American interventionism can have terrible consequences, as the Iraq war has demonstrated. But American non-interventionism can be equally devastating, as Syria illustrates.
Stop. Freeze-frame. Rewind. Look at those two sentences. Also look at that word ‘equally,’ which means that the author of this piece wants his readers to conclude that there are two separate military situations here, each one of which was, well, equally disastrous.
But that’s not even remotely true. We have one situation here. To wit: from 2001 to 2003 the United States did some long overdue corrective actions in the Middle East. First, we went into Afghanistan and broke the neck of the regime that hosted the group that attacked us on 9/11. Then we went into Iraq and broke the neck of the regime that had been an active danger to the entire region for the previous two, three decades – and that we had unfinished business with, too. Kind of important, that. After all of that we had an insurgency develop – which is something that happens when you occupy nation-states – and then we proceeded to beat that insurgency without resorting to the usual rule of slaughtering the population*.
In short, we had a rather unremarkable brush war. People didn’t want to say things like that at the time, because while it was still going on there were plenty of raw nerves going around because of the casualty lists. Which is something that the antiwar movement took full, and quite malignant, advantage of; but contrary to modern sensibilities you can’t always change something by changing its name. The truth of it is, under George W Bush we won the wars. And under Barack Obama we deliberately lost them again. Letting Syria disintegrate was a conscious choice. Letting Libya disintegrate was a conscious choice. Letting Islamic State put together a proto-Dark Empire** from the ruins was a conscious choice. Rewarding the Iranians for supporting terrorism in Iraq was a conscious choice. Deciding that the Kurds didn’t need our support was a conscious choice. All of these things were deliberately done, and I will leave it up to history to decide if they were done through malice, incompetence, or a devil’s mixture of the two.
But again: let us stop pretending that what happened today is equally as bad as what happened between 2001 and 2009 – or, or that matter, that it is separate from what happened then. No. What’s happened since then is worse, and it all happened because the people running this country are incompetent at waging wars. I know that saying this will upset people; which is a shame, because apparently poison gas attacks against civilian targets apparently don’t.
Moe Lane (crosspost)
*Fetid fever-dreams of the antiwar movement aside. And despite the predictions of the NYT author himself, I should note.