Remember Afghanistan? You know, that graveyard of empires where the Russians fought for years, only to be ignominiously defeated and forced to withdraw, having squandered blood and treasure for nothing but the everlasting enmity of those left behind. It became a failed state, a breeding ground for terrorists and festers still as President Obama has still, for reasons known only to God and the Oval Office still not managed to extricate the US.
Now, we have Syria and a front page, above the fold New York Times article in which a pundit from the Woodrow Wilson Center says, "Russia has won the proxy war." The article goes on to describe how the good guys, the men fighting the nasty regime of Bashar Al Assad, were making progress using anti tank missiles against Assad's forces, but when the Russians committed airplanes and bombs, the managed to turn the tide in Assad's favor. Now the Russians have "won."
You can just imagine the glee in the eyes of Donnie John, reading this. Oh, we are going to hear about this now.
Weak America. Always losing. But when I'm President, we'll be winning.
Does any of this Syria story sound at all familiar? American CIA rocket propelled grenades are sent to all those heroic mujaheddin fighters in Afghanistan, who hump around the dusty, mountains, using the terrain and their knowledge of local geography and culture to neutralize the technological advantages of a super power? Remember that? And one of those good guys fighting the Russians was a cool cat named Osama Bin Laden. Remember him?
If you have a really long memory, there was that quagmire in a place called Vietnam, where American technological advantages were thwarted by little guys in black pajamas carrying AK47 rifles and living on rice and rat meat until that inevitable day when the Americans got tired of slogging through rice paddies and went home.
Local politics the Americans could never understand + fanatical opponents = defeat and withdrawal (aka "Peace with honor.) Remember that formula?
And what happened after our "defeat?" Exactly nothing. Well, not exactly nothing. The world communist conspiracy collapsed, and Vietnam became capitalistic and we now send American tourists over there.
Imagine that. All this winning, from a "defeat."
So now the pundits from the New York Times and the Woodrow Wilson Institute tell us the bad guys (Assad's regime + the Russians) are winning and America is losing again. They could not be writing Donnie John a better script if they tried. And some of them are trying. Makes the pundits feel important. They get invited to talk on TV. And they get salaries at the Woodrow Wilson Institute, at the Heritage Foundation and other places where effete conservatives can pedal their wares.
And what would "winning" look like in that cesspool of Syrian radical Islamic maelstrom? If the "good guys" won and Assad was strung up by his ankles in Damascus and the Russians sent packing, what then? Libya? Iraq?
Thing is, in that part of the world, dealing with Sunnis and Shiites--I can never keep all the factions straight--what does victory look like?
Some people think they know. Robert Duval famously said, in "Apocalypse Now" sniffing the gasoline smell, "Smell that? Napalm! It smells like...Victory!"
Moishe Dyan, a former Israeli general was asked how little Israel, surrounded and vastly outnumbered by Arab states managed to survive and prevail. "Well, look at who we are fighting," He laughed. "They shoot three bullets at each other before they fire one at us." So it is with ISIS and Saudi Arabia and Iran and Syria today.
Astonishingly, in 1974 when Patty Hearst was kidnapped by the Symbionese Liberation Army, there were over 1,400 bombings by revolutionary (terrorist) groups in the United States that year. We have ten or twelve terrorist shootings and Donnie John says the whole country from Peoria to Portland is about to collapse.
Once was a time we fought an enemy who was easy to understand. He wrote his beliefs down in a book, "Mein Kampf" and he planted flags in Paris and Prague and Vienna and Oslo and Amsterdam. And we could organize an army and kill his uniformed soldiers and roll across the Rhine in our tanks and plant our flag and say, "There, you are beaten." Then we laid a Marshall plan on his country, hanged his henchmen, put our preferred enlightened leaders in place and ultimately, we got a woman Prime Minister in his place who, in 2016, opened her arms to Syrian refugees and other undesirables and that is what winning looks like when you are fighting a people from a culture which is very much like your own.
But this mess in Syria--as Bernie said, it's a quagmire within a quagmire.
Pundits told us Saddam Hussein was a threat to the United States. Pundits told us he had weapons of mass destruction in big tanks of nerve gas ready to be loaded on missiles and launched locally and delivered, eventually to our own shores. One guy, in a Navy admiral's uniform, came my hospital and showed us a power point with pictures of the nerve gas barrels. Right there in Baghdad. The CIA had the photos! Pundits! They knew!
Of course, like the guy from the Woodrow Wilson institute, like Donnie John and Ted Cruz (who would make the desert sands glow) and all the other tough guy war hawks who never had a bullet fired at them in anger, they all know Russia is winning and we are losing.
Just let's all vote for Donald. He don't need no pundits. We'll all be winning so much we'll get bored and we'll forget what losing feels like.