Archive for the ‘war’ Category
By John Feehery
I am not an expert on Mideast politics, and I have only been casually observing the growing conflagration in Syria.
There is a full-blown civil war engulfing that country for a while now, as Islamic extremists on one end and pro-democracy forces on the other try to topple Bashar Al-Assad’s Ba-ath Party in Damascus.
Assad is a member of the Alawite minority in Syria, so he is not necessarily an ally of either the Shia or Sunnis that make up most of the Arab world. He has been an ally of the Persians in Iran, and his country is a safe haven for terrorist organizations like Hezbollah.
The Syrian Ba’ath Party, like Saddam Hussein’s Ba’ath party in Iraq, is socialist in nature. Assad’s wife is an attractive woman who doesn’t cover herself up in a big black burka. In other words, Assad is no fan of the Islamic extremists who make up Al Qaeda.
It seems to me that we have three options in Syria.
Option 1: Stay Out of It
We can let everybody continue to kill everybody in the country, without stepped in. That is kind of what FDR did when the Germans invaded the Russians in 1941. He didn’t invade France until he was pretty certain that the Germans and Russians had done a sufficient job of spilling a lot of each others blood.
If Al-Qaeda and Assad’s force wipe each other off the map, what does it concern us, some might ask. Let them.
The problem with that scenario is that a lot of innocent people will get slaughtered, including some of our potential allies.
That is why John McCain is all about getting some arms to the rebels, even if some of those arms might fall in the wrong hands. McCain doesn’t like it when it isn’t a fair fight. And right now, it is not a fair fight.
Option 2: Support One Side or the Other
The second option is to go with some big-time support of one side or the other. The question remains: whom do we want to win? Assad is a bad dude, but he is not an Islamic extremist, and he is not nearly as bad as Saddam Hussein. Islamic extremists are bad news. Period. And we are still at war with them, and as the Boston bombing showed, they are still at war with us.
We need to be careful whom we support here. I don’t think it is any way an easy decision.
Option 3: Cease-Fire
The third option is that we try to broker a cease-fire and then, eventually a peace agreement.
Working with the Saudis, the Egyptians, the Turks and, yes, the Iranians, this might be complicated, but it might be for the best for everybody, including the Israelis.
The danger is letting this war to continue to expand is that it starts to spill out over the Golan Heights and into Israel. I have been to the Heights and it is a very nice vantage point from which to peer into Syria, but it is also very, very close to key Israeli cities.
The danger is that if Assad feels even more threatened than he is today, he will do something desperate to unite his people, and by attacking Israel, he could very well do that.
Letting war linger is not the best option, in my opinion.
Arming the insurgents to let them expand the war is also not a good option. We don’t know where those weapons may end up.
Sending our own troops in would make things worse, especially for us. I don’t really even feel that comfortable trying to enforce a no-fly zone. That puts our guys in harm’s way, and for what?
Getting some sort of peace agreement would be the preferred option. Finding some exit strategy for Assad, where he could retire with his wife in comfort somewhere else might be the best way to move forward.
Obama doesn’t seem to be doing anything and that is probably why the Israelis have decided that they have to take matters in their own hands.
For the last 600 days, the President and his people have been saying two things. First, they have continued to say that Assad’s days are numbered. And second, they have warned that if he crosses a “red-line” on chemical weapons, well, then, Assad will be in big, big trouble.
Neither threat seems to carry much weight with the Ba’ath party leader.
Instead of throwing sticks and stones, perhaps Mr. Obama should try to broker a deal. Of course, that would require some leadership from this President.
I won’t hold my breath.
By John Feehery
It has been a decade since America invaded Iraq.
Historians will have a field day analyzing every aspect of this war, from beginning to end, and at every point in between.
The war was a mistake, a giant mistake. It cost more than 8 trillion dollars and while it deposed an evil and brutal dictator, it did so with an unnecessarily high cost in blood and treasure.
I can’t get over the fact that we went in over false pretenses. This wasn’t the only time America justified our entry into war for fraudulent reasons. The Gulf of Tonkin incident was made up. We got into a scrape in with the Spanish thanks to the passion of William Randolph Hearst, when he remembered the Maine.
But getting into war for the wrong reasons is never justifiable, in retrospect.
I remember watching the Dan Rather interview with Saddam Hussein in the days leading up to the war, thinking to myself that he was telling the truth, that he didn’t have those weapons of mass destruction that everybody was talking about.
But I worked for the House Republican Leadership at the time, and I was powerless to voice my opinion very far or very wide. Plus, for me, it was a gut instinct, not anything based on any facts.
I remember when Colin Powell addressed the United Nations. I kept thinking that they had to have some other justification then just weapons of mass destruction, because what if there were no weapons. I felt they were putting all of their eggs in that one basket.
But Powell went all in on that one argument. He was Colin Powell and he would never let his pretty substantial reputation be besmirched with a bad call, or so I thought, so I agreed with him.
I remember I was in a meeting with the House Republican leadership and Karen Hughes, the President’s top communications person, and I chimed in and said that the American people had to feel like they were part of this war, that we were all in this together.
It turned out that the best way for Americans to help the war effort was to go shopping. That was the White House response.
I remember when John McCain demanded that we raise taxes to help pay for the war. The White House and House Republicans said that raising taxes would hurt the economy and slow economic growth.
Instead, it would be future generations that would have to sacrifice for this war, with all the debt we piled on them.
I guess I agreed with the White House thinking back then, although in retrospect, it seems all so irresponsible.
New rule: If you are a generation that goes to war, you should start paying for that war immediately. It’s not fair to pass the bill on to your great-grandchildren.
I remember seeing Jerry Bremer and his top flack as they briefed the Speaker on what was really going on in Iraq. Almost every decision they made was exactly the wrong decision, but they seemed so fucking self-confident when they were talking to the Speaker.
I did not like Jerry Bremer, who wore combat boots in the Speaker’s Office. You could see that he thought of himself as a modern day Douglas MacArthur. But he wasn’t a general. He was a second-rate diplomat who thought he was God. But God is infallible. Bremer, not so much.
I remember hearing that a lot of my former colleagues, younger staff members who had about as much experience as I did in setting up new countries (which was none) were going over to Iraq to help them transition to democracy. One set up the stock market, even though he had no experience in finance. How strange, I thought at the time.
I never made it over to Iraq. I was getting married, and having a son, and I guess I wasn’t adventurous enough to see what I could see over there.
Two good friends of mine did make the trip and I thought they did it for all the right reasons. I respected their judgement and I thought they added a great deal of good experience to our operation. But that was at the tail end of our occupation. By then, the initial wave of young Bush people had already made a mess of it, and they were in fix-it mode.
The reason the Republican party lost credibility was because of the Iraq War. The reason George Bush left office with his polls numbers in the low twenties was because of the Iraq War. The reason Bush wasn’t invited to the convention in 2008 or 2012 was because of the Iraq War. The reason our debt is about three trillion more than it ought it to be is the Iraq War.
Now, not everything about the Iraq War was a disaster. We did kill Saddam Hussein and he was a bad dude. Iraq is now pumping out more gas than Iran and I suppose that is a good thing (although thanks the shale gas revolution, we don’t need that gas as much anymore).
But, on balance, the Iraq War was a huge mistake. Republicans should start acknowledging that. It will help them regain credibility with the voters.
Yes, hindsight is twenty/twenty. But I hope we learn from our mistakes. I am not sure we will.