Mark Twain’s quip about history was wrong; it indeed repeats. Unfortunately the repetition is of bad things, rarely good.
After promising to roll back the folly that was the Iraq War, President Obama is taking us back to the graveyard of empires. He recently presented Congress with an “Authorization for the Use of Military Force” to go after the growing Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. The president has been using airstrikes on ISIS for 6 months already. Under current law, he’s supposed to request Congress’ imprimatur after 60 days of carrying out military action. But, hey, what’s a little thing like law to get in the way of bombs?
This new act of war – which, per the norm, won’t require a congressional declaration of war – is just another broken campaign promise by Obama. While scooping up the votes of impressionable millennials, Obama denounced the 2003 invasion of Iraq, calling it “a war that didn’t need to be fought.” Writing in the New York Times, he affirmed, “I opposed the war in Iraq before it began, and would end it as president.”
6 years later, he plunges once again into the cradle of civilization. Obama withdrew all combat troops in 2011, but that created a power vacuum ripe for the ISIS jihadists to fill. War hawkish conservatives are panning the president for creating the mess through his immature withdraw. Few acknowledge the anarchic conditions created in Iraq by Bush’s invasion (and his father’s previous excursion). Republican tribal loyalty, it turns out, is more important than the truth.
I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. Politics is a pathetic gotcha game with little intellectual credibility. Even the Obama administration can’t help but prevaricate on what should be a straightforward use of force. The AUMF contains ambiguous language giving almost unilateral authority to conduct military strikes. As a bone to his base, the proposal contains the following language: “The authority granted in subsection (a) does not authorize the use of the United States Armed Forces in enduring offensive ground combat operations.”
Journalist Dave Weigel asks the burning question: What in the world does “enduring” mean? Is it even possible to stop ISIS without committed ground troops? We’re once again left in the dark to wonder.
The AUMF is reportedly limited to three years and requires congressional approval to continue operations. But Democrat senators are still hesitant about its unclear language. Most Republicans couldn’t care less – this is a chance for America’s glorious war machine to spill blood.
Even with waffling Democrats, let there be no question about it: the AUMF will pass Congress with majority support. Most of America supports going after ISIS. There will be no voter retribution for supporting the use of force.
And that’s really the saddest part. The War on Terror makes ever-present military campaigns an acceptable reality. Few voices in the authoritative media question the utility or morality of the ongoing fight against Islamic terrorism. Instead, they quibble about election outcomes. Sending men and women off to fight and die in a foreign land might as well be a movie they review from afar.
War is now such a part of American society that the long-term consequences are hardly considered. Part of this is due to the media not covering the return of fallen soldiers, at the government’s request. More is the fault of general apathy toward personal lives and family ravaged by war. The enemy is over there, not here. Deficits pick up the tab, not tax hikes. Life continues normally while bullets pierce skin and tear apart sons, fathers, brothers, and husbands. There can’t be anything more privileged than to witness the horrors of war from the sidelines.
Nietzsche suggested humans need lies in order to live. This couldn’t be more true when it comes to the ongoing War on Terror. Americans fool themselves into denying the ugly consequences wrought by their passivity towards non-stop combat. In her review of the hit biopic “American Sniper,” former Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan brought attention to the incredible strain we now put on soldiers who fight in the Middle East. “We ask a lot of our troops emotionally in terms of how we schedule their tours,” she wrote. During World War II, soldiers had months to recuperate before coming back to American shores. Widespread air travel changed all that. Sending men over to fight for their lives for a few months, then to reacclimate to normal life immediately after is, Noonan asserted, “asking rather a lot for U.S. troops to emotionally sustain and absorb.” This is why PTSD is becoming an epidemic among veterans.
Those are just the burdens shouldered by our boys at home. With increased aggression against ISIS on the horizon, I can’t help but look back at the eerie Vice News documentary on the Islamic State and see the faces of the people about to be pulverized.
ISIS is full of barbaric individuals; people who will kill for their god without a second thought. But it’s also home to children who repeat the violent rhetoric against infidels and apostates. Many swear allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi al-Qurashi, the head of ISIS. It’s clear the radicalized children lack the reasoning capacity to understand the full implication of their words. And, with the blessing of Barack Obama, they will soon lose their lives to American weaponry. Their crime: not knowing any better. It’s heart-wrenching to consider.
At this current juncture, the Islamic State poses no threat to our shores. Yet we are the ones that have to do the heavy-lifting when it comes to eradicating the non-threat. As Pat Buchanan points out, Turkey and the secular Arabs (who are the true target of the Islamic State) can easily take care of the new caliphate. But they do nothing, expecting America to pick up the slack. Blood, and that includes the blood of the innocent, will be on our hands.
The media won’t cover this part of the new war. It goes unnoticed. Pundits of all stripes love to celebrate victories with zeal. They promote a shallow patriotism. When talking heads aren’t rah rah-ing total destruction, they are pontificating on trivial matters like a lack of women in movies or the retirement of a fake news anchor. We lie to ourselves with surface-level entertainment to avoid the pain of our actions. As a result, we lose our ability to relate with those who feel our wrath. It’s all inhuman at the core.
War is, as Leo Tolstoy said, “so unjust and ugly that all who wage it must try to stifle the voice of conscience within themselves.” But unfeeling, unmoving, concrete emotions are standard course in Washington. It makes for a real downer. But what more can be expected in a city lacking of love?