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“While In The Neighborhood, Why Not Iran Too”: Republicans Hankering For Ground War Against ISIS. What Could Go Wrong?

It’s been an entire 12 years since we started a war, and apparently the American people are getting a little antsy. A new Quinnipiac poll finds that 62 percent of Americans, including 72 percent of Republicans, favors the use of ground troops to fight ISIS in Iraq and Syria. We should be careful about over-interpreting that, because the question was preceded by another question talking about limited, but not long-term operations for ground troops. But there’s no doubt that the public’s interest in getting some boots back on the ground is gaining momentum; in Pew polls, support for ground troops went up from 39 percent in October to 47 percent in February; in the same poll, 67 percent of Republicans said they supported ground troops.

The reason I focus on the number of Republicans is that I suspect with this increase in support from their constituents, we’re going to hear more and more Republican politicians coming out for what we might call a re-invasion of Iraq, and not just Iraq but Syria, as well. And as long as we’re in the neighborhood, how about some military action against Iran?

Iran is, of course, a separate story. But it isn’t unrelated; once people start advocating a third Iraq war with more vigor than they have been up until now, the idea of bombing Iran won’t seem so outlandish. Back in 2002, when the Bush administration was in the midst of its campaign to convince the public that invading Iraq was necessary lest we all be obliterated by Saddam Hussein’s fearsome arsenal of weapons of mass destruction, a British official described the sentiment among the Bush administration and its allies this way: “Everyone wants to go to Baghdad. Real men want to go to Tehran.”

It wasn’t long ago that the idea of sending ground troops back to the Middle East was widely considered just short of insane. After all, we’d finally gotten out of Iraq, after spending $2 trillion, losing 4,000 American lives, and sending the region into chaos. Why would we want to do it all over again? But now, the idea of doing it all over again seems to be gaining traction.

Just after the end of the first Iraq war, George H. W. Bush closed a celebratory speech by saying: “It’s a proud day for America. And, by God, we’ve kicked the Vietnam syndrome once and for all.” That syndrome was the reluctance of the public (and military leaders) to countenance enormous military adventures in far-off lands in service of vaguely defined goals. So it may now be time to say that the “Iraq syndrome” is dead, if ever it existed.

At the moment, when the Republicans running for president are asked about whether they’d like to send troops to any of these countries, they inevitably reply that “all options should be on the table.” It’s essentially a dodge, though not a completely unreasonable one. They want to signal to conservatives that they’re ready to use force, but signal to everyone else that they’re not eager to do so. But try to imagine what would happen if a Republican wins the presidency next year.

If ISIS isn’t completely defeated, he’ll be under pressure from his supporters to go in there and get the job done, and not in a wimpy way like Obama. Then think about Iran. With Bibi Netanyahu writing their talking points, Republicans will now insist that any nuclear agreement negotiated by this president is by definition weak and dangerous. The very fact of an agreement limiting Iran’s nuclear activities can be the justification for military action. If the talks break down, on the other hand, well that just makes starting a bombing campaign all the more urgent. And of course, they’ll assure us that once we take out the Iranian nuclear program, the people will rise up and overthrow their oppressive government.

It’s all going to sound quite familiar. War will once again be presented as the only way to prevent a bigger, worse war that they insist is coming no matter what. Don’t forget that the Iraq War was offered up by the Bush administration as a pre-emptive strike to prevent the inevitable and not-too-distant moment when Saddam Hussein would launch his war against the United States. While they never said whether the Iraq invasion would come by land, sea, or air, the attack was coming one way or another. In Dick Cheney’s immortal words: “Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction. There is no doubt he is amassing them to use against our friends, against our allies, and against us.”

Netanyahu says that the Iranian regime is just a bunch of homicidal lunatics who are determined to re-enact the Holocaust. There’s no use negotiating with them, because they’re mad. War is the only way to solve the problem. Anyone who saw the way Republicans were like tweens at a One Direction concert at Netanyahu’s speech on Tuesday know that if he says it, they’ll believe it.

