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1/21/2009
WINNING WARS AND FIGHTING TERRORISM WITH ‘HUMILITY AND RESTRAINT’

President Obama had a very difficult task yesterday. It wasn’t just the stratospheric expectations for his inaugural address engendered not only by his previous performances but also because of the frenzy whipped up by his sycophants in the press. I doubt whether even something along the lines of the Sermon on the Mount would have been good enough to live up to the build up given him by his cultists in the media.

Obama’s primary task to my mind - what I wanted to hear from him - was a commitment to bring the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to a successful conclusion while maintaining the pressure on al-Qaeda around the world.

The sticking point, as always, is to define “success” in Iraq and Afghanistan. I must confess to cringing whenever I hear one of my fellow conservatives praise George Bush for bringing “democracy” to Iraq and how our efforts have created a “strong ally” in the war on terror.

Iraq may be a democracy some day. But it is far from being a free country today and even our own ambassador thinks things are still balanced on a knife’s edge. The situation is much better than it was two years ago but, all things being relative, Iraq is still a violent place that needs American assistance to keep from flying apart at the seams. Also, the latest Freedom House ranking for Iraq, based on very specific criteria is “not free.” Granted it is difficult to create a functioning democracy following so many decades of brutal dictatorship and there is no doubt that there have been some improvements even in the face of violence by terrorists who wish to destabilize the country. But for anyone to claim that Iraq is “free” or even close to being free is being disingenuous or ignorant. Holding elections does not make a nation free or democratic by itself. One glance at Gaza proves that.

We have yet to even see the beginning of the end game in domestic Iraqi politics that will play out among the various factions of Shias as they vie for power. Some of those factions are loyal to Iran or at least look to Iran for protection and leadership. The idea that Iraq will be an ally in the war on terror is still up in the air and it may yet devolve into a religious dictatorship like the one next door. The chances of that happening are ebbing but who can tell?

In short, Iraq is still messy - about what you’d expect from a nation that has gone through what the Iraqis have had to endure these last 6 years. Therefore, a definition of “success” in Iraq at a bare minimum would have to include a functioning Iraqi government capable of handling its own security. The longer we stay on in numbers capable of assisting the Iraqi government in achieving this goal, the better the chance for success. Right now, a clock is ticking on our presence in those kind of numbers with the alarm set to go off by the end of 2011. And it appears Obama wishes to speed things along. Do not be surprised if, after meeting with his military chiefs, the new president sets his own timetable for withdrawal.

In his speech yesterday, Obama said nothing about “success” regarding Iraq or Afghanistan:

We are the keepers of this legacy, guided by these principles once more, we can meet those new threats that demand even greater effort, even greater cooperation and understanding between nations. We’ll begin to responsibly leave Iraq to its people and forge a hard- earned peace in Afghanistan.

Indeed, it is difficult to succeed if one does not wish to. This is especially true in Afghanistan where it is becoming increasingly clear that no positive outcome will be possible there as long as al-Qaeda and the Taliban are using Pakistani territory with impunity to attack NATO troops and train suicide bombers to wreak havoc in both Pakistan and Afghanistan. I will watch with great interest as Obama deals with Pakistan. I predict he will have even less success than President Bush in getting the Pakistanis to reassert sovereignty over their own territory and kick the terrorists out. The post-Musharraf government is disinclined to make the all out effort required to defeat their enemies which means they will be at constant risk of being overthrown themselves either by the military or, less likely, a combination of forces sympathetic to the extremists.

Meanwhile, Afghanistan bleeds. And given the great reluctance most other NATO countries have shown to carry their weight in this war and commit their troops to combat, the burden of “forging a hard earned peace” will fall squarely on the shoulders of the US and the few nations who are already fighting. Will this mean that President Karzai will be forced to treat with the Taliban? He may have little choice if President Obama decides that the war is unwinnable and starts withdrawing US forces.

The key to Obama’s foreign policy can be found in this passage from his speech:

Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with the sturdy alliances and enduring convictions.

They understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please. Instead, they knew that our power grows through its prudent use. Our security emanates from the justness of our cause; the force of our example; the tempering qualities of humility and restraint.

Welcome words for the rest of the world - including our enemies. He is right when he states that our military power alone cannot protect us. But it goes a damn sight farther in doing so than “humility and restraint.” In fact, it appears to me that Obama is saying that “doing as we please” - protecting our own interests first which may not fit his definition of “justness” - is a mistake and that we should be “humble” and practice self-abnegation in abjuring what is in our best interests to show the world we will allow our nose to be blown off to spite our face.

An exaggeration but apropos of what Obama and the New Left have been spouting for years. If there is the stink of self-interest involved in a military action (or any other application of hard power), it is likely to be opposed. Darfur or the Congo is where we should be sending troops thus showing our selflessness to the world. Anyplace where war fighting advances or protects American interests is evil.

Just how “humility and restraint” will do anything besides make liberals feel good that the rest of the world doesn’t despise us anymore because we have subsumed our own interests to some other “higher” interest, including humanitarian goals or perhaps the will of the United Nations escapes me.

