David Goldman over at Pajamas Media writes an article about how the GOP is about to get it wrong on foreign policy:
…We Republicans now find ourselves painted into a corner. The public doesn’t trust us with guns. That’s why Rand Paul has gotten his fifteen minutes of fame (and if it turns out to be more than fifteen minutes, we are in trouble). It’s satisfying at one level to watch Rand Paul beat up Obama’s nominee for CIA director, but he represents a nasty brand of isolationism.
We nonetheless have to state the obvious: The only way to prevent Syria’s living hell from spreading to Iraq and Lebanon is to neutralize the main source of instability: Iran. Republicans should rally behind Gen. James Mattis, whom Obama fired as head of Central Command. Gen. Mattis told a Senate committee March 6 that sanctions aren’t working, and that Tehran ”enriching uranium beyond any plausible peaceful purpose.” The United States should not only remove Iran’s nuclear program, but also destroy Revolutionary Guards bases and other conventional capability that the Tehran regime employs to destabilize its neighbors. And the U.S. should throw its full weight behind regime change. With Iran out of the picture, the local conflicts–horrific as they are–will remain local. I do not believe that either Egypt or Syria can be stabilized, but it is possible to limit the spread of their instability. The prospect of a prolonged Sunni-Shi’ite war in the region will be horrific past the imagining of most Americans. Secondary conflicts will erupt around it, including long-frustrated minorities like the Kurds, who have created a functioning de facto state in northern Iraq.
We Republicans have to cure ourselves of the illusion that we can engineer the happiness of other cultures with an inherent antipathy to Western-style democracy. Where the Muslim world is concerned, optimism is cowardice. And we have to persuade the American people that selective, limited military action against Iran will not draw the United States into a new land war…
Goldman gets it right in that he identifies Iran as the central problem. He also gets it right in declaring that we have to give up all illusions and no longer seek make the Muslim world in to a pluralist, democratic civilization. But he gets it flat wrong when he condemns Paul’s “isolationism”, and the reason he gets it wrong is in, “we have to persuade the American people that selective, limited military action against Iran will not draw the United States into a new land war…”. In other words, we should engage in another round of limited war. My friends, that is poison. One thing that I’ve learned – and most especially since 9/11 – is that the one type of war Americans can’t win is a limited war. We’re just not built for that sort of thing. In war, Americans are an all or nothing people: we either go all the way in, or we should stay all the way out.
There is a commonality in all of our limited wars (Korea, Vietnam, War on Terror): we lose. We lose because the American people will not sustain a long, drawn out, bloody and expensive process which even in the best of worlds only produces a stalemate. You can call this whatever you will (I call it a will to win), but the fact of the matter is that it is not possible to politically sustain a war which has no clear-cut, final goal. You can get away with it if the effort is only a few days to weeks long (Grenada, Panama, Libya, eg), but if it goes on longer than that, public support starts to erode (and if a Republican is in office, Democrats will start going anti-war as a means of attacking the President…and I do believe that some GOPers are falling in to this vis a vis Obama). Eventually, the thing turns in to a bloody mess and we withdraw with no sense of victory – and often a worse situation in the long term (think about it: its 60 years after the end of the Korean War and we’ve still got 25,000 troops there and right now North Korea is threatening to re-start hostilities: great job there on that “limited war” concept). For American, any war must be a fight to the finish and the enemy must be compelled to unconditionally surrender. If we’re not getting in to it with that idea, then its best we don’t get in it, at all.
This is why I want us to withdraw from the Middle East as far as possible. As I’ve said, whatever it is we have been hoping to accomplish, we’ve failed. Our fault, their fault, no one’s fault: the whole thing is a gigantic mess and the only way to fix it is to raise an army of 3,000,000 soldiers and conquer the whole area. For that, there isn’t the political will in the United States: the American people would never, under current circumstances, agree to it. Get out, now. To be sure, there is that chance that once we leave the Muslim world will cool down – I doubt it: people who rape, rob and murder Christians for no other reason than their Christian faith are not the sort to cool down. But stranger things have happened and nothing would please me more than the sudden arrival of peace and prosperity in the Muslim world. But my bet is on Muslim world still being controlled by violent, vile lunatics. Given this, I expect they’ll take our withdrawal as a sign of weakness – and that will lead them to conclude they can attack us, here at home, again. They’ll do it on the expectation that we’ll visit some destruction on them for a bit, then get tired and leave, again. But if we do it right, that won’t be the outcome.
This is because if we withdraw and give nothing remotely resembling cause for Muslims to attack us, then when they do attack we’ll instantly have the political will to visit upon the Muslim world a chastisement which will resound through the ages. Provided, of course, that we pick out the most offensive nations (ie, those we think most responsible for whatever attack occurs, even if they didn’t directly order it), declare war on them, demand unconditional surrender and when they refuse, raise that 3,000,000 man military force and crush them to the ground. That sort of war – even if it lasts for years and is quite costly – can be sustained in the United States, because we will be fighting from day one to day last for a clearly identifiable goal with a clear means of ending the fighting: the enemy unconditionally surrenders. That sustained us through the Civil War, World War One and World War Two, and it would sustain us through a war against Islamic powers which seek to attack us, as well.
But, there’s more. No more of this going in an rebuilding afterwards. The defeated enemy must be compelled to surrender territory and treasure as compensation for putting us through the trouble. As I said, what we do should resound through the ages – doing to them what we did to our own brethren in the Civil War, so that though a century may pass, they’ll never again seek a trial of arms with us.
In war, there are no half measures. There is victory or there is defeat. If you want to send our sons and daughters in to harm’s way, then you’d better be clear about what you are doing and be able to sustain the effort, regardless of cost, to absolute victory. If that can’t be done, then find something else to do besides war. And for me, the proper GOP policy is, these days, much closer to Paul’s alleged isolationism than it is to those who propose to spend our lives and treasure for limited objectives.