Over breakfast, tuned in to Fox news, I was treated to a hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee in which Senators were cross examining Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Paul Selva about American objectives in Syria and Iraq.
Senators were pushing to get a commitment. When are we going to capture Mosul? How are we going to do it? The city of Mosul on the Tigris River is the home of the University of Mosul. Before the Iraq War its population was over two and a half million. Many have fled since then.
Two years ago, ISIS captured the city and since have established it as an Islamic Caliphate.
How to recapture it? The Secretary and the Chairman weren’t really sure. Indeed their testimony was replete with if’s and’s and but’s. They concede, apparently, that Mosul cannot be recaptured from the air. They seem also to be less than optimistic that the city can be taken back by an elite cadre of American special forces.
And so there was much talk about “our allies in the region;” The Turks, the Kurds, the Iraqis, the Saudis. What about the Iranians? Well, yes they are fighting ISIS too, but they are not our allies. And the Russians? Also not our allies, although also fighting ISIS.
I don’t recall anything being said about what we might do if the Russians or the Iranians decide to capture Mosul.
Especially since the San Bernardino massacre, it has become popular among the ruling class to insist that we are at war. The favorite slogan is that we are at war with Islamic Terrorism.
I can’t figure out how you can be at war against Islamic Terrorism. You can’t invade Islamic Terrorism. You can’t capture Islamic Terrorism. You can’t kill Islamic Terrorism. Islamic Terrorism can’t surrender. You can’t make a peace treaty with Islamic Terrorism.
It’s sort of like saying we are at war against Murder or Sin. As long as there is still one person who is of a mind to blow himself up in order to kill innocent non believers, Islamic Terrorism will be alive and well.
In the old days, folks used to talk about the British Empire. They said that the sun never set on it, and indeed the Union Jack flew all around the globe from the British Isles to Canada, to Singapore, to India and many points in between.
Ever since Teddy Roosevelt bought into the idea that the United States had a Manifest Destiny to bring civilization to bare foot, uninstructed natives in other parts of the world, we have been inching our way toward reinvigorating the English speaking empire under the Stars and Stripes.
It is high time we had a serious national debate on the issue of our national purpose. Are we a federal republic located in North America or are we a world wide Empire with satellites from South Korea to Saudi Arabia?
Wikipedia says that the Iraq War began on March 20, 2003 and ended on December 18, 2011. The result was that we invaded and occupied Iraq. Naively, when the shooting died down, we oversaw the establishment of a new government, one we thought would be friendly to us, then we went home. Sloppy way to build an empire, I should think.
The Senate Armed Services Committee hearing demonstrated the dismal failure of the Congress to abide by its constitutional duties. It is the job of the Congress to declare war. That means deciding who to fight and why. It involves expressing the reason, the purpose and the object of the war.
Who are we fighting? Why are we fighting them? What do we intend to do?
Nitpicking the military strategy in an undeclared conflict is not the same as declaring war. The Congress is supposed to speak for the people. Do they ever ask themselves: “What do the people want us to do?”
I don’t know that anybody in this country wants us to invade and conquer Syria and/or Iraq. If you would like to see how popular that idea is, just suggest that we reinstate the draft – including all the girls over eighteen – and build an army of a million troops to invade the Middle East, eliminate all the radical Muslims and silence the religious and intellectual leaders who radicalize them.
Or we could just bring all of our troops home, post some on every street corner, school yard and movie theater and sleep easy.