And then, there’s the idea that fanatics and thugs were just itching for George Bush to leave office so they could turn over a new leaf in our relations with them:

To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect.

To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict or blame their society’s ills on the West, know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy.

To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history, but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.

On my radio show last night, Rich Baehr of the American Thinker pointed out that in the last decade we have freed Muslims from persecution and tyranny in Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Praytell why is it the United States who should be coming hat in hand to the Muslim world? What more could we possibly do to prove our “respect?” Time for the moderate Muslims to stand up and start reciprocating. That is the true way forward with US-Muslim relations.

And who but a liberal could actually believe that the thugs and fanatics care one whit about “the people” in their countries and what they think? All they care about is if someone looks sideways at the regime, they are lined up against a wall and shot. Being “on the wrong side of history” is an occupational hazard for the Assads, the Castros, the Chavez’s, and the fanatical mullahs of the world. They seem to be surviving just fine, thank you.

And why should any of those peace loving gentlemen “unclench their fist” when they can achieve so much more dealing with a president who wishes to approach them with “humility and restraint?” Most of the animosity directed against America by the brutes of the world is, as Obama points out, manufactured internally in order to justify oppression. Only Iran has broadened their anti-Americanism to include proxies like Hezbullah and, potentially, Hamas. The question remains why should our enemies extend a hand in friendship or even civility? As we have already seen, the inauguration of Obama has changed nothing, altered no positions, softened any hearts.

I will not refer to Obama as naive in deference to my friend and frequent commenter Michael Reynolds who has almost convinced me that the new president has a realistic take on our enemies. But will approaching Iran with “humility and restraint” actually do anything except risk the overture being thrown back in your face with the typical derisiveness demonstrated by the Iranian leadership?

I have a feeling we will find out over the coming months.

By: Rick Moran at 10:19 am
12 Responses to “WINNING WARS AND FIGHTING TERRORISM WITH ‘HUMILITY AND RESTRAINT’”
  1. 1
    jackson1234 Said:
    11:20 am 

    It is odd that military actions that advance American interests are condemned by the Left, and feel-good interventions into nations where we have no stake are lauded. But let’s take it a step further. The Left loved our intervention in Kosovo to stop ethnic cleansing. But if Obama foolishly pulls out of Iraq too soon and genocide ensues there, I don’t expect them to support reintervention. Think Cambodia. These people are beneath contempt.

  2. 2
    Chuck Tucson Said:
    4:40 pm 

    jackson1234

    But if Obama foolishly pulls out of Iraq too soon and genocide ensues there, I don’t expect them to support reintervention.

    How do you think he will know if it’s too soon?

  3. 3
    Dan Smith Said:
    4:51 pm 

    Obama has never been in the position of having to send men to their deaths. In fairness, neither had George Bush or Bill Clinton. For Clinton, the experience in Somalia must have been terrifying given how rapidly he withdrew our troops after the Blackhawk Down incident. In spite of the left’s derision of Bush and his National Guard background, he showed that he was made of the right stuff when it came to supporting the troops and their families, Cindy Sheehan notwithstanding. Obama is untested, but as soon as he tries to make good his campaign promise to capture Bin Laden there are going to be more Americans returning home in body bags. It’s the nature of the business.Does he own the intestinal fortitude to give the order?

  4. 4
    headhunt23 Said:
    5:21 pm 

    You know, I served one year in Bosnia in ‘96 as part of the Implementation force for the Dayton Accords Clinton sent. Everything was peaceful and we called it “groundhog day” as everyday was just a boring routine. I got a lot of reading done. i was single and had no one waiting for me.

    I served one year in 2004-2005 in Iraq training the Iraqi army and taking them on combat missions. There was lots of excitement, and I have images I will always remember. I was married and had a beautiful 2 year old daughter at home.

    But, i resent my time in Bosnia a lot more. There was no American interest in going there and we were only there because Western Europe can’t get its collective head out of its butt and organize. If I had been killed in Iraq, at least my daughter would someday be able to figure out why. Had I died in Bosnia, nobody ever would have been able to explain what the heck I was doing there.

  5. 5
    obamathered Said:
    8:34 pm 

    Exhibit A in the futility of seeking logic from a moonbat:

    Chuck Tucson Said:
    4:40 pm

    jackson1234

    But if Obama foolishly pulls out of Iraq too soon and genocide ensues there, I don’t expect them to support reintervention.

    How do you think he will know if it’s too soon?

    Hey, Einstein, maybe the mass slaughter indicates The One didn’t listen to the JCOS and intelligence services. Reckon?

  6. 6
    Chuck Tucson Said:
    10:17 pm 

    obamathered

    Hey, Einstein, maybe the mass slaughter indicates The One didn’t listen to the JCOS and intelligence services. Reckon?

    Ah, well, pardon me for posing the question. So, according to you, the only way to tell if there will be mass slaughter, is if there is mass slaughter. I should have just asked you. Far be it for me to actually ponder what the intelligence services might be looking for to indicate such a thing. You’re really smart. Congratulations on that.

