Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Glue Trap

Obama made his intention to extract us from Bush's foreign wars pretty clear, but the US keeps getting dragged back in. Couldn't we, shouldn't we, just say the heck with you and let the Middle East and the rest of the world struggle with their own problems? Former big time interventionist Andrew Sullivan is sure that Obama is making a big mistake by going after ISIS. He quotes David Frum, good old "axis of evil" Frum, as follows:

The question before the nation is, “What is the benefit of this war to America and to Americans?” That was the question the speech left unanswered. And the ominous suspicion left behind is that the question was unanswered because it is unanswerable—at least, not answerable in any terms likely to be acceptable to the people watching the speech and paying the taxes to finance the fight ahead.

What terms likely to be acceptable is a question for the future, but I think Obama's rationale makes a hella lot more sense than Frum's rationale for his wars ever did. In ISIS, the US confronts an aggressive, rapidly expanding, declared enemy, which is disrupting an area of vital strategic importance to us. Moreover, its a murderous, genocidal organization attacking our allies. Finally, it is an organization which has publicly and gruesomely murdered Americans just for the crime of being American.

Getting involved in foreign civil wars is an unpleasant and frequently counterproductive business, but not getting and staying involved can also turn out badly, as it did when we let Afghanistan drift after the Russians were chased out.

One point which we should not delude ourselves about - stamping out ISIS will not end turmoil in the Middle East. Nor can we completely eliminate ISIS. What we probably can do is destroy its military power, kill or capture its leadership, and destroy its financial infrastructure. I wouldn't bet that these things can be accomplished without US troops on the ground though.