Make a Deal With Assad?

So opines Leslie Gelb over at the Daily Beast – also noting that we’d have to do some sort of deal with Iran, while also keeping Saudi Arabia and Turkey on-side. Which is, well, a rather muddleheaded thing to try because, just as one for-instance, Iran and Saudi Arabia are not going to see eye to eye as long as their respective government’s are in power.

Now, as far as rat-bastards go in the Middle East, Assad is certainly not the worst, though he is pretty darned bad. In choosing what to do in that area, any where we turn we’re going to be dealing with nefarious characters. The question is which nefarious characters do we want to deal with, supposing we want a deal?

You see, we don’t actually have to be deeply involved at the moment in the area. To be sure, leaving it to fester in it’s own nastiness will carry the risk that some of the nastiness will be directed our way – vast numbers of people over there live for the day when they can kill lots of Americans. I’m sure ISIS has already got at least some preliminary plans to hit us – though being tied down in head-chopping, slave-dealing and attempted conquest, they probably can’t spare the time for us at the moment. We can pull back right now – and, in fact, under Obama it is probably better that we do so, given his complete incomprehension of the realities of power politics in the global arena. But even a hard-headed realist can make the argument that a U.S. withdrawal is a good course of action for the moment.

That argument goes like this: the American people don’t want to fight over there right now. The various factions fighting for power and influence all have, at best, grave doubts about us and, at worst, bitter enmity. For a variety of reasons, our post-9/11 campaign in the Middle East has failed and our prestige is at rock bottom in the Middle East. Getting our people out of there takes the immediate pressure off us – and by getting out of there, I mean all of us…troops, aid workers, diplomats, etc. If we really feel the desperate need to keep some sort of U.S. presence in a particular Middle Eastern nation (say, in places like Turkey, Jordan, Egypt), then it should be as small as possible. Essentially, don’t leave many American targets for the Islamists to attack. As we have recently proved, we’ve got enough oil and natural gas here at home so that even a complete collapse of oil production in the area can be endured…we’d be up to $5 a gallon gas, but as we recently paid $4 a gallon, we’d survive (and, of course, no one who attains any power over there is really going to cut off the oil spigot completely). As we are no longer involved, the blame for what happens there will less and less accrue to us and if there is an attack on us from the Middle East, the political will for war will swiftly return to the American body politic.

But we’re going to stay, of course, because inertia in politics is like that – we’ve been there, we are there, and so we’re going to keep on being there. And suppose Obama came down with a case of the ‘flu and had to spend a week in bed and during that time someone slipped him a copy of, say, Churchill’s The World Crisis or Hanson’s The Father of Us All and so Obama finally learned a thing or two about how the world works? We then might be able to proceed to a policy of U.S. engagement which isn’t stupid. And in an engagement policy which isn’t stupid, what is the best course of action?

Quite simply, it is to find a power player who can be purchased by us – and that does indicate Assad more than anyone else. His Iranian allies have not been able to restore his fortunes in Syria and he might be in the market for a new friend who can help out. Of course, he’d have to change his tune on a few things. We can’t expect him to do something enormous like make peace with Israel – but there is much he can do.

First off, no longer allow his territory to be a conduit of aid to the Iran-backed Islamists in Lebanon. Also, no longer keep any of his troops in Lebanon, thus freeing up that nation to be at least neutral in the various conflicts in the region…demilitarized, Jihadist sent packing or into the hereafter. Still a Muslim nation making rote denunciations of Israel and the United States, but no longer a subsidiary of Tehran and Islamism.

Secondly, part of Syria is going to have to become autonomous Christian areas…with Christian militias ostensibly under Syrian command, but really existing to keep Islamists out of Christian territory. It isn’t going to be much territory, but it has to be enough for Christians to live on in peace and security…and as they’ll be set up to lack heavy weapons, they’ll never constitute a threat to the existence of the Syrian government. Think of it as being akin to the Kurdish area of Iraq before everything fell apart in that nation.

Third, he’d have to amnesty those parts of the rebels who are not the full on, head-choppy Islamist fanatics…and incorporate them into his army and offer them a genuine seat at the power table in Syria. Not a full democracy – such is not really possible – but with veto power over government proposals which directly effect their lives. This new Syrian army – no longer being just the personal following of the Assad family – could then, with US air and some ground support (mostly special forces types), probably make short work of the biggest problem in Syria – the ISIS goons. Once the are taken care of, Assad gets U.S. aid to rebuild Syria and lines up with us against Iran in the regional balance of power.

