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Clearly now, the U.S. failed miserably in hopes for “nation-building” in Iraq and Afghanistan during and after the recent conflicts there. Both countries, after all the U.S. supposed efforts to stabilize and support a new civilian structure acceptable to the West, remain up for grabs, and may be worse off than before U.S. intervention.

The attached recent article from ProPublica recounts how the U.S. planned for post-war stabilization in Iraq, but then failed to deliver. The expectations of what U.S. civilians might have been able to accomplish in normalizing tribal relationships and related security issues may have been idealistic. How were these U.S. civilians to be protected without the presence of substantial elements of the U.S. military, for example?

I had a personal encounter with such unrealistic expectations in Afghanistan several years ago from a 3-star general about to assume a major command there. He spoke before a leadership group of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs I attended. He spoke about the false nation-building expectations that had been laid at the feet of allied military in that country. He said that his troops were highly trained, not at nation-building, but at killing the enemy. At the time there was much talk about how the U.S. and allies would help Afghans restore community infrastructure, build a farming economy to replace opium production, restore roads, power systems and schools, and build an effective local government system. He said that the military had requested civilian experts be sent in by the State Department to fulfill such roles, but that virtually none had arrived. He was skeptical that the U.S. could or would live up to its political promises and expectations. And, as history has proven, he was sadly correct. It is entirely probable that Afghanistan will descend into chaos after final U.S. troop removals, just as has Iraq.

So, the question is, why isn’t the U.S. willing or capable of spending a few billion on nation-building support to these countries, after spending trillions (not to mention thousands of American lives) on military intervention? Do we blame the Executive branch, Congress, the military, the media or the public? And why? And what have we learned to apply in the future? Do we remain convinced that military intervention is enough? Is it all about spending money on arms? Are we unrealistic in thinking civilian U.S. nation-building support will be accepted or successful?

And, what is America’s course for the future in such unstable geo-political situations?

Here is the ProPublica article:
As ISIS Brewed in Iraq, Clinton’s State Department Cut Eyes and Ears on the Ground
An investigation by ProPublica and The Washington Post finds that Secretary of State Clinton initially pressed to keep civilian programs and listening posts after the U.S. troop pullout in 2011, but then her State Department scrapped or slashed them at the behest of the White House and Congress.
by Jeff Gerth and Joby Warrick, Aug. 15, 2016, 12 p.m.55 Comments Print Print
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This story was co-published with The Washington Post.

Update, :
This story has been updated to include material from Trump’s speech Monday and to add a dropped word in one quote.

A week before the last U.S. soldiers left his country in December 2011, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki traveled to Washington to meet the team that would help shape Iraq’s future once the troops and tanks were gone.

Over dinner at the Blair House, guest quarters for elite White House visitors since the 1940s, the dour Iraqi sipped tea while Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton spoke of how her department’s civilian experts could help Iraqis avoid a return to terrorism and sectarian bloodshed.

Iraq would see a “robust civilian presence,” Clinton told reporters afterward, summing up the Obama administration’s pledges to Maliki. “We are working to achieve that,” she said.

Less than three years later, the relatively calm Iraq that Maliki had led in 2011 was gone. The country’s government was in crisis, its U.S.-trained army humiliated, and a third of its territory overrun by fighters from the Islamic State. Meanwhile, State Department programs aimed at helping Iraqis prevent such an outcome had been slashed or curtailed, and some had never materialized at all.

Clinton’s political foes would later seek to blame her, together with President Obama, for the Islamic State’s stunning takeover of western Iraq, saying the State Department failed to preserve fragile security gains achieved at great cost by U.S. troops. In a speech Monday on how he would deal with terrorist threats, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump said, “The rise of ISIS is the direct result of policy decisions made by President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton.”

But an intensive review of the record during Clinton’s tenure presents a broader picture of missteps and miscalculations by multiple actors — including her State Department as well as the Maliki government, the White House and Congress — that left Iraqi security forces weakened and vulnerable to the Islamic State’s 2014 surge.

Documents and interviews point to ambitious plans by State Department officials to take control of dozens of military-run programs in Iraq, from training assistance for Iraqi police to new intelligence-collection outposts in Mosul and other key Iraqi cities. But the State Department scrapped or truncated many of the plans, sometimes at the behest of a skeptical Congress and other times on orders from the White House, which balked at the high costs and potential risks of U.S. civilians being killed or kidnapped. Still other efforts were thwarted by a Maliki government that viewed many of the programs as an unwelcome intrusion in Iraqi affairs.

Senior State Department leaders were at fault as well, according to documents and interviews with officials who helped manage Iraqi aid programs after the withdrawal. By early 2012, pressed by the White House to reduce the U.S. civilian footprint in Iraq, the department had begun implementing sweeping, across-the-board cuts that extended to security and counterterrorism initiatives once considered crucial for Iraq’s stability after the withdrawal of U.S. troops, a joint investigation by ProPublica and The Washington Post found.

Clinton, a member of the administration’s national security team at the time, argued at first in favor of many programs that the State Department eventually cut, according to current and former U.S. officials familiar with internal White House deliberations. For the Democratic presidential nominee, U.S. policy misadventures in Iraq, from the initial invasion and occupation to the disasters after the U.S. troop withdrawal, have persistently undermined Clinton’s efforts to tout her extensive record in foreign policy. Candidate Clinton has frequently pushed for more assertive engagement with Iraq’s military and tribal alliances to help repel the Islamic State, essentially arguing for an expansion of programs that were curtailed on her watch after the U.S. troop withdrawal in 2011.

A State Department team that administered the cuts under White House direction eventually ended up with a $1.6 billion surplus — money initially appropriated for Iraq that was freed for use in other conflict zones, including Libya, officials and documents say.

The downscaling was done over the objections of U.S. military leaders on the ground, who said the slashing of key assistance programs — in a few cases, by more than 90 percent — left the U.S. government increasingly in the dark about developments outside the Iraqi capital. Some former officers who managed Iraqi aid programs say the cuts were a factor in the slow deterioration of Iraq’s security forces in the months before the Islamic State’s 2014 assault.

“Our job was to prevent this from happening,” said retired Rear Adm. Edward Winters, a former Navy SEAL and deputy director of the Office of Security Cooperation in Iraq, a Pentagon organization overseen by the State Department that managed the bilateral security relationship.

“We felt the capability to do that was being taken away.”

‘A Strategic Vacuum’

Current and former Obama administration officials, including some who sparred with the State Department over Iraq policy, defend Clinton as one of the most vocal advocates for a muscular U.S. presence in Iraq after the withdrawal deadline. Clinton argued publicly and privately for keeping a contingent of U.S. troops in Iraq after Dec. 31, 2011, and when that effort failed, she lobbied the White House and Congress for money to fund civilian-run security programs in Iraq, her former aides said. In written memos and in meetings as part of the president’s national security team, she questioned Maliki’s ability to keep the country united and warned that instability could lead to a resurgence of al-Qaida in Iraq, or AQI, the terrorist group that later renamed itself the Islamic State, the officials said.

“She was seized with this,” recalled Deputy Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken, who was national security adviser to Vice President Biden and then deputy national security adviser to President Obama during key discussions about Iraq policy. “She recognized that AQI was down but not out, and pressed the Iraqis, and us, to keep taking the fight to them.”

But, in scaling back civilian assistance to Iraq, Clinton’s aides cut aggressively and sometimes unwisely, internal auditors later concluded. The reductions met cost-cutting goals but did not “fully consider U.S. foreign policy priorities in Iraq,” an internal review by the State Department’s inspector general said. Some of the cuts were not fully implemented until after Clinton’s departure in early 2013, though the plans were largely in place, former aides said. The report is silent on Clinton’s role in the reductions, or views about them.

“There was a period of time after the transition from the military-led mission to a civilian-led mission when strategic decisions were not made, with one official calling the period ‘a strategic vacuum,’“ the inspector general’s office said in its 2013 report, citing interviews with department officials in Washington and Iraq. It said the cuts were driven by “Congressional and White House concerns that the Department quickly reduce costs and security vulnerabilities and address [the Iraqi government’s] desire for a more normalized U.S. diplomatic presence.”

Among the casualties was a U.S. Army-run Iraqi tribal reconciliation program with a record of successfully resolving disputes between Iraq’s querulous Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish factions. Animosity between Sunni tribes and Maliki’s Shiite-led government would become a key factor in the Islamic State’s takeover of Iraq’s Sunni heartland in 2014.

Asked to account for such cuts, a State Department spokesman said in an email that diplomats lacked “the personnel or financial resources” to continue many of the programs begun by the Pentagon during an era when tens of thousands of U.S. troops were serving in Iraq. In any event, the result was “lost trust with the Sunni community” and the abandoning of an important window into what was really happening inside Iraq, said retired Army Col. Rick Welch, who oversaw the program before the military withdrawal,

“No one from the State Department ever contacted me,” Welch said in an interview. Eventually the Baghdad-based reconciliation effort was scaled back “to a trickle,” he said, “and then nothing else happened.”

‘It Was the President’s Directive’

In the first weeks of his presidency, President Obama flew to Camp Lejeune, the sprawling Marine base in North Carolina, to repeat a promise made throughout his election campaign: a pledge to wind down America’s wars in the Middle East. He told the troops that “the war in Iraq will end” through a responsible drawdown of U.S. forces in Iraq by Dec. 31, 2011, the deadline set three years earlier by the George W. Bush administration.

In reality, few within Obama’s own administration expected that the entire U.S. contingent would exit Iraq by that date, current and former aides say. In interviews, State Department and Pentagon officials said they were convinced that Iraq would ultimately negotiate an agreement to leave a modest contingent of U.S. soldiers — perhaps 10,000 or so — in the country to ensure stability and serve as a bulwark against a resurgence of al-Qaida in Iraq.
President Obama and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki leave a joint press conference in the Rose Garden at the White House in 2009. (Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)
The presence of even a small American force would have provided a substantial benefit for U.S. diplomats in Iraq after 2011, assuring that the Pentagon would continue to take the lead in U.S.-Iraqi military liaison programs while also helping with mundane but necessary functions such as security, medical care, food service and transportation on the ground and in the air.

But with a deadline looming and no firm decision from the White House, the State Department began to develop plans for hiring thousands of contractors to perform the same services at higher costs. The uncertainty lingered until October 2011, when the talks collapsed just 10 weeks before the deadline for pulling all U.S. forces out of the country.

Throughout this period, Clinton continued to campaign for what several aides called a “robust” mission for American diplomats in Iraq, preferably backed by a significant U.S. troop garrison. Her advocacy was recalled by numerous military and intelligence officials who participated in classified discussions on Iraq. It was also expressed publicly in news conferences and congressional testimony at the time.

“She was very focused on how to apply the full weight of the U.S. government to locking down that residual troop presence,” said Jake Sullivan, the State Department’s director of policy and planning who later became the top foreign policy adviser to the Clinton campaign. As prospects for U.S. troop garrisons began to dim, Clinton “insisted on a robust contingency planning process, to leave nothing to chance on how we protected our civilian presence and how we made sure that we were supporting the outlying posts beyond Baghdad,” Sullivan said.

State Department officials initially planned for taking control of more than a third of the 1,300 programs and missions run by the Pentagon in Iraq. That alone, as Clinton herself would acknowledge, constituted the “largest transition from military to civilian leadership since the Marshall Plan,” the extensive U.S. aid effort after World War II.

Contingency plans created in 2010 envisioned taking over key security missions, such as the tribal reconciliation program. Another initiative called for building new diplomatic and intelligence outposts around the country to give the United States a presence in cities that once hosted American military bases. These facilities, called “Enduring Presence Posts,” or EPPs, were initially planned for five Iraqi locales: Irbil, Diyala province, Kirkuk, Basra and Mosul.

State Department officials urged Congress to approve funding for the EPPs, saying the listening posts would help “mitigate ethno-sectarian conflict” while allowing the security officials to better “forecast, prevent or contain instability outside of Baghdad.”

“Spotting emerging problems early is going to be critical,” Clinton’s aides wrote in a 2010 staff report to lawmakers. The report raised concerns about the department’s ability to carry out some of its new mandates without U.S. military support, but it urged congressional appropriators to put up the necessary financial backing.

In Washington, both the White House and Congress viewed the plans with deepening skepticism. At a March 2011 Senate Appropriations Committee hearing, Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) appeared to scoff at the idea of a civilian force of diplomats and contractors “trying to do business in Iraq all over the place with no troops.

