Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Americans in the Middle East

When George Bush reacted to the September 11th attack, there was something refreshingly simple about his approach. Everyone knew the Middle East was a cauldron, a riddle within a riddle, a miasma, but he took the Alexander the Great approach: Just cut through that Gordian knot with a swift stroke of the sword and let the pieces fall where they may.

For George Bush, it didn't matter we really did not know who attacked us on 9/11; he just wanted to kick someone's ass. He chose Saddam Hussein, because he was, as Bush put it a bad man, someone "who tried to kill my dad."

So that made it all very simple: Just roll our Army over Iraq.

Saddam replied, presciently, as it turns out, once you get rid of me, you'll have worse people to deal with.  But Saddam imprisoned his enemies, tortured some, ruled his country with an Iron hand, so we did not like him. As it turns out the people now closing in on Baghdad do not torture prisoners because they do not take any; they just behead those they don't like, including women who have the nerve to venture outdoors un-escorted by a male relative or without a head covering.  They are very unappetizing,  these nasties from the Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham. They are Sunnis and they don't like Shiites much, so they just behead them. 

Talk about "bad" men. George, you had no idea how bad men can be. We had our own, Christian, bad men in the American Army and CIA, at the Al Ghrarib prison, but they were just sadists, not head choppers, as far as we know today. 

From an American point of view, we have two choices: Become an Imperial power, taking John McCain's advice to simply conquer the region and install an army and keep it there, to enforce a  Pax American for a few centuries--or... get the Hell out.

Fact is, Americans for all their manifest destiny history,  really do not like being imperialists. We just want to live in our towns and cities and enjoy America.  When Lyndon Johnson spoke on the phone to his good and trusted friend, Richard Russell (D-Georgia), Johnson asked Russell what he ought to do about Vietnam. Russell said, well, you know Lyndon, we don't want to stay in Vietnam. Yep, Johnson agreed. We want out. Well, Russell said, the Viet Cong know that, too.

All the Vietnamese or the Sunni radicals or the Afghans or the Pakistanis or the Somalis need to do is wait for the Americans to go away, and we inevitably will. Then the radicals can crawl out from under their rocks and get down to the business of conquering whatever unpopular, weak kneed government the Americans left behind.

So why did all those Marines die in Mosul?  Same reason Marines died in the Mekong Delta and all over Vietnam: Stupid old men sitting behind polished desks in Washington needed to feel powerful and important. 

President Obama was smart enough to see all this in Iraq, but he's been remarkably obtuse about Afghanistan, buying into the notion we needed to clean Afghanistan out so those terrorist sanctuaries would not give rise to crazies intent on launching the next 9/11.  As if you can clean out one rats's nest and never have to worry about the rats finding a new home. Right now, the whole swath of land between Syria and Baghdad is one big terrorist sanctuary, not to mention Somalia, villages in Indonesia, Yemen, and Heaven only knows where--Berlin, London, Detroit, Toronto likely.

What would Mad Dog do? 
1. Close Gitmo.
2. Keep  ears open --yes even NSA ears--and keep those drones flying.
3. Close our bases in Germany, and anywhere we really do not need them.
4. Fly our SEALS and Delta Force guys in when we need to, but fight these head choppers with intelligence and stealth, not with large armies and big vehicles.

In short, treat these guys we are looking for not like enemy soldiers, but as crazed serial killers who have patterns and vulnerabilities and do our police work relentlessly. We will never kill them all, any more than you can kill every rat on earth. You can simply try to find them and kill them when you can, and resolve this is not a war, with an end point, but a continuous effort at public hygiene. 


  1. Mad Dog,
    Horrifying images-imagine the parents who lost a son or daughter in Iraq-what can they be thinking-this is what my child died for? This is American success? Saddam Hussein, bad as he was, posed far less of a threat with his bluff of non-existent WMD's than the prospect of a country and potentially more of the region in the hands of thugs like these. These crazies do pose a potential threat to the whole civilized world and it should be the whole civilized world that bears the cost of any limited response-it should not fall on just the US to address the issue. Europe,especially, needs to step up to the plate and bear their share of the cost of any limited response. It doesn't help the US, over the long term, to be viewed by the youth in the middle east as a meddling bully. Your suggestions seem prudent, certainly a much better solution than another full on war...

  2. Maud,

    What happens to a man (or possibly a woman?) who gets into the oval office? President Obama was smart enough to get out of Iraq--not his war, always said it was the wrong war, but does he think things will be any different in Afghanistan two years from now?
    Is it just that these politicians aren't smart as you or I?
    Or is there something in the water, in the White House?

    Mad Dog