So here’s what I think is going to happen. First, the idea that we need to put troops in to fight ISIS—not on the table, but on the ground—is very quickly going to become something that all Republicans agree on (and if you’re going to do it, do it big—no half-assed mobilization of a few thousand, but a massive deployment). Then they’ll start talking seriously about military action against Iran, sooner rather than later, and that too is going to move rapidly from being a fringe idea, to something that many of them admit should be “on the table,” to something they all agree ought to be done. And by God, we’ll have kicked that Iraq syndrome once and for all.


By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect, March 6, 2015

March 10, 2015 Posted by | Middle East, Republicans, War Hawks | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Obama’s Iraq Is Not Bush’s Iraq”: Plainly And Simply, Obama Didn’t Lie Us Into This War

Last week, a Politico reporter phoned me to ascertain my thoughts on the new war. Among the questions: Was there concern among liberals that Barack Obama was in some sense now becoming George Bush, and did I see similarities between the current war and Bush’s Iraq war that, come on, be honest, made me squirm in my seat ever so slightly? My answer ended up on the cutting-room floor, as many answers given to reporters do.

But since I’m fortunate enough to have a column, I’d like to broadcast it now, because the answer is a reverberating no. In fact it’s hard for me to imagine how the differences between the two actions could be starker. This is not to say that they might not end up in the same place—creating more problems than they solve. But in moral terms, this war is nothing like that war, and if this war doesn’t end up like Bush’s and somehow actually solves more problems than it creates, that will happen precisely because of the moral differences.

The first and most important difference, plainly and simply: Obama didn’t lie us into this war. It’s worth emphasizing this point, I think, during this week when Obama is at the United Nations trying to redouble international support to fight ISIS, and as we think back on Colin Powell’s infamous February 2003 snow job to Security Council. Obama didn’t tell us any nightmarish fairy tales about weapons of mass destruction that had already been destroyed or never existed. He didn’t trot his loyalists out there to tell fantastical stories about smoking guns and mushroom clouds.

The evidence for the nature of the threat posed by the Islamic State is, in contrast, as non-fabricated as evidence can be and was handed right to us by ISIS itself: the beheading videos, and spokesmen’s own statements from recruitment videos about the group’s goal being the establishment of a reactionary fundamentalist state over Iraq, Syria, Jordan, and Lebanon. That’s all quite real.

Difference number two: This war doesn’t involve 140,000 ground troops. That’s not just a debating point. It’s a massive, real-world difference. I know some of you are saying, well, not yet, anyway. Time could prove you right. But if this works more or less as planned, it establishes a new model for fighting terrorism in the Middle East—the United States and Arab nations and fighting forces working together to do battle against terrorism. That’s kind of a huge deal.

Which leads us to difference number three: This coalition, while still in its infancy, could in the end be a far more meaningful coalition than Bush’s. The Bush coalition was an ad hoc assemblage bribed or browbeaten into backing the United States’ immediate geopolitical aims. It was brought together pretty much so Bush could deflect the essentially true unilateralist charge and stand up there and say “41 countries have joined together” blah blah blah.

This coalition is smaller, but the important point is that it’s not built around a goal that is in the interest only of the United States. Defeating the Islamic State is a genuine priority for the region, and the idea that these gulf states that have been winking at or backing violent extremism for years might actually work with the United States of America (!) to fight it is little short of amazing. I’m not saying Obama deserves the credit here, although it seems clear he and others in the administration have worked hard on this point. Rather, the fact is that the Saudis and the Emiratis and others are now doing, however reluctantly, what it’s in their self-interest to do.

Whatever their motivation, the mere fact that they’re signing up for the fight is striking. One should never be optimistic about the Middle East, but if we look at the situation with a little more historical sweep, we can hope that this could be the moment when, after many years of letting these cancers spread, some key players in the Arab world start to try to get their own house in order a little bit with respect to extremism. And if they do that, maybe in the near future some of these regimes will start to see that the darkness in which they make their subjects live has to be lifted.

The irony is not lost on me that Saudi Arabia, our most crucial partner here, may well have beheaded more humans this year (46 so far) than ISIS has. But if these autarkies really do work to arrest the Islamic State, maybe they’ll eventually see that the only real way to make extremism seem unappealing is to make moderation—well-functioning economies, a little free speech, maybe an unrigged election now and again—seem appealing.

