Perpetual War – Segment 2, Part 2
Mandeville, LA – Exclusive Transcript – “Andrew Bacevich, Washington Compost, “Even if we defeat the Islamic State, we’ll still lose the bigger war.” In other words, this is going absolutely nowhere. But since some of you are just so committed to thousand-years-long American wars in the Middle East, you’re going to love this. For the popcorn air campaign battalion out there, life is looking pretty good for you right now. You might want to stock up, go to Sam’s and buy a case of microwave popcorn.” Check out today’s transcript for the rest….
Begin Mike Church Show Transcript
Andrew Bacevich, Washington Compost, “Even if we defeat the Islamic State, we’ll still lose the bigger war.” In other words, this is going absolutely nowhere. But since some of you are just so committed to thousand-years-long American wars in the Middle East, you’re going to love this. For the popcorn air campaign battalion out there, life is looking pretty good for you right now. You might want to stock up, go to Sam’s and buy a case of microwave popcorn. You’re going to need it.
As America’s efforts to “degrade and ultimately destroy” Islamic State militants extend into Syria, Iraq War III has seamlessly morphed into Greater Middle East Battlefield XIV. That is, Syria has become at least the 14th country in the Islamic world that U.S. forces have invaded or occupied or bombed, and in which American soldiers have killed or been killed. And that’s just since 1980.
Let’s tick them off: Iran (1980, 1987-1988), Libya (1981, 1986, 1989, 2011), Lebanon (1983), Kuwait (1991), Iraq (1991-2011, 2014-) [Mike: To the end of time, I imagine.], Somalia (1992-1993, 2007-), Bosnia (1995), Saudi Arabia (1991, 1996), Afghanistan (1998, 2001-), Sudan (1998), Kosovo (1999), Yemen (2000, 2002-), Pakistan (2004-) and now Syria. Whew.
With our 14th front barely opened, the Pentagon foresees a campaign likely to last for years. [Mike: Many of you are very happy about that, aren’t you, ecstatic about that, aren’t you?] Yet even at this early date, this much already seems clear: Even if we win, we lose. Defeating the Islamic State would only commit the United States more deeply to a decades-old enterprise that has proved costly and counterproductive.
Back in 1980, President Jimmy Carter touched things off when he announced that the United States would use force to prevent the Persian Gulf from falling into the wrong hands. In effect, with the post-Ottoman order created by European imperialists — chiefly the British — after World War I apparently at risk, the United States made a fateful decision: It shouldered responsibility for preventing that order from disintegrating further. Britain’s withdrawal from “east of Suez,” along with the revolution in Iran and the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan, prompted Washington to insert itself into a region in which it previously avoided serious military involvement.
At the time, oil — not freedom, democracy or human rights — defined the principal American interest, and stability was the goal.
Mike: By the way, did you catch Senator Graham saying, [mocking] “These people over in Syria, they long to be free. They long to have human liberty just like the rest of us.” Oh, you mean like the lunatic, maniac nutjobs in Iraq? Remember, the cause of human liberty, if there’s anyone on earth that wants liberty, it’s your job and my job to deliver it to them, hand deliver it to them, giftwrapped with a bow. Here you go, here’s your American Exceptionalism Delivery System, here’s your gift of liberty. Open it up. Go through the box. Look at all the goodies in there. Abortions, oh, that’s awesome. Lesbianism, homosexuality, gay marriage, pedophilia. Man, look at all the great stuff in there! 24/7 cable news. Man, you name it, you get all of it. You get the promiscuity, yes. You get rampant, rampant abuse of your social welfare systems if you have one. If not, you have to have one, because you can’t be like us unless you have one. You can’t be exceptional unless you give other people’s money away to people that haven’t earned it.
At the time, oil — not freedom, democracy or human rights — defined the principal American interest, and stability was the goal. Military power offered the means by which the United States hoped to attain that goal. Armed might would keep a lid on things. The pot might simmer, but it wouldn’t boil over.
In practice, however, whether putting boots on the ground or relying on missiles from above, subsequent U.S. efforts to promote stability have tended to produce just the opposite. Part of the problem is that American policymakers have repeatedly given in to the temptation to unleash a bit of near-term chaos, betting that longer-term order will emerge on the other end.
Back in Vietnam, this was known as burning down the village to save it. In the Greater Middle East, it has meant dismantling a country with the aim of erecting something more preferable — “regime change” as a prelude to “nation building.” Unfortunately, the United States has proved considerably more adept at the former than the latter.
Mostly, coercive regime change has produced power vacuums. Iraq offers a glaring example. Although studiously ignored by Washington, post-Gaddafi Libya offers a second. And unless the gods are in an exceptionally generous mood, Afghanistan will probably become a third whenever U.S. and NATO combat troops finally depart.
In place of governing arrangements that Washington judged objectionable, the United States has found itself coping with the absence of any effective governments whatsoever. Instead of curbing bad behavior, spanking induced all sorts of pathologies.
By inadvertently sowing instability, the United States has played directly into the hands of anti-Western radical Islamists intent on supplanting the European-imposed post-Ottoman order with something more to their liking. This is the so-called caliphate that Osama bin Laden yearned to create and that now exists in embryonic form in the portions of Iraq and Syria that Islamic State radicals control.