Carried out with vigor and a keen eye to realities, such a policy could bring immense security relief to Israel (we might even be able to get Israel to give back a symbolic portion of the Golan: they can’t give it all back for security reasons, of course), free up Lebanon and turn Syria from long-term enemy to at least temporary friend – friend at least during the impending crisis of Iran obtaining nuclear weapons and attempting to make Iraq a satrapy of Tehran…and if the deal can also be worked that the Kurdish areas of Syria are joined to those of Iraq in a new Republic of Kurdistan, then we’ve picked up three dominoes in the area and are in a much better position to confront Iran as well as an increasingly hostile Turkey. We’d also be less strategically dependent on Saudi Arabia and so we could start to systemically detach ourselves from the Saudis…until such time as they really feel the pressure from Iran and are willing to, well, not be quite so stoning-people, owning-slaves, flogging-bloggers sorts of people.

Of course, we’ll end up doing neither – we won’t get out, we won’t go in sensibly. So, get prepared for the worst of all worlds in the Middle East.

Thinking About “American Sniper”

First off, let me just say the movie is emotionally devastating. It is a very powerful movie – and very gritty. It is not at all for kids – or, indeed, for anyone who has trouble with not so much violence, as a thing, but the horrific reality of what counter-insurgency warfare is like.

The movie is not about a hero so much as it is about how a man – just an average man – deals with events which force him to be heroic. Bradley Cooper, as Chris Kyle, plays a sort of man I’ve known in my life. For one, the man who recruited me into the United States Navy; a Navy SEAL of Vietnam-era vintage. I’ve met a few others of the type over the years. Quiet, calm men who are dedicated to defending those who cannot defend themselves. You have to think about it for a moment when you’re with them – the knowledge that they know how to kill and will kill without hesitation if they believe it necessary. Men who are also, as depicted in the movie, pursued by what they have done long after it is over – the man who recruited me dealt with it by making a big joke out of life (I’ll never forget the gales of laughter he had while telling me the story of his father – trouble was, it was about how his father, a submariner in the Navy, was accidentally killed by a torpedo).

The story also gets into how the families of these men are forced to live in desperate fear of what will happen; how they still have to keep up a brave front to the world while they are worried sick; how when the warrior comes home, they are often dealing with a person who is at least partially broken by the terrible events endured.

But as I’ve pondered the movie over the last 24 hours, what has most struck me is that when we engage in war – when we send men like Chris Kyle out to do battle – then we’d better be in it to win it; and we should be doing it vastly different from how we’ve done it. You see, Chris Kyle’s job was to protect his fellow soldiers by using his sniper rifle to kill the enemy before the enemy could kill our troops. But in a counter-insurgency campaign, such a job means that the sniper will have to make snap decisions on who lives and dies…and then live with the consequences of that decision for the rest of his life. One thing I would now prefer for all time to come is that if we have to go to war, we don’t go into that particular kind of war.

You see, the enemy knows us – and knows our weakest point: our desire not to harm. In our desire to be nice (can’t think of a better word), I think we do a disservice to ourselves and, in the end, end up with more harm than we need. The sort of people we fight – and the sort of people we’ll always fight for the foreseeable future – are brutes. They care nothing for human lives. They deliberately hide themselves among civilians knowing that when we come to kill, we’ll kill at least some of the civilians and those dead – which are 100% the fault of the enemy – will be blamed on us. Mogadishu is the battle plan at all times – draw Americans into built up areas, set bombs and ambushes and just wait for civilians to be caught in the cross-fire. Chris Kyle dealt with that through four tours of duty. No more of that, as far as I’m concerned. If we must fight, we’re not to fight the way the enemy wants.

I would never agree to sending Americans into a house-to-house battle to clear out terrorists dug in among civilians. If we’re ever faced with something like Fallujah, again, then I say we just properly besiege the place, allow no one in or out, no food in, and just wait for them to starve into surrender. Yes, people will die. Yes, some of them will be civilians. But they won’t die because of cross fire between us and a barbaric enemy…and when the enemy does come out to stack arms, and he will because starvation will do that to you, the world will know and see that the enemy surrendered to us…coming out, hands in the air, into our prison camps. I’m tired of fighting the war the way the enemy wants. When we send the like of Chris Kyle into battle, I want them to win it all with an enemy begging for peace…not coming home after a nasty fight to deal with PTSD while idiots at home condemn them for fighting.

