Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Max, you're a bit early

I usually agree with Max Boot, but I think he missed the boat with his recent bit at the WeeklyStandard on War Weariness.

The experience since 911 has just reinforced what we learned in Somalia back in the early '90s - you can occupy and offer a path to the Western concept of freedom all you want - but if the local culture does not want it - then it isn't worth the effort.

Sometimes you have to make the effort - but the tipping point for that requirement has changed significantly and is going to be stubborn to move for quite a long time. An external event may change it ... but everyone needs to be conscience that the American people just will not support us getting involved at significant levels in other people's conflicts. In majority Muslim nations? Double no.

The American people are going to be in this phase for awhile, I think Max's timeline needs to shift more to the right;
... the noninterventionist cycle is far advanced. And, like the interventionist phase that preceded, it has gone too far, setting the stage for a backlash that could augur a new era of more activist foreign policy. This is not a prediction that U.S. foreign policy will change overnight (it will probably take another presidential election to effect major change), but it is increasingly obvious to observers of all political hues that the costs of American nonintervention have been high.

Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt—indeed the entire Middle East—are in a worse state than ever. Al Qaeda fighters are parading through Fallujah, car bombs are going off in Beirut, barrel bombs are being dropped on Aleppo.

Iran and its proxies in Hezbollah are stronger than ever, having gone all-in to preserve Assad in power while the United States has dithered on the sidelines. Iran has 19,000 centrifuges spinning and is closer than ever to acquiring nuclear weapons, free of any effective threat of American military action. Tehran’s nuclear ambitions may be slowed but are unlikely to be abandoned by a deal with the United States, which ratifies its supposed “right” to enrich. Even while negotiating with Washington, Iran is supplying Hezbollah with long-range rockets and the Bahraini opposition with arms.
You need to read the whole thing, but here is the ground truth. As I am want to repeat; the USA is a nation with a military - not a military with a nation.

We are not built and designed to be a global military empire. A merchantile republic? Yes, going about the globe searching for dragons to slay? No; not our job.

I think we could have done IRQ a bit different - but the zero-option may have been the best one once we achieved something we could call a victory, which we did. 

Syria, Lebanon and Egypt ... really? Even if the American people would have supported the hundred of thousands of American forces and thousands of lives to try to shape events via the miltary - it would all be vanity; a short vapor to fade once we left - and for what? As long as the people in those nations are fine with oppression and squalor - there isn't much we can do inside our means.

What are we going to do - send the USMC in to Falluhah ... again? Rinse then repeat?

Iran? That is a huge nation with much of its nuclear capability difficult to remove unless you physically occupy the nation. We are years past the easy fix - if there ever were one. Our best bet was to support the "Green Revolution" but the Obama Administration blew that chance.

On top of it all - in none of those places will we get any help of significance from any nation - but will be blamed for the expected byproduct of intervention. Again, even if the American people supported it - that doesn't mean we should do more than we already have.

We need to put the military back a bit and work what we can in the diplomatic, informational, and economic levers of national power.

This is the key - the American people do not support low-threshold/high-risk military action. They don't want any boots on the ground in any of those nations. There are some things they will support, things we need to train, man, and equip our forces to do.

We should - in the absence of direct attack or existential threat - leave the world alone. If our friends need our help, then we should help them do what they need to do - not do it for them.

If a threat comes up, then we can kill their people and break their stuff retail. No reason to do wholesale effort when the locals won't even do it.

As Max brings it up - Syria is a perfect example. If it isn't so bad that the Turks won't put boots on the ground, then when did it become our job to clean up their back yard?

USA political advice?
It is time for the cycle to swing back to a more interventionist phase. There is an opening here for a presidential contender smart enough to grasp it. If history is any judge, the swing back to interventionism is coming, and soon. A smart contender would get out ahead of the cycle now by outlining how the United States can pursue a policy of strategically grounded, tactically adept international leadership.
No. Any candidate that comes forward with a pro-interventionist platform will be lucky to get 35% of the national vote.

Punitive expeditions? Yes. Presence ops? Yes. Enabling allies? Yes. Global engagement? Yes.
Take up the White Man's burden, Ye dare not stoop to less--
Nor call too loud on Freedom To cloke your weariness;
By all ye cry or whisper, By all ye leave or do,
The silent, sullen peoples Shall weigh your gods and you.
Naw ... that's ok. I think we'll shrug.

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