Was The Iraq War Worth It?

When we see Iraq–and the rest of the Middle East–in chaos, one has to wonder if the Iraq War was worth it.

Thousands of Americans died, thousands more left Iraq with physical and mental injuries we’ll be paying for a long time. Let’s not forget of the thousands of Iraqis who died, the “surge” that only delayed the inevitable civil war, and only helped drive the total cost of that gross misadventure to $4-$6 trillion.

Yet, those numbers don’t anger the same crowd who’ve spent the last six years complaining about debt and deficits.

Was that a good return on investment?

Look at the Middle East today. I’d say, no.

Did the war that disposed of dictator Saddam Hussein make the world a better place? Without Saddam holding ground in Iraq, Iran has experienced greater influence in its neighboring country that it probably never dreamed possible.

Also, by ousting Saddam and our subsequent failure at turning Iraq into a privatized utopia many neoconservatives wished, terror groups like ISIS are feeding-off the anger and ignorance of poor Sunnis.

For some reason that’s beyond me (other than proving to me that President Obama has always been a secret Eisenhower-like Republican), we’re getting ourselves involved in another Middle Eastern conflict. We’re now going to give weapons to “moderate” Syrian rebels to fight ISIS.

Why don’t I feel optimistic about this one? Is it going to be different than the rest of the misadventures we’ve gotten ourselves into during the last few decades in the Middle East?

Jeffrey Sachs explains that thanks to domestic politics, we keep making poor decisions over there. That’s happening now, I’m afraid.

Sachs thinks now is the time for U.S. to force others to fix the ISIS problem:

If the US had a real strategy for national success, we would let the Middle East face and resolve its own crises, and demand a UN framework for action. We would team up not with NATO, but with the UN Security Council, and put others (for once!) into the lead. We would actually mobilize to solve the real problems facing the region: poverty, hunger, drought, and unemployment. Those are the crises that at the end of the day cause men and boys to fling their lives into useless and suicidal slaughter. If just once in our times US politicians had the bravery to build coalitions to improve the lives of the people through development rather than through bombs, the US public would be amazed to see how much agreement and goodwill could quickly generate. Instead we head to war.

Why do that when Senator Lindsay Graham is telling me ISIS will show-up on my backdoor unless we bomb now, then send-in ground troops.

With what money?

Pat’s Perfect NFL Picks–Week 2 Edition

Click the link below to listen to this week’s “Pat’s Perfect NFL Picks” from WSGW’s “First Day” show. You can see the text below the sound link.

Pat’s Perfect NFL Picks–Week 2. From the 9/14/14 edition of WSGW’s “First Day.”

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It’s time for the most exciting three minutes in Sunday News-Talk radio! That’s right! It’s time for the Week 2 installment of “Pat’s Perfect NFL Picks” on WSGW’s First Day!

FootballThis is the segment of the show where I give what I think are three surefire picks each week during the NFL season. One of those picks, of course, include whoever the Detroit Lions are playing, too. Before I give you those picks, let’s just do a quick review how I started the year last week.

I told you the Arizona Cardinals would outlast the San Diego Chargers. They Did!

I told you the Detroit Lions would stomp all over the New York Giants.  They Did!

And I told you the Dallas Cowboys would upset the San Francisco 49ers.  What was I thinking?

It wasn’t a perfect Week 1, but I’ll accept a 2-1 record to start.  There’s room for improvement, I suppose, and I’m ready to do that right now! And after watching my Proud Pittsburgh Steelers fumbling and bumbling about on Thursday night, the only way I can find any joy this weekend is to predict a perfect slate of games.

Here are my Week 2 picks!

falconsWe start in Cincinnati where the Bungles host the Atlanta Falcons. Both teams experienced Week 1 victories, with Cincy beating Baltimore and Atlanta shocking New Orleans in overtime. I’ve been a Bungles doubter for the past decade because they’re, well, the Bungles. Yes, they have a really good defense, running back, and wide receiver with A.J. Green.  And, the Bungles have won 12 of their last 13 at home. Ah, but you didn’t hear me say the Bungles had the better quarterback. Andy Dalton is ok, but not worth the millions the Bungle ownership handed him this offseason. Matt Ryan, on the other hand, passed for over 400 yards and three touchdowns, plus he’s got a solid wide receiving corps. Go with the better quarterback, I say. This is my upset special!