“That is basically a private army replacing the American military,” Graham said to Clinton. “So I’d like us to think long and hard as a nation — does that make sense?”

The cost of building, equipping and securing diplomatic enclaves in Iraqi cities such as Mosul — a hotbed of Sunni terrorism in 2011 — struck senior Obama aides in the meetings as exorbitantly expensive and impractical, even more so because of Maliki’s growing antipathy toward U.S. interference in Iraq’s domestic affairs, according to current and former aides who participated in the private discussions.

The loss of a U.S. troop presence meant the closing of all U.S. military installations, including dozens of Provincial Reconstruction Teams, the smaller regional units from which U.S. military and civilian workers administered aid to local towns and tribes. Unable to rely on Iraqi help, State Department officials would have to hire an army of contractors to replicate the functions and services previously provided by the Pentagon. For U.S. diplomats, a routine journey along the 40-mile highway from Baghdad to Baqubah would now be a complicated and dangerous affair in which assassination or kidnapping would be a constant threat.

The decision to scale back plans for the post–2011 civilian mission was made by Biden and a faction of White House officials that included staff members of Obama’s National Security Council, who were given primary responsibility for managing relations with Iraq, according to accounts from current and former U.S. officials who participated. A team led by State Department Deputy Secretary Thomas R. Nides was put in charge of reviewing and implementing the reductions, with support from State Department officials in Washington and Baghdad. Clinton, having lost the argument for a larger force, was briefed about the developments but left it to her subordinates to decide how the cuts would be implemented, several former and current administration officials said.

Biden’s office declined to comment on the reductions, though former aides said the cuts reflected the prevailing view at the White House and on Capitol Hill: that a large civilian force in Iraq would not be sustainable once U.S. troops were gone.

“The president made the decisions on the military drawdown, and it was the president’s directive that we were all executing,” Nides said. “On the civilian side, the White House’s big worry was the security of our people. Once the decision was made that we weren’t going to have the authority to keep our military there — and even before it was made — we knew we not only couldn’t afford to keep growing, but we had to reduce. At one point, we had the biggest civilian footprint in the world.”

Administration officials insisted that a smaller, civilian-led force could continue to provide critical support for Iraq’s transition, but the cuts were demoralizing to State Department and Pentagon officials who saw prized aid programs shrink or disappear. State Department officials tried to persuade other agencies, including the CIA, to split the costs of operating posts in Mosul and other provincial cities, but that idea withered as well.

“The robust presence we envisioned did not survive,” recalled a former State Department official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to describe private White House deliberations about Iraqi policy. “Things kept getting whittled down. We’d come back from each meeting with bad news about the latest thing to get scrapped.”

A Slow-motion Nightmare

Meanwhile, other programs intended to help Iraqis battle terrorism were facing a quiet death.

On Jan. 1, 2012, the first day after the U.S. troop era officially ended, 157 American military service personnel remained in Iraq as part of the State Department-run Office of Security Cooperation in Iraq. Pentagon and State Department officials sought and won authorization to expand the number by nearly twofold, from 157 to about 300, to be backed by a supporting cast of thousands of contract workers, according to documents and former officials.

Pentagon budget documents in early 2012 called the unit vital to counterterrorism efforts, facilitating the sharing of intelligence between military and civilian agencies in both the United States and Iraq. Among other missions, it provided support for Iraq’s elite terrorism-fighting unit, known as the Counter Terrorism Service.

But the program began shrinking almost immediately after the troop withdrawal, former Pentagon officials remembered.

“It started going away,” remembered Winters, the former deputy director.
A section of the last American military convoy to depart Iraq from the 3rd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division arrives in Kuwait in 2011. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)
A 2013 report by the Pentagon’s inspector general said the cuts amounted to unilaterally slashing such programs to meet budget goals. The department implemented a “primarily top-down directed initiative in which cuts were made based on percentages and targets across assigned agencies without sufficient consideration of their differing missions and resources requirements,” the report said.

An early casualty was direct U.S. support for Iraq’s Counter Terrorism Service. The number of embedded U.S. advisers to the elite terrorist-fighting unit dropped from more than 100 before the military withdrawal to just two, according to Winters and other former Pentagon officials who served in Iraq.