God rest your soul, Chris Kyle – and may God cast His blessings upon you and your fellow warriors.

Yes, There are Limits

There’s been a lot of back and forth on this since the Charlie Hebdo attack, and now Pope Francis has chimed in:

Pope Francis suggested there are limits to freedom of expression, saying in response to the Charlie Hebdo terror attack that “one cannot make fun of faith” and that anyone who throws insults can expect a “punch.”

The pontiff said that both freedom of faith and freedom of speech were fundamental human rights and that “every religion has its dignity.”

“One cannot provoke, one cannot insult other people’s faith, one cannot make fun of faith,” he said. “There is a limit. Every religion has its dignity … in freedom of expression there are limits.”

The pope was speaking to reporters on a plane as he flew from Sri Lanka to the Philippines on his tour of Asia…

Over at Ace, they are little disappointed about this. Allahpundit is also not too pleased. I’ve seen over the past week plenty of comments from conservative and libertarian people who are really not thinking this thing through. To be sure, there is the understandable desire to defend against Islamists who, after all, will kill us no matter what we do – but just because we’re dealing with people like that doesn’t mean we have no responsibility for our own actions. Too many people are getting themselves into the position that unless we applaud the most vile expressions, we are letting the terrorists win. There’s a word for that – but I won’t use it, because it is vulgar and might cause offense…and because I’m someone making failing, weak efforts at being a Christian gentleman, I try not to be offensive.

I’m five feet, seven inches tall. I weigh about 175 pounds. I’m not exactly of the body-builder sort. Now, suppose I had a neighbor who is six feet, six inches tall; weighs about 280 and bench presses cars. I take a dislike to this neighbor because he’s a jerk – and I express my views about him by drawing insulting pictures of him and posting them on a board out in front of my house. Now, to be sure, my gigantic neighbor – who is a jerk, as I said – should still take my insults in stride. There is no actual justification for him to pound me into a pulp because I drew unflattering pictures of him. On the other hand, if I did get pounded into a pulp, how many of you would be thinking – at least – that I shouldn’t have been writing checks my body can’t cash? Even if you called the police to have the man arrested and were willing to testify against him in court because, still, he shouldn’t have pounded me, wouldn’t any reasonable person say that I had played a role in bringing on the pounding? There are plenty of ways I can deal with a jerk – including if really pressed to it, fighting. But if I’m going to fight, then I’d better be ready to fight. If I’m not prepared to actually fight, then maybe I should seek other means of redress? Thinking is a very important part of deciding what to do.

In our definition of free speech there is no license to print whatever you want. You might have heard the word “libel” from time to time. Also, the famous “you can’t shout ‘fire’ in a crowded theater” exception is well known. Even in good, old, First Amendment USA, there is no absolute right to say what one pleases. We have these reasonable restrictions on free speech because they are, well, reasonable. Of course, this still allows a very wide latitude for people to write things – and in the United States, we tend to have the widest latitude in the world. And this is a good thing – a thing I would die in the last ditch to defend. There was nothing legally wrong in what Charlie Hebdo printed. No reasonable person in the United States – or even in France, for that matter – would want Charlie Hebdo shut down over the offensive cartoons. Furthermore, no reasonable person would assert a right of the offended party to do violence against Charlie Hebdo for their offensive cartoons. There is no justification for what happened – and if it had happened in the United States and the perpetrators were caught and brought to trial, I would be only too pleased to pronounce a guilty verdict against them in court…nor would I shed tears if the perpetrators wound up killed by the police, as the French perpetrators ultimately did. But with all those caveats, I still have to say – as unpopular as it might be – that Charlie Hedbo did play a role in bringing on the attack. And they played that role without having made any provision for repelling an attack. I’m guessing because they never imagined that there would be such an attack – or, perhaps, they thought that the French government, which has been slack as all European governments, would protect them?

Choose your battles: that is an old saw; but none the less wise for having been used often. People who have read my stuff over the years know that I’m on board with fighting Islamist terrorists. In fact, I’m in favor of much more vigorous war than we’re doing – and even much more vigorous war than President Bush engaged in. I’m incensed on a regular basis at the crimes of the Islamists – especially, these days, the horrific massacres of Christians. I’d like us to really take the fight to the enemy. But I’m not going to sit here and just write nasty things about Muslims and think I’m doing something against Islamist terrorism. It might make a person feel good – though I really can’t imagine why – to do such things, but I don’t see any point in it. All it does is take our eye off the ball and, additionally, provide additional recruiting tools for the very people we want destroyed. We are, indeed, supposed to be better than the enemy – true, we should be physically stronger and better able to apply force against them, but we should also be more just, more merciful and more respectful of their innate, human dignity. Better. You see?

We’re doing it all wrong, in my view. Obama and the liberals are wrong in that they believe that Muslims are the offended party and if we’ll just show forbearance, they’ll quit. Plenty of conservatives are wrong in that they believe if we just give brag and insult and drop bombs, they’ll quit. Other people are a combination of these things. Me? I want to win the war. I want Islamism destroyed. To do that will take intelligence, foresight, courage and a fine and sensitive touch with the great mass of the Muslim people.

Of course, our real handicap is that far too many people in the West – and probably a majority; especially in Europe – don’t really believe in anything. They don’t believe in honesty. Don’t believe in decency. Don’t believe in self-sacrifice. All they want is their creature comforts and a life free from responsibility – and they’ll bury their heads as deep in the sand as necessary to live like that. We’re easy pickings for people like the Islamists – I am the person entirely unsurprised when Western people volunteer to join them. People, if they are not utterly craven, want to believe. We in the West offer nothing to believe in – just more gadgets and more moral disintegration. Those in the West who do have good beliefs are ridiculed, and absurdly compared to the terrorists, as well. A kid who has been taught to believe in nothing worthy – who, indeed, has been told that worthy beliefs are flat out wrong – and who has been fed a steady diet of nonsense is especially prone to fall for the first charlatan who comes along.

The Islamists offer something to believe in, and a lot of people go for it – and that we know it is stupid and destructive doesn’t alter our position or our peril. The Islamists are not the first people to sucker large numbers into doing evil, while thinking they are doing good. Ultimately, we won’t win this war unless we start to believe in something superior to the Islamists. We’d better figure out real quick who we are and what we believe. Defending a vulgar, little paper like Charlie Hebdo won’t do the trick – in fact, it is our celebration of such that is at the heart of our problem. It is a sign of strength if we tolerate such things in our midst, it is suicide if we praise such things…and while a collection of liberals apparently had a long held feeling of hate towards Charlie Hedbo, that was more a function of cowardice than a desire for standards of decency…we know this because the only thing liberals didn’t like about Charlie Hedbo was that it insulted Islam. This is just a species of “please cut my throat last” cowardice. If we were a people who condemned Charlie Hebdo for all its insults – you know, including the insults against Jews and Christians – while never making a move to suppress it, then we would be morally healthy, and better able to fight and win against Islamists. But that would also be a people who condemned 80%+ of what is in popular culture these days.

I’m getting a little long in the tooth at age 50. No one in their right mind is going to place me on the battlefield – but I assure one and all that I am ready to defend Judeo-Christian, Western civilization. I’m not so willing to die to defend the right of adolescent jerks to insult people. Do you see the difference? I’ll fight and die for “We hold these truths to be self evident…” and “I believe in God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth…”, but I’m not really pleased at the thought of dying so that the next vulgar little reality series can be broadcast on television. In fact, no one is willing to die for that. The Islamists have their dogmas they are willing to fight and die for – what dogmas are we willing to fight and die for? And if we do have some people believing in dogmas worth fighting for, are there enough of them?

Ultimately, there are limits – because there have to be. The limits are necessary for us to have civilization. You can’t have it all. You can either hold to rigid standards of conduct or you can be destroyed by people who hold to rigid standards of conduct. Those are your choices, boiled down. Among the rigid standards of conduct in our civilization is a cautious courtesy of speech – an unwillingness to cause needless offense. Gracious, there are enough things to offend us all just in day to day living – we don’t need to add to it. Yes, at times we must take the course of King St. Louis – when someone is insanely persistent in demanding death and destruction, we must drive a sword through him as far as it will go. But good King St. Louis also would never have dreamed of just insulting people for the fun of it – and he was a Crusader, my friends; a more devoted enemy of Islamic aggression you will not find in the annals of history.

