John McCain and John Lindsay
On the Mad Mutterings of Murderous Old Men
True to his campaign promises, Donald Trump is proving “unpredictable” in foreign relations; especially in the deployment of US armed forces. The covert movement of troops into the Mid-East region and the sudden attack on Syria, which contradicts other often stated positions by Trump decrying US military intervention in that country and the Middle-East generally, is the essence of unpredictability.
From the outset these actions seemed unconnected to any stated policy or discernable strategy. Now we have been told by Donnie’s Son Eric that his father decided to bomb Syria after daddy’s girl Ivanka expressed her outrage at Assad. The fact that this attack may have been ordered up by a clueless Barbie from the rag trade is shocking! It leaves no doubt that the attack on Syria was an impulsive action whose consequences were not thought through, and thus it could well turn out to be a fool’s errand.
Nevertheless, Trumps assault on Syria is being enthusiastically applauded on both sides of the aisle. The leading ladies of the Democratic Party – Hillary Clinton and Nancy Pelosi – who normally find The Donald unfit for polite company, were dancing in the alise over Donnie’s demonstration of his manly prowess by going upside Assad’s head with a missile smack down.
Yet none of this hoopla has been more enthusiastic than the ringing endorsement from those two pillars of the Senate Republican establishment: John McCain and Lindsay Graham, both former military officers. As the Senators from Arizona and South Carolina they represent gun totin constituencies for whom military conflict represents a kind of pornography that beguiles them the way sexual pornography bewitches the sex fiend. These people seem bored with even the possibility of a protracted peace.
Right after the bombing of a Syrian airfield was made public the two Senators released a public statement clearly stating their support. It begins with the declaration “We salute the skill and professionalism of the U.S. Armed Forces who carried out tonight’s strikes in Syria. Acting on the orders of their commander-in-chief, they have sent an important message the United States will no longer stand idly by as Assad, aided and abetted by Putin’s Russia, slaughters innocent Syrians with chemical weapons and barrel bombs”
To the careful observer there is much to be alarmed about in this paragraph, especially the passage praising Trump for sending “an important message” that “The United States will no longer stand idly by as Assad, aided and abetted by Putin’s Russia” slaughters the Syrian people. The obvious question is what do they mean by this? Is it all blow and no go; or does this signal a radical change of policy where the US will now take on an active military role in the Syrian Civil War?
While what Trump is thinking on the matter remains a deep mystery, since he has chosen to be unpredictable, the Senators are clear on what direction they think American policy in Syria should take.
“Unlike the previous administration, President Trump confronted a pivotal moment in Syria and took action. For that, he deserves the support of the American people. Building on tonight’s credible first step, we must finally learn the lessons of history and ensure that tactical success leads to strategic progress. That means following through with a new, comprehensive strategy in coordination with our allies and partners to end the conflict in Syria. The first measure in such a strategy must be to take Assad’s air force—which is responsible not just for the latest chemical weapons attack, but countless atrocities against the Syrian people—completely out of the fight.”
Reading this, the thoughtful observer of international relations and the laws that govern them, is forced to wonder by what rights does the US justify such acts of war against a nation that has committed no act of aggression against the US? From all appearances one gets the impression that this would be a divinely ordained mission in which God has chosen America to set things aright. This will be the second time a Republican President has decided to attack a Muslim country that has done us no harm, and there is abundant reason to believe that the conflict in Syria could turn out to be worse mess than Iraq, in terms of further inflaming and destabilizing the Middle-East by stimulating the militant jihadist movement.
Hence an expanding American military involvement in Syria could prove a bottomless sinkhole for American blood and treasure. Yet despite their admonition that we should “learn from the lessons of history,” based on their policy proposals they appear to be ignoring them. For instance, they propose that the US government “must also bolster support for the vetted Syrian opposition and establish safe zones to address the ongoing humanitarian crisis. As we do, we can and must continue the campaign to achieve ISIS’s lasting defeat.”
While this may sound good, these proposals are not supported by the lessons of US history in the Middle East. Since John McCain has long advocated arming something called “The Free Syrian Army” – a motley collection of Syrians that oppose the Assad regime, and could well contain as many potential villains as heroes – we can reasonably assume that is what they are alluding to when they say we “must bolster support for the vetted Syrian opposition.”
Yet if there is any lasting lesson history teaches us about intervening in Middle-East conflicts, it is that there is no reliable method of “vetting” forces engaged in these armed conflicts. And that is because we are interlopers widely despised by militants from all sides. Look at what happened in Afghanistan, where we armed and trained both the Taliban and Al Qaeda in their fight against Russia, only to end up with them using those weapons and training against us. It was from this very country that the devastating 9/11 attack was organized and launched!
Furthermore, the attack was ordered by a Osama bin Laden, a rich Saudi Arabian civil engineer who was trained in terrorist tactics by the CIA, and carried out by citizens of Saudi Arabi and Egypt, America’s closest “allies” in the Arab world. And the weapons that ISIS – which was created by the ill-fated and unnecessary American invasion of Iraq – uses to wreak havoc were originally given to “friendly forces” of the Iraqi government. While these truths should be self-evident to any reasonably intelligent person who has been paying attention, it escapes members of Congress from both parties.
John Delaney, a democratic Congressman from Maryland, is a poignant example of this refusal to learn the lessons that history can teach us. In an interview on MSNBC on Saturday morning he was asked about the statement by Tulsi Gabbard – a Congresswoman from Hawaii and former combat officer in Afghanistan – warning that expanded American military involvement in Syria could lead to a nuclear confrontation with Russia. To my shock and dismay, Congressman Delaney argued that establishing American “leadership” in the Syrian quagmire is worth the risk of a military conflict with Russia.
Amaingly, this kind of jingoistic nonsense has been echoed throughout the broadcast press,with FOX “News” being the worst. Listening to the fawning fiddle faddle of their commentators creaming in their jeans over Donnie’s derring-doo in Syria, I am reminded that the ranks of American journalism are to be found saints and charlatans. However my response is that either this Congressman is a madman obsessed with the dangerous delusion of “American Exceptionalism,” or an ignoramus with no real understanding of the danger a nuclear war with Russia poses to the survival of mankind. Nothing that could happen in Syria would justify a war with Russia!
Since Delaney is balding, I suspect that he came of age at the apex of the American empire which after the fall of the Russian Communist Party, the dismantling of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pack – a military alliance among communist countries that served as a counter weight to NATO – resembled something akin to a Pax-America, where the US was the sole super power in a unipolar world. This kind of thinking reflects a 21st century version of what the late Senator William Fulbright aptly called “The Arrogance of Power.”
It is a view of the world largely promulgated by deluded old heads like McCain, Lindsay and Trump: intellectually pugnacious Geezers gone wild that could get us all killed as we follow their lead into a mass grave. Which will be a short walk if Trump heeds Lindsay Graham’s advice to set up a no-fly one in Syria and if Russian planes fly into that space we should “shoot them down!”
Alas, giving a clueless, megalomaniacal, pugnacious, impulsive old man like Trump the idea that it is okay for him to attack other countries that have committed no offense against us, and pushing him to become more aggressive against a nuclear superpower like Russia, is the first step down that dangerous road to doomsday.
This is where we are headed….
……If we don’t change course
Playthell G. Benjamin
Harlem, New York
April 8, 2017