me. I could vote Green or even libertarian (Johnson makes sense when he talks) but that would just end up with Trump and who knows what he'd do in the office :(.

tina a Lebanese in Beirut said...

You can take a stand and vote for neither Trump nor Clinton. You would show the world that there are still good people in the USA, and you would have a clear conscious. And it might be a start of a clean movement in your country.
There is no way anyone could state who of Trump or Clinton will kill more people in my part and other parts of the world.
It is about time that good people in the USA take a proper clean stand. Too many people have been killed or their lives destroyed as well as their country with the deafening silence of the good people of the USA.
Seen from where I am, it is impossible to understand how the good people of the USA didn't vote for Jill Stein. If the victims of the Empire could vote they would have voted for Jill Stein. Since they cannot, I strongly believe that it is your duty to vote for her, at least to show us that you as individuals don't mean any harm to us.
I am aware that many will read me as an arrogant person and it is okay :)

Rain Trueax said...

It's easy to see how people in other countries resent us and worry about their own security-- especially when the Middle East is such a hotbed. It's not arrogant to speak your mind in this country. It's the whole idea-- even when we disagree with each other. or it used to be... i don't agree with the Green Party though on issues. I could sooner vote for Johnson, who if he can get 15% of the polling will at least get into the fall debates. I saw him on Bill Maher the other night. He'd do well in a debate. At this point though, I don't agree with any of the parties in my country. I never had a time this frustrating and I am an old woman.

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