Another key Pentagon program that helped the U.S. government collect and analyze intelligence about terrorist activities was scrapped. Charles Bova, who ran the program, said the scuttling of the project resulted in the loss of an important window into Iraq that could have provided Americans and Iraqis with “a better awareness of what al-Qaida in Iraq was up to.”

A training facility in Kirkuk was shuttered, not only because of budget cuts but also because of resistance from Maliki’s Shiite-led government, which had begun to push back against U.S. assistance programs in predominantly Sunni and Kurdish provinces. Immediately after the U.S. troop departure, Maliki began ordering the arrests of rival Sunni politicians while replacing U.S.-trained Iraqi generals with Shiite allies personally loyal to the prime minister. Some of the same Maliki appointees would later abandon their divisions as the Islamic State began its assault on Mosul.

Sunni protests against Maliki erupted in 2012 and, almost in tandem, the number of suicide bombings in Iraq started to rise. The terrorist predecessors of the Islamic State began gaining strength across Iraq, aided by the worsening sectarian tensions as well as the fighting next door in Syria, where the civil war gave jihadist leaders a cause and a safe haven in which to rebuild.

“None of us thought the problem was gone — we thought we were leaving a void there,” Winters said. “We all expected that [al-Qaida in Iraq] would come back and get worse. But we didn’t think it would happen that fast.”

Worried that Iraqi security was unraveling, Clinton and other senior Obama advisers quietly lobbied Iraqi leaders to accept new forms of assistance unfettered by State Department legal and budgetary constraints. Beginning in late 2011, Clinton joined then-CIA Director David H. Petraeus and other White House officials in seeking to persuade Maliki to host a joint U.S.-Iraqi “fusion cell,” consisting of intelligence experts and Special Operations forces from both countries, according to officials who participated in the talks. The White House also offered Maliki non-lethal surveillance drones to help track the movement of suspected terrorists, the officials said.

The Iraqis appeared open to both ideas but made no move to implement them. The possibility of U.S.-supplied drones in Iraq was nixed by Maliki after news of the offer leaked to the media. Both programs were eventually implemented, but only after waves of Islamic State suicide bombings began to threaten security in Baghdad.

“It was like one of those slow-motion nightmares,” said Blinken, the State Department official. “We were moving our own system, trying to move Congress, trying to move the Iraqis. We saw this thing coming, we were acting on it, but the problem outran the solution we were putting into place.”

The budget cuts did achieve one positive, and perhaps unexpected, result: a budget surplus. By May 2012, the State Department was sitting on $1.6 billion in funds that Congress had appropriated for Iraq, but which the department no longer intended to use there. Department officials had the option of redirecting those funds, and did so, shifting some of the money to other conflict zones, including Libya, according to public documents and former officials.

A large chunk of leftover cash was initially earmarked for the construction of a new diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, the restive Libyan city which Clinton had planned to visit in late 2012. That idea abruptly ended after the deadly Sept. 11, 2012, assaults on the Benghazi compounds that left four Americans dead.

Prized Targets

On June 4, 2014, the Islamic State, in a quick strike, captured Mosul. The black-flagged terrorists blew past Iraqi army defenders, aided in many cases by Sunni tribesmen who saw the jihadists as preferable to Maliki’s Shiite-led government.

Whether the additional security assistance could have helped prevent the collapse of Iraq’s security services is impossible to say with certainty. Many current and former administration officials, including some who strongly favored a residual U.S. troop presence, argue that Maliki’s inept management of the military and repression of the country’s Sunni minority inalterably weakened the country and made it vulnerable to collapse. If a few hundred Americans had been stationed in Mosul in 2014, these officials say, they might have become prized targets for the terrorist army that overran the city that summer.

“People have an illusion here,” said Nides, the former State Department deputy secretary. “From a practical perspective, what you actually get is 20 people with a big security footprint. Are they going to be getting in their cars and driving around talking to tribal leaders? I don’t think so.”

In any case, the Islamic State’s takeover prompted a rush by the Obama administration to restore military-led security assistance programs that had been quietly curtailed after the military drawdown. Within weeks, 475 U.S. troops were sent to advise Iraqi security forces. Today, the level is more than 10 times that. The concern over tight budgets has faded as well: Congress has appropriated billions of dollars to deal with the jihadist threat.