I really do love this country of ours – warts and all. I really do think that in secular terms, we offer the best that humanity has to offer. I do think our nation worth defending. But it is worth defending only if we live up to the standards upon which it was founded. Look through the Declaration and the Constitution and you’ll see it shot through from start to finish with decency. Even when Jefferson condemned George III before the bar of history, he didn’t offer insult. No one reading that sublime document could conclude other than that the king was in the wrong, and right and justice were on our side. Jefferson offered truth, well written to appeal to the better angels of human nature. Contrast it to the cowardly tripe of modern liberals, or the school-yard insults hurled by some. We’re better than that. At all events, we had better be better – because if we aren’t better than the enemy, we won’t beat him.

What I Think About the Hebdo Attack

First off, the Charlie Hebdo drawings are rather crude and not at all to my taste.

Secondly, to call this an attack upon free speech when we’re decades into Political Correctness in the West is an absurdity.

Third, One might like to think that such a brazen crime as this will wake people up, but it won’t: we’ll have our candle light vigils and our hand wringing…and maybe someone will lob a few missiles in the general direction of Islamists, somewhere; but we won’t actually face up to the facts. To do so would call forth a whole series of very inconvenient things which would distract politicians from grafting, corporations from squeezing profits and average folks from watching mindless television programs.

One thing that caught my eye over the course of the day was the furious reaction – mostly on the right, as far as I can tell – to the head of the Catholic League’s statement on the matter. To quote a bit:

…While some Muslims today object to any depiction of the Prophet, others do not. Moreover, visual representations of him are not proscribed by the Koran. What unites Muslims in their anger against Charlie Hebdo is the vulgar manner in which Muhammad has been portrayed. What they object to is being intentionally insulted over the course of many years. On this aspect, I am in total agreement with them…

That is bound to make people mad. Partially because it appears to excuse the killers (though it doesn’t actually do that, if you read the whole thing), partially because lots of people are dead and we’re supposed to be agog at the heroism of Charlie Hebdo from now on.

Charlie Hebdo did create some rather vulgar depictions of a lot of things – including Catholic things. Of course, vulgar depictions of Christians of any sort are common in popular media. Its a sort of go-to thing for anyone wanting to (safely) make a name for themselves as transgressive. Sure, when you insult a Christian there might be a Christian or two who complains, but its not like Christians are going to kill you over it. To give a bit of credit to Charlie Hebdo, the insults were directed a lot of people, including Muslims – in a world where most people walk on eggshells around Muslim issues, that says something. But, it also doesn’t excuse crude insults.

Just to make myself clear: a person is not properly exercising his or her right to free speech when they are hurling an insult. To be sure, such things happen – and no one possessed of their wits will ever try to prevent someone from saying something because it might be insulting. But, here’s the thing: our entire Western world does precisely that. And, yes, that does make us rather witless. We’re making Charlie Hebdo into a hero for being ecumenically insulting but we’ll drive out of corporate America a person who once donated to a pro-traditional marriage cause. Yeah, that makes sense. People at Charlie Hebdo abuse the privilege of free speech and it is accounted heroic – someone properly exercises their right to free speech and he’s socially unacceptable. Am I the only one who sees a problem here?

My guess is that my more libertarian friends would say that both Charlie Hebdo and the corporate boss should have been left alone. And they would be right for saying that. Still, one man was fired for quietly expressing his opinion, the other were people gainfully employed for loudly shouting insults.

The drawings of Charlie Hebdo remind me of nothing so much as a the crude pictures in the anti-Semitic Der Sturmer; they shouldn’t have been printed in any decent publication in the world. If you have something to say against, then it is your bound duty to say it in a manner which provides information in a non-insulting manner. Like most social duties, this cannot be enforced; as per usual, being decent is something which pretty much has to be done voluntarily. If someone wants to wallow in the gutter, there’s not much anyone can do about it. But such people aren’t being brave or heroic – they’re just being jerks. Additionally, if something can’t be said politely then it is probably at least partially incorrect on factual grounds.

