Life used to be simple. At least that is the nostalgic nonsense that fills the aging brain pans of those of us over the age of 55. Back in the Good Old days we had the clear enemy of international communism to battle. We used that bullshit bugaboo to justify wars in Vietnam, Cambodia, Angola, Central America, South America and Afghanistan. As long as we had the implacable foe of international communism poised to take over the world, intent on taking away our choices of ice cream and certain to demand that we worship the memory of Vladimir Lenin, we could justify spending hundreds of billions of dollars on building a massive military and intelligence bureaucracy and equipping them with expensive machines of death and communication.
When the Soviet Union crumbled under the weight of its slavish devotion to Marxian utopian precepts we thought we witnessed the dawn of a new era. And we did. The only problem–we could not sustain our economy without coming up with a new enemy that would justify the continued spending of hundreds of billions of dollars on technologically sophisticated and grotesquely expense crap that, in the event of a real conventional war, would be impossible to replace in a timely manner and would bankrupt our nation.
We, the United States, drifted from 1992 until 11 September 2001 trying to identify the new enemy. During that 8 year hiatus U.S. defense spending ticked down, both as an absolute number and as a percentage of GDP. There were some isolated international terrorist attacks but nothing so extraordinary to rally the country. Instead, there were weak efforts to build worry about China and to promote missile defense as the latest, greatest technology needed to keep America safe.
The coordinated attacks on 9-11 in 2001 changed all of that and the spending binge was on. Very few challenged the conventional wisdom that more military spending would be an effective remedy for battling a motley collection of radical Islamists who did not have armor, artillery, armies, navies, ballistic missiles nor an air force. That uncomfortable fact did not slow us for a minute in throwing new billions at the military, the defense bureaucracy and the intelligence agencies.
And what did that spending spree earn us? Nothing. Instead of quelling terrorism, terrorism spread. Inspired in large measure by George W. Bush's ill-considered and feckless invasion of Iraq. We disarmed the minority Sunni Baathists, imprisoned and shamed thousands and then were surprised to learn that pissed off people have a tendency to fight back.
But that was not enough for us. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton thought it a dandy idea to back the European play (a thinly veiled effort to gain control of Libyan oil) to oust Libya's quirky, crazy despot, Muammar Qaddafi. That turned out swell. Libya became a new site for civil war as tribes and religious minorities battled each other for control of Libya's oil and natural gas wealth. The United States, with the enthusiastic backing of the United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Israel, decided to light a fire in Syria and rid the world of a secular strong man in favor of an unwieldy collection of Sunni Islamic radicals. All of this in the name of trying to contain Iran whose power and influence in the region had grown because we, the United States, got rid of Tehran's nemesis, Saddam Hussein, and replaced him with semi-pliant Shia Iraqis who happened to have close ties with the mullahs and the IRGC in Iran.
Rather than accept blame for our own stupidity, we decided it better to finger Syria's Assad for that faux pas. We helped start and then sustain the secular war that began shredding Syria in 2010.
Before all of this got started, Bill Clinton reneged on promises to Russia to not expand NATO to Russia's western frontier. George W. Bush and Barack Obama continued that policy and spent more money on building up NATO and threatening Russia. Of course, when Russia pushed back against the U.S betrayal on NATO and refused to support U.S. military adventures in the Middle East, the American foreign and national security policy elite began beating the drum portraying Russia as a grave and growing threat.
And you know what the prescription for that is? More cow bell. I mean, more defense spending. Few of the so-called experts want to take the time to point out that Moscow spends 1/10th of what Washington does in building up military capabilities. Virtually no one in America is willing to acknowledge our responsibility for stirring up unrest in Ukraine or carrying out aggressive military exercises on the land and sea borders of Russia. And, instead of publicly welcoming Russia coming to the aid of Syria in fighting off the very kind of radical Islamists who attacked us on 9-11, we condemned them and then doubled down by arming those Islamic extremists.
Now we have Donald Trump and he is genuinely flummoxed. He does not know whether to wipe his nose or scratch his ass. His early attempts to talk sense about Russia earned him a public flogging by the Washington foreign policy establishment who not only accused him of surrendering to communism (ignoring the fact the communists in Russia were vanquished in 1991) but mounted a coordinated disinformation operation that insisted that Russia intervened in the 2016 election on behalf of Trump and that Trump and his team colluded with them in this effort. Not one shred of proof to support this nonsensical claim but the most of the elite and the punditry embraced it as truth and happily spread the lie over TV, the blogs and the archaic pages of major newspapers.
Trump continues to say in one breath that he is not interested in embroiling the United States in another foreign war and then, with a bellicosity that is borderline cartoonish, threatens North Korea and Iran with doom and destruction. As I noted in my previous piece on Iran, this kind of sword rattling makes no sense with respect to Iran. We are the ones who have been funding terrorists and destabilizing the Middle East, not the Iranians.
I am amused by Trump trying to take credit for the collapse of ISIS. It is cute. But the U.S. contribution to this effort pales in comparison to the resources and forces put to the effort by Russia. It is Russia, not Iran, that has led the way in bolstering Syria's ability to fighting the foreign-backed Islamists who were intent on unseating Assad.
Are we now ready to do the right thing in Syria and Iraq? I doubt it. The Neo-Con crowd have done a good job of persuading a lot of Americans that the Kurds are our natural allies. Now that the Iraqi Government, which we also claim to back, is pushing to re-take control of Kurdish controlled parts of Iraq, the chorus is singing with gusto the tune that we must come to their rescue. That means military intervention on our part. While Trump has pooh-poohed that suggestion so far, the chorus is adding a new phrase–i.e., "The Iranian backed regime in Iraq."
Yes sir. We have to fight those dastardly Iranians who are trying to crush the democratic aspirations of the Kurds. If that argument starts to resonate with Trump then his current refusal to get involved is likely to be reversed. Interesting times folks. Very interesting times.