Clinton, the presidential candidate, responded to the crisis as well, putting forward a detailed plan for defeating the Islamic State. She has primarily blamed Maliki, the former Iraqi leader and her former partner during the transition, for the resurgence of the Sunni terrorists. Some of her proposed solutions have called for improving tribal liaisons and intelligence collection programs that were cut or abandoned three years earlier.

“We’ve got to do a better job of getting back the Sunnis on the ground,” she told ABC News in an interview in 2015.

Clinton has stressed her experience and track record in the national security arena as a key selling point on the campaign trail, echoing themes from her memoir, “Hard Choices,” which chronicled her experiences as secretary of state. The book came out a few weeks after Mosul fell to the Islamic State.

The book made news upon publication because of Clinton’s admission that it was a “mistake” to have voted in 2002 to support the U.S. invasion of Iraq the following year.

On the rest of what happened in Iraq during her tenure as America’s top diplomat, the 635-page book is silent.

Jeff Gerth, a senior reporter at ProPublica, previously worked as an investigative reporter at The New York Times. He has twice been awarded the Pulitzer Prize.

Joby Warrick covers national security and terrorism for The Washington Post. His book “Black Flags: The Rise of ISIS” was awarded the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for nonfiction.

Related stories: Review Hillary Clinton’s career through the best in-depth stories written about her over the years, read about the Great Republican Crackup of 2016 and check out more of ProPublica’s coverage of politics and lobbying in our ongoing series, The Breakdown.

 

 

 

 

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For those who know no more about the Barbary pirates than the movies and stories of Barbarrosa, there were between one and 1.25 million Europeans captured and sold into slavery by the Muslim Barbary pirates from the 16th to 18th centuries. My point is that Muslim “terrorists” have been after non-Muslims for a long time.

The current attacks by ISIS and similar Muslim radicals in the Mideast have not been focused on non-Muslims, notwithstanding the beheading incidents of late, but have been intramural attacks on fellow Muslims. Yet the U.S. has felt compelled to take the strong lead in international reaction to the modern terrorists. Meanwhile the Muslim countries surrounding Syria and Iraq, as well as the nearby European powers, are providing light support, to say the most, to the latest American-led initiatives.

I fail to understand why the U.S. feels so compelled to take the strong lead, when it is the regional Muslim countries that are, or seemingly should be, so threatened by the Syrian Muslim extremists. Even more so, considering that it is the U.S. that has sold modern arms and trained the military of so many neighboring Muslim countries. This is not the age of the Barbary pirates, when a million or more Europeans, and some American warships, were directly impacted by Muslim extremists, yet by the actions being led by America, you would think it still is.

While U.S. airstrikes may or may not have the desired negative impact on ISIS, one thing is sure: the collateral damage among neutral civilians we are now inflicting, will assure another generation or two of America-hating among the families of those innocents effected. If you lived, for example, in some American small town, and an overseas nation bombed your community because they said some bad guys were hiding there, how might you feel toward that foreign nation? While collateral damage is inevitable in air strikes, the point is that the U.S. is courting repercussions that will last for generations ahead by not deferring to the Muslim nations in countering the extremists there. The unwillingness of fellow Muslims in not reacting more forcefully against ISIS suggests we are either misinterpreting the situation in the Middle East, or we are being sucker-punched not just by ISIS, but by all the Muslim countries surrounding Syria.

In my view it is the U.S. that should be in the supporting role in countering ISIS, with the surrounding Muslim countries in the lead, NOT the other way around! While Washington stretches to tell us that there is some support for our initiatives from other Mideast Muslim countries, while we lead the attack with missiles from our warships and American bombers, and have sent nearly two thousand soldiers back into Iraq (so far), we are not hearing the truth about how and why ISIS is not being seen as an imminent threat by Middle Eastern countries. It is time for the truth to be heard.

As the U.S. considers if and how to react to the Sunni-led insurrection in Iraq, I have one comment: “We CANNOT afford it!”*

The conflict in the middle east across many nations between the Sunnis and the Shiites goes back over a thousand years. If we think that the U.S. or western nations can impose a political or military solution on what is one of the world’s most long-lasting social conflicts, we have another think coming.

