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:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

June 26, 2017
William Hawes – Jason Holland
Lies That Capitalists Tell Us
Chairman Brandon Sazue
Out of the Shadow of Custer: Zinke Proves He’s No “Champion” of Indian Country With his Grizzly Lies
Patrick Cockburn
Grenfell Tower: the Tragic Price of the Rolled-Back Stat
Joseph Mangano
Tritium: Toxic Tip of the Nuclear Iceberg
Ray McGovern
Hersh’s Big Scoop: Bad Intel Behind Trump’s Syria Attack
Roy Eidelson
Heart of Darkness: Observations on a Torture Notebook
Geoff Beckman
Why Democrats Lose: the Case of Jon Ossoff
Matthew Stevenson
Travels Around Trump’s America
David Macaray
Law Enforcement’s Dirty Little Secret
Colin Todhunter
Future Shock: Imagining India
Yoav Litvin
Animals at the Roger Waters Concert
Binoy Kampmark
Pride in San Francisco
Stansfield Smith
North Koreans in South Korea Face Imprisonment for Wanting to Return Home
Hamid Yazdan Panah
Remembering Native American Civil Rights Pioneer, Lehman Brightman
James Porteous
Seventeen-Year-Old Nabra Hassanen Was Murdered
Weekend Edition
June 23, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Democrats in the Dead Zone
Gary Leupp
Trump, Qatar and the Danger of Total Confusion
Andrew Levine
The “Democracies” We Deserve
Jeffrey St. Clair - Joshua Frank
The FBI’s “Operation Backfire” and the Case of Briana Waters
Rob Urie
Cannibal Corpse
Joseph G. Ramsey
Savage Calculations: On the Exoneration of Philando Castile’s Killer
John Wight
Trump’s Attack on Cuba
Dave Lindorff
We Need a Mass Movement to Demand Radical Progressive Change
Brian Cloughley
Moving Closer to Doom
David Rosen
The Sex Offender: the 21st Century Witch
John Feffer
All Signs Point to Trump’s Coming War With Iran
Jennifer L. Lieberman
What’s Really New About the Gig Economy?
Pete Dolack
Analyzing the Failures of Syriza
Vijay Prashad
The Russian Nexus
Mike Whitney
Putin Tries to Avoid a Wider War With the US
Gregory Barrett
“Realpolitik” in Berlin: Merkel Fawns Over Kissinger
Louis Yako
The Road to Understanding Syria Goes Through Iraq
Graham Peebles
Grenfell Tower: A Disaster Waiting to Happen
Ezra Rosser
The Poverty State of Mind and the State’s Obligations to the Poor
Ron Jacobs
Andrew Jackson and the American Psyche
Pepe Escobar
Fear and Loathing on the Afghan Silk Road
Andre Vltchek
Why I Reject Western Courts and Justice
Lawrence Davidson
On Hidden Cultural Corruptors
Christopher Brauchli
The Routinization of Mass Shootings in America
Missy Comley Beattie
The Poor Need Not Apply
Martin Billheimer
White Man’s Country and the Iron Room
Joseph Natoli
What to Wonder Now
Tom Clifford
Hong Kong: the Chinese Meant Business
Thomas Knapp
The Castile Doctrine: Cops Without Consequences
Nyla Ali Khan
Borders Versus Memory
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail