“In order to make them look like losers, we have to destroy their caliphate. And you look for the easiest place to do that? It would be in Iraq. And if — outside of Anbar in Iraq, there’s a big energy field. Take that from them. Take all of that land from them. We could do that, I believe, fairly easily, I’ve learned from talking to several generals, and then you move on from there.”
In the wake of the Paris terrorist attacks, for which the Islamic State has claimed responsibility, he will likely double down on these calls and it is easy to imagine that much of this weekend’s news cycle will be devoted to Republican fear- and war-mongering.
But Ben (and other Republicans) didn’t pay attention in history class. Nowhere in history do you see a bombing campaign winning a war. Then again, after Tuesday’s debate, the White House had to inform Ben Carson that no, Chinese forces are not involved in Syria.
Asked about Carson’s remarks by George Stephanopoulos in an interview taped Thursday, President Obama said “Well … what I think is that he doesn’t know much about it.” Obama is right, and the same can be said of all Republican critics of Obama’s war against the Islamic State.
The thing is, Carson is far from alone in thinking the would-be Caliphate is an easy fix. Which reinforces the point that they learned nothing from the Iraq fiasco. Donald Trump has said he would “bomb the sh*t” and “bomb the hell” out of the Islamic State and just to reinforce that point, “I would just bomb those suckers.”
Like Carson, whom he characterizes as stupid, he would go after the oil fields. Which maybe should tell The Donald something about his own strategy. For Trump, it sounds like a grand plundering expedition, like Agamemnon’s war against Troy:
“And, that’s right, I’d blow up all of the pipes, I’d blow up the refineries, I’d blow up every single inch, there would be nothing left. And you know what? You’ll get Exxon to come in there and in two months — you ever see these guys, how good they are, the great oil companies? They’ll rebuild that sucker brand-new. It will be beautiful. And I’d rig it, and I’d take the oil. I said, I’ll take the oil.”
After the Paris attacks, Trump tweeted,
They laughed at me when I said to bomb the ISIS controlled oil fields. Now they are not laughing and doing what I said. #Trump2016
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 13, 2015
No. We’re still laughing.
To listen to Republicans, the United States is drifting aimlessly on the world stage, from one fiasco to another, an apparently clueless Obama hopelessly behind the eight ball everywhere he turns. The Islamic State is often used to illustrate the supposed incompetence of Obama’s foreign policy.
As recently as September 21, The Washington Post told us, With fight against the Islamic State in Iraq stalled, U.S. looks to Syria for gains. Yet less than two months later we can read in Foreign Policy how,
Kurdish Peshmerga, supported by U.S. air support and Yazidi militias, have cut off a major Islamic State supply line and entered the city of Sinjar…Farther south, the Iraqi military said it has begun operations to retake the city of Ramadi, attacking the city from the north and southwest.
In Syria, a U.S. drone strike targeted a vehicle in Raqqa believed to contain Mohammed Emwazi, better known as “Jihadi John,” a British member of the Islamic State who has conducted executions for the group. It is unclear if he was killed in the strike.
A U.S. Army spokesman says the Army is “reasonably certain” Jihadi John is dead. Ben Carson said what he meant to say is that there are Chinese salesmen in Syria, and we can be reasonably certain he still has no idea what he is talking about.
That doesn’t sound too hopeless, does it? In fact, at least one security analyst sees the Islamic State “getting weaker by the day.” That was before the attack in Paris of course, but even losing enemies can launch attacks. Hitler’s schemes magnified as the war turned against him.
Wars aren’t won overnight, and this is a war, furthermore, that Obama can’t really fight, because of what Bush did in Afghanistan and Iraq. He won, then quickly lost the war in Afghanistan, and did the same in Iraq, leaving a crashed world economy in his wake and an Obama inherited an unwinnable military situation that had already given birth to a nascent Islamic State.
Think back for a minute to the Second World War. We lost it before we won it. The Japanese won a victory at Pearl Harbor, and quickly followed this with victories in the Philippines, Singapore and the Dutch East Indies, where a combined Anglo-Dutch-American force was relentlessly pounded into oblivion by the Imperial Navy. It wasn’t even a contest.
And then we turned around and won it. We lost for less than six months, but it still took three years to win it. There is no quick war, only quick campaigns – Poland for Hitler, the Philippines and Dutch East Indies for the Japanese, Iraq for both Bush and his father. But Hitler lost the war, the Japanese lost the war, Bush Sr. quit while he was ahead, and arguably, the United States lost the war in Iraq. The very best that can be said of it is that it is still ongoing.
The Republican Party loves simple solutions and the less thought put into them the better. George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq in 2003 epitomizes this thinking. He didn’t just leave the details for later, he never had any details. Thus the Islamic State today. Thus the Paris attacks, which have been compared by one ex-CIA officer to the attacks on the iconic Twin Towers on 9/11.
The Islamic State is no doubt counting on the response Republicans will give this weekend. Awareness of this permeates social media though you will nowhere find it among conservatives. Mark Ruffalo tweeted this warning, and it should be taken to heart:
Don't allow this horrific act allow you to be drawn into the loss of your humanity or tolerance. That is the intended outcome. #ParisAttacks
— Mark Ruffalo (@MarkRuffalo) November 14, 2015
The Islamic State needs to be defeated and the Paris attack only emphasize this fact. But let’s not act like conservatives both here and in Europe are certainly going to act.
It is a lot easier to get into a war than out of one, easier to start one than to end one. These are incontrovertible lessons of history. There is no short, victorious war. The Republican Party denies facts and denies reality and so can’t learn that lesson. Another 9/11 response is the last thing we – or the world – needs.
Republican strategies for defeating the Islamic State are less than viable; they’re not even realistic because of that ongoing divorce from the facts on the ground. They made the mess, and Obama – and our allies in the region – are doing the best they can to fix the mess. The Republicans, at this point, don’t get, and haven’t shown they’ve earned, a say.
Hrafnkell Haraldsson, a social liberal with leanings toward centrist politics has degrees in history and philosophy. His interests include, besides history and philosophy, human rights issues, freedom of choice, religion, and the precarious dichotomy of freedom of speech and intolerance. He brings a slightly different perspective to his writing, being that he is neither a follower of an Abrahamic faith nor an atheist but a polytheist, a modern-day Heathen who follows the customs and traditions of his Norse ancestors. He maintains his own blog, A Heathen’s Day, which deals with Heathen and Pagan matters, and Mos Maiorum Foundation www.mosmaiorum.org, dedicated to ethnic religion. He has also contributed to NewsJunkiePost, GodsOwnParty and Pagan+Politics.