  7. 7
    Maggie's Farm Trackbacked With:
    10:58 am 

    A few quick links…

    More good stuff later, busy today. No recession in my biz.
    Reality check: Your career in IT
    Why major in Econ? Mankiw
    Brave TV. Ex-Jihadists talk about why.
    Did the dinosaurs die out quickly?
    The Oprahfication of Obama.
    Remembering…

  8. 8
    jackson1234 Said:
    2:16 pm 

    How do you think he will know if it’s too soon?

    That’s actually a legitimate question and didn’t deserve such a jerk response. I’m certain (although not positive) Patreus and–God help us–Panetta will provide an assessment on the potential. The question will be if Obama really cares or whether he will leave troops in Iraq if such a potentiality exists. Based on left-wingers from my distant youth, the answer would be he would pull out despite the danger of genocide.

  9. 9
    mannning Said:
    3:06 pm 

    Seems to me that the collective wisdom of the “leave Iraq” crowd was that: a) we were a cause of unrest, death and terror; and that once we withdraw, if things go sour and genocide begins, b)we can always go back into Iraq to fix it once more.

    Was it Ramsey Clark that voiced this stupid idea on behalf of moonbats everywhere?

    This is nonsense simply because we have done nothing to alter the multiple tribes and cultures within Iraq, nor could we, and we have not been able to proof Iraq from the gentle ministrations of Iran, which means that the current Iraqi government will fall apart in a short time once we depart.

    Were we to stay longer with a reasonable force, a few years more, however, there would be a better chance of a stable Iraq emerging from the chaos that is just under the surface now. We made the choice to go in; now we are making the choice to go out, I believe, before Iraq can cope effectively with its internal contradictions and external threats.

    Going back into Iraq would be nearly impossible to pull off, I suggest, because it would be in the face of Iranian and AQ infiltration, support and threats, which a basically pacifist government would be reluctant to challenge yet again.

    What a memorial to our casualties, and especially the deaths, and our lost treasure, in that awful place. It is the retreat that pacifists order, out of totally misguided humanitarianism.

    It would appear to me that a renewed insurgency and genocide is just around the corner; say, a day after our last combat troops leave, which day, in some 16 months from now, AQ and others will have marked on their calendar in red and planned for in detail.

    Oh, it isn’t our responsibility then, is it? Smacks of how we abandoned Nam,”with honor!”, refused them financial support, and turned our heads away from the communist takeover and genocides that followed in Laos, Cambodia and Nam itself.

    That is the false pacifism we practice.

  10. 10
    Levi Said:
    11:24 pm 

    That’s fair. Bush starts two hopeless wars he had to lie about in the first place and conducts them as shoddily as one could imagine, and now it’s up to Obama to find some approximation of ’success?’

    Bush lost both these wars years ago. We’re long past any window of opportunity we might have had to actually spread democracy through the Middle East and at this point are just hemmorhaging resources. How can you ‘win’ a war that costs you hundreds of billions of dollars and only weakens you strategically?

    “How can you ‘win’ a war that costs you hundreds of billions of dollars and only weakens you strategically?”

    Not much for history, are ya?

    Try England after World Waqr II (or the Napoleonic Wars), France after the 7 Years War, Russia after the Sino-Japanese War, …

    And Afghanistan was started by Bush? What a maroon.

    ed.

  11. 11
    busboy33 Said:
    3:38 am 

    @manning:

    For me, the idea that if we leave Iraq as anything other than a fully functioning, self-defending “sucess” is a deeply troubling position. As you noted, the tribal/ethnic strife that is present in Iraq has been there, is there, and will still be there.
    We can always say “well, let’s just give it a few more years”, and then at the end of the few more years if/when the situation isn’t improved we can say “just a few more”. This war has been phrased that way for the last 5 years — just around the corner, 6 months, another 6 months, a few more, another year tops, etc.
    Is it an insult to the troops that have died to leave before that “sucess”? I think that’s debatable, but its certainly a valid position. On the other side though, at what point do you cut your losses as a country? If we lose another thousand soldiers in the next few years, and we haven’t stabilized Iraq yet, then the argument starts reinforcing itself — now, we’ve got even more brave people that “sacrificed in vain”, so stopping then would be even more of an affront to their memory. Queue up the next thousand soldiers? Another thousand after that?
    Like I said, I respect the idea that feeling soldiers who lose their lives “for nothing” is something to be avoided is admirable. But at what point should we, as a country, apply that to the soldiers who haven’t been killed?
    I’m not saying we need to pull out today — I don’t think that’s a good idea. But I worry that “staying until the job is done” is a dangerous slope, one that may very likely cost more American lives than the final product is worth.

  12. 12
    Political Blog Weekly: 23 January 2009 | U.S. Common Sense Pinged With:
    7:04 am 

    [...] "Winning Wars and Fighting Terrorism with ‘Humility and Restraint’" Originally published:  21 January 2009 Submitted by:  U.S. Common Sense Summary:  Examining President Obama’s inaugural speech to get an insight on his policy towards the Middle East. [...]

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