Blog Credo

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.

H.L. Mencken

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Keep This In Mind

As Undead Thing Dick "Dick" Cheney shambles forth from his crypt to excoriate the President for his fecklessness in killing more Arabs and Americans in the Fertile Crescent, it is worth reflecting on news today that shows just how much more effective Obama has been in his Middle East policy.

Today, the New York Times informs us of the following: that the last of the known Syrian stockpiles of chemical weapons has been turned over to international actors for destruction.

Last summer, as it became apparent that Assad was using chemical weapons on the population, Obama began to realize he had committed himself and the nation to acting. In that debate, some of the Right acted - not surprisingly - opportunistically to attack him for...whatever.

But he got as much or more heat from the Left.  Attacking chemical weapons sites in Syria would be another Iraqistan, and we would be trapped there for years and Obama was just as bad as Bush and yadda yadda yadda.

What has been clear to me is that there is a very different approach to global (or even domestic) problems from the 43rd to the 44th president.

We know that elements in the Bush Administration were looking for opportunities to attack Iraq before 9/11 and then worked to tie 9/11 to Iraq.  In other words, war was the answer and it really didn't matter what the question was.  Maybe it was 9/11, maybe it was WMD, maybe it was bringing jihadis to Iraq so we could kill them, maybe it was spreading freedom and democracy.


Just feed the War Pig.

Obama's foreign policy has been much more similar to the Powell Doctrine, in its insistence on knowing what your goals are and what your exit strategy is.  So as Obama has worked to get us out of Iraq and Afghanistan, he did help with military action in Libya.

Libya disappeared down the memory hole during the debate over what to do in Syria, but Libya is a good example of Obama's military policy.  There was a problem: Qaddafi was going to slaughter the militants in the east of his country (including Benghazi!) and touch off a refugee crisis in Egypt that was trying to navigate its Arab Spring.  Something had to be done.

The decision was made by various NATO countries to provide air support for the rebels.  We did this, and Qaddafi is dead.

Is Libya better off?  Far too soon to tell.  Maybe not.

But that wasn't our concern.  It never was.  It is not our job to midwife a new Libyan government into being.  It was our job to stop a genocide.

So we did that, and we went home.

Syria followed much the same pattern.  We had a goal: get rid of chemical weapons.  We threatened force, but when Russia came to the table with a plan to get rid of Assad's WMD, we moved on that because it was always about getting rid of the chemical weapons, not going to war for the sake of going to war.  It wasn't some Rumsfeldian experiment about light, mobile attack infrastructure.

The important thing was solving the problem, not "proving something" to the Middle East or the Russians or the Chinese.  It wasn't a Tom Friedman-esque "throwing some little country up against the wall to show we can."

I don't know how Iraq will play out.  No one does.  I personally would like to see the country splinter.  It makes no sense to preserve the borders of a state that has no national polity.

But I do think I know how our policy vis a vis Iran will play out.

In the next few months, Iran will agree to a regime of monitoring of its nuclear program.  Sanctions will be eased and maybe we can finally come around to normalizing relations with the 17th most populous country in the world.

Because the problem is Iran's nuclear program.  And the solution is bringing them into international norms.

If we had elected John McCain, we'd have bombed Natanz by now.

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