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WWII: The Sequel

I haven’t been following the reboot of the Iraq War brought on by the ISIS atrocities.  For one thing, I don’t watch cable or network news so I missed the beheading videos.  Is it just me or should there be a law against showing that kind of thing on TV?  It feels like gratuitous snuff film porn for the purpose of horrifying people and stirring up strong emotional reactions.  I’m agin it.

I’m also against war in general but I’m not a pacifist or an isolationist.  I sat through a bajillion hours of The Last Lion, the biography of Winston Churchill and realize how dangerous pacifism and isolationism can be.  The peaceniks “at all costs” crowd are as unsettling to me as the Cheney types.  My attitude towards war is a Tolkienish one.  I don’t like it, don’t crave it, wouldn’t seek it out except for the protection of friends and innocents.

But there is a really good reason why the US can never be an isolationist country.  Going back to WWII, Churchill repeatedly threw the British Army (or what was left of it after Dunkirk) at different places in the Mediterranean and southeast asia for a purpose.  It was more than just a case of pestering Hitler like a biting sand fly.  And it did have something to do with the British Empire.  But more than that, he had to do it to maintain open sea lanes.  Take a look at the map below of the world’s chokepoints today:

If you follow the thickest blue line, you’ll notice that the most significant battles of WWII happened along it.  You can also see why the Axis came to be.  The countries that controlled the north Atlantic, Mediterranean and South China Seas pretty much ruled the world.  That big blue line represents the quickest route from East Asia to North America.  A vital choke point is right about where the Suez Canal is and what countries surround the entry and exit to the Suez Canal?  Egypt, Libya, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Saudi Arabia.  If we follow the Red Sea southward, we see Ethiopia, Sudan, Somalia. Then we swing around the Arabian Pennisula and into the Persian Gulf to Iran, Iraq, Bahrain and all that oil.

Like it or not, we are dependent on keeping those chokepoints open for international trade, not only for ourselves but for the rest of the world. It helps if the country in charge of patrolling the hot spots is above reproach.  Bush and Cheney kinda ruined our global reputation in that respect.  The rest of the world has to trust us to not act completely in our own best interests.

What Bush and Cheney did was take a giant dump in a very sensitive place.  And then they left a very naive but extremely cocky novice president to keep the place in order.  The naivety, coupled with an upcoming second term, caused a series of very bad decisions.  Pair that up with local instability in the region around the Suez Canal and you have our present situation.

There probably was a better time to intervene in Syria but in general, the region is always going to be a sensitive spot.  It’s geographically important, and you can bet the people who live there know it.  The Arab Spring might have been prompted by that realization.  We are probably never going to be able to completely reduce our presence there.  Our economy depends on keeping this chokepoint open.  Until we get rid of our dependence on foreign oil, we’re going to have to be there.  And even after we move on from sucking the mideast dry, that area is still the quickest way from point A to point B for many countries other than our own.

So, there’s my take on it.  We’re still fighting the world wars of the previous century and will be for the foreseeable future.  Obama was not thinking past his re-election and anyone who made their decision of presidential candidate in 2008 based on a war vote or promises to get out of Iraq wasn’t thinking it through to its logical conclusions.  It has always been clear to me that the president who took over from Bush/Cheney was going to have to make peace with the isolationists before he or she would ever make peace with the Iraqis and their neighbors.  It was never going to be simple or easy.  The best we could hope for was an uneasy status quo for a long time.

But somebody blew it and here we are.

Next time we elect a president, we might want to choose one who is explicit about these things.

One more thing: Considering what a sensitive area the Mediterranean is, you have to wonder why the ECB is being such a dick to Spain, Italy and Greece.

16 Responses

  1. Riverdaughter

    RogueNationUSA seems to have gone totally outhouse rat crazy. Prezzy Pipsqueak is definitely channeling Cheney not Churchill. As ever in the Middle East we are Saudi Arabia’s Mercenary Army. ISIS/ISIL/IS was created to be its Wahhabi Jihadi Army. Our declared allies are Groucho, Harpo, Chico, Zeppo and Gummo. This whole thing is a farcedy and has blowback written all over it…

    • You are missing my point, which is that Obama has NOT been doing a Churchill. He failed to recognize that this part of the world is a major chokepoint, always was and always will be. He can’t just write off destabilized countries when it suits his political ambitions.
      I’m not arguing that he’s now coming off like a Cheney. He should probably return his Nobel Peace Prize. But a responsible president wouldn’t have left Iraq the way he did and would have intervened in Syria two years ago, whether we like it or not. That wouldn’t have made that president a Cheney or a warmonger. It would have made that president a realist who knew how to read a fricking map.

      • Colonel Pat Lang over at Sic Semper Tyrannis has offered the (in his) analytical opinion that al Maliki gave neither Obama nor us any choice in the time and way of our leaving Iraq. Maliki wouldn’t ( or couldn’t) grant us a Status Of Forces Agreement including extraterritorial immunity for our soldiers there. No President could agree to leave our soldiers there or in any such occupation/ post-occupation zone without such a SOFA. If Colonel Lang is correct in his analysis, then leaving Iraq “irresponsibly” is not among the many things I will continue to loathe, detest and revile Obama for.
        His (and guest bloggers’s) posts and threads on Iraq are well worth reading over at Sic Semper Tyrannis. I continue to share Colonel Lang’s well-argued well-supported opinion that if we want to dispose of ISIS we will have to make peace with al Assad and support him in reconquering Syria. That would significantly weaken the forces of head-chopper liver-eating cannibalism in the Middle East.

        • Not sure I agree with your colonel. From what I understand from dexter Filkins’ coverage, obama didn’t have a plan, the Iraqis asked the state department for a plan repeatedly and the state department said it couldn’t move forward without direction from the White House, which never came.
          Filkins has been covering Iraq for a long time and says bush Cheney might have been the instigators but obama totally blew it.

          • “My” colonel? I notice you have his blog on your blogroll.

            But Dexter Filkins’s reporting certainly adds more to the story. One wonders if it was this lack
            of a plan which eventually led the Malikists to say
            no SOFA then. If the one led to the other, then it is certainly fair to say the colonel’s proximate explanation is ultimately incomplete.

          • The blogroll needs some thinning out.

    • Indeed..” .the Coalition the Willing ” , including Europe, is a list of our colonies . And they had better get on board or be sanctioned /bombed themselves, Now that England doesn’t have to sweet talk or lie to Scotland anymore, they will be getting back to their “special” relationship with us

  2. It’s actuality a plus you don’t watch cable news…that’s the last place to learn anything about it, as it’s theater

    He can’t just write off destabilized countries

    Certainly not! Not when we have paid good money for many years expressly to destabilize them! …. so can we then attack to , quote ” stabilize” them . Just look at all the great stabilizing our bombing and intervention has left over the years!

    Every time we go in, it’s a bigger mess…that’s not an accident , a mess up or an unforeseen event ,

    …would have intervened in Syria two years ago,

    We have intervened in Syria constantly for the last four years. Our ISIS proxies weren’t getting the job done, so now we will take it on directly and take out the guy who has stopped them ourselves…and yes, turn it into another Libya…that bastion of stabilization…to free our proxies up for Lebanon and so forth .

    The NYT says we plan to spent a trillion dollars on new nukes. Imo they are not for deterrent proposes .

    • Colonel Lang watches a lot of cable news, among other media. He watches it to see exactly what the theater owners want us to see, know, “know” and think. He then analyses the “what” in terms of the situational context to guess “why” they want to lead us to those particular “whats”.

    • Again, I feel I need to clarify.
      I don’t know when the best time was to intervene in Syria but I won’t deny there was a time to do it that preceded the present crisis.
      The whole region is a fricking mess. Some of that is our fault. Some of that has to do with the people who live there and the complications of competing religions and corrupt leaders who were supposed to keep everyone in check.
      I don’t think everyone in the region is our enemy to be bombed to smithereens. But neither do I think the chaos and atrocities, coupled with our own chaos and incompetence gives us any excuse to throw our hands in the air and give up just to satisfy rightfully cynical isolationists.
      We are the policemen of the planet whether we want the job or not. It’s our responsibility to straighten this out in the most sensible way possible with the best leadership we have. Unfortunately, we have obama.
      Not my fault but still my responsibility.

      • It’s pointless to say the US is the cop of the world when the US foreign policy is being driven by insane neo-cons gone wild. The neo-cons never went away, they became ever more intrenched and promoted …at State , at the CIA and lord knows what other alphabet outfit we got

        They are running the current horror show known as our foreign policy and without a stitch of opposition from anyone in the US ruling circles or the lackey press .

        These insane neo-cons, indeed want to police the world…. by ruling it . If the world they rule looks like a bombed out other side of the moon, so be it , that’s fine by them. That’s more than fine. It’s how they like it . So Heaven help us, since Officer Bill is a serial killer .

        • If you are the most powerful nation on the planet with the strongest military, you are the de facto policeman of the world. It’s up to us to decide if we want to behave like a bunch of yahoos from Ferguson or whether we want to be one of those friendly cops from a Norman Rockwell painting.
          Like I said, I didn’t vote for either of the Bush’s or Obama. It’s not my fault even if it is ultimately my responsibility.
          I also don’t listen to or watch mainstream media. So, you know, I’m not terrified by ISIS or anxious to turn the middle east into a lunar landscape.
          BUT we can’t walk away. Think about what would happen to that area o f the world if we just walked away. No, really think about it. You’re only looking at what’s going on while we’re there. You’re not thinking about what would happen if we pulled out entirely leaving some UN peacekeepers. But really think about what would happen if we just let the chaos sort itself out.
          Let your imagination run wild. Follow that thought to its logical conclusion.

  3. The map isn’t loading for me (either with Firefox or Safari), but I think I can visualize it pretty well. This stuff is pretty obvious to anyone who has actually read a history book (hint: there’s a reason why the Romans referred to the Mediterranean as “mare nostrum”, annihilated the Carthaginians, and were so eager to intervene in Judea and Syria). That seems to exclude most of the people in the administration, unfortunately. I guess cracking a book would interfere with golf.

    • Not sure why you aren’t seeing it in safari. That’s the browser I’m using and it’s loading fine.

  4. I largely agree with this post. It is certainly true that given the choice between intervening early and significantly or belatedly and half-heartedly, the former is the better bet. But Obama never does anything until he has run out of the option of doing nothing. See Ebola for a potentially even more catastrophic example: had we sent in those 3000 Americans in months ago, we might have stopped the epidemic in its tracks. But there was no political pressure to do anything then, so nothing got done.

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