The Right urges us to blame Obama & directly fight ISIS. Will we repeat our mistakes?

Summary:  As ISIS (grandly calling itself the “Islamic State”) expands, the Right blames Obama and calls for more direct military involvement by America. Their arguments rely on our amnesia about the past and delusions about the nature of modern war. Learning from experience is a vital skill for a nation hoping to navigate the rapids of 21st C geopolitics; so far we refuse to even try.  (2nd of 2 posts today.)

“They have learned nothing, and forgotten nothing.”
— French naval officer Charles Louis Etienne in a 1796 letter to Mallet du Pan.

Let's make a choice!

Our grandchildren will marvel at the obtuseness of our foreign policy. Future generations of historians will discuss the causes of our inability to learn from experience in our post-9/11 wars. Not only do we appear determined to repeat painful mistakes, we continue to take advice from the people who guided us into these failed wars — ignoring the clear lessons of post-WWII history — rather the people whose warnings proved prophetic.

Can any nation, no matter how rich and power, survive such a combination of amnesia, blindness, and arrogance?

The fall of Ramadi was avoidable” by Kimberly Kagan and Frederick W. Kagan, op-ed in the Washington Post, 18 May 2015. She is president of the Institute for the Study of War. He is a Director at the American Enterprise Institute. Despite being consistently wrong, our wars have been good for them — although not so good for America, for our troops that fight them, and for the nations we seek to help.

Learning From Mistakes” by David Brooks, column in the New York Times, may 2015. Our wars promoted Brooks from neocon hack at the Weekly Standard to mainstream respectability at the NYT. Simon Maloy at Salon eviscerated Brooks’ “learning” in “David Brooks’ sickening Iraq apologia“. “How the New York Times hack just rewrote history. The conservative New York Times columnist explains what he’s learned from his Iraq war boosting: largely nothing.”

Lessons learned tombstone

Yesterday New Jersey Governor Chris Christie gave a major speech about foreign policy. It mixes fiction, delusions, and fallacious reasoning in equal portions, a cookbook recipe for national decline.  At the American Conservative Daniel Larison dissects this rotting corpse: “Christie’s Awful, Dishonest Foreign Policy Speech“.

For those who like straightforward Right-wing propaganda I recommend “The US Lost 1,335 Soldiers in Anbar – ISIS Just Took it Back. Thanks Obama” by Jim Hoft at Gateway Pundit. The well-informed will agree with his implied praise of Obama, considering it possible that Obama could re-negotiate the Status of Forces Agreement negotiated and signed by Bush Jr. — that required full withdrawal of US combat troops from Iraq by 31 December 2011. Uninformed readers will take this nonsense seriously…

By 2008, thanks to the successful Bush Troop Surge in Iraq, the insurgents had been marginalized in Anbar. With insurgents “on the run” in western Anbar province, the US was able to draw down forces in area. But that all changed in 2011 when Barack Obama withdrew all US troops from Iraq. By 2014 ISIS had retaken Fallujah, Abu Ghraib, and more recently Ramadi.

Colonel Blimp's Foreign Policy

Why we repeat mistakes

You cannot make the same mistake twice. The second time it’s a choice.

Sixty years of failures by so many nations should have taught us that foreign armies almost always lose when taking the lead role fighting local insurgents (details here). Why hasn’t it?

The military’s FAILure to learn was explained by Upton Sinclair in 1935: “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!” Our massive spending on military and intel since the Reagan years has produced a legion of lavishly paid warmongerers (personally profiting from war), always eager to shill for the next conflict — however daft.

Journalists’ credulity, even eagerness to be fooled might have the same roots as Democratic politicians; eagerness for war (e.g., Hillary): sometime during the past generation advocacy for war has become a sign of good character — strength of will, vision, etc. Advocacy of peace has become almost self-disqualifying as a public policy expert.

It’s not that we’ve learned the “lesson of Munich”; rather we have forgotten all other lessons about foreign policy. We have become monomaniacs afflicted with an idée fixe: it’s always 1938; our rivals are always like NAZI Germany. We need therapy. If we continue on this belligerent path we should expect that Nature’s God invoked in the Declaration of Independence to provide effective treatment. I doubt we’ll enjoy it.

For More Information

If you liked this post, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. See other posts about our warmongerers…

  1. What is a warmonger? Who are the warmongers?
  2. A warmonger review, looking at the articles advocating a US war with Libya.
  3. Our geopolitical experts, like Max Boot, lead America into the dark.
  4. America’s hawks sing a song of national decline.
  5. After 13 years of failed wars, do we know our warmongers?

One form of exceptionalism

Mistakes

17 thoughts on “The Right urges us to blame Obama & directly fight ISIS. Will we repeat our mistakes?

  1. I ask all of you to introspect and think what ISIS, however bad, bad and very bad they are, are doing better than you. understanding is the first condition to attempt solution. So, tell me guys, what if anything ISIS does that we should learn from?

  2. OH MY GOD> David Brooks as neocon hack., how accurate and he gets on TV, also. And Chris Christie who knows nothing about FP and should focus on Bridge Traffic.
    The problem is the people who read, few and far in number, will read all the Pro “GWOT” diatribes coming from the folks who make money off the efforts of somebody who is really exposed and those we kill.This is about Killing.
    Lotsa great links here, and this:
    “…Journalists’ credulity, even eagerness to be fooled might have the same roots as Democratic politicians; eagerness for war (e.g., Hillary): sometime during the past generation advocacy for war has become a sign of good character — strength of will, vision, etc. Advocacy of peace has become almost self-disqualifying as a public policy expert.”

    As usual
    Thanks

    1. I can’t help but think about Hearst and the Spanish American war. It seems too facile, but is it possible that the media have an implicit pro- war bias just because it sells newspapers?

    2. Gzuckier,

      I think journalists have an interest in stories that resonate with readers. During the Vietnam War they were pro-war until they were against it.

      The change here is their willingness to burn their credibility for the sake of the government. Polls and their revenue suggest this is unwise, however good it feels now.

  3. Fabius Maximus,

    Well said.
    “It’s not that we’ve learned the “lesson of Munich”; rather we have forgotten all other lessons about foreign policy. We have become monomaniacs afflicted with an idée fixe: it’s always 1938; our rivals are always like NAZI Germany. We need therapy. If we continue on this belligerent path we should expect that Nature’s God invoked in the Declaration of Independence to provide effective treatment. I doubt we’ll enjoy it.”
    There are a lot of enablers here that will turn the other way when the tide turns. Too bad we seem unable and our friends unwilling to stage an intervention.

    PF Khans

  4. “These posts are public service announcements. They get very few hits. People don’t care.”

    I think it’s a very good post. But if you’re in this for hits, I suggest photos of kittens or Kim Kardashian’s rear end.

  5. “Can any nation, no matter how rich and power, survive such a combination of amnesia, blindness, and arrogance?”

    Geopolitics is kind to american style aero-naval hegemony. Just look at how easily non entities like Nuland & Co could push Russia into a lose-lose scenario over Ukraine despite non trivial efforts to the contrary by the russians or how the chinese have already scared away nearly all of their neighbors with just a modest amount of nationalist shit stirring.

    Americans could turn playing soccer with the severed heads of prisoners into the national sport and some people would still beg them to come and help them to screw their neighbors in exchange for bases and extra warm bodies for patrolling some ‘stan. Amazing, really.

    ISIS is a nuisance, unless or until it can undermine Saudi. But so far I cannot find anybody in the open who is willing and able to assess that with some confidence.

    “The change here is their willingness to burn their credibility for the sake of the government. Polls and their revenue suggest this is unwise, however good it feels now.”

    At this stage in the game it is just common sense for a journalist to suck up to government on hot issues, bar perhaps those in which D-R rivalry might make worthwhile choosing a side. Professional survival now, personal survival some years down the road.

    1. Marcello,

      “At this stage in the game it is just common sense for a journalist to suck up to government on hot issues …Professional survival now,’

      Yes, it works over the short-term for individuals. Selling one’s credibility always looks smart over the short-term. But the public’s confidence has dropped — and their willingness to pay for news along with it. The layoffs have already begun. From the 2014 Gallup Confidence in Institutions poll:

      2014 Gallup: confidence in news

  6. A great post, thank you!
    Sorry for the late comment but… It is lovely when someone puts down in print what I think but unable to articulate.
    What does strike me is the similarity of the jingoist American politicians and press to the Brits during the Victorian era. You would think that scooping fire into your lap would wake you up but no!

  7. The US, or at least what passes for their foreign policy elite, doesn’t want to fight IS or al-Nusra (AQ in Syria) the US just wants them to do what it wants and take over Syria. Heck they supported, armed and trained them, still do. The US and (what I call the Coalition of the Insane, CoI for short) Saudi Arabia, Israel and Turkey (and some minnows) were very happy as long as they stuck to Syria.

    The US and Israel have gone ‘all in’ in a Sunni Wahabbi takeover of the pennisula, with a couple of caveats. Israel even more than the US, which is salivating at the thought of Hezbollah weakening itself fighting IS and AN…so it can attack Lebanon again (this year?).

    The CoI got all wobbly when IS expanded into Iraq (ably led by ex Iraqi military people using manoeuvrer warfare) then attacked Iraqi Kurdish areas. Now that nearly split the CoI, because Turkey and SA were more than happy for the Kurds to be attacked (extreminated totally would be better), but Israel and the US have some serious interests there.

    Hence the US bombing, carefully targetted to ‘send a message’ to IS to get back on track. The less ambitious and more politically clever AN who didn’t do that continued to receive support, with Israel working as its air force and artillery support in the south (just read the Israeli media…they are quite open about it, even the Wall St Journal reported this).

    After some time the CoI settled down and everyone has sort of accepted IS having the Sunni areas of Iraq ..as long as they stay (for the moment at least) away from the Kurds. IS got the message and has backed off against the Kurds and is hammering Syria again.

    Hence all those reinforcements allowed through through by Turkey, with all those shiny new US TOW anti tank missiles….wonder how they all got there?

    So we have a full scale ..and it is going to get a lot bigger…Sunni Wahabbi pushed attack on Shites, Christians, Aalawites, Kurds, etc …as well as, let us not foget them, the huge number of moderate Sunnis who are just as much in the firing line, IS has probably killed more of them than anyone else.

    For their own insane reasons, Israel, Turkey, the US and the minnows (UK, Qatar, etc) support this.

    What could possibly go wrong wth this scenario?

    Given the IS/AN wins recently the CoI (and the US/Israeli neo cons) are all patting themsleves in the back (and Israel is dusting off its ‘evacuating’ 1.5 million people south of Litani river wet dream). But there are other players.

    Iran has finally woken up to the fact that the whole ‘nuclear talks’ were just about neutralising them while this went on and is shipping 17,000 soldiers into Syria. Russia is being very typically quiet about all this. After their showdown with the USN 2 years ago they have made it clear what side they are on, so what have they up their sleeves? And then there is China.

    There are three facedowns at the moment: Ukraine (ramping up for another attack and yet another humiliating loss, though this time Russa is making ot clear it will not hold back the Novorussans), South China Sea (where the USN will go to die if they do anything) and Syria/Iraq.

    Meanwhile US propaganda machine (sometimes called the media) is all over the place. The recent ‘the Syrian Govt and IS are working together’ stuff is the work of propaganda legend. That is taking the ‘big lie’ appoach to a whole new level…..

    The Archdruid describes this well, a ‘sclerotic US elite’ tryng to hold onto to its empire and becoming ever more insane trying to do so, while its satraps are are positoning, pushing, plotting and planning for the post-US time.

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