At the end of the day, Charlie Hebdo should have found different themes to draw upon. They could well have used art to provoke discussion – including discussion about the very serious problems the world confronts in Islamic radicalism. In a very small way, the world would be a better place had things gone like that. Of course, the Hebdo massacre could well have been done by Islamists for even carefully reasoned and polite criticism of Islam – the Islamist enemy is like that. But the old saw is that it costs nothing to be polite – and it can cost a lot to be insulting. Better, on the whole, to be polite.

Freedom is the ability to freely choose to do the right thing, or it is nothing. We know that shooting up a news office is not the right thing and thus anyone who uses his God-given right of choice to do such a thing has done wrong. I am hopeful that most people will also hold that insulting people is to freely choose to do the wrong thing – not nearly as wrong as killing, of course, but still wrong. Anyone out there want to lay odds on who will win in a fight between those who want to insult and those who want to kill those who insult?

The fight, I think, would have a different outcome if the Islamists were confronted with people who firmly but politely stated their views and demonstrated their willingness to kill or die for them.

(Ed Note: Updated to make it clear that Charlie Hebdo is a magazine, not a person. My excuse is that it was late at night and the original concept of this was to write specifically about Stéphane Charbonnier, but I felt that was to get too personal into it and re-worked the whole article…but forgetting that I was talking about a magazine, not a person. Sorry for being a bonehead. Not the first time it happened, won’t be the last!)

Karl Rove’s Silence About Saddam’s WMDs?

Quite a lot of people are upset about this:

Starting in 2004, some members of the George W. Bush administration and Republican lawmakers began to find evidence of discarded chemical weapons in Iraq. But when the information was brought up with the White House, senior adviser Karl Rove told them to “let these sleeping dogs lie.”

The issue of Iraq’s WMD remnants was suddenly thrust back into the fore this week, with a blockbuster New York Times report accusing the Bush administration of covering up American troops’ chemically induced wounds.

To people familiar with the issue, both inside that administration and outside, the blame for the coverup falls on one particular set of shoulders: Rove’s…

I was listening a little to Rush today and he was clearly flabbergasted about it. While we did not find in 2003-2004 the sort of active, WMD program that global intelligence services said would be there, it is clear from recent reports that Saddam had, indeed, quite a lot of WMDs and WMD-related materials. The fact of the matter is, of course, that Saddam wasn’t supposed to have so much as a spark-plug which could be WMD-related – per the 1991 Gulf War cease fire and various UN resolutions, every last bit of it was supposed to be removed and destroyed from Saddam’s domain. It is absolutely certain, now, that this was not done – Saddam secreted quite a lot of chemical weapons and various components for WMD programs. This, and this alone, gave sufficient moral and legal justification for the resumption of hostilities between the United States and Saddam’s regime in 2003. The whole liberal narrative about the war – that we faked evidence of WMDs in order to start a war in order to enrich Cheney’s buddies at Haliburton (and, really, this is what the left thinks the war was all about) – is false. Stupidly false, too.

Liberals will just keep on with their narrative as they never let facts get in the way of a good (for liberals) narrative, but quite a lot of criticism over these new revelations (which really aren’t all that new, of course; they are just being noticed, now, in the MSM) is coming from the right – condemnations of Karl Rove for not getting the Bush Administration to front-and-center this information, especially in the 2005-2006 time frame, when it could have proved crucial to resetting the political battlefield – a battlefield which ultimately went disastrously bad for the GOP in 2006 and 2008, largely on the strength of the liberals’ false narrative about the campaign in Iraq (to me, it wasn’t Katrina that wrecked the Bush Administration credibility – though the false narrative in that event played a big role – but, rather, it was the insertion into the American mind that Bush et al had lied about Saddam’s WMD that did the damage). Why, the question is being asked, did Rove drop the ball on this one? Why did he, so the accusation go, keep this information quiet? The allegation from other political players at the time is that Rove felt we had already lost the battle over WMDs and it was better not to stir things up, and so as evidence of WMDs piled up – and American soldiers were injured by said WMDs – a lid was kept on things. Why?