There are many ways that what started in Syria Monday night can go wrong. I really don’t think Bashar al-Assad shooting down a U.S. plane is one of them; I suspect Assad knows exactly how long it would take for the United States to decimate his entire air-defense system, and I bet the answer is “not very long.” However, ISIS could shoot one down. What happens to public opinion when there’s an American death, or two? When the Iraq army, even with the benefit of 200 U.S. airstrikes, can’t retake any ground, as appears to be happening now? And what would Congress do in the event of such realities? At the very least Obama does have to get congressional assent in the near future.

So this war could end up being the disaster critics are predicting. But already, it’s not some other things. It’s not a morally dubious hegemonic enterprise built on a pile of lies. That may or may not give it a better chance of success, but at least it means we don’t have to be ashamed of what our country is doing.


By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, September 24, 2014

September 25, 2014 Posted by | Foreign Policy, Iraq War, ISIS | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Busted!”: McCain And Graham Were Dead Set Against Boots On Ground Before Insisting On U.S. Ground Troops To Fight ISIL

Some excellent recall and reporting from both Steve Benen and Amanda Terkel who remind us that it was just a few short months ago that “The Boobsey Twins”—John McCain and his BFF Linsey Graham—insisted that neither would be in favor of sending American ground troops to the fight against ISIL.

That, of course, was before the two decided to do a 180 on their positions, arguing that President Obama has, yet again, given away the store and endangered the very existence of his countrymen by embarking on a policy of no American boots in the war against the Islamic State.

Yesterday, Senator McCain rose to speak on the floor of the United States Senate where, in his now trademarked brand of righteous indignation, the Senator asked, “Why does the president insist on continuing to tell the enemy what he will not do? Why does the president keep telling the people that are slaughtering thousands, ‘Don’t worry, we will not commit ground troops’?”

I don’t know, Senator McCain—but it might just have something to do with your advice, given just three months ago, wherein you argued that boots on the ground was not an appropriate strategy for the President to pursue.

On June 13th, during an appearance on “Andrea Mitchell Reports”, Senator McCain said,

“I think you have to explain to the American people what kind of a threat that an ISIS takeover of Iraq would pose to the United States of America. Can you imagine a caliphate or a center of violent Muslim extremism dedicated to attacking the United States, the consequences of that? That has to be explained to the American people.”

The Senator continued, “I do not envision a scenario where ground combat troops are on the ground…. I would not commit to putting Americans boots on the ground.” (Watch the video.)

Not one to let down his side of the partnership, recall Senator Lindsey Graham’s meltdown on Fox News this past Sunday, as discussed in my article, “How Lindsey Graham Succumbed To The Tactics Of Terror And Embarrassed His Nation” where Graham argued that it would require a United States fielded army to defeat the ISIL army.  Senator Graham’s problem, in addition to his concern that we are all going to die here at home if we don’t take the war on the ground to ISIL, is his belief that the President is “outsourcing” our security to regional ground troops when we should be doing it ourselves.

And yet, on June 10th of this year—just three days before McCain’s appearance with Andrea Mitchell—Senator Graham informed a Fox audience that, “I don’t think we need boots on the ground. I don’t think that is an option worth consideration.”

So, what has happened between the Boobsey Twins position in June and their conversion as set out this week?

Could it be the gruesome beheadings performed by the brutal and sadistic ISIL troops?

Not likely. While these actions may have mobilized and strengthened the American public’s desire to take military action against ISIL, these horrible events have absolutely no impact on the military strategy to be employed in the battle.

There is but one thing that has changed in the months that brought about the conversion of McCain and Graham—Barack Obama agreed with their strategy put forth by McCain and Graham.


Apparently, when The Boobsey Twins formulated their initial approach/attack, they failed to consider the possibility that Obama might just see it their way, take their advice, and make it clear that American ground troops were not to be a part of the plan.

While it would be disingenuous on my part to suggest that I am shocked and awed by yet another stark turnaround by McCain and Graham, one cannot help but wonder exactly what it takes for the public to realize that these two are playing us for suckers and have little concern for anything beyond their own standing and political influence—even if it is to the detriment of their country.

Shameful…really, really shameful.


By: Rick Ungar, Op-Ed Contributor, The Policy Page, Forbes, September 19, 2014

September 20, 2014 Posted by | ISIS, John McCain, Lindsey Graham | , , , , | Leave a comment


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