We keep making the same mistakes, over & over....
If Pope Francis sees "piecemeal World War III" in multiplying conflicts, why can't our president see this?
President Obama's evident aversion to melding force to diplomacy--he instantly rules out most military action in major cases--tees up Robert Kagan's argument that the country needs a debate on whether, not when to use force. He notes that the US has frequently put "boots on the ground" during the 20th & 21st centuries:
Counting only the larger interventions, with “boots on the ground,” there has been one intervention on average every 4½ years since 1898. Overall, the United States has been engaged in combat somewhere in the world in 52 out of the past 116 years, or roughly 45 percent of the time. Since the end of the Cold War, the rate of U.S. interventions has been higher, with an intervention roughly once every three years, and U.S. troops intervening or engaged in combat in 19 out of 25 years, or more than 75 percent of the time, since the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Another feature of the president's worldview is illuminated by Russia scholar Leon Aron, who writes that having lost the moral dimension of wars between sides good & evil, ceasefires & "peace" trump victory and, tragically, help the evil side survive:
Two reasons in the post-modern canon could provide an explanation. First, while someone's victory implies someone's defeat, "peace" – no matter how fraudulent or short-lived – superficially has no losers, and for that reason is vastly preferable. Second, the "right" and "wrong," the "just" and "unjust," the "good and evil" are inherently suspect because values themselves are suspect. Western opinion makers appear to have learned from elite universities that "values" are "individual" and "subjective." As a result, they must be taken out of political discourse and decision-making. Hence, too, the coverage by the elite media of the West of both wars as "conflicts" in which the word "just" or its synonyms never once appear, both sides are somehow equally at fault, and therefore a victory by one side is not more morally agreeable than by the other.
Ever perceptive, Michael Ledeen suggests that the bad guys think they are winning.
A remarkable quantity of the “analysis” of the current unpleasantness is devoted to explaining what is “really” going on inside the various hostile regimes and organizations around the world, the tacit assumption being that foreign policy is only understandable in the context of domestic disputes, power plays, schemes and whatnot. Thus, Putin’s maneuvers regarding Ukraine or Moldova are reflections of inner turmoil, Hamas’s attacks on Israel show us the internal divisions of the movement, and the proclamations of one or another Caliphate are the result of power struggles within the Islamist universe. Thus, Iran’s annoying refusal to come to terms with “the West” is because of an ongoing spat between Iranian reformers and hard-liners.
I think we ought to take their announced intentions more seriously, especially at the very top. I think Putin, Khamenei, Mashaal, Abbas et al. are trying to avenge what they see as historic catastrophes, and I think they are their allies are trying to dominate and destroy us. I think they despise and fear our freedom and democracy, both of which threaten their tyrannical rule.
So I think they hate us both for what we are, and for what they believe we have done in the recent and ancient past. I think these are strong convictions, and I don’t think we are likely to talk them out of them.
Ledeen then quotes Jonathan Swift: “You can’t reason someone out of something he wasn’t reasoned into in the first place.”
Put simply, ML writes that the bad guys do NOT want the same things we want. In another posting on war he calls war the normal state of human affairs, with rare interludes of relative peace--noting a fmed dictum of Machiavelli: “Man is more inclined to do evil than to do good.”
Scholar Eliot Cohen writes that Obama simply cannot accept that war is war. He contrasts Obama with the president Obama thinks he is--Lincoln--to whom "O" is in fact the antithesis:
Therein lies the difference between Lincoln and Obama, which explains much of the wreckage that is U.S. foreign policy in Gaza and elsewhere today. Lincoln accepted war for what it is; Obama does not. The Gaza war is a humanitarian tragedy for Palestinian civilians caught in the crossfire. It is also a barbaric conflict, as leaders of Hamas hide their fighters behind children while baiting their enemy to kill innocents. But first and foremost, it is a war, a mortal contest of wills between two governments and two societies.
Ex-Army War College chief Robert Scales explains how terrorists have maneuvered the West into fighting on their asymmetrical terms. Likely this means an inconclusive result at best.
Alas, this debate cannot meaningfully begin until a new president sits in the Oval Office--one not cloistered in his own fantasy world--Obama's administration called "workplace violence" the attack by the Fort Hood "soldier of Allah" who shouted "Allahu Akbar!" as he shot over 50 soldiers, and now wants to join ISIS. Having weakened America's defense posture Team Obama will leave the next administration fewer cards to play. As SecDef Chuck Hagel recently stated: “We are entering an era where American dominance on the seas, in the skies, and in space can no longer be taken for granted.”
Worse, this disjunction comes when what Fareed Zakharia calls "a new Putinism" is taking root around the globe:
The crucial elements of Putinism are nationalism, religion, social conservatism, state capitalism and government domination of the media. They are all, in some way or another, different from and hostile to, modern Western values of individual rights, tolerance, cosmopolitanism and internationalism. It would be a mistake to believe that Putin’s ideology created his popularity — he was popular before — but it sustains his popularity.
FZ cites the rulers of Hungary, Turkey and far-right party leaders in Europe's as avatars of democratically elected dictators.
Bottom Line. Will we ever learn? Alas, likely not, until if & when we are hit much harder than to date.
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