Obama Has No Middle East Strategy? Good!
Last week President Obama admitted that his administration has not worked out a strategy on how to deal with the emergence of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) as a dominant force in the Middle East. However, as ISIS continues its march through Syria and Iraq, many in the US administration believe it is, in the words of Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, a threat "beyond anything we have ever seen."
Predictably, the neocons attacked the president's speech. They believe the solution to any problem is more bombs and troops on the ground, so they cannot understand the president's hesitation.
Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee Buck McKeon made it clear that fighting ISIS is going to cost a lot more money and will bring US forces back to Iraq for the third time. The post-Iraq, post-Afghanistan peace dividend disintegrates.
Mr. McKeon said last week:
ISIS is an urgent threat and a minimalist approach, that depends solely on FY15 funding or pinprick strikes that leave fragile forces in Iraq and Syria to do the hard fighting, is insufficient to protect our interests and guarantee our safety in time.
What does this mean in practice? If the neocons have their way, the Federal Reserve will "print" more money to finance another massive US intervention in the Middle East. In reality this means further devaluation of the US dollar, which is a tax on all Americans that will hit the poorest hardest.
A new US military incursion will not end ISIS; it will provide them with the recruiting tool they most crave, while draining the US treasury. Just what Osama bin Laden wanted!
McKeon and the other hawks act as if they had only recently become aware of the ISIS. Or if they noticed it, they pretend US policy had nothing to do with its rise.
McKeon also said last week, "ISIS threat was allowed to build and fester over a period of time."
In fact, US regime change policy in Syria was directly responsible for the rise of ISIS over these past three years. As journalist Eric Margolis observed recently, the emergence of ISIS is the "mother of all blowback." The neocons who want us to get tougher on ISIS, including a US attack on Syria, are the same ones who not long ago demanded that we support groups like ISIS to overthrow the Assad government in Syria. US-trained and funded "moderates" from the Free Syrian Army joined the Islamist militias including ISIS, taking US weapons and training with them.
Three years of supporting any force that might overthrow the secular government of President Assad has produced a new monster in the Middle East that neocons insist the US must slay.
Why can't they just admit they were wrong? Why can't the interventionists just admit that their support for regime change in Syria was a terrible and tragic mistake?
If ISIS is as big a threat as they claim, why can't they simply ask Assad to help out? Assad has never threatened the United States; ISIS has. Assad has been fighting ISIS and similar Islamist extremist groups for three years.
Why does the US government insist on aligning with theocracies in the Middle East? If there is anything that contradicts the US Constitution and American values it is a theocratic government. I do not believe that a majority in the Middle East wants to live under such a system, so why do we keep pushing it on them? Is that what they call promoting democracy?
A lack of strategy is a glimmer of hope. Perhaps the president will finally stop listening to the neocons and interventionists whose recommendations have gotten us into this mess in the first place! Here's a strategy: just come home.