Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Lindsey Graham and Wars in Syria and Libya

I posted a few days ago about Lindsey Graham's ridiculous notion that the US needs to put the military option on the table against Bashar al-Asad in Syria.  The Cato Institute's Doug Bandow (posting at the National Interest) puts the wood to Sen. Graham even more forcefully:
Appearing on CBS’s Face the Nation, he declared: “If it made sense to protect the Libyan people against Qaddafi, and it did, . . . the question for the world is have we gotten to that point in Syria?” Graham, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, added: “We may not be there yet, but we’re getting very close.” He explained: “It has gotten to the point where Qaddafi’s behavior and Assad’s behavior are indistinguishable . . . You need to put on the table all options, including a model like we have in Libya.”

America isn’t busy elsewhere. Washington has plenty of money. Why not make it war number six?

Why would the senator propose starting another war with no vital interests at stake or clear objective to achieve? Perhaps he was bored with the slow action on the Senate floor and smoked some funny cigarettes. Perhaps he has an undisclosed medical condition and stopped taking his medication. Perhaps he is simply stupid.

However, there is no evidence that Sen. Graham is a drug addict, clinically insane or remarkably dumb. Rather, while living in Washington he appears to have drunk an extra jug of hubris. Like many other U.S. policy makers, he believes that Washington is the center of the world and What We Say Goes. Like President George W. Bush, Sen. Graham does not believe that reality applies to him.

I highly recommend Bandow's entire essay, and heartily second his conclusions:

Of course, the United States could defeat the Syrian military. Though bombing alone might not be enough, unless it was far heavier and deadlier than that occurring in Libya. But the question is: “Then what?” That is the question which policy makers failed to ask and answer in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya. Assume Assad is killed or deposed. Then what? Who rises to power? Who protects religious and ethnic minorities? Who creates liberal democracy? Who manages the religious divide among Sunni, Shia and Alawite? Who contains the unanticipated and inadvertent consequences of literally blowing up another country?

Of course, if one believes such questions to be irrelevant, there is no reason to stop with Syria. Certainly Iran and Sudan demand similar attention. Bahrain and especially Saudi Arabia, an oppressive near-totalitarian system, could use a few U.S. bombing runs. North Korea obviously belongs on the list, along with Burma. Zimbabwe is a well-deserving candidate, probably the worst oppressor in southern Africa. Closer to home is Cuba and perhaps Venezuela. Belarus and all of the Central Asian dictatorships deserve a few drone strikes at the least. War against China obviously is warranted, since there should be no statute of limitation on Tiananmen Square. Authoritarian Russia probably also qualifies for attack, though it hasn’t felt the need to deploy military force against demonstrators. Washington could stay quite busy.

It sounds like a grand adventure—unless you are a member of the reality-based community. Unless you remember that Washington is broke, while the finances of several states, such as California, resemble those of Greece. Unless you remember that the U.S. is carrying an outsized military burden for the benefit of other states that are perfectly able to protect themselves. Unless you remember that social engineering is tough enough to achieve at home, where the differences in religion, ethnicity, history, tradition and culture are much smaller than those abroad. Unless you remember that wars rarely turn out the way they were supposed to, such as an Iraqi cakewalk that ended up killing 4400 Americans and perhaps 200,000 civilians and an Afghan intervention that will soon enter its tenth year with the indigenous government more incompetent, corrupt and hated than ever.

Today is the moment to implement the “humble” foreign policy which candidate George W. Bush talked about. It is not America’s mission to remake the globe. It is not within America’s capability to remake the globe. And America should stop trying to remake the globe. The reality-based community was right then to warn against the invasion of Iraq. The reality-based community is right now to warn against proposals for new wars. Unfortunately, so far this president does not seem to take the consequences of war any more seriously than did his predecessor.

Meanwhile, Graham's co-resident in the hawk nest, John McCain, continues to push back against Obama's plans to withdraw Surge troops from Afghanistan and against the attempts by fellow legislators to force Obama to step away from his Libya adventure.  Today, future Sec of State John Kerry and he introduced a resolution to continue funding the Libya effort (even as other congressmen introduced a competing resolution to reduce US involvement there).  McCain also took to the Senate floor yesterday to attempt to humiliate freshman Democrat senator Joe Manchin (WVA), who had spoken in favor of getting troops out of Afghanistan and focusing more on rebuilding the US economy.  McCain pulled no punches:

“In case the senator from West Virginia forgot it or never knew it, we withdrew from Afghanistan one time.  We withdrew from Afghanistan and the Taliban came, eventually followed by Al Qaeda, followed by the attacks on the United States of America.”

Mr. McCain, known for his temper and biting comments, noted that experts “whose knowledge and background may exceed those of the senator from West Virginia” have cautioned that a pullout could lead to new attacks on America.

“I view the senator from West Virginia’s remarks as at least uninformed about history and strategy and the challenges we face from radical Islamic extremism,”

Mr. McCain perhaps needs to be advised that scores of experts - all of whom have forgotten more about the history of Afghanistan, the Taliban, al-Qaeda, etc., than he himself will ever know, have advocated that a continued US military effort in Afghanistan is a waste of lives and money.

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