GIVE ME THE FALCONS OVER THE BUNGLES–31-28!!!

The Buffalo Bills and Miami Dolphins are 1-0. The New England Patriots are 0-1. Who saw that billshappening in the AFC East? The Bills welcome the fins to upstate New York in front of what should be a fired-up Buffalo crowd. The Dolphins feature a solid running attack led by former Denver Bronco Knowshon Moreno, and quarterback Ryan Tannehill appears to be getting better and better. The Bills also have the game’s best running back tandem with C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson. In this game, it’s going to come down to who’s defense can contain the opponent’s running game. If this game were in the heat of Miami, I’d go with the Dolphins. But it’s not. Home field gives Buffalo the edge.

GIVE ME THE BILLS OVER THE DOLPHINS–21-20!!!

DetroitLionsAnd finally, your Detroit Lions–the 25th edition of the “new look” Detroit Lions since 1989–are traveling down to North Carolina to take on Cam Newton and the Panthers. The Lions marched up-and-down field at will against the Giants in Monday Night Football. Quarterback Matt Stafford and wide receiver Calvin Johnson put on a spectacular show for the home crowd, and the defense played quite well. The Panthers beat Tampa Bay last Sunday without Newton under center. The difference in this game will be if Detroit’s defensive front can harass Newton enough to force turnovers. The Lions offense will struggle a bit more against a strong Panther D, so Detroit will need its defense produce some splash plays. Logic says go with Carolina. I’m going with my gut.

GIVE ME THE LIONS IN AN UPSET OVER CAROLINA–28-27!!!

That’s the Week 2 edition of “Pat’s Perfect NFL Picks” on WSGW’s First Day!

Here We Go Again IV

The litany of concerns I’ve been writing about throughout the day as we lead-up to President Obama’s “ISIS Speech” tonight remains consistent with my overall feelings of intervening in Middle Eastern affairs. The Iraq War turned-out to be far messier than its supporters had anticipated or even dreamed of–not to mention that we relied on a guy codenamed “Curveball” to supply us with all of those WMD claims.

I’m for protecting this country by using smart intelligence collection devices rather than the broad overreach we’ve experienced since 9/11. Going after Bin Laden made sense, as did going our intelligence gathering to capture those responsible for 9/11. Treating Al Qaeda like The Mob (as then-Senator John Kerry had said) was perhaps the most effective way to infiltrate, learn about, and blunt Al Qaeda’s plans. The Iraq and Afghanistan Wars proved to be the most ineffective way to make terrorist organizations a “manageable” problem.

And today we’re hearing that President Obama is succumbing to the pressure from his political allies and adversaries, Pentagon officials, media figures, and poor poll numbers to engage ourselves in another Middle Eastern country’s convoluted and confusing civil war.

As Professor Juan Cole notes:

Giving close air support to Middle Eastern groups requires US special forces on the ground, to paint lasers on the targets. And if the campaign isn’t finished in 3 years, there will be pressure from Washington hawks to commit troops (there already is). Governments don’t like to be seen failing, and sometimes will double down in a gamble.

Label me as naive, but I think I was on the right side of the Iraq War debate. Bombing to bomb doesn’t always make things better. Sometimes it does work,  like in Bosnia or in the recent campaign to stop ISIS from killing innocent Iraqis in the mountains. Those were targeted campaigns, however, and it seems like we’re going to engross ourselves in a theater filled with characters who keep switching sides.

All because we’re angry, right now.

I want to know what success looks like, and once that success has been achieved, when we can declare Mission Accomplished.

