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Will American Ground Troops Be Sent to Fight ISIS?
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Blog, Commentary and Articles - Foreign Policy, Military and War
Written by Sheldon Richman   
Thursday, 25 September 2014
Will American Ground Troops Be Sent to Fight ISIS?
by Sheldon Richman
 
With the United States dropping bombs on yet another Muslim country, we might benefit from a close look at President Obama’s anti–Islamic State strategy.
 
Obama and his spokespeople are always quick to make two points: first, that no American ground forces will be sent into combat against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), and second, that the United States will merely be part, albeit a leading part, of a broad coalition of Arab and NATO countries.
 
The Obama administration’s emphasis on these points strongly suggests that Americans would not support a war against ISIS fought solely by the United States with American ground troops as part of the effort.
 
In his speech at MacDill Air Force base on September 17, Obama said,
As your Commander-in-Chief, I will not commit you and the rest of our Armed Forces to fighting another ground war in Iraq. After a decade of massive ground deployments, it is more effective to use our unique capabilities in support of partners on the ground so they can secure their own countries’ futures. And that’s the only solution that will succeed over the long term.
Although Obama was at an air force base, he was probably talking more to the general public than to the assembled troops, many members of which may be disappointed in Obama’s pledge because combat experience is a valued résumé item.
 
He went on:
We’ll use our air power. We will train and equip our partners. We will advise them and we will assist them. We will lead a broad coalition of countries who have a stake in this fight. Because this is not simply America versus [ISIS]—this is the people of the region fighting against [ISIS].
Obama keeps saying that this is not just an American fight and that ground troops will not be necessary. Yet he also insists that ISIS threatens Americans in the United States. That naturally raises this question: what if the local ground troops that Obama counts on—the Iraqi and Kurdish armies and the alleged moderate Syrian rebels—aren’t up to the job? Many prowar commentators think they are not, and no one thinks air power alone can defeat ISIS.
 
The typical administration response is that they will be up to the job, so that event need not be planned for. When Joint Chiefs Chairman Martin Dempsey told the Senate that in such an event he would recommend the dispatch of American ground troops, all hell broke loose because he had departed from the script.
 
The administration’s evasion of this important question is ominous. Even a confused policy embodies a logic. If Obama (despite the evidence) declares ISIS a significant domestic threat, and if the Iraqi, Kurdish, and Syrian forces fail, won’t he be pushed by the logic of his policy to send in American ground forces? After scaring Americans about ISIS and investing so much political capital, who can imagine him calling off the airstrikes and withdrawing?
 
As for Obama’s emphasis on coalition building, let’s not be fooled. This is a U.S.-led operation, and that is how the inhabitants of the bombed territories will see it. ISIS recruitment will soar.
 
But even if other coalition members shouldered most of the burden, why should Americans feel any better about the operation? The objection to a new U.S. war in the Middle East should not be that America would go it alone. Rather, it’s that America cannot police the world without doing a variety of harms. Bringing a posse of nations along doesn’t change that.
 
Obama tips his hand about who will bear the burden when he rhapsodizes about American exceptionalism. At MacDill he said,
[I]t is America that has the unique capability to mobilize against an organization like [ISIS].…
 
[W]hen the world is threatened, when the world needs help, it calls on America.…
 
[T]here just aren’t a lot of other folks who can perform in the same ways—in fact, there are none. And there are some things only we can do. There are some capabilities only we have.
In declaring war against the ISIS insurgency (with no congressional declaration), Obama has set the country on a course of intervention in two Muslim civil wars. It can’t turn out well.
 
Sheldon Richman is vice president and editor at The Future of Freedom Foundation in Fairfax, Va. (www.fff.org ).
 
Is the Foreign-Policy Elite Clueless?
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Blog, Commentary and Articles - Foreign Policy, Military and War
Written by Sheldon Richman   
Wednesday, 17 September 2014
Is the Foreign-Policy Elite Clueless?
by Sheldon Richman
 
The American foreign-policy elite seems to have no idea what it’s doing.
 
Americans may believe the government — especially the foreign-policy side — is at least minimally competent, but when one surveys decisions from the last few decades, one has to wonder.
 
