Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
It’s your last chance to make a tax-deductible donation to CounterPunch in 2017. Help us gear up to fight the status-quo in 2018! Every dollar counts!
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Obama and the Road to Hell in the Middle East

by

The Economist recently published an article with the curious title, “Brains, not bullets: How to fight future wars.” The essay’s theme is intriguing because it implies that with enough brains in the right places it’s possible for the United States to get things right, to immunize America’s use of force against bad policies, the wrong senior military leadership and the impact of special interests on an uninformed American public.

If this were true, it would be a revelation. Unfortunately, in open ended conflicts with weak opponents, against people with no armies, no air forces, no air defenses and no naval forces the mental and moral qualities of senior military leaders which are all important in war are suppressed in favor of compliant and obsequious personalities.

After 9/11, the willingness of senior officers to endorse the fiction that the wars of occupation in Iraq and Afghanistan were progressing well, that liberal democracy was sinking deep roots in the Middle East was always far more important than demonstrated character, competence or intelligence for promotion to three or four stars. Put differently, having sex with the wrong person or involvement in legally questionable activities could and will destroy careers, but the readiness to go along with policies and plans that made no military sense was and still is career enhancing. Today’s bench of senior leaders are a product of the last 15 years.

After 9/11, the political appetite inside the Washington beltway for intervention and the massive defense spending it justified went off the rails. The use of American military power against weak opponents in Haiti, Somalia, the Balkans, Iraq and Afghanistan lulled American politicians into a false sense of superiority to the point where the conflict’s strategic outcome no longer mattered to policymakers. Conditioned to respond to clichés, slogans, uniforms and digital images, Americans went along for the ride, at least until the bill, at least three to four trillion dollars and the human cost, at least 45,000 casualties finally hit home.

Fast forward to the present and history is repeating itself. The judgment of America’s national political and military leadership is yielding to rosy expectations of American military success in the Middle East that are not justified. Throngs of retired senior officers and former appointees are on television encouraging Americans to forget that National Military Strategy must comply with the demands of geography, culture, economy and military capability; that the application of military power demands a single directing mind imbued with clarity of purpose.

When there is no clarity of purpose battles can still be won, but wars are far more likely to be lost. Lyndon Johnson (LBJ) and George Bush initiated military action they hoped would be decisive and successful, but they failed to provide realistic answers to the questions of strategic purpose, method and end-state before and during military operations. President Obama and his advisors have embarked on a similar course. They are about to rediscover how hard it is to figure out what is being accomplished from 30,000 feet.

Equally disturbing is the revelation that Obama, like LBJ, will personally approve targets in the former territory of Syria and Iraq for air strikes. General “Tommy” Franks did that in Afghanistan in November 2001 and thousands of al Qaeda and Taliban fighters escaped while he dithered with his legal advisors. Today, the unwillingness of the Arab States and Turkey that border Mesopotamia to commit ground forces to fight the Islamic State makes matters worse. It means that Americans will spend billions of dollars to kill thugs in pickup trucks and bounce rubble for months, even years with doubtful effect. Thanks to Washington’s duplicitous friends in Ankara, Doha and Riyadh that provide money, arms and recruits to the Islamic State’s fighters, the Islamists will are likely to survive and regroup around new fanatics.

C.S. Lewis described the road to hell as a gradual descent, a soft, moderate slope that is hardly noticeable until the destination is reached. Mr. Obama is on his way.

If Americans are to turn Mr. Obama away from the hell that awaits us, Americans must abandon the illusion that precision guided munitions obviate the requirement in war for the lethality that springs from disciplined, physically and psychologically hardened men inside highly trained ground combat units to kill effectively. Americans will have to rise up and collectively drive a stake through the heart of the late Secretary of Defense Les Aspin’s concept for the use of American military power; the task of “punishing evil doers.”

Finally, Americans will have to demand a national military strategy that focuses on protecting Americans, American territory, and core American commercial interests rather than attempts to breathe new life into the comatose body of failed American military interventions that litter the Eastern Hemisphere. As the Cold War alliance structures wither and die because the threats that supported them no longer exist; the importance of clarity in American national military strategy cannot be overstated.

U.S. Army Colonel (ret) Douglas Macgregor is a decorated combat veteran and the author of five books. His most recent, Margin of Victory, will be published next year.

More articles by:
Weekend Edition
December 15, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
What’s Not Happening With Mr. Jones
Timothy M. Gill
The Height of Racial Resentment: White Cops
Andrew Levine
Democrats Have Much to Learn and the Odious Have Much to Teach Them
Luciana Bohne
Operation Jerusalem Capital: Second Balfour Declaration or Arab-Israeli NATO?
Anthony DiMaggio
#Me Too: Women are Speaking Out, Are We Listening?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Out Walked Monk
Ann Robertson - Bill Leumer
The Demoralizing Impact of Trump, But Hope Has Arrived
Samantha Paez – Sandra de los Santos
The Most Dangerous Place for Mexican Women is in the Streets
Martin Billheimer
Assassins of the Image: the CIA as Cultural Gatekeeper
Jérôme Duval
From Slave Trade to Debt: Occupation Disguised as “Discovery”
Vijay Prashad
The October Revolution
John Wight
The Grenfell Fire UK Establishment Circus
Steve Martinot
Twisted Thinking: Police Militarization in Berkeley
Robert Fantina
Juvenile Delinquency in U.S. Government
Dave Lindorff
Stupidity and Blindness Have Destroyed Whatever Democracy the US Ever Had
Pete Dolack
You are Working Harder and Getting Paid Less
Joseph Natoli
The Axioms of the Other
Susan Babbitt
Why Don Quixote?
Ralph Nader
What Does Trump Mean by “Make America Great Again”?
Ramzy Baroud
Towards a New Palestinian Beginning
Binoy Kampmark
Escaping Reality: Roy Moore and the Rage of Decency
Mark Luskus
Corporate Interests Are Warping the Internet
Brian Terrell
A Story of Two Blockades: New York City and Yemen
Ron Jacobs
Sinking in the Swamp
Brian Cloughley
Prepare! Pursue!! Prevail!!!
Matthew Stevenson
Into Africa: The Tanzania-Zambia Train to Nowhere
Jill Richardson
We Agree Assault is Bad, Now Let’s Agree on How to Punish It
Jeremy Corbyn
The Greatest Threats to Our Common Humanity
Walter Clemens – Stephen Advocate
The Amoral Code of America’s Dirty Old Men
Sheldon Richman
Trump & Co.’s Vile Anti-Immigrationism
Jessicah Pierre
Trump’s Cruel Policy on Haitian Refugees
George Wuerthner
Water Rights or Water Privileges?
Nick Pemberton
What I Learned in Ghana 
Missy Comley Beattie
It’s Capitalism
Tom H. Hastings
Stop Trump movement
Thomas Knapp
The Real Internet Censorship Threat
Robert Koehler
Peace on the Far Side of Nuclear Weapons
Kary Love
Christmas Letter to Jesus
Tom Clifford
China: From the Treasure Fleet to One Belt, One Road
Charles R. Larson
Trump’s Blueprint for State Capture
M. Shadee Malaklou
Jay-Z’s 4:44 Moves Black Radical Thought Through and Beyond the Classroom
Michael Dickinson
What About Our Debts, Pope Francis?
Phil Rockstroh
What Was Verifiably Great About America: Fragments of a Memoir Set to a Musical Soundtrack
David Yearsley
Froberger’s Musical Therapy
Edward Curtin
A Man Turns
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail