Monday, December 24, 2018

This man gets it


I have no personal knowledge of Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) at all.  I can't say whether he's a good or a bad politician, because I have no experience of or with him, and I won't make that judgment based only on what others say about him.  Nevertheless, his remarks this weekend on CBS News' "Face the Nation" about the President's decision to withdraw US troops from Syria show, IMHO, an appreciation for the real issues involved.  Here are some excerpts.

You know, I think that we should look at some of the statements of the people who are advocating that we stay in Afghanistan forever and that we also stay now in Syria with no sort of determined end. General Mattis, even General Mattis said that there's no military solution to Syria, and he's also said there's no military solution to Afghanistan. How do you think our young soldiers feel? I have members of my family that are going over there soon, how do you think they feel being sent to Afghanistan when your generals are saying there's no military solution? So I think the burden is really on Mattis and others who want perpetual war to explain why if there is no military solution we're sending more troops. I think the onus is really on them to explain themselves.

. . .

We've been there seventeen years. We think now we are going to take one more village and we'll get a better negotiated deal? ... That was the strategy of Vietnam for year after year after year ... to take one more village and we'll get a better negotiated deal. No, they waited us out and the Taliban are going to wait us out. They know we will eventually leave and leave we must. I mean I don't think we have enough money to be paying to build and rebuild and build and rebuild Afghanistan. The President is right and I think the people agree with him. Let's rebuild America. Let's spend that money here at home.

. . .

... here is the problem with all of these generals. They're like, "Oh, it's precipitous." We've been there seventeen years. We've been in the Middle East most of that time. It's not precipitous. The President promised when we went into Syria, our goal was to wipe out ISIS. We took ninety-nine percent of the land, they're on the run, can the people who live there not do anything? We spent trillions of dollars arming the entire Middle East, arming Afghan army, can they not do anything? Do we have to do everything? We defeated ISIS. But now you have the-- the hawks in the administration and throughout Congress saying, "Oh, now we have to wait until Russia and Iran leave Syria." Well, that was never our goal and it's never going to happen. So those people are advocating for perpetual war.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, that was the goal articulated by the national security adviser to the President, John Bolton. That is what he said U.S. policy was.

SENATOR RAND PAUL: It-- it was never the goal-- well, it was never-- that's a new goal. That's what you call mission creep. The mission has now changed, that we're going to wait till Iran leaves and Russia leaves. Well, the President told them that's not his mission and that was never the mission. The mission was to wipe out ISIS and we did succeed. And the thing is it's incredibly bold to win a war and come home. That's what the people want. If you poll the American people, it's sixty to seventy percent of people ready to get out of Afghanistan. And I'll bet you the same of Syria if you ask the people. It's only the people in Washington, the armchair generals, that want to keep us at war forever and people, Americans, are tired of it. We want that money here at home and we want to create jobs, roads, bridges here at home not in Afghanistan.

MARGARET BRENNAN: The concern raised by people like Brett McGurk who-- who was the President's diplomat handling the anti-ISIS coalition is that if you move out too quickly, if you agree we're going to draw down, at least have a plan on how to do it. At least, do it in a way that doesn't abandon allies. And, in fact, he warned in his resignation letter that this could create a vacuum that would allow terrorist groups like the Islamic State to re-emerge and in other-- other words, we'll have to go back in a few years.

SENATOR RAND PAUL: That will always be true. What-- what-- that-- that statement will always be true. That statement will be true in fifteen years. The place is a mess. I mean, they've been fighting each other for a thousand years. Sunni and Shia have been fighting each other since Battle of Karbala in 832 AD ... They're going to fight each other until the end of time. It's all of them. It's-- it's a inter-complicated mess that has to do with Sunni extremism versus Shia extremism, and also some other various battles in between. But if we wait until there's potent-- no potential for anybody fighting each other when we leave, we will be there forever.

There's more at the link.

I repeat what I said last week, which seems to presage much of Senator Paul's comments:

I ask you:  what vital US national interest will be served by leaving our armed forces in the middle of that cauldron of conflicting interests?  Please tell me.  I can't see one.  Protect the Kurds?  We haven't (officially) been doing that - we've been fighting ISIS and Al Qaeda.  If we're suddenly there to protect the Kurds, why?  What are our war aims?  Why have they not been clearly, categorically, unequivocally defined?  If we don't know why we're there, how on earth are we going to know when we no longer need to be there?  At the moment, it seems to me that US armed forces in Syria are on a mission in search of a problem.  Define the problem, and you'll know when you've solved it.  Leave it undefined, and you'll go on chasing your own (and every potential enemy's) tail until you're dizzy.

