GEORGAKAS PRESENTS HIS POINT OF VIEW
Dino, events in Syria offer a sharp contrast between dynamic international actions and befuddled inaction. Vladimir Putin has a policy that is good for Russia, bad for ISIS, stabilizing for Syria, and possibly good for the United States. In contrast, Barack Obama has made the toppling of the government of Bashar al-Assad a priority while failing to present a strategy for dealing with ISIS.
Putin fears an ever-more powerful ISIS will foster serious insurrections on Russia’s southern borders, and Syria, a long-time Russian ally, perceives ISIS as a mortal enemy. Putin’s plan is assist Syria in a major offensive against ISIS. But such an action is not possible as long as Assad has to deal with an internal armed force seeking to remove him from power. Consequently, Putin is agreeable to using some of Russia’s military assistance to quell the anti-Assad rebellion.
Obama blundered when he drew a red line in the sand that Assad was not to cross, but had no plan of retaliation if Assad did. Now Obama seeks to make good on his original rhetorical bluff. He has stated the U.S. will be able to mold the various rebel forces into a viable new government once Assad falls. Just as in Iraq?
Most Republican presidential hopefuls and some Democrats think the answer is arming the anti-Assad forces, even though their ranks definitely include many Islamic extremists. Arming such a force is reminiscent of how the U.S. armed irregulars to overthrow a Soviet-oriented regime in Afghanistan that posed no threat to American national security. Among those armed and trained were the Taliban and a guy named Osama bin Laden.
Donald Trump is the sole presidential hopeful who is supportive of Putin’s actions. Trump reasons that if Putin succeeds, fine; if Putin fails, he will have squandered considerable political capital and military hardware. Jeb Bush, in contrast, has surrounded himself with the same thick-headed advisors that convinced his brother that invading Iraq would result in a quick American victory. They never imaged that the chaos of “regime change” would led to the emergence of extremist groups, of which ISIS is just the most visible.
Carly Fiorina believes there is a desperate need to strengthen the American military with more money and arms. She ignores the reality that we are already the world’s strongest military power and spend four times as much on our military than the next four leading nations combined. Military officials, far saner than ambitious politicians trying to sound tough, have stated that our overwhelming traditional firepower is not effective against non-traditional fighters. Their strategy is centered on smaller elite units and innovative tactics linked to electronic targeting.
The Democratic hopefuls offer no major alternative perspectives. The not-yet-a- candidate Biden would be obliged to support Obama’s policies while Sanders is focused primarily on domestic issues. Hillary Clinton advocates establishing a no-fly zone on the Syrian border areas to protect anti-Assad forces from aerial attack. Whether our various allies would agree to such a situation is unclear. The obvious danger is the probability of straying Russian aircraft being confronted by American aircraft, a scenario avoided even during the Cold War.
American politicians in both parties keep speaking of spreading democracy in the region as if democracy is a gift to be bestowed from above and America is not itself in league with many authoritarian regimes. America cannot serve as the moral and political arbiter in the Middle East. As long as that mindset persists, we will remain stuck in an expensive and destructive quagmire largely of our own making.
Dan, I may have to clip this one out and frame it, with the heading: “Dan Georgakas and Donald Trump Agree!”
Allow me to agree with you and Donald, for the most part.
The United States has certainly made its share of foreign policy blunders in the 20th and 21st centuries, not least of all in the Middle East. While I don’t point the finger of blame at any single presidential administration, and while I credit President Jimmy Carter for the peace accord between Egypt and Israel, it was on his watch that the Ayatollah Khomeini deposed the Shah of Iran, at which point our modern-day troubles with that country began.
Your point about bin Laden is well-taken. The same can be said about Saddam Hussein, whom we armed back in the day, only to wind up fighting against him later. To that end, Trump outclasses the rest of the incumbents and candidates in both major parties when he says about the anti-Assad non-ISIS contingent: “we don’t know who they are. We don’t know who we’re really supporting.
That Vladimir Putin is flexing his muscle around the world has a lot of people – admittedly, I am among them – partly concerned and partly incensed (on the theory of “who does he think he is?”). To the latter point, it’s not as if I think the United States has the exclusive right to impose its will around the world, it’s just that in the absence of a viable, legitimate international coalition of “world policemen” – which in the world’s current state I don’t think is feasible – then by default, the United States is best-suited to be the “world’s policeman” than any other nation. And the alternative, to let the world “police itself” is not in my view a viable option, either.
Nonetheless, there is something appealing about Putin bankrupting Russia yet again – the second time in my lifetime. What better way to rid ourselves of that pest than to let him do it all on his own? It’s like allowing a self-cleaning oven simply clean itself; no need to grab a Brillo pad and manually scrub away the grime.
When it comes to using military force, I am of the Eisenhower school of thought. War really has to be the last resort – but if you’re going to go to war, you’d better go all out and win swiftly, decisively, and completely – whatever it takes. Ike didn’t believe in “limited wars,” and neither should anyone else.
Three decades later, Ronald Reagan’s message of “peace through strength” said it best.
As for Trump and the rest of the 2016 candidates, I hope they take a page out of President Eisenhower’s and Reagan’s playbooks. Make that, many pages.
Part of what appeals to me about Trump’s foreign policy ideas is that he equates military power with wealth. He also understands the power of perception and use of the media to advance one’s objectives better than most do.
I’m not saying I am 100% committed to him, or that I’m ready to predict that he’s going to be our next president, but you are not the first person I’ve come across who is a self-professed leftist and agrees with at least one thing Trump has to say. And that, in itself, says a lot about his crossover appeal.
WHAT’S YOUR OPINION?