The chattering pragmatists are softening up Americans for the next Middle East war
By Kent R. Kroeger (April 20, 2018)
The Washington Post’s Michael Gerson lays out his defense of a regime change war in Syria as follows:
“ In the chaos that once was Syria, Obama and Trump have wanted to define America’s mission in ways that are discrete, limited and achievable… In the real world, however, battles are not won by limiting your objectives. The outcome in Syria that would have best served American values and interests? A well-armed coalition of moderate rebels forcing the regime to the negotiating table, resulting in a coalition government that includes some regime elements but not Assad.”
Gerson, among others, is a reliable canary-in-the-mine indicator of an impending large-scale U.S. military adventure. When the Democratic Party’s pragmatists come out in force talking about ‘using the U.S. military to force competing militant groups to the negotiation table’ or ‘stopping war crimes and human rights abuses’ by brutal dictators, prepare for war.
Even Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld knew their teeing up the 2003 Iraq War required schmoozing with Democratic-leaning opinion leaders to strengthen congressional and public support for that war.
Don’t ask the neocons and pragmatists today when the U.S. has ever successfully engaged in a regime change war, where the unintended consequences didn’t overshadow any positive outcomes. The answer typically varies between citing the successes of post-WWII Germany and Japan or post-Korean conflict South Korea. Some even have the audacity to argue that post-Taliban Afghanistan is the newest exemplar of how regime change wars can succeed.
But here is just a recent sample of opinions from our nation’s pragmatic center on why this country needs a new regime change war in Syria:
“Trump sent 2,000 U.S. troops into Syria to help drive out the Islamic State — despite his campaign pledge not to get involved in such wars — and had considerable success,” writes The Washington Post’s Eugene Robinson. “But recently, according to widespread reports, he has been demanding an immediate withdrawal, which military officials say would leave behind a chaotic, blood-soaked breeding ground for terrorism.”
Really, Mr. Robinson? Every senior policy expert in the Pentagon believes our leaving Syria will lead to a new breeding ground for terrorism? There is nobody in our military establishment arguing that a re-stabilized Assad government is an effective (though brutal) deterrent to the rise of ISIS and other Islamist terrorist groups in Syria?
Of course there are military policy experts in the Pentagon warning against expanding the U.S. presence in Syria. One of the most cogent can be found here, written by Lt. Col. Daniel L. Davis, USA, Ret. He is not alone in his opinion. For now, at least, they seem to be winning the argument against the neocons.
Unfortunately, pragmatists like The Washington Post’s David Ignatius, always a reliable cheerleader for regime change wars, know how to employ Jedi mind tricks on their readers. His latest effort is the ‘you broke it guilt-trip’ where he suggests the U.S. must increase its Syria engagement because of the damage we’ve already inflicted. This argument is akin to General Colin Powell’s warning prior to the First Gulf War that if we break Iraq we will be responsible for fixing it. (Status update: We’ve outsourced that job to Iran.)
“ Trump, like President Obama, is finding that it’s easier to talk about withdrawing from Middle East wars than to actually do it,” chides The Washington Post’s David Ignatius, who the George W. Bush administration used as an opinion conduit for promoting the 2003 invasion of Iraq. “When Trump takes military action in Syria, he owns the consequences.”
Weeks earlier, Ignatius offered readers another novel justification for an escalation of American military operations in Syria— it makes our soldiers feel good about themselves. Ignatius quotes a U.S. Army surgeon in Syria: ‘ “Contributing to something greater than yourself is very important. It’s an honor for us to be here.”
MSNBC host, Joe Scarborough offers perhaps the most bodacious claim I’ve ever heard in rationalizing a U.S. military escalation.
“After years of endless bloodshed, the U.S. military has finally learned to fight an enemy such as the Islamic State in a way that is successful and sustainable,” writes Scarborough. “The impact of that winning strategy is being felt around the region, and among U.S. troops.”
I am sorry, Joe. The U.S. has not “learned to fight” Islamic extremists in a way that is both successful and sustainable. For one, the U.S. has not been the dominant player in the fight against ISIS. Yes, since Trump amped up the optempo against ISIS, the U.S. has been remarkably successful. But it didn’t happen in a vacuum. It was only after we accepted Russia’s advice and allowed the Assad regime to safely employ its military forces that the tide turned.
So, Joe, no. There is no existing template on how to successfully overthrow the Assad regime and replace it with a government that is both marginally better on human rights and also aligned with U.S. and Western interests.
This growing trend in the establishment’s opinion advocacy class to promote an increased U.S. presence in Syria is hard to mistake or ignore. This is 2002 all over again.
We know neocons like Sen. John McCain, Sen. Lindsay Graham, John Bolton, Nikki Haley and Bill Kristol, among others, don’t need to be sold on the idea of toppling the Bashar al-Assad government in Damascus. Their opinions are a known constant.
It is the self-proclaimed “mainstream” of opinion leaders that need to be closely watched. They may, with almost unanimity, despise the outsider named Donald Trump. But they’ve seen how he can be rolled under the right circumstances and they are out in full force egging him on to commit the U.S. to a broader war in Syria.
For many of these pragmatists, such an outcome would almost make up for Hillary Clinton’s election loss — who, by the way, openly lobbied President Barack Obama for the U.S. to covertly lead such a war in Syria while she was Secretary of State.
Obama was right to ignore her advice back then and let’s hope the Trump administration ignores the pragmatic chattering class that is similarly arguing to expand America’s military role in Syria today.