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I have no use for the Fck Yeah America! crowd. They help to young men and women to die in imperial misadventures while taking no personal responsibility for said events--save for the hope that they can crow and gloat if the latter go reasonably "well", and then sell books and go on the lecture circuit to fatten their pockets.
If the war mongering goes badly, the advocates of the blood parade can deny any connection to it, or alternatively lie and make themselves into voices of caution and reason.
Frederick Kagan and William Kristol are cheerleaders for militaristic and imperial hubris. I am no dove. I am a hawk (within reason) who follows Clausewitz's dictum that war is the continuance of politics by other means. War should not be an end in and of itself.
Their piece in The Weekly Standard is historically myopic; it also demonstrates a lack of appreciation for both the context and history that created the Iraq-ISIS boondoggle. Iraq is a failed state, one created by the poor decision-making of George Bush the Younger's administration.
The Right-wing media have decoupled Bush from this current mess. The Iraq crisis is his child, even while the Republican Party and its media would like to deliver it as a castoff baby left on Obama's doorstep in a basket, affixed with a note that says, "will you adopt me? I need a good home."
I disagree with most of what Frederick Kagan and William Kristol wrote for The Weekly Standard.
However, I am not able to easily dismiss their observation and concern that:
It’s widely agreed that the collapse of Iraq would be a disaster for American interests and security in the Middle East and around the world. It also seems to be widely assumed either that there's nothing we can now do to avert that disaster, or that our best bet is supporting Iran against al Qaeda. Both assumptions are wrong. It would be irresponsible to embrace a premature fatalism with respect to Iraq. And it would be damaging and counterproductive to accept a transformation of our alliances and relationships in the Middle East to the benefit of the regime in Tehran. There is a third alternative...ISIS in Iraq is neither the "Rave on Cobra Island" or Manhattan in the movie Escape From New York.
This path won't be easy, but the alternatives are much worse. Doing nothing means we will face a full-scale sectarian war—Syria on steroids—with millions of refugees and tens or hundreds of thousands more dead, along with a massive expansion of Iranian control into southern Iraq and an al Qaeda safe haven stretching from the Tigris to the middle of Syria.
ISIS is a group of supposed "non-state actors" and "insurgents" who have manipulated social media for their own purposes, and are now trying to create their own version of a nation state:
No sooner had it seized the Iraqi city of Mosul and surrounding villages, than the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) began outlining how it would govern its dawla (state). On Thursday, the Sunni militant group released a wathiqat al-madina (charter of the city) to Moslawis. Many residents of the largely Sunni city may have initially welcomed the “liberation” from Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s Shiite-dominated regime, which they had major grievances with, but they might have sobered up after reading the jihadists’ interpretation of sharia law. Those who steal will have their hands chopped off. Islam’s five daily prayers must be performed on time. Drugs, alcohol, and cigarettes are forbidden. Carrying weapons and non-ISIS flags is illegal. All shrines and graves will be destroyed, since they are considered polytheistic. Women must dress modestly (a euphemism for the full-body niqab)...In either high school or college, I read the seminal political science text Essence of Decision.
The best way to get a sense of ISIS’s blueprint for state-building is to look at how it has ruled al-Raqqa governorate and other territory in neighboring Syria. The group’s first move is often to set up billboards around town that emphasize the importance of jihad, sharia, women’s purity, and other pietistic themes. It reaches out to local notables and tribal leaders as well to blunt the kind of backlash that greeted AQI and its harsh interpretation of sharia during the sahwa movement last decade.
The group also has a surprisingly sophisticated bureaucracy, which typically includes an Islamic court system and a roving police force. In the Syrian town of Manbij, for example, ISIS officials cut off the hands of four robbers. In Raqqa, they forced shops to close for selling poor products in the suq (market) as well as regular supermarkets and kebab stands—a move that was likely the work of its Consumer Protection Authority office. ISIS has also whipped individuals forinsulting their neighbors, confiscated and destroyed counterfeit medicine, and on multiple occasions summarily executed and crucified individuals for apostasy. Members have burned cartons of cigarettes and destroyed shrines and graves, including the famous Uways al-Qarani shrine in Raqqa.
Beyond these judicial measures, ISIS also invests in public works...
The authors of Essence of Decision have supplemented and revised their original text based on new information. As I understand it, the survey of the various theoretical approaches to government decision-making as outlined by Essence of Decision, still hold.
When I would fantasize about my older life while still young and in middle school or high school, I imagined myself a young protege ghetto nerd adviser to a President of the United States of America who understood the dangers of "rational choice" models of decision-making. The world is too messy for such neat theories. I would be the voice of reason. I would also be brave, direct, and a reasonable risk-taker. In my dreamworld, there would be no problem that my team of smart, centrist, advisers would not be able to solve in order to preserve America's preeminence in the world.
A working class black kid with dreams of maintaining American empire and power? I riddle you that one. I doubt that I am alone in working through the puzzles of youth driven by naivete, hopes, dreams, ignorant patriotism, too many cartoons, and an overdose of war movies.
Reality intrudes. America remains the preeminent power in the world. However, all of its military, and yes, financial power, appears to be impotent in stopping a group like ISIS. This suggests an important question, one suggested by Andrew Bacevich, that maybe there are problems of statecraft that the United States (or any other great power) cannot overcome while spending a reasonable amount of blood and treasure for some strategically achievable goal?
International relations is a transaction. Rescuing Iraq and forcing it into the type of civil society and nation state which serves the interests of American elites may not be a practical option.
If you had Obama's ear, what would you tell him to do about Iraq and ISIS? How did we go from the end of history to an international system in apparent flux that may (or may not) serve the existing international order of nation states. I shudder at the thought of what awaits us in the future.
Once more and again, history is a moving train.