Banging the drums


The rolling thunder of the drums is deafening, the MSM is fixated on the solution without acknowledging any of the causes, while the politicians and talking head commentators are urging America to get Rambo’ed up for War, and while the useful idiots are demanding we put “boots on the ground” in Iraq and Syria to defeat ISIS. But where are the strategic thinkers who could easily make the case against any such action? Why don’t we hear the strings and woodwinds, only the percussion section?

President Obama made one element of the case in his address to the Nation on Sun, Dec. 6th, 2015:

“Finally if Congress believes, as I do, that we are at war with ISIL, it should go ahead and vote to authorize the continued use of military force against these terrorists. For over a year, I have ordered our military to take thousands of air strikes against ISIL targets. I think it’s time for Congress to vote to demonstrate that the American people are united and committed to this fight.”

If you read his remark, and related backstory carefully you will note that the current U.S. “War Against ISIS” is illegal, and unconstitutional.

According to Article I, section Eight of the US Constitution, only Congress has the power to declare war, not the executive branch, and under the War Powers Act passed after the Vietnam war, Congress must authorize war 90 days after any combat missions begin. 

President Obama also attempted to insert some much needed perspective on War with ISIS in that address when he said:

 “Let me now say a word about what we should not do. We should not be drawn once more into a long and costly ground war in Iraq or Syria.  That’s what groups like ISIL want. They know they can’t defeat us on the battlefield.  ISIL fighters were part of the insurgency that we faced in Iraq.  But they also know that if we occupy foreign lands, they can maintain insurgencies for years, killing thousands of our troops, draining our resources, and using our presence to draw new recruits.”

Another element of the case was made by Eliot A. Cohen who characterized the conflict against ISIS as the early stage of “World War IV”.  In an article written by Andrew J. Bacevich, the ramifications of such a generational war envisioned by Cohen would change America dramatically. Bacevich wrote:

The pretense that either dropping a few more bombs or invading one or two more countries will yield a conclusive outcome amounts to more than an evasion. It is an outright lie. Cohen believes that we have no alternative. Either we get serious about fighting World War IV the way it needs to be fought or darkness will envelop the land. 

Cohen is undeterred by the evidence that the more deeply we insert our soldiers into the Greater Middle East the more concerted the resistance they face; that the more militants we kill the more we seem to create; that the inevitable, if unintended, killing of innocents only serves to strengthen the hand of the extremists. As he sees it, with everything we believe in riding on the outcome, we have no choice but to press on.

Professor Bacevich echoes an astonishing absurdity: “Arguing that no alternative exists to open-ended war represents not hard-nosed realism, but the abdication of statecraft”

…and reason. 

He sums up the article thusly:

“For a rich and powerful nation to conclude that it has no choice but to engage in quasi-permanent armed conflict in the far reaches of the planet represents the height of folly. Power confers choice. As citizens, we must resist with all our might arguments that deny the existence of choice. Whether advanced forthrightly by Cohen or fecklessly by the militarily ignorant, such claims will only perpetuate the folly that has already lasted far too long.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders made another element perfectly clear on Nov. 19th, 2015 during a speech at Georgetown University:

“To my mind, it is clear that the United States must pursue policies to destroy the brutal and barbaric ISIS regime, and to create conditions that prevent fanatical extremist ideologies from flourishing. But we cannot – and should not – do it alone.

Our response must begin with an understanding of past mistakes and missteps in our previous approaches to foreign policy. It begins with the acknowledgment that unilateral military action should be a last resort, not a first resort, and that ill-conceived military decisions, such as the invasion of Iraq, can wreak far-reaching devastation and destabilize entire regions for decades.

But let’s be very clear. While the U.S. and other western nations have the strength of our militaries and political systems, the fight against ISIS is a struggle for the soul of Islam, and countering violent extremism and destroying ISIS must be done primarily by Muslim nations – with the strong support of their global partners.

What does all of this mean? Well, it means that, in many cases, we must ask more from those in the region. While Jordan, Turkey, Egypt, and Lebanon have accepted their responsibilities for taking in Syrian refugees, other countries in the region have done nothing or very little.

Equally important, and this is a point that must be made – countries in the region like Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, UAE – countries of enormous wealth and resources – have contributed far too little in the fight against ISIS. That must change. King Abdallah is absolutely right when he says that that the Muslim nations must lead the fight against ISIS, and that includes some of the most wealthy and powerful nations in the region, who, up to this point have done far too little.

Saudi Arabia has the 3rd largest defense budget in the world, yet instead of fighting ISIS they have focused more on a campaign to oust Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen. Kuwait, a country whose ruling family was restored to power by U.S. troops after the first Gulf War, has been a well-known source of financing for ISIS and other violent extremists. It has been reported that Qatar will spend $200 billion on the 2022 World Cup, including the construction of an enormous number of facilities to host that event – $200 billion on hosting a soccer event, yet very little to fight against ISIS. Worse still, it has been widely reported that the government has not been vigilant in stemming the flow of terrorist financing, and that Qatari individuals and organizations funnel money to some of the most extreme terrorist groups, including al Nusra and ISIS.

All of this has got to change. Wealthy and powerful Muslim nations in the region can no longer sit on the sidelines and expect the United States to do their work for them. As we develop a strongly coordinated effort, we need a commitment from these countries that the fight against ISIS takes precedence over the religious and ideological differences that hamper the kind of cooperation that we desperately need. We need a commitment that they will counter the violent rhetoric that fuels terrorism – rhetoric that often occurs within their very borders.”

This element, of requiring a sustained collaborative effort against violent extremism, especially by Nations in the region, as stated by Sen. Sanders, receives little attention from the Main Street Media, yet is so obvious as to be considered common knowledge. 

In her book: “This changes everything:Capitalism vs.The Climate“, Naomi Klein points to another element: Climate change, fossil fuel dependence, and naked capitalism should pull out yet another girder from the war mongering.

 “Any attempt to rise to the climate challenge will be fruitless unless it is understood as part of a much broader battle of worldviews,” Klein writes. “Our economic system and our planetary system are now at war.”

Klein details a historically refined exposé of “capitalism’s drift toward monopoly,” of “corporate interests intent on capturing and radically shrinking the public sphere,” and of “the disaster capitalists who use crises to end-run around democracy.” But even more to the point, the resources expended in this proposed War against Islamic terrorists will limit America’s necessary migration away from fossil fuels as a primary energy source. America has thrown away at least two trillion dollars on the misadventures in Afghanistan and Iraq, while other countries like Germany, China, Japan, and Denmark have invested heavily in alternative energy sources. While America manufactures bombs, Japan builds bullet-trains, China builds artificial islands, massive dams, and a 21st Century infrastructure.

And finally, as anyone who understand the notion: “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” should understand, by positioning America at the center of the effort against ISIS we make ourselves a prime target, not only for retribution, but also for condemnation from failures to obtain objectives.

In blunt terms we need to put the onus on Nations in the region to address ISIS; we need to wean ourselves from a dependence on fossil fuel energy and rapidly migrate to renewables; we need to curtail our penchant for militarizing every dysfunctional component in other countries and our own; we need to reconfigure our macro-economic system to serve all citizens; we need to find solutions to pressing national problems that have festered for decades; and we need to replenish the resources of our country and its people for the long haul.

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