Meanwhile, we’ll spend billions of dollars to carry-out these missions, while our infrastructure keeps deteriorating.

pat@wsgw.com

Here We Go Again III

The American public is ready for some action:

Almost two-thirds of respondents in a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll believe it is in the nation’s interest to confront the group, known as ISIS and as ISIL, which has swept through Syria and northern Iraq. Only 13% said action wasn’t in the national interest.

Even more surprising is the kind of action Americans are thirsting for:

Asked what type of military response was appropriate, some 40% of those polled said action against ISIS should be limited to airstrikes and an additional 34% were willing to use both airstrikes and commit U.S. ground troops—a remarkable mood swing for an electorate that just a year ago recoiled at Mr. Obama’s proposal to launch airstrikes against Syria.

According to my calculations, that amounts to some 74% of Americans demanding we do…something. Interestingly (and frankly, frighteningly), 34% are ready to send some of our neighbors overseas to do…something against a group most of the country had never heard about at the start of 2014.

Here was the slap-in-the-face moment for me regarding this poll:

Moreover, Mr. Obama has presided over a significant decline in confidence in U.S. security: The poll found that 47% believe the country is less safe than it was before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks—up sharply from 28% just one year ago.

The beheading of those two American journalists has certainly caught the attention of the American people, which probably was the overall goal of ISIS. Because of those two separate and horrific acts, we are afraid that ISIS is knocking on our backdoor, even though our intelligence says no near-term threat exists. On top of that, ISIS probably doesn’t even want to be in the United States, unlike its more “moderate” terror brother, Al Qaeda.

That doesn’t prevent some in Congress from wanting to spread the fear possibility of something scary about to happen. As Sam Stein says, if Congress knows of some imminent threat to the country, then it has a duty to come clean.

Andrew Sullivan sums it up best for me:

But I have yet to see or be shown any solid intelligence that suggests that these fanatics are aiming at the US. We may well have a problem of home-grown Jihadists returning and wreaking havoc – but that is a manageable threat. And direct military intervention by the West could easily increase these losers’ incentives to strike us here at home. So, in that narrow sense, this return to fighting other people’s civil wars in the Middle East may actually increase the risks to us. That’s what I mean by “taking the bait“.

More worryingly, the president appears to be choosing September 11 to make the case for a war against ISIS in Iraq and Syria. The fear factor is thereby evoked all the more powerfully – and any return to normality, or restraint, or prudence that we have slowly achieved since then will be wiped away. I just ask you: did that fear and terror help us make wise decisions about foreign policy back then? Do we really want to recreate that atmosphere – with no solid evidence of a tangible threat to the US?

Dick Cheney has piggy-backed on this fear to make a grand return to the stage.

Talk about stepping through the looking glass.

pat@wsgw.com

Here We Go Again II

As America gears-up for some military involvement in the Middle East, Congress has chosen to sit on the sidelines and allow President Obama carte blanche in his endeavor to “destroy” ISIS.

At least in the run-up to the Iraq War, congress had to put their reputations on the line and vote for authorization. And it’s because of that vote, members of Congress this time around aren’t as fired-up to stamp their signatures to another Middle Eastern excursion.

Paul Waldman explains:

If there were a vote, Many would be asking themselves two questions: what do I think is the right thing for us to do now, and how is this vote going to look in a year or two or five? If you vote against the resolution — and military action proceeds anyway and it’s a sweeping success — then you’ll later be criticized as a weakling who didn’t want to combat the barbarism of ISIS. But if you vote for it and we end up getting sucked into another quagmire, you’ll be in the position everyone who voted for the Iraq war resolution in 2002 has been in ever since, constantly having to explain and justify your role in setting in motion a foreign policy disaster.

Then there’s the question of exactly what a resolution would say. If it’s too constraining, those who favor a comprehensive military engagement might balk; if it’s too broad, it would be opposed by those who fear an open-ended conflict that keeps ratcheting up.

Congress has chosen to abdicate its authority and grant the executive branch the freedom to do…whatever it wants?

