The United States continues to insert the bodies of its troops into leaky Iraqi and Afghan dikes. That’s the image that came to mind with the recent news from Iraq and Afghanistan. More American “advisers” and weapons being sent to Iraq. The revival of night raids by U.S. Special Forces in Afghanistan. No matter the piss-poor results in Iraq or Afghanistan, the U.S. continues to double down on losing hands.
Why is there no learning curve in Washington? A big reason is that President Obama’s decisions have been, are, and will be driven by domestic politics. The Democrats don’t dare withdraw from either war since ISIS or the Taliban would grow in strength (at least in the short-term), and the Republicans would eagerly blame the Democrats for “losing” wars that George W. Bush and General David Petraeus and U.S. troops had allegedly won.
The cynical Democratic solution to this dilemma is to plug the Iraqi and Afghan dikes with more U.S. troops (and, most likely, more casualties) until after the election of 2016.
Domestic political advantage is often the major reason for continued folly in lost wars. We saw it in Vietnam: neither LBJ nor Nixon wanted to be seen as having “lost” Vietnam. Nixon in particular had his eye on the election of 1972 as well as on posterity as he made decisions about the war.
America’s wars overseas are far too often driven by public relations for domestic consumption. Consider the invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the Bush Administration’s announcement of “Mission Accomplished,” a staged Hollywood photo op meant to cement Bush’s status domestically as a war leader. Far better it was to have an image of co-pilot Bush landing in a flight suit on an aircraft carrier than one of a befuddled Bush reading about pet goats to schoolchildren on the morning of 9/11. Obama is hardly guiltless here. Even as he questioned the Iraq war, he ran in 2008 on the idea of Afghanistan being the necessary war, thus immunizing himself from charges of being “soft” on defense. Afghanistan is no closer to being “won” for the U.S. today than it was six years ago, yet Obama’s folly continues, aggravated by recent orders to return American troops to Iraq.
Internationally, it’s strategic folly for the U.S. to persist in these wars. But domestically, endless wars act as a coat of armor to deflect charges of being a wimp (for Obama) or of being incompetent (for Bush after 9/11). With his drone strikes, Obama has become the assassin-in-chief, even as Bush with the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq became the “war president” (at least in his own mind, together with the minds of a subservient and fawning media).
Christ said, “Blessed are the peacemakers,” but America has no time for peace. Not when “peace” leaves one open to political charges of being an un-American wimp and loser.
Want to help change this? At the very least, vote for the candidate in 2016 who vows to end America’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Vote for the candidate who vows to end the practice of stuffing American bodies into so many of the world’s leaky dikes. Vote for the candidate who stands for peace rather than for war. Regardless of the election results, that candidate won’t be a “loser.” For in America today, in a land tortured by gusty winds of war, it’s far gutsier to stand for peace.