Thursday, September 25, 2014

Quagmire? We're Specialists, It Seems (All Calling for Leadership Before Now Want Boots on the Ground?) Meltdown Political Theater In Action

Anyone who predicted that here is where we were headed long ago has now won the bet.

A very bad bet.

With a lot of casualties upcoming.

But lots of profits for the military-industrial complex.

And somewhere they are all standing and applauding.

Because they cannot lose now.

Almost everything that is happening now suggests this will end badly. We've failed to curb ISIS in Iraq because, for all the happy talk about its inclusive new government, Sunni Iraqis have yet to rally behind their new Shiite prime minister Haider al-Abadi any more enthusiastically than they did behind the despised Nouri al-Maliki.

- Frank Rich, New York Magazine

Seems that the U.S. is in a quagmire already?

It meets every definition of one.

wo weeks ago, President Obama addressed the nation on his plan to "degrade and ultimately destroy" ISIS, saying, “I want the American people to understand how this effort will be different from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan."
Yesterday, the U.S. launched air strikes in Syria, targeting not only ISIS but the less-known terror network Khorasan. Obama insists that he has ruled out deploying combat troops to the region, but a growing chorus, from the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to former U.K. prime minister Tony Blair, has said they could be necessary. Could we be entering into another quagmire?
Yes. And no one knows this better than President Obama, whose political rise was tied to his opposition to “dumb wars” and who is nothing if not honest in warning that our new engagement in Iraq and Syria will last for an unspecified number of years, past his presidency. His open-ended, inchoate description of this war’s future is the very definition of a quagmire — and the very antithesis of an exit strategy. We are sinking into the quicksand even as we speak.
All summer the bipartisan Washington consensus had it that the president had to talk tougher, be “decisive,” exercise “leadership,” etc. etc. Well, now that that wish has come true, what have been the results? Even as America was poised to hit Syria this week, the Times reported that six weeks of airstrikes in Iraq had failed to dent ISIS there. Now that we’re bombing Syria, no one really knows exactly what is happening in the fog of war — we are still in the hazy, wishful thinking “coalition of the willing”/ “shock and awe” phase of that campaign.
Nor do we know what this campaign will accomplish beyond a whack-a-mole obliteration of small, fast-scattering terrorist groups like Khorasan (some 100 members as opposed to the 20,000-30,000 the CIA estimates for ISIS) — or, quite possibly, the shoring up of the criminal Assad regime that only yesterday we wanted to take out. And already the same Establishment — not just generals and Tony Blair — that begged all summer for more “leadership” from Obama is implicitly asking for ground troops. Typical is Richard Haass, the president of the Council on Foreign Relations, who could be found this morning on "Morning Joe" saying that we are fighting with “one arm tied behind our back.”
In truth, we already have boots on the ground in the form of “special forces” and “advisers.” The moment they start returning to America in body bags, or are seen being slaughtered in ISIS videos, is the moment when the recent polling uptick in support for this war will evaporate. That support is an inch deep, and Congress knows it, which is why members of both parties fled Washington for the campaign trail last week rather than debate Obama’s war plan. As Paul Kane of "The Washington Post" pointed out, the Senate could not even fill up the scant allotted time (five hours) for debating the war, and “so at one point a senator devoted time to praising the Baltimore Orioles for their successful baseball season.” Next to this abdication of duty, Congress’s disastrous rush to authorize war in Iraq in 2002 looks like a wise and deliberate execution of checks-and-balances.
Almost everything that is happening now suggests this will end badly. We’ve failed to curb ISIS in Iraq because, for all the happy talk about its inclusive new government, Sunni Iraqis have yet to rally behind their new Shiite prime minister Haider al-Abadi any more enthusiastically than they did behind the despised Nouri al-Maliki.  As for our expansion into Syria, even if we can find and train 5,000 Syrian “moderates” to fight the Islamic State, it will take a year to do so, according to our own government’s no doubt optimistic estimate.
And they’ll still be outnumbered by ISIS forces by at least four-to-one. Nor do we know all the unintended consequences that will multiply throughout the region — as they have in every other American intervention in the Muslim world — with each passing month.
 Not to be negative or anything.

As I'm sure the Pentagon has weighed all these factors already and decided that the toehold there is worth any price.