*We CANNOT afford to intervene, economically, politically, socially. Let’s, for once, learn from the past.

In one exchange with a Congressman this morning, Hillary Clinton acknowledged that there was an over-reaction that led to war when the U.S. claimed that weapons of mass destruction were in the hands of the Iraqui government. I wonder if this was code language that explains why U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice cited in a TV interview mob violence as the reason for the Benghazi attack, and did not mention that it was conducted by terrorists, at a time she would have known the truth?

At a juncture when a public accusation that a terrorist attack on the anniversary of 9/11 was behind the death of a U.S. ambassador and three other Americans might have lit a candle of retailiation that could have led to war across the middle east, or lack of faith in a Presidential candidate for re-election, is it possible that the geniouses in Washington decided the American people couldn’t handle the truth?

If you doubt the plausability of this interpretation of events, consider that in 1968, recently released papers of President Lyndon Johnson confirm that he decided against accusing Richard Nixon of treason for blocking peace talks regarding Vietnam so the war in Vietnam couldn’t be concluded before the fall election, which Nixon won. The reason Johnson didn’t go public with his charges against Nixon was because Johnson’s advisors believed that such an accusation on the eve of an election could destabilize the American public.

If this suggests to you, as it does to me, that Obama’s advisors felt the American people couldn’t handle the truth that America was successfully attacked again on the anniversary of 9/11, and on the verge of another Presidential election, then perhaps you are ignoring the lessons of history. “Weapons of mass destruction” looks like just such code-language regarding Benghazi.  

For decades now, if you recall, word has been out that Iran is about to have a nuclear bomb. Now, somehow, we hear it is imminent. This sounds like more politics, than reality, to me. If we are so worried about an Islamic state possessing the bomb, what about Pakistan? They’ve had it for years, and the U.S., inadvertently or not, financed a lot of its development with our aid.

We just got out of Iraq, at least sort of. And we’re on a road that should also get us out of Afghanistan in a few years, at least sort of. Why would we be so foolish to get into Iran now, much less Syria?

1.
Yes, today is the 4th of July, but the event we are commemorating is Independence Day, which means a lot in reference to our freedom and democracy in the U.S. Doesn’t it bug you when others say, “Have a happy 4th.” Guess it’s too much trouble to remind people we’re celebrating our freedom.

2. Lots of media coverage out there of the impending end of the Shuttle Space program, as if that’s something we should celebrate, when the opposite is true. We learn a lot of practical things through the space program every day, including taking baby steps towards the possible future salvation of mankind, when we’ve worn this world out. Now, if we want to venture out there, we have to make a reservation with the Russians for a ride to the Space Station, which we’ve spent billions developing. We hear our scientists are now focused on “deep space,” which is good, but doesn’t that ring a little hollow when we remember what this nation accomplished when John Kennedy challenged us, almost 50 years ago, to put a man on the moon?

3. The news is reporting that the last draftee from the Vietnam War is retiring from the military after 32 years of service. This generation is relieved that the draft is gone, and that war is now left to professional volunteers. It still doesn’t occur to many that we might have moved these decade-long wars of the 21st century along a little faster if we all recognized we have a stake in what neurotic politicians and military/industrial bureaucrats drag us into. Of course, we’re about to go bankrupt as a nation because of Iraq and Afghanistan. Maybe that will get our attention.

4. All that said, it’s a nice day to enjoy family, the outdoors, good food, good friends and our freedom. Happy Independence Day, and may there be many more!

President Obama’s Libya strategy is sketchy, to say the least, when it comes to the question of what comes after the UN, and NATO’s and America’s “humanitarian intervention.”

One of the best and most succinct discussions I’ve seen on this question to date is in this NPR article — http://www.npr.org/2011/03/28/134920431/foreign-policy-what-happens-if-libyas-rebels-win
— in which Lisa Anderson, President of the American University in Cairo, says, “Any military and political intervention that will bring an end to the Gaddafi regime should be accompanied, from the beginning, by mobilization of the resources of political reconstruction.”