The current crop of policymakers, like earlier ones, know what they want to do: make the world safe for American leadership — or, less euphemistically, American hegemony: No rivals for American influence or access to resources and markets can be tolerated. As President George H.W. Bush said, “What we say goes.”
 
Even by that standard, the policy architects and executors look incompetent — or unbelievably cynical.
 
No better evidence exists than the policies that led to the so-called Islamic State and President Barack Obama’s response to it.
 
Let’s begin with March 2003. President George W. Bush, citing imaginary weapons of mass destruction and Saddam Hussein’s fictitious connection to al-Qaeda’s 9/11 attacks, sent the military to invade Iraq, overthrow the government, and occupy the country. Saddam’s regime was secular, but he was a Sunni Muslim and the majority Shi’ites were especially oppressed under his dictatorship. With Saddam gone, the Shi’ites have dominated, and the emerging successor regime predictably moved close to Iran, the large Persian Shi’ite country next door. (Saddam, assisted by the U.S. government, launched a devastating eight-year war against Iran in the 1980s.) In response, al-Qaeda (which is Sunni) arose in Iraq for the first time and participated in an anti-U.S. and anti-Shi’ite insurgency, until the CIA paid the local Sunni tribal leaders to turn on al-Qaeda, whom they disliked anyway.
 
Thus Bush alienated the Sunnis and created a Shi’ite ally for Iran. Yet since 1979 (when the Islamic revolution overthrew the dictatorial monarchy of long-time U.S. client Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi) Iran has been demonized (falsely) by U.S. administrations as one of America’s mortal enemies.
 
What was the Bush brain trust thinking when it did its favor for Iran? Was the plan to overthrow Iran’s government next or merely to have a perpetual crisis? Crisis, like war, is the health of the state, after all.
 
Under the American occupation and the U.S./Iran-installed regime of Nouri al-Maliki, the Sunnis were shut out of the army and civil service, not to mention repressed — so much so that when the Islamic State came along, the Sunnis were willing to tolerate its brutality rather than continue suffering under Shi’ite rule. Maliki is out now, but institutionalized sectarianism is not over.
 
Meanwhile, next door in Syria, the brutal Iran-backed dictatorship of Bashar al-Assad became even more egregious in 2011 in response to growing protests. Assad’s regime is also secular, but his and his cronies’ religion is related to Shi’ism, putting the majority Sunnis at a disadvantage. Obama, with the help of then secretary of state Hillary Clinton and British Prime Minister David Cameron, made a bad situation worse by declaring that Assad must give up power. Thus compromise would be suicidal for Assad, and al-Qaeda-type fighters from the region (such as next-door Iraq) were encouraged to flock to Syria because Assad’s days were apparently numbered. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant was born when a capable and especially fanatical group of foreign fighters in Syria had strategic differences with the al-Qaeda affiliate.
 
So here we are. The Islamic State, a product of idiotic U.S. actions, controls large parts of Syria and Iraq, effectively erasing the border between them.
 
In response, Obama wants to obliterate the Islamic State (by air) without helping Iran or Assad or alienating Sunnis. Talk about squaring the circle! If recent history is any guide, arming the Iraqi army and the phantom moderate rebels against Assad amounts to arming the Islamic State. The nonaggression pact among the Islamic State and other anti-Assad groups, along with the U.S.-blessed Free Syrian Army's announcement that it would not join Obama's anti-ISIS coalition, seems to sink the president's plan.
 
Obama warns that the Islamic State could threaten Americans at home, yet American airstrikes make that more likely; the Islamic State’s murders of two American journalists were committed in retaliation for the first U.S. strikes.
 
If any part of Obama’s plan makes sense to you, you might have a future in the foreign-policy establishment.
 
Sheldon Richman is vice president and editor at The Future of Freedom Foundation in Fairfax, Va. (www.fff.org ).
 
Obama Follows Bush’s Iraq Playbook
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Blog, Commentary and Articles - Foreign Policy, Military and War
Written by Sheldon Richman   
Wednesday, 10 September 2014
Obama Follows Bush’s Iraq Playbook
by Sheldon Richman
 
U.S. politicians are exploiting the gruesome beheadings of two American journalists to whip up war fever against ISIS, the “criminal gang” masquerading as an organization of devout Sunni Muslims that controls large parts of Syria and Iraq. The American propaganda campaign seems to be working if recent polls are accurate.
 
