Summary: We’re off to war in yet another nation. Little Syria has suddenly become a nation whose fate can shake the foundations of the United States. Rather than again dissect the mad arguments of the hawks, let’s step back to see the larger pattern at work. After all, our opinions on the war matter not at all to our ruling elites. These significance of these events lies only in their ability to show that our leaders are incompetent, that we can no longer see the world through the fog of propaganda, and as a result we have lost control of the Republic.
It might take a century or more, but future historians will devise a catchy name for the US interventions in Afghanistan (1979 – now), Iraq (1990-2011), Libya (2011), and Syria (2013) — our bipartisan policy of overthrowing secular regimes, replaced by Islamic regimes — with dubious results for their people and the US. It is a coherent but mad policy, with several characteristics.
- No clear plan; we rely on our awesomeness for success
- Ignorance or indifference to the historical record of the target nation
- Ignorance or indifference to the past failures of the methods used
- Indifference to the fate of women in the target nation
(1) No clear plan
Imitating the plan of Imperial Japan in WW2: our awesomeness will produce success.
Our lavishly funded foreign policy apparatus (mostly military), with its middle and senior managers stocked with people holding advanced degrees (at the higher levels, mostly from elite universities), seem unable to form a first-year B-school level plan for our interventions. Goals, entry, execution, exit, follow-up. That’s obvious in the histories published about the Afghan War. It was obvious at the time in the post-9-11 interventions. Such questions were asked in the general media, but our confident elites blew them off with in effect instructions to “trust us”.
Despite repeated failures, we do. Again and again. This time they’re scarcely bothering to give coherent stories to build support for this war. They’re just ringing the bell, knowing we’ll respond. WMDs! Iran! Overthrow tyrants!
See the posts at the end about the Libyan War for examples of ignored warnings and daft propaganda.
(2) Ignorance or indifference to the historical record of the target nation
All these nations were weakly held together, with deep ethnic (and religious in Iraq, Libya, and Syria) divisions. All had traumatic experiences with colonial aggression, with ours seen as just another chapter. Experts warned about the risk of prolonged instability, but were ignored.
(3) Ignorance or indifference to the past failures of the methods used
The history of foreign military interventions against insurgencies is one of almost total failure (see the posts at the end). This obvious fact was denied until recently, when the failures in Iraq and Afghanistan made it politically acceptable to admit. Like the scientists at Lilliput, we can only see what’s before us after we’re slapped in the face.
(4) Indifference to the fate of women in the target nation
Feminists in America vigorously debate the effect on America of Taylor Swift. Is she a feminist, closet feminist, or counter-revolutionary pawn? Feminists (with a few exceptions) appear indifferent to the horrific effect of America’s military interventions on women in the target nations.
Nothing shows the madness of early 21st century American foreign policy than, despite this history, protecting women was given as a reason to continue intervening in Afghanistan (after our first intervention tossed them into the hands of fundamentalist Islam). No matter how crazy the reason for foreign wars, Americans applaud. Future historians will wonder if it was something in our water.
- We destroy a secular regime in Afghanistan (& its women’s rights), then we wage war on the new regime to restore women’s rights. Welcome to the American Empire., 12 November 2009
- Today’s propaganda: we must fight in Afghanistan to help its women, 10 August 2010
- About our sudden concern for Afghanistan’s women (& the desperate search for a reason to fight), 12 August 2010
- Subjugation of women anywhere threatens US national security!, 16 August 2010
For More Information
About the Syria intervention:
- “The Weaponization of Human Rights“, Chase Madar, The American Conservative, 1 September 2009
- “The dearth of strategy on Syria“, Stephen M. Walt (Prof International Relations, Harvard), Foreign Policy, 21 March 2013
- “Patrick Cockburn on the war in Syria“, London Review of Books, 6 June 2013 — “Is it the end of Sykes-Picot?”
- “Cynicism, realism, and Syria“, Justin Logan (Director of foreign policy at CATO), Foreign Policy, 14 June 2013
- “Stay Out of Syria!“, David Bromwich (Prof, Yale), New York Review of Books, 20 June 2013
Posts about the Libyan War
- Libya’s people need uninvited infidel foreigners to save them!, 1 March 2011
- “You just have not seen enough people bleed to death”, 8 March 2011
- About attacking Libya – let’s give this more thought than we did Afghanistan and Iraq, 6 March 2009
- Our geopolitical experts see the world with the innocent eyes of children (that’s a bad thing), 14 March 2011
- A war monger review, looking at the articles advocating a US war with Libya, 22 March 2011
- Who are we helping in Libya? Here are some answers., 27 March 2011
- In America, both Left and Right love the long war, 30 March 2011
- Why the Libyan War is important to us – and to our children, 9 April 2011
- A status report on our intervention in Libya. Historians will find this farce fascinating., 17 April 2011
- A child-like credulity is required to be a US geopolitical expert, 25 April 2011
- Important information about Libya hidden behind the veil of the US news media, 1 September 2011
The history of COIN:
- More paths to failure in Iraq, 16 December 2006 — Myths about COIN in Iraq
- How often do insurgents win? How much time does successful COIN require?, 29 May 2008
- Max Boot: history suggests we will win in Afghanistan, with better than 50-50 odds. Here’s the real story., 21 June 2010 — Boot discusses 7 alleged victories by foreign armies fighting insurgencies.
- A major discovery! It could change the course of US geopolitical strategy, if we’d only see it, 28 June 2010 — Andrew Exum (aka Abu Muqawama) points us to the doctoral dissertation of Erin Marie Simpson in Political Science from Harvard. She examines the present and past analysis of counter-insurgency. This could change the course of American foreign policy, if we pay attention.
- A look at the history of victories over insurgents, 30 June 2010
- COINistas point to Kenya as a COIN success. In fact it was an expensive bloody failure., 7 August 2012