I see that the U.S. is dispatching a senior diplomat to meet with the opposition, whoever they are, in Libya, and that the Brits have such meetings scheduled in London. Will these early efforts bear fruit and lead to any realistic reconstruction, if total civil war can be avoided in the interim? Big question. We’ve blown efforts to deliver practical help towards reconstruction in Iraq and Afghanistan. Do we even begin to understand the tribal dynamics in Libya? Do we understand the role of their military, and the basis of political power through Libya? I don’t think so.

Now that the air war has been brought under control and Gaddafi’s tanks have been knocked out in the East, and the opposition forces, if we can call them that, have been stopped by armed civilians in Gaddafi-controlled towns. Is this the beginning of a civil war, in which “humanitarian intervention” becomes more and more difficult to achieve, as civilians become the combatants and victims, on both sides?

Is this the dawning of tribal war and revolution? Will the U.S. be on the winning side of such a conflict? Will tribes previously loyal to Gaddafi switch sides to the opposition? Will an opposition coalition of tribes, towns and forces be formed, with a recognizable leadership widely supported by the population?

Will a new generation of terrorists, who hate the West, and one another, be spawned? Well, that’s probably already a given.

Will we regret the day we entered into “humanitarian intervention” in Libya? Or will we celebrate the victory of successfully imposing our U.S./Western ethos on another African/Middle Eastern culture? In what year, or decade, or century, will that “political reconstruction” be celebrated? And by whom?

One last comment: I fear that Obama has again, ala Afghanistan, been romanced by the military into believing that a limited armed intervention will likely produce successful political results.

Imagine that a far right or far left or other faction in the U.S. were to actively attack their own government (for example, if the union protests in Madison had gotten out of hand and escalated in violence, resulting in a crazed governor ordering State Police and State Reserve forces to push back protestors, with injuries and some deaths). Then, China sits down and decides this is unacceptable, and drafts a U.N. order that commands the “allies,” in this case the military of China, Cuba and Libya to respond by enforcing a no-fly zone in Southern Wisconsin to prevent the government from further attacking and suppressing its protesting citizens. How would we, the people, feel about these violent assaults by foreign nations against the sovereign U.S. government, even if our government was wrong and had made big mistakes (what’s new)?

A crazy and totally inappropriate analogy, you say. It could never happen. Sure. But put your shoe on the other foot.

But how would you, as an American citizen loyal to your government, feel about such bombing and strafing of U.S. forces by China, Cuba and Libya? Of course, as Americans living in the real world, we are well prepared to determine how Libya should be organized and led politically, and we are more than willing to send our sons and daughters to die to make Libya conform to our vision. Right?

See my previous blog post, “Leave Libya alone.” I hope upcoming events prove me to be wrong in my cynical view of our foreign policy decisions regarding Libya, but our U.S. track record in such things is not very strong. P.S. I served in Vietnam.

The proposition that reinstating a military draft could help save American democracy, at least in terms related to national decisions on military adventures, is one of the provocative concepts brought to mind by the new book: One Nation Under Contract, by Allison Stanger, Yale University Press.

With the number of private civilian contractors working for the military in Iraq and now Afghanistan equaling the number of deployed service members, at perhaps triple the cost of soldiers doing the same jobs, it’s pretty clear that the economic impact of these wars on the American taxpayers — including teachers, policemen and fire fighters — could be drastically reduced by reinstating a draft to fill most of these roles.

But, why isn’t a draft even on the table for discussion? Because the White House, Congress and the military-industrial complex knows full well that the American populace would be much less motivated to support or remain silent on the continuation of these foreign conflicts if a draft was imposed on a broader portion of youth and families across the land.

So, we pay and pay, and now are at a point where the U.S. can’t sustain pensions, Social Security, health care, and union benefits in Wisconsin and throughout the country for teachers, policemen and firefighters — among many others. The power elite are deciding when, where and how long to go to war, without allowing democracy to be fully engaged in such life and death decisions.

If government doesn’t trust the people, it won’t be long before the people don’t trust their government. Those times are already upon us. So, if government won’t be responsible to the people — democracy cannot survive. So, give us a draft that engages the people in military decision-making, or live with the destabilizing consequences of a government that doesn’t know or trust the wisdom of its people.

To die for an idea; it is unquestionably noble. But how much nobler it would be if men died for ideas that were true!

H. L. Mencken

April 2019
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