Saturday, September 13, 2014

Echoes Of The Past

On Wednesday, President Obama described one leg of his four-part strategy as

Second, we will increase our support to forces fighting these terrorists on the ground. In June, I deployed several hundred American service members to Iraq to assess how we can best support Iraqi Security Forces. Now that those teams have completed their work — and Iraq has formed a government — we will send an additional 475 service members to Iraq. As I have said before, these American forces will not have a combat mission — we will not get dragged into another ground war in Iraq. But they are needed to support Iraqi and Kurdish forces with training, intelligence and equipment. We will also support Iraq’s efforts to stand up National Guard Units to help Sunni communities secure their own freedom from ISIL control.

Have we heard something like this before?  Oh, yeah:

US military advisors instructed South Vietnamese military men how to operate M-1 rifles, M-1 carbines, M-3 submachinguns, belt fed M-60 and WWII light & heavy machinguns, .45 pistols, 90mm & 106mm recoilless rifles, 60mm & 81mm mortars, clay more land mines (anti-personnel), M-113 APC's, M-41 Walker Bulldog light tanks, how to fly helicopters, how to build military bridges, how to fortify gun emplacements, how to build military compounds, how to utilize US military rations and medical supplies, and the functions of US uniforms, such as body protective armor (helmets/vests/etc.). Tactics and Strategies were studied & taught, as well as land navigation arts, such as map reading and compass usage. How to call in artillery and air strikes with the use of radios, maps, and compass.

The Vietnam War was justified partially by the Domino Theory, the notion that if Ho Chi Minh took over South Vietnam, soon the North Vietnamese would be in Laos and Cambodia.  Although not Obama's emphasis, the the 20th century iteration was invoked by Obama when he contended  if ISIS isn't annihilated, they will be in your kitchen in Dubuque:

So ISIL poses a threat to the people of Iraq and Syria, and the broader Middle East — including American citizens, personnel and facilities. If left unchecked, these terrorists could pose a growing threat beyond that region — including to the United States. While we have not yet detected specific plotting against our homeland, ISIL leaders have threatened America and our allies.

No need to limit discussion to jihadi terrorism and the Middle East when Ukraine, freedom, justice, dignity, and Ebola are so much more applicable. The President remarked

Abroad, American leadership is the one constant in an uncertain world. It is America that has the capacity and the will to mobilize the world against terrorists. It is America that has rallied the world against Russian aggression, and in support of the Ukrainian peoples’ right to determine their own destiny. It is America — our scientists, our doctors, our know-how — that can help contain and cure the outbreak of Ebola. It is America that helped remove and destroy Syria’s declared chemical weapons so they cannot pose a threat to the Syrian people — or the world — again. And it is America that is helping Muslim communities around the world not just in the fight against terrorism, but in the fight for opportunity, tolerance, and a more hopeful future.

America, our endless blessings bestow an enduring burden. But as Americans, we welcome our responsibility to lead. From Europe to Asia — from the far reaches of Africa to war-torn capitals of the Middle East — we stand for freedom, for justice, for dignity. These are values that have guided our nation since its founding.

It would not be comforting to argue "we have failed in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya but we'll be able to destroy ISIL."  Better to mobilize the public with an appeal to American exceptionalism, particularly for a relatively dark-hued President born in the far-off nation of Hawaii.

The President (photo below of Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images via The Daily Beast) could have promoted his policy primarily as a means to secure regional stability. But it wouldn't have won many points with the public, much of which is fixated on "the Homeland," thanks to the campaign of fear by parties outside the Administration.  Besides, our military and political effort the past thirteen years has brought no more stability to the Middle East and north Africa than it did some 45 years ago in southeast Asia.

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