No decent person is anything but appalled by those executions. But are they grounds for the United States to go to war?
 
No, they are not. Barack Obama says his job is to protect Americans wherever they are, but he doesn’t cite the source of this power. No such power is implied in the president’s oath of office, which obligates him only to “faithfully execute the Office of President” and to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution.”
 
Article II of the Constitution vests the “executive power” in the president, but that just means he has the power to execute laws passed by the legislative branch. There is no blank-check language about protecting Americans, particularly outside the country.
 
Section 2 of that article of course says the president is “commander in chief” of the armed forces, but no matter how many times the war party repeats that phrase, it cannot be reasonably interpreted as unilateral power to take the country to war. Article I reserves the power to declare and finance wars to Congress alone.
 
True, since the end of World War II, presidents have assumed the unilateral power to make war, and most members of Congress have been more than happy to defer. But this does not mean that we who understand the danger of autocracy should acquiesce.
 
Obama says he can go to war against ISIS anywhere without “authorization” from Congress. (No one in government or the media uses the word declaration.) In his interview on Meet the Press, Obama said,
I’m confident that I have the authorization that I need to protect the American people. And I’m always going to do what’s necessary to protect the American people. But I do think it’s important for Congress to understand what the plan is, to have buy in, to debate it.
But understanding, buying in (whatever that means), and debating are not the same as authorizing through a declaration of war. Just because most members of Congress would hate to sign off on a years-long, offensive war less than two months before an election, that’s no excuse for Obama to exercise autocratic powers.
 
Note that Obama speaks of protecting the American people. He means Americans both abroad and at home. Americans of course are free to travel anywhere. If the U.S. government is to have the power to protect or avenge them abroad, it will have to be able to exercise military power globally. Such imperial power, which the government has long exercised, should disturb peace- and freedom-loving Americans precisely because it creates the potential for perpetual war, invites retaliatory terrorism, and requires high government spending and borrowing.
 
It may be taken for granted that a president can go to war when an American is killed overseas, but that kind of power is too dangerous to accept meekly. Americans, especially war correspondents, should be on notice that they travel at their own risk. This may sound callous, but the alternative is a global empire that we cannot afford either in blood or treasure.
 
What about protecting Americans at home? Here the irony of Obama’s position is striking. U.S. intervention in the Middle East is what endangers Americans at home. Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda hit Americans here because for many years the U.S. government had perpetrated and supported violence against Arabs (Palestinians, Iraqis, Egyptians, Lebanese and others) — and it still does.
 
No al-Qaeda affiliate existed in Iraq before George W. Bush launched his invasion and occupation in 2003. ISIS is an offshoot of al-Qaeda, and its execution of the two journalists was retaliation for recent U.S. bombings in Iraq. No doubt those murders were intended also to goad Obama into sending American forces, which would boost ISIS’s recruitment and prestige. Bin Laden did the same thing, bragging he would bleed the United States bankrupt through long years of war. He succeeded.
 
Hold on tight: Obama is about to replicate Bush’s folly.
 
Sheldon Richman is vice president and editor at The Future of Freedom Foundation in Fairfax, Va. (www.fff.org ).
 
Mission Creep in Iraq
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Blog, Commentary and Articles - Foreign Policy, Military and War
Written by Sheldon Richman   
Monday, 25 August 2014
Mission Creep in Iraq
by Sheldon Richman
 
There are several reasons not to intervene militarily in another country’s conflict, even modestly. One is the potential for mission creep.
 
We already could detect the signs of mission creep in Iraq. Now, with the stepped-up U.S. airstrikes after the Islamic State's horrific execution of American reporter Jim Foley, the signs are clearer than ever.
 
On August 7, Barack Obama said that the U.S. airstrikes in northern Iraq were to protect Americans from the Islamic State’s threat to the Kurdish city of Erbil, where the U.S. government has a consulate. He also said Americans would be protected anywhere in Iraq, including Baghdad. Finally, he said airstrikes would be part of a humanitarian mission to save “thousands — perhaps tens of thousands” — of Yezidis who were trapped and desperate on Mount Sinjar.
 
But in later statements Obama intimated that he had other objectives.
 
On August 9 he said, “We will continue to provide military assistance and advice to the Iraqi government and Kurdish forces as they battle these terrorists, so that the terrorists cannot establish a permanent safe haven.” That is much broader than the mission first outlined. Will American ground troops be introduced next if airpower won’t suffice to root out the Islamic State? Obama says no, but only a fool would take that promise to the bank.
 
He added, “Wherever and whenever U.S. personnel and facilities are threatened, it’s my obligation, my responsibility as commander in chief, to make sure that they are protected.” Of course one way to protect personnel is to remove them from the war zone. But Obama will have none of that: “And we’re not moving our embassy any time soon. We’re not moving our consulate any time soon. And that means that, given the challenging security environment, we’re going to maintain vigilance and ensure that our people are safe.”
 
That, I submit, could easily transform into a justification for a far broader mission.
 
We can see this with the American airstrikes that helped Kurdish and Iraqi forces retake the Mosul Dam, although Obama spun it differently. In a letter to Congress he wrote, “The mission is consistent with the president’s directive that the U.S. military protect U.S. personnel and facilities in Iraq, since the failure of the Mosul Dam could threaten the lives of large numbers of civilians and threaten U.S. personnel and facilities — including the U.S. embassy in Baghdad.”
 
Obama sent the letter apparently to comply with the 1973 War Powers Resolution, which requires a president to notify Congress within 48 hours after the U.S. military is sent into hostilities. After 60 days, Obama will need an explicit congressional authorization — except that in the past Congress never sought to enforce the resolution when a president violated it, as Obama did when he used airpower to help overthrow the government of Muammar Qadaffi in Libya in 2011. (Obama simply claimed that the American pilots flying warplanes and bombing government installations were not involved in hostilities.)
 
In another sign of mission creep, Reuters reports that “the governor of Iraq's Anbar province in the Sunni heartland said he has asked for and secured U.S. support in the battle against Islamic State militants because opponents of the group may not have the stamina for a long fight.” Anbar province was the location of some of the toughest resistance to the American occupation and the scene of two U.S. attacks on Fallujah in April and November 2004. As Reuters put it, “The United States mounted its biggest offensive of the occupation against a staggering variety of Islamist militants in the city of Fallujah in Anbar [in November 2004], with its soldiers experiencing some of the fiercest combat since the Vietnam War.” U.S. forces were reported to have used cluster bombs and white phosphorus artillery shells, while other war crimes were alleged against American troops.
 
The safe bet is that the mission in Iraq will continue to grow. Few people believe that airpower alone will defeat the justly abhorred Islamic State or that the Iraqi military can get the job done on the ground. So Obama could be tempted to up the ante in order to prevent any touted gains from being squandered.
 
Mission creep is only one reason why intervention in foreign wars is never a good idea.
 
Sheldon Richman is vice president and editor at The Future of Freedom Foundation in Fairfax, Va. (www.fff.org ).
 
Ferguson, Missouri is a Real Place and Michael Brown was a Real Person
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Blog, Commentary and Articles - Crime, Law Enforcement and the Judiciary
Written by James Landrith   
Sunday, 17 August 2014

I cannot imagine how painful it must be for the family of Michael Brown and the city of Ferguson to witness all of the political posturing by opportunists on the left and the right. Some on the right are hell-bent on characterizing an entire community as rioting thugs, while some on the left are exploiting the tragedy to take childish and ignorant potshots at people who don't share their own political compass. Neither has the moral high ground here.

 

As someone who lost a family member in a violent act, I can only imagine the fear that comes with turning on the television, reading social media or seeing a newspaper. It must extremely disheartening to see their family and their community used in such a callous, calculated and compassionless manner.

Honestly, it disgusts me. For those taking advantage, using the death of a human being, and the pain of a community for political gain and partisan posturing - fuck all ya'll.

You lack the most important of human traits - empathy and compassion. Someone is dead and a community is in mourning while you posture and peacock over bullshit political preferences. I have no use for such people and see you as 100% part of the problem.

 
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