I can’t read Rove’s mind so I don’t know – if Rove gives comment on it, then those comments can be weighed in light of accumulated evidence. But here’s what I think really caused the problem:

The fundamental flaws in Bush Administration policy regarding the war were two:

1. A failure to clearly identify radical Islam as a problem.

To be sure, the Bush Administration was more clear about this than the Obama Administration, but even Bush Administration people – and President Bush – were out there routinely declaring that Islam means peace and essentially making it clear that there was no fundamental problem within Islam that needed to be addressed.

2. Following upon that, there was no strategic plan to completely remake the Muslim world.

As we couldn’t fault Islam, itself, so we couldn’t craft a plan which would have us knock down all known generators of the problem within Islam. We curtailed our efforts. We stopped at the Iraqi border and clearly never thought about marching in to Syria or Iran (two prime makers of radical Islam), but we also refused to cut our ties with the Saudis who provided lavish funding directly to Islamic groups who preached hatred, and indirectly (along with many other oil-rich Arabian States) actually funded Jihadist groups.

Hamstrung as we were, I can see Rove’s position: the only thing that was wanted, especially from 2006 onwards, was a successful conclusion to Iraq. Bush and team managed to accomplish that, but as the real problem was never addressed and all political activity had been exhausted on just getting to victory in Iraq, there was nothing left over, really, for the larger issue. Re-fighting the WMD issue would have been a waste of time – and, in fact, counter-productive. Of course, in reality, fighting the WMD issue the first time was a waste of time – and counter productive. We never should have bothered with such nonsense. We did it primarily because it was felt – incorrectly – that we needed a broad, international coalition and some sort of UN approval (and it was vital to get UN approval – or at least attempt to – in order to get Britain on board). We dithered around with that and got caught up in a side-show: whether or not Saddam had WMDs. Well, he did. And I remain convince that he had a lot more, but it was moved out of his territory by other, concerned actors during the period between our first demands and the many, many months which passed in trivial, useless action with the UN.

So, don’t fault Rove for silence on Iraqi WMDs – as a political operative, he was doing what was necessary to achieve a narrow, political goal: garner enough support to see us through to the end in Iraq. It wasn’t his job to set national policy – that was President Bush’s. Here is where I fault him – though, of course, partially with hindsight. While I’ve always felt that the reason for going into Iraq was for the larger, strategic necessity of changing the Middle East in a fundamental way, I did believe that if we could secure a reasonable regime in Iraq, we could provide an alternative to the Muslim people and they would cease to listen to the purveyors of hatred and war. I’m not so sure, today, that even if Obama had continued Bush’s policies in Iraq that this would have come to pass. It might have – and we certainly should have tried – but the more I see of radical Islam, the more convinced I become that only a really sound thrashing from one end of the Muslim world to the other will convince the Muslim people that they’d better get on board with stamping on the jihadists. This is not, by the way, because I think that most Muslims like the jihadists (I think most Muslims despise the beheaders and enslavers), but because I think that most Muslims are deathly afraid of the jihadists. And rightly so, as we’ve seen with the ISIS barbarians – our actions would be to show that if you sign on with us, we’ll be there for you as long as needed and we’ll ensure that the jihadists are never able to triumph.

We’ve pretty much lost the war right now. Iraq is a disaster, Syria is a disaster, Iran is triumphant and Afghanistan will go back to the Taliban within weeks of our withdrawal, from what I can see. The jihadists are strong and feeling stronger and the people of the Muslim world who don’t like the jihadists look out and see absolutely no one around the world who will come to their aid…so, they mostly just go along to get along and hope that not too many of their sons and daughters fall victim to the jihadists. We will, though, eventually have to get back into this war and win it – savagery like ISIS simply cannot be allowed to stand…and the longer we allow it to survive, the worse and more powerful it will get, and eventually those people will do something so horrible to us that we’ll have to act. And when that time comes, we have to treat the whole Muslim world as a unit, just as the jihadists do (they care nothing for the artificially created political boundaries within the Muslim world). We’ll have to go to war against the enemy where ever he is, and go after everyone who in any way, shape or form gives aid to the jihadists. But that is a war for another time – maybe even ten or twenty years from now. For now, the disaster is what it is – and what happened between 2004 and 2008 is what happened. No sense raking it over too much, or trying to assign blame for it all to Karl Rove. Mistakes were made; that we all know. Our job is to learn from them.