. . .

This is part of the larger question of why the US has so many troops stationed in so many countries.  President Trump has reportedly been asking pointed questions about why they're there, the cost of keeping them there, and whether the US would be better served by bringing them home.  He did so even before he became President.  That predictably provoked a strong negative reaction from neocons and the establishment that's grown up over decades to support and defend a US military presence overseas.  Nevertheless, it's a perfectly good question.  If we keep troops overseas to support a particular policy, and we never succeed in achieving or implementing that policy, then why are we continuing to support failure by our expensive military presence?  Einstein famously defined insanity as "doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results".  Isn't that a pretty good description of much of this country's foreign and military policy in recent decades?

Again, more at the link.

In the absence of concrete, objective, measurable answers to Sen. Paul's questions and mine, I continue to believe that President Trump has made the right call in Syria.  If you think otherwise, I'd love to see your reasoning in Comments - taking into account, and answering, the questions above, something I notice most of the President's critics have signally failed to do.

Peter

14 comments:

Unknown said...

The President - and many others in this oft-times (nowadays, especially) badly-beleaguered and much-battered-about Republic (of sorts) of ours - have it absolutely correct: High-time - and more so than ever before - to stop playing - or even trying to play - World Cop...

Yes, conduct World Affairs of State - but do so, everywhere possible, at arm's length...even distant arm's length -

Refuse to fund further "foreign adventurism, patrolling or conquest" -
help our obvious-self-interest localities, like Israel and a select-few others; monitor and discuss the ongoing activities in many places 'round the World; perhaps even continue to conduct periodic "World Cruise Observations", and definitely do U.S. Naval and Coast Guard patrols and look-see intelligence gathering and evaluation operations - but - bring U.S. military personnel, aircraft and most other connected operations home. Get our troops OUT of most foreign climes - including many of those NATO bases, some of which would perhaps not even exist if not for the U.S. military and the U.S. dollars - nor, in reality, SHOULD they, in such case.

Let nearly all of the rest of the globe police itself - stop playing "the cop on the beat" all over the planet, and let most of the world-around operate on its own...also, stop subsidizing most of the planet's foreign economies - they don't EVER thank us for doing so, not even the ones that are generally nominally-"benign" towards us...Let 'em all figure out for themselves how to "get along" - or not - without ol' Uncle Sam Big-Stick An' Moneybags carrying their water for them.

Most especially: Get the Hell out of Iraq, Pakistan, Syria, Iran (even remotely)and, to a certain extent, Taiwan; aka, "Free" China -

Let the World fend for itself for awhile - we've been carrying most of it on our backs - largely, out of arrogance, ignorance and simple, stubborn persistence - for too long. Let 'em all figure out how to get-along without Uncle Sugar paying the bills and/or standing watch over 'em...

Then - use our military (Can you say "U.S. Army Corps Of Engineers"? - I'd bet you can...) to Build That Border Wall - and then to help guard it and police it. Maybe even build a nice, strong fence-line up the at the Canadian end of the U.S., too - lotta "leaky" places up there, too...Finally, then, go to work on finding, gathering-up and deporting all those long-term Illegal Aliens and Over-Stays - and NO, I DON'T care how long some of 'em have been here, or how allegedly-"beneficial" they are to the U.S.; if they ain't U.S. Citizens or some sort of "permitted person(s)" - LEGALLY-permitted, not just here by default - then...out they go, forthwith. They don't get to come back, either; not unless a thorough-going LEGAL proceeding says so, IN WRITING!!

The Party's Over, World - you've been eating the cake and ice cream too long; time for you to go home, and for us to blow out the rest of candles, and turn off the party lights and lock all the doors and windows...

J.S.Bridges, Jr.
Wilmington, NC

riverrider said...

though i have doubted trump in the past this was a genius stroke. what the media is hiding, actively hiding, is trump made a deal with saudi arabia to back fill u.s. troops in syria. the saudis hate iran, love the kurds and despise the turks. very good combination, and the saudis have been allied with israel as well and will be a pretty large speed bump between israel and iran. briliant move on trumps part. mind blowing. trump is right on afghanistan as well. i'm retired army and i'm tired of seeing my boys blown to bits and shot in the back over there. james michener wrote back in 1943 about the culture of the feud in the stan and even predicted the russian invasion and defeat there. they will never be held by a foreign power. you have to kill them all to do it, and nobody has the stones to do it. they do.

urbane legend said...

