It Doesn’t Add Up

The future of the president’s new strategy is fraught. Let’s see what the analysts say, but three first thoughts:

  • I’d like to think the president wouldn’t allow himself to escalate “just 475 soldiers at a time.” We know how that ends. But eventually an American pilot will be shot out of the sky. Mr. Obama was mocked about his toughness after the Syrian red line debacle and now, after these beheadings, goaded into trotting out America’s old air campaign trick that even he flatly acknowledges won’t be sufficient.
  • He has now declared a new American goal – to ultimately ‘defeat’ ISIS  – but plans to rely on untrusting and untrusted allies to accomplish it. After the U.S.-built Iraqi army version 1.0 turned and ran from ISIS, we now propose to push in front of us version 2.0, made up in significant part of Iranian-backed Shiite troops. These may be the only people northern Iraqi Sunnis detest more than ISIS.
  • Shame on the usual suspects for inciting Americans into another air campaign in the same part of the world where we seem incapable of remembering even recently learned lessons.

It doesn’t add up. There are too many needles that won’t be threaded here. More later.

To George Will: Anytime. Happy to Help.

George Will is starting to follow me around. He wrote Wednesday that

“The Islamic State is a nasty problem that can be remedied if its neighbors, assisted by the United States, decide to do so. Vladimir Putin’s fascist revival is a crisis that tests the West’s capacity to decide.”

He’s right. I wrote here on CS&W on August 13th that

“at bottom ISIS is a band of thugs with an archaic worldview that a willful president and his or her allies, if they had a mind to, could clobber using Colin Powell’s overwhelming force commensurate with ISIS’s brutality. The challenge to Ukraine, on the other hand, is an assault on the world’s organizing principles, with the potential to collaterally undermine both NATO and the Obama administration.”

I had no idea, George, that you were a Common Sense and Whiskey fan, but I welcome you to follow me on Twitter @BMurrayWriter. Would have saved you three weeks on Wednesday’s column. I’ll help you with today’s huge Baltic news in a couple of days.

 

Happy to help, George. Cheers!

It’s War Hysteria, Again

More than half the visits to CS&W come from outside the U.S., so as Americans head off to enjoy a long holiday weekend, readers from afar might be interested to know that domestic American news is filled just now with beating of war drums about ISIS.

The beheading of the free lance American journalist James Foley did it. It touched a sensibility in the country that has led to a situation reminiscent in every way of 2003 and the run-up to the second Iraq war.

Remember this?

powell

Here, then Secretary of State Colin Powell makes the case for Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction before the United Nations Security Council. Turned out what he said was not true. But his speech was part of a larger, orchestrated effort to make Americans afraid to go to sleep at night, so that they would support military action against Iraq.

The same sort of government and media alarm bells are clanging right now about ISIS, the retrograde band of thugs that controls more empty desert than cities, but aided by willing media, tickles American fear.

Never mind that the sprawling bureaucracy that afflicts you at every airport and the $38.2 billion Homeland Security 2015 budget exist precisely to protect the country against the hundred or thousand misfits and lost souls with U.S. or European passports who have ended up latter day John Lindhs. Watching American TV you’d be sure the DHS is damp, listless and overmatched, because BAD MEN ARE COMING TO GET YOU! Y-O-U! THE HEARTLAND IS UNDER ASSAULT!

Eleven years ago such fear-mongering served to prepare Americans for the military plunge into the desert that yielded the current crop of Levantine woe. Watching American TV right now, you would be forgiven for thinking the same is happening today.

And even though it’s been said before, at the same time a land invasion by a nuclear power is being carried out in broad daylight in a state bordering NATO. To Americans, and America’s leadership, this is decidedly a second tier story.

President Obama held a press conference yesterday. Cauterized by his Syrian red line a year ago, he determined not to go too far this time. He declared that “This ongoing Russian incursion into Ukraine will only bring more costs and consequences for Russia.”

Don’t you imagine that that’ll show ’em?

While the ‘costs and consequences’ mount in the administration’s calculus, here is what a pair of Swedish defense researchers suggest the Russians are crafting:

Ukrainemap

I wear my Donbass battalion t-shirt and my thoughts are with the besieged people of eastern Ukraine.

Enough. For now, back to vacation. And happy Labor Day weekend, everybody, from Anguilla.