How's that for positivity? (H/t Barbara Ehrenreich)

. . . On Sunday, hundreds of thousands of demonstrators marched through the streets of New York to protest global inaction on climate change. Grim reports keep getting published. The president keeps talking about our responsibility to address climate change. And while he has pushed through carbon-cutting executive actions, it's clear that the U.S. — to say nothing of China — has a long way to go. What is it going to take for the hopes of the climate marchers to be realized?
As long as one of the two major American political parties aligns with the world’s No. 1 environmental offender, China, in refusing to address this crisis, nothing will happen. In the GOP, it’s not just a far-right fringe that is in denial about climate change but its Establishment.
The "Wall Street Journal" covered the march by relegating it to its local "New York" section and countering it with a long essay titled “Climate Science Is Not Settled” by a former chief scientist at BP.
Chris Christie pulled New Jersey out of a nine-state Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative in defiance of his own legislature rather than risk offending the Koch Brothers and losing their bottomless Americans for Prosperity campaign cash should he run for president.
Perhaps it will take an environmental apocalypse to move the GOP on this issue, but then again, many thought that the surge in school shootings would move the party to end its intransigent opposition to gun control. This is going to be a long struggle, ultimately led by the same young Americans who have been forcing the Republicans to retreat on cultural issues like same-sex marriage.
The midterm elections are a little more than a month away, and — according to polling models at '538," the "Times," the "Washington Post," and "Huffington Post" — the GOP stands a better than even chance of taking control of the Senate. GOP challengers have so far managed to avoid any "Todd Akin moments," and red state Democrats are saddled with a president who is intensely unpopular among their constituents. Is this thing over?
Given Obama’s low numbers, and all the other metrics charted by the Nate Silvers out there, I would have thought so. Yet some Republicans are revealing a bit of anxiety. Take Karl Rove. His August 27 Journal column carried the triumphalist headline “Countdown to Kicking Out Harry Reid.” Last week in that same space, he could be found worrying that “a GOP Senate majority is still in doubt.”
There’s a touch of panic in his tone as he points out that Democrats are leading in fund-raising this year, and acknowledges that the “anti-women meme” is not so easily escaped by a party fielding candidates whose anti-choice extremism includes endorsing “personhood” amendments granting legal rights to embryos. Should Rove’s doubts prove justified, we can only hope that he will be spending election night at Fox News so we can be treated to an encore of his 2012 on-camera meltdown. That remains the most memorable bit of political theater so far this decade.

And is this legal?

No doubt about it.

US Involved in ‘Military Action’, But Not ‘War’–At Least Not Legally

WASHINGTON – President Obama is carrying out airstrikes in Iraq and Syria with the stated purpose “to destroy and defeat ISIL,”, or the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant. The Pentagon has referred to US’ involvement as “military action” or “airstrikes”, but the administration is reluctant to call it a war.
“Under international law, one country can only launch attacks in another if it’s specifically invited by the government, if it’s acting in self-defense, or if the UN Security Council authorizes it,” said Peter Certo,  the editor of Foreign Policy In Focus at the Institute for Policy Studies, via email. “None of those conditions applies to ISIS in Syria, so by the letter of the law this war is illegal.”
Congress is the body of government with the Constitution-granted power of declaring war, and Congress has yet to authorize any action, beyond agreeing to equip and train Syrian rebel forces. Many Republican and Democratic members of Congress, like Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) have been vocally opposed to the President’s independent action.
“Constitutionally, the matter is clear. The president does not have Article II power to go on offense against ISIL unless they are involved in an actual ongoing or imminent threat against the U.S., and there is no evidence that they are, as indicated by other administration testimony,” Kaine said Tuesday during a discussion forum at the Center for American Progress Action Fund, a think tank in Washington.
The White House is carrying out these airstrikes by citing a congressional resolution called the Authorization for Use of Military Force, signed by President Bush just days after Sept.11, 2001. The resolution authorizes the use of US armed forces against those responsible for the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001—which has been interpreted to mean al-Qaeda and its affiliates.
White House Spokesperson Josh Earnest told reporters on Sept. 22 during a press briefing that Obama believes “ISIL has declared war on the broader international community…And that means that the international community is a war with ISIL, and the United States is at war with ISIL in the same way that we are at war with al-Qaeda and its affiliates around the globe.”
But Certo and Kaine agree that citing the AUMF is a flimsy argument.

Obama Launches an Illegal War in Syria

President Obama’s decision to bomb Syria stands in stark violation of international law, the UN Charter, and the requirements of the U.S. Constitution.

Click the links above and read the essays.

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