Mr. Bridges has covered the subject completely.

Steve Schultz said...

The hippies of the '60's:
"Make love not war", get out of Viet Nam.
The hippies of the '60's, now the establishment (whether they like to admit it or not)
stay in those sand boxes, we need to "protect" them from themselves.

Steve

ASM826 said...

We spent our nation's resources to utterly destroy Germany and Japan's ability and will to wage war. We used everything up to and including nuclear weapons on civilians to achieve that victory. Then we spent our nation's resources to rebuild those countries in modern societies so we wouldn't have to fight them again. That's because you don't rebuild countries you are at war with. You rebuild countries after you win.

If we wanted to win in Afghanistan, to destroy their will to resist, it was going to require killing large numbers of people, completely pacifying the survivors, and replacing everything about the government, establishing an education system that brought the children into the modern world, etc.

We are obviously unwilling and probably unable to do that.

Bob said...

"like Israel and a select-few others;".

When are you people ever going to learn...

Israel is NOT our friend. Israel is NOT our ally.

Never will be.

Being up to our necks fighting Israel's endless war Against their eternal enemies will bleed us until there's nothing left. And there won't be a single tear shed in Israel for our loss.

Nixon once said that Israel's long term prospects are zero.

Maybe we should listen to him. Like in Afghanistan and in Viet Nam, those in the Middle East will wait us out, because they know that when America is no longer capable of keeping Israel on life support, they will win.

That's why Nixon was correct.








"Zack" said...

Bravo Rand Paul. Bravo.

Lori Gattuso said...

Rand Paul said it well. We need to get out of Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria (and this from someone with 14 years as a Naval Officer). Note that the Saudis are moving in to "help" the Kurds against Iran. This is even more genius on the President's part if he had anything to do with that. The vacuum left by our forces leaving will be filled with Sunni's keeping Shia's at bay, which could keep the Shia's from overrunning Israel, our ally. Great deal for all involved.

Tregonsee said...

Somedays I think Senator Paul is a bit of a looney. But here he's right. If there is no military solution then why use the military? I think we started down this path With Colin Powell's "if you broke it you own it" strategy from the first Gulf war. Nation building can worl in some cases (Cf WWII Germany and Japan), but for it to work you need to utterly devastate the opponent and then be involved in their politics for 25-50 years. For a giant industrial power like Japan or Germany the ROI is good. For Afghaistan, Iran or Syria the ROI is NOT worth it. Bust their technology and infrastructure back to the point where they are no longer a threat. Make it clear that if they become a threat again we'll be back and then walk away. Lather, rinse repeat until either they get the hint or are extinct. This is a horrible thing to do but you can't let a threat like that continue and we don't have the inclination (or sheer nastiness) to apply force and change the culture to actually fix things.

Will said...

What several of you are mistakenly doing is thinking that any version of Islam can be "fixed". Not possible. Although Israel might end up attempting it if she gets hit hard enough. They ARE the #4 nuke power. They can make all the Middle East glow at night, if they so desire. Since most of Islam seems incapable of learning new lessons, I give this scenario a good chance of occurring. This is another reason to get our troops out of that area.

Howard Brewi said...

To answer your question about why we are in so many countries with out a sensible plan you need to go back to Eisenhauer's farewell speech. "Be ware of the Militar-industrial complex". There is lots of money to be made.

The Lab Manager said...

Rand is the son of former Congressman Ron Paul. He is not his dad in some ways, but he is one of the best senators we have right now. Trump talked a lot during his campaign about the stupidity of these wars but I guess the neo cons got a hold of him.

Unknown said...

@Will, I'm sure people thought the same thing about the Catholic Church when Luther nailed his complaints to the door. Unlike his predecessors, it was finally the time to allow change to happen. That change was not peaceful, and it cost lots of lives (probably in the millions) before the dust settled, but the change DID happen.

Islam needs a Reformation, until that happens (and they are setup pretty well to prevent it), there aren't peaceful long-term solutions

David Lang

Unknown said...

David, I am afraid ISIS and Al-Qaeda is the "reformation" of Islam. Mohammed was a warmonger, mass murderer, slaver and rapist. Modern terrorists are just imitating their prophet.