Want to measure what America’s war for the Middle East has accomplished through its first 13 iterations? The Islamic State has to rank prominently on any list of achievements. If Iraq possessed minimally effective security forces, Islamic State militants wouldn’t have a chance. But the Iraqi army we created won’t fight, in considerable measure because the Iraqi government we created doesn’t govern.
President Obama did not initiate the long and varied sequence of military actions that has produced this situation. Yet he finds himself caught in a dilemma. To give the Islamic State a free hand is to allow proponents of the caliphate to exploit the instability that U.S. efforts, some involving Obama himself, have fostered. But to make Syria the latest free-fire zone in America’s never-ending Middle East misadventure will almost surely prolong and exacerbate the agonies that country is experiencing, with little ability to predict what consequences will ensue.
Even if U.S. and allied forces succeed in routing this militant group, there is little reason to expect that the results for Syrians will be pretty — or that the prospects of regional harmony will improve. Suppress the symptoms, and the disease simply manifests itself in other ways. There is always another Islamic State waiting in the wings.
Obama’s bet — the same bet made by each of his predecessors, going back to Carter — is that the skillful application of U.S. military might can somehow provide a way out of this dilemma. They were wrong, and so is he.
We may be grateful that Obama has learned from his predecessor that invading and occupying countries in this region of the world just doesn’t work. The lesson he will bequeath to his successor is that drone strikes and commando raids don’t solve the problem, either.
We must hope for victory over the Islamic State. But even if achieved, that victory will not redeem but merely prolong a decades-long military undertaking that was flawed from the outset. When the 14th campaign runs its course, the 15th will no doubt be waiting, perhaps in Jordan or in a return visit to some unfinished battleground such as Libya or Somalia or Yemen.
Yet even as the United States persists in its determination to pacify the Greater Middle East, the final verdict is already in. U.S. military power has never offered an appropriate response to whatever ails the Islamic world. We’ve committed our troops to a fool’s errand.
And worse, the errand is also proving unnecessary. With abundant North American energy reserves now accessible — all that shale oil and fracked gas — we don’t need the Persian Gulf oil that ostensibly made our post-1980 military exertions imperative. For whatever reasons, Washington’s national security elites seem oblivious to the implications these resources have for policy in the Middle East.
No matter how long it lasts, America’s war for the Greater Middle East will end in failure. And when it does, Americans will discover that it was also superfluous.
Mike: But Professor Bacevich, part of your reasoning and your conclusions are that this war has anything to do with a war for oil. I don’t think it does. It may be true that we are haplessly trying to guarantee British access to oil or to assist Britain in acquiring that oil. That may be part of the issue. We don’t need it, as has bene pointed out. What’s at stake here doesn’t have anything to do with oil as the direct object. It may be the indirect object, in that we have to have oil in order to fly the aircraft and put diesel and kerosene into the aircraft carriers and other boats that aren’t nuclear powered and what have you.
The effort must be maintained, Professor, so that the vast military-industrial complex and the central banking cartel that funds it, or pretends to fund it, so that it can shower its corporate clientele and the kleptocracy of the world with unearned trillions, that’s what’s in play here. That’s what’s in play. If the United States had to go off into the Yukon or back into the California Territory or any other place and actually extract gold and silver from the ground to fund the war the way we had to fund previous wars, it would be over. It would have been over forty years ago. It never would have started. Since the invention of the printing press and the invention of fiat currency, and since the divorce from the gold standard in 1971 by the Nixon administration, all this has been made possible.
Tens upon tens of thousands of military families, if not hundreds of thousands, heck, if not millions have a stake in this outcome. They’re the ones that are invested in this. They’re the ones that have to put their blood on the line. They’re the ones that put their treasure, they’re the ones that put the treasure of watching their kids grow up, of being close and intimate with their wives, and unfortunately with their husbands, they’re the ones that are being mortgaged here in the direct sense. You have to have an army in order to pretend as though you can fight all these wars. You have to have an air force to pretend as though you can fight all these wars. You have to have a navy to pretend as though you can fight all these wars and control the affairs of the entire known universe while failing miserably at it all the time.
There’s always chaos out there. You ever notice that? The chaos is never resolved. We’re never at peace. The one operative word that our government ought to operate under at all times ought to be peace, P-E-A-C-E, peace, pax in Latin. Dona nobis pacem, grant us peace, for Heaven’s sake! We can’t even say it. Some of you, some our neighbors and friends are mortified to say dona nobis pacem, grant us peace. Why? Because they know that ends the party, and because they have been convinced that they are the world’s decision makers.
The people of the Middle East don’t get to choose your own form of government; you do. The people of the Balkan states don’t get to choose their own form of government; we do. The people of North Africa, they don’t get to choose their own form of government. We’re the only ones that get to choose. Here’s the greatest part of the deceit: we don’t even get to choose our own form of government. We say we want a republican one. We say we have a federal system. We don’t have one. We exist under the tyranny of a direct democracy.
While Texas and Louisiana and Nebraska and Kansas and New Hampshire don’t get to choose their own form of government, somehow we think that with the use of our military we can force feed and make others choose our form of government. Maybe we ought to try colonizing the United States for freedom. Maybe, Senator Graham, we ought to be worried about the people in Peoria that desire human liberty and freedom. Maybe, just maybe. Probably not going to happen on our watch, but it would be nice, wouldn’t it?
End Mike Church Show Transcript