Monday, April 25, 2016

Escalating the war in Syria: Has Obama learned nothing?

CNN politics reports today that President 0 is going to send another 250 American special ops forces to Syria in the coming weeks, in an effort to stem the influence and spread of ISIS. "Stem the influence and spread"? What happened to "degrade and destroy"? Even that got downgraded pretty quickly to "degrade and defeat". Now it's just "stem the influence and spread".

Here, according to CNN politics, are POTUS's actual words. "Just as I approved additional support for Iraqi forces against ISIL, I've decided to increase U.S. support for local forces fighting ISIL in Syria, a small number of special operations forces are already on the ground in Syria and their expertise has been critical as local forces have driven ISIL out of key areas. So given their success I've approved the deployment of up to 250 additional U.S. personnel in Syria including special forces to keep up this momentum."

"Given their success..." Pardon me while I fall down laughing. Whatever success the anti-ISIS forces have had lately has come largely through the efforts of Kurdish fighters and those of our once-but-no-longer enemy Basher Assad, ably assisted by the Russian Air Force. But don't worry. The Paranoid States of America is going to step up the fight against the murderous Muslims. Really. Obama means it, this time.

Yes indeed. If more American boots on the ground don't do the trick, the USAF will win the war from the air. At the end of February, Air Force Gen. Herbert Carlisle, head of Air Combat Command, announced at the Air Force Association’s annual Air Warfare Symposium that they're going to send in the B52s! And Lt.-Gen. Charles Brown, in charge of the flying branch’s top headquarters for the Middle East, said he would help "bring B-52s to town", according to Air Force Magazine, quoted on The National Interest blogsite.

Send in the B52s to bomb whatever rubble is left. What an amazing idea. But hang on! Haven't we seen this movie before? Back in the early 70s? Didn't USAF B52s engage in carpet-bombing of not just Vietnam but Laos and Cambodia? How did that work out? [That was in a movie -- The Killing Fields. It didn't really happen! Ed.]

Sorry, Ed., but it did happen! It was part of the Johnson-Nixon grand strategy to end the war! Remember? Anyway, here's a quote from Rick Perlstein's Nixonland (Scribner 2008), recommended here a few days ago. "On April 16 [1972], five behemoth B-52s pounded Hanoi and North Vietnam's lifeline port, Haiphong Harbor....

"Then, the night of April 26, [Nixon] went on TV to make his latest Vietnam pitch: "...we have offered the most generous peace terms.... The South Vietnamese are fighting courageously and well in their self-defense.
'...I say to you tonight, let us bring our men home from Vietnam; let us end the war in Vietnam. But let us end it in such a way that the younger brothers and the sons of the brave men who have fought in Vietnam will not have to fight again in some other Vietnam at some time in the future....
'My fellow Americans, let us therefore unite as a nation in a firm and wise policy of real peace -- not the peace of surrender, but peace with honor, not just peace in our time, but peace for generations to come.'"

And how did that work out? Walt asks... again... how it can be that the leaders of the USA have learned nothing, nothing from the American experience in Vietnam, in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in Libya, and (so far) in Syria? How can it be?!

Footnote regarding Nixonland: A reader has confessed to some puzzlement over Walt's recommendation of Nixonland. Isn't that book [he asks] nothing more than a hatchet job on RMN, published to discredit the Republicans ahead of the 2008 presidential election? Well, yes. Mr. Perlstein paints a picture of President Nixon as a scurrilous bounder and then some. But that the picture is unflattering doesn't make it unreal. And Mr. Perlstein shows no love for the Democrats or President Johnson either. About the only pols who come off at all well in the book are Messrs McCarthy and McGovern.

But that's beside the point. The main point of Nixonland, as far as I'm concerned, is that the liberal consensus of the 60s evaporated or was destroyed in 1968, and that the polarization of politics of the Nixon years is even more acute today. To paraphrase Mr. Perlstein, the majority of Americans are embittered, cynical, and resentful of the Establishment. They are ready to vote for anyone who can credibly pledge to tear down the Washington power structure. And that, dear readers, explains the popularity of Messrs Sanders, Cruz, and... of course... Trump.

Further reading:
Can America ever be united again?, WWW 12/4/16.
"Donald Trump taps into anger about U.S. misadventures in the world", CBC News 28/4/16

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