Obama’s Non-War

The usual course of action is that when the guns go off, we citizens are to rally ’round the flag and back our forces in the pursuit of victory. But that is a bit impossible right now – Obama and his Administration are telling us, over and over, that this isn’t a war. That we’ll be bombing the heck out of things and that lots of people will die horrific, violent deaths at our hands doesn’t count: per Obama and Co, war is only in existence is U.S. troops are on the ground doing the fighting.

So, no war – and thus no rallying ’round the flag. And even if we decided – correctly – that Obama and Co are just full of “stuff” and that this is a war so we’d better rally anyways, what would we be rallying for? Not for victory, because there can be no victory in this non-war. Its not like the enemy commander can offer to surrender to a drone. We’ll bomb a lot and kill a lot of people and this will help those who are fighting the people we’re bombing – and that, in turn, might lead others to victory. A Kurdish victory would be ok, as the Kurds seem a lot of very decent people – but it could also lead to Assad’s victory in Syria and Iran’s victory in Iraq; not exactly ideal outcomes for us. It could also lead to victory for non-ISIS, non-Assad forces in Syria, this might not work out well, either. Let’s just say I have my doubts about Administration assurances that they can pick the non-Islamist-screwball forces in Syria for us to back.

We can also get the worst of all worlds – we blow a lot of stuff up and kill a lot of people with attendant video showing what a bunch of hideous war criminals we are but after all that, Assad still rules his part of Syria, ISIS still rules vast tracts of Syria and Iraq and Iran has secured itself the part of Iraq it cares about (ie, Baghdad plus the oil fields). That sort of outcome is made doubly bad because if ISIS survives in any form, it will become the Islamist hero as it stood up to us, endured a pounding and emerged from the welter of slaughter with victory. Of course, all of this won’t fully come out until after Obama leaves office, so he probably doesn’t care in the least about it, even if he’s aware of the possibility.

This whole thing is the terribly bad decision of a man – Obama – who knows nothing of history, nothing of the world and yet sits assured that he’s the smartest guy in the room. I hope it works out – and I hope our losses are small. But the rule of thumb for war is that you either go all in, or stay all out. Our choices for ISIS were two:

1.  Go all out to war against them until they are all killed or taken, regardless of cost.

2.  Surrender to them and allow them to do as the wish.

Either course of action can have rational arguments to back them up. We have failed to choose between them – we’re just going to bomb a bit and hope for the best. I believe we will be disappointed – and maybe in a vastly worse geo-strategic situation two or three years from now.

UPDATE: Reeling from criticism about us not being at war, the Administration has decided we are at war with ISIS, just as we are against al-Qaeda. Meaning? I guess that six years from now ISIS will be around and a threat, just as al-Qaeda is still around and a threat after six years of Obama…

If You Really Want to Fight ISIS…

…then you’d better be willing to go to war. I mean real war. With two million American personnel over in the Middle East for a decade and a complete re-casting of Middle Eastern life under American rule for a long while.

As regular readers know, with Obama in the White House I have become a peacenik – all I am saying, is give peace a chance because I’m dead certain that any war Obama commands will be a lost war. But, maybe I’m wrong and Obama will turn into a regular Abraham Lincoln as war leader – and, so, let’s get to fighting, if that is what you want. After all, if ISIS isn’t worth fighting, then there’s never any cause to fight, ever.

But if we do this, then think about a few things. Don’t get upset about how long it takes: it will take a long time. Don’t get upset about harsh measures: harsh measures will be necessary. Don’t get upset about civilian deaths: civilians will die (especially as most of the people who would put up the stoutest fight are certain to use civilians as shields).  Think about what you want to accomplish: just to kill some ISIS guys, or to actually get to a general settlement of the Middle East?  Killing ISIS guys is fine; but just killing them won’t get rid of what created ISIS – which was not, by the way, Bush’s invasion of Iraq but a series of decisions of the past 1,000 years by the overall Muslim world as affected by various outside forces.

Resign yourself to a long, grinding, expensive fight among people who will alternately hate us or be resentful of us (with just maybe a few groups of people actually catching on that we’re helping them – these people will be invaluable to us). Or, just give it up and let things take their course.  Our choice. But let no one choose lightly. On either side is death and destruction – in a sense, there are no right answers to the problem.  There are a series of wrong answers, and we’d just be trying to find the least wrong thing to do, with a hope that we’ll eventually put things to right.