Its New Years and a time for reflection. I posted this in 2015 under the title “Should I Care?” – and it is still relevant.
Yesterday while browsing the “news” between college football games I saw the Huffpo headline: “Afghanistan Falling to Taliban!”
Seems the Taliban had taken the Afghan “city” of Kunduz and was immediately attacked by government forces trying to push them out. Apparently the U.S. joined in with air attacks against the “terrorists” – bombing and destroying a Doctors Without Borders hospital and killing doctors and patients indiscriminately.
Big help indeed.
We are in our 14th year in Afghanistan – a god-forsaken place if there ever was one.
I mulled over the headline and then said to myself – “Do I care?”
Should I care?
What does it matter to me if the Taliban returns to power in Afghanistan and bans listening to music? Did we expect a Jeffersonian democracy to emerge after we pushed them out? I wrote years ago that a non-Taliban Afghan President installed with our support was a dead man after we left.
Why should I care for one side or the other in an all-Afghan fight?
Our policies in the Middle-East have been absolutely stupifying commencing with the destruction of Iraq based on lies. Seems we wanted “regime change” no matter the cost.
Not too long ago the region had the likes of Saddam, Qadaffi, Assad, the monarchial Gulf states, the Saudis and of course, “revolutionary” Iran. Egypt has been under military dictatorship since Nasser. There was no ISIS.
The dictatorships, sectarian in nature, were based on the Fascist parties of old Europe – a strongman, secret police and oppression of any opposition – including religious zealots. Outwardly the dictators appeared more secular than religious.
The Saudi princes on the other hand run a theocracy as a family business as do the Gulf states. The guardians of the holy places have been allied with the Wahabists since taking power and among the Wahabists are Salafists, who believe that the golden age was the 8th century.
The Iranian “revolution” is also a theocracy created after the students and mullahs overthrew the demi-fascist Shah who had been installed by the west. The Iranian theocracy however is Shia; the Shia and Sunni branches of Islam have been fighting for fourteen hundred years.
Let us not forget that when Saddam went to war with the Iranian mullahs, resulting in 1.6 million dead including tens of thousands of boy soldiers, we sided with Saddam. Then we sided with the mullahs, offering secret arms as a way to get the hostages released and to fund the Nicaraguan Contras.
After the attack on 9/11 (predominantly by Saudi nationals), we first attack Afghanistan and then attack Saddam, In toppling Saddam we removed the boot he kept on the necks of Sadrists, Sunni and Kurds. Saddam, while certainly a bastard, was the glue that held the “nation” of Iraq together.
Today, after spending trillions, Iraqis can’t fight their way out of a paper bag with vast sections of the country now controlled by Sunni/Salafist, ISIS militants. The Shia are supported by Iran and ISIS is supported by our “ally” the Saudi princes and Gulf states.
I won’t bother writing about Libya – it no longer has a central government worthy of the name. Add it to the list of failed states; the west is responsible for it’s failure.
That the war in Syria is sectarian was obvious almost from the start, despite the credulous belief that Bashar Assad ran a nonsectarian regime. That a sectarian ruling minority fighting for its life would not fold easily was obvious within months, despite happy guarantees that the regime’s downfall would come within weeks. That a sectarian war in Syria would stir similar religious furies in Iraq and Lebanon was obvious more than 3 years ago, despite wishful administration thinking that staying out of Syria would contain the war to Syria alone.
What should be obvious today is that we are at the dawn of a much wider Shiite-Sunni war, the one that nearly materialized in Iraq in 2006 but didn’t because the U.S. was there, militarily and diplomatically, to stop it. But now the U.S. isn’t there. What’s left to figure out is whether this mega-war isn’t, from a Western point of view, a very good thing or a very bad thing.
Of course it isn’t just Islamist radicals of one stripe or another who are dying in Syria, but also little children and aging grandparents and every other innocent and helpless bystander to the butchery.
In Syria it seems we are opposed to all sides – we don’t want ISIS, we don’t want Assad, we don’t want the Russians or the Iranians. Our position is almost laughable except it’s not funny.
We want “democratic moderates” – except there aren’t any.
Russian support means Assad is going to hang on to power. Our Saudi allies meanwhile continue to support ISIS (whom we are bombing) while Iran supports Iraqi Shia (whom we covertly support while the Saudis oppose) against ISIS on Iraqi territory, thus far without much success.
So I again ask myself the question – do I care?
There are many voices out there that rail that America has not done enough.
“It’s tempting to rejoin that Syria is small and faraway, and that if Vladimir Putin or Iran’s Ayatollah Khamenei want to play in the Syrian dung heap they’re welcome to it. But these guys aren’t dupes getting fleeced at a Damascene carpet shop. They are geopolitical entrepreneurs who sense an opportunity in the wake of America’s retreat.” The quote appeared in the Wall Street Journal in 2013.
Yet if Mr. Obama were to move against Assad today, the odds of success would be far longer. He would be going against an emboldened and winning despot, backed by Russia. And he would be abetting a fractured insurgency, increasingly dominated by radicals answering the call of jihad. The administration has gone from choosing not to take action to having no choice but to remain passive.
On the other hand, I no longer know anyone in the military – none of my children, nieces, nephews, their children faces conscription. None of my friends have children or grand children in the military. And Congress will not pass a “war tax”.
So should I give a rat’s ass about Syria or Iraq?
The rest of America doesn’t seem to – because war is no long personal. War is for other people. War is for those who volunteer. Your kid currently has a better chance of being killed at school or at the movies than by a bonafide terrorist.
Ask yourself how you would feel if your son or daughter was drafted and this country took a side on a faraway battlefield in this mess. If your kid faced conscription, three months at Fort Leonard Wood and then 12 months fighting ISIS, Assad, jihadists, Iranians or whoever in Syria or Iraq? If your kid hadn’t volunteered.
War is now for those people from military families (Dad was an Admiral) and poor kids from the rust belt with high school degrees and no prospects. It’s not for my kids or the kids of Congressmen and Senators and movie stars. War is not for the people with money, the one percent. Nope. It’s kind of like hiring the Hessians.
If you support U.S. intervention, with boots on the ground, then you should support re-instating conscription. How quickly the parents of millennials would be out in the streets demanding a negotiated peace.
Otherwise you’re just another chicken hawk – all for war so long as someone else has to fight and die in it while you make up a spin of how they died for freedom, when they actually died for nothing.