Wednesday, December 10, 2014

John Kerry Said What? Welcome to Year 10 of the Long War

By Tom Hayden

Progressive America Rising via

Dec. 9, 2014 - Secretary of State John Kerry seems to be engaging in some double speak this week. (Photo: AP, December 2014)Secretary of State John Kerry today called for a congressional authorization of the New War before he didn't.

Instead Kerry proposed the appearance of an authorization before stripping the idea of real public and congressional accountability. Members of Congress should look carefully at this insult to their constitutional role.

First, Kerry said it was "crystal clear" that the President wants no US troops in combat operations on the ground, but that Congress should not, "preemptively bind the hands of the commander-in-chief to react to changing circumstances."

Second, Kerry said he doesn't want an open-ended timeline for war but that the authorization should run for three years or longer, safely after the 2016 elections.

Third, Kerry promised no wider war beyond Iraq and Syria, but doesn't want any constraint on US going after ISIS militarily in other nations.


This is nothing but an attempt to avoid an embarrassing battlefield defeat during the next two years before handing over the mission of derailing ISIS to the next president. At the same time, it will limit the ability of Congress to question the policy once they have signed on. This is how escalation works.

It's true that the president left a vacuum in Iraq when he withdrew American troops in December 2011. But it's equally true that he funded and permitted the Iraq vacuum to be filled with repressive sectarian Shiite militias and army units occupying Sunni-majority communities, which created the conditions for the ISIS offensive on behalf of persecuted Sunnis. It wasn't necessary for Obama and the Pentagon to leave American troops behind. What was necessary was to leave a fully non-sectarian regime and army behind, which they failed to do. The steps that have been taken since - forcing out al-Maliki, attempts at patching up sectarian differences - are insufficient to undo the damage that threatens to dissolve Iraq into sectarian war.

Second, the administration's vacillation on the Syrian civil war created a vast vacuum for ISIS to rise against the Assad regime, creating a cross-border zone of Sunni insurgency against two hostile regimes.

"Defeating" ISIS may be possible, but another ISIS will rise again as long as these conditions remain. ISIS, after all, arose as a breakaway from Al Qaeda, which rose in Iraq in response to the American invasion.  

A key lesson of Vietnam is that American officials and their local allies can suffer a catastrophic crash landing while trying to save reputations for conflicts that were unnecessary in the first place. The American peace movement and peace voters in general can take credit for blocking even greater escalations, but can do little to stop the true believers who cannot admit their failures.

The same brutal lesson lies ahead in Afghanistan, where Obama has agreed to maintain a few thousand American troops for an additional year. That's to keep the Humpty-Dumpty known as the Afghan "government" from going the way of Iraq and collapsing entirely before the end of the Obama era.

The serious hawks never wanted to leave Iraq and Afghanistan anyway, not after US troops were deployed. They are adherents to the Long War Doctrine (2005), which projects a fifty-to-eighty year war against Islamic fundamentalists over many battlefronts. Welcome to Year Ten.

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