Politically, it’s probably the wise strategy:

“A lot of people would like to stay on the sideline and say, ‘Just bomb the place and tell us about it later,’ ” said Representative Jack Kingston, Republican of Georgia, who supports having an authorization vote. “It’s an election year. A lot of Democrats don’t know how it would play in their party, and Republicans don’t want to change anything. We like the path we’re on now. We can denounce it if it goes bad, and praise it if it goes well and ask what took him so long.”

It’s a political winner for the GOP no matter what happens, and I thank Kingston for being honest. He wanted a vote, by the way, but he’s in the minority.

Doesn’t it seem like ions ago when President Obama was receiving grief, and lawsuits, over his tyrannical use of executive action?

Those were the good ole days!

h/t Digby

pat@wsgw.com

Here We Go Again

As President Obama prepares to address the nation on Wednesday in which he’ll outline his administration’s policy for attacking ISIS, his conservative opponents are continuing to hammer him for not being, tough enough? I think that’s what Hot Air’s Noah Rothman is trying to argue:

There are some indications from the president, though, that his preferred approach to dealing with the ISIS threat differed significantly from that of the Pentagon.

“ISIL is as sophisticated and well-funded as any group that we have seen. They’re beyond just a terrorist group,” Sec. Chuck Hagel said on August 22nd. “They marry ideology, a sophistication of strategic and tactical military prowess. They are tremendously well-funded. Oh, this is beyond anything that we’ve seen.”

It seems as though Obama’s view, one which treats ISIS as just another terrorist group, won out.

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The critics inside the administration appear to have been silenced, and a more robust campaign to oust ISIS from Iraq and Syria will not be forthcoming. What is forthcoming is a speech in which Obama will justify his resistance to dealing with ISIS comprehensively and call it a strategy.

Ummm, announcing an effort to “reverse” ISIS’s gains is what I would call “a strategy.” More details of the strategy are being telegraphed, such as further bombings, gathering a “coalition of the willing,” and trying to engage Arab states to get involved, which they appear to be doing–somewhat–on their own.

ISIS is a terror organization, and I just don’t understand what exactly critics like Rothman want Obama to do. How would putting boots on the ground in an old-fashioned ground assault change things for the better. Look at Afghanistan, which I think is Obama’s biggest folly as President. The more and more we got sucked into that country, the more and more we suffered both human and monetary losses without gaining much ground.

Furthermore, we’re now going to help re-train the Iraqi army? Seriously? Talk about a waste of resources.

Obama realizes how we risk getting stuck into the quicksand of another Middle Eastern labyrinth filled with bad options, and even worse options. Yet, all indications point to a re-engagement in Iraq, and an expansion of the fight into an already war-torn Syria.

If we do a repeat of an Iraq War invasion, we are walking into a trap ISIS wants, as Tom Englehardt notes:

Consider this the incrementalism of the reluctant under the usual pressures of a militarized Washington eager to let loose the dogs of war. One place all of this is heading is into a morass of bizarre contradictions involving Syrian politics. Any bombing of that country will necessarily involve implicit, if not explicit, support for the murderous regime of Bashar al-Assad, as well as for the barely existing “moderate” rebels who oppose his regime and to whom Washington may now ship more arms. This, in turn, could mean indirectly delivering yet more weaponry to ISIS. Add everything up and at the moment Washington seems to be on the path that ISIS has laid out for it.

Americans prefer to believe that all problems have solutions. There may, however, be no obvious or at least immediate solution when it comes to ISIS, an organization based on exclusivity and divisiveness in a region that couldn’t be more divided. On the other hand, as a minority movement that has already alienated so many in the region, left to itself it might with time simply burn out or implode. We don’t know. We can’t know. But we do have reasonable evidence from the past 13 years of what an escalating American military intervention is likely to do: not whatever it is that Washington wants it to do.

If we remember, Senators John McCain and Lindsay Graham wanted the U.S. to arm the Syrian rebels–a.k.a. ISIS. We may continue to do just that.

Obama is going to give what apparently what a majority of Americans want, but at what cost and what will be the solution? What does the end game look like?

The are complex questions that I’m afraid doesn’t